Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Pictures at Exhibition

It's altogether possible I came from the factory with more capacity for window-peeking than ordinary people. I know this much at least--I can get lost in dusty family albums even though I don't have a clue who is in the pictures.

What drew me to this one was the inscription. This darling little snapshot could well have been taken at a bend in the river just a quarter mile outside my back window. The photograph is 101 years old, and the couple frolicking in the mud--at least they'd be muddy today if they were here--will likely be forever anonymous. I don't know if anyone knows. 

You've got to look close to see them, but let me help those less practiced as peeping toms. There's a story in this picture, a story sweet as anything, made such, perhaps, by being a little. . .shall we say risque? Look for yourself.

They are not inflicting any harm on each other--look at those comfortably-spaced protruding feet. But still, covered as they are, who knows exactly what they're thinking?

If you're thinking gay in Sioux County, Iowa, circa 1914, it's unlikely. The old album holds too many other pictures that document a traditional relationship. Besides, if they were, I don't think the shot would be permanently glued into the family album. 

They're lovers, plain and simple and sweet, and probably more than a little taken with each other. They could very well be lounging at a bend in the river pretty much right here in our backyard. 

There's a story in Margaret Atwood's "The Old Cabin," the daily poem sent out yesterday by the Writer's Almanac, and it's a sad one. She's heard the news that the family cabin is gone. Fire took it. But then she says that in her mind the old cabin is still there because she has no image of its burned remains.

the house is still there in me

among branches as always        I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake

She knows very well that a time will come soon when that the old cabin is gone will be all too painfully real.

but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest
the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind

collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.

She can't help wondering what of herself went up in flames when the old cabin did.
Here's how she finishes poem.

Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.

Where did the house go?

Where do the words go
when we have said them?

That last line is haunting, especially in an album of old pictures that catch us at being us, our native us. Where do the words go/when these lovers have said them?

Or look here. Downtown Sioux Center, Iowa, a century ago. A great picture of life and exuberance. But on those unpaved streets, what happened to those caps, the car, their bicycles? The truth?--is all of it really "blackened earth"?

Or how about this? The NRA would love it. A holiday at the Rock River, names and all.

Where did all of this excitement go? What happened to the joy? "Where do words go/when we have said them"?

And here's the two from the Floyd River mud bath, vastly more presentable and proper, just as much in love, here on a carpet of pasture slightly hidden behind a hill with a fence line. Relax. 
Someone is there to wield the camera; someone shot the pose.

This one may well be more storied because we haven't a clue about how their story ended. It's a photograph, a moment stopped in time. If there's blackened earth, it's somewhere we'll never see, even if they will, as they inevitably did. They're beautiful people really, dressed well. I can feel her hands on his arm.  He's as cocky as a bridegroom.

"Where do our words go/when we have said them?" What happens to our love? What happens to our joy? What happened to them?

Maybe this old peeping tom doesn't want to know.


Anonymous said...

The last pic reminds me of some black & whites shot in the 60's at Terry Andre' by some box camera buffs....LOL.

mtvantol said...

Like :)