Cedar Creek looked splendid beyond words today. I had to stop myself right there, squatting by the stream with the camera phone. It called for me to write something, but language can’t capture anything this strange and beautiful.
Here is more of the tension between photography and writing. Through the winter I’ve been using photography and brief text notes to record sensual perceptions of the woods. If something remarkable comes to me, I might translate it into a narrative later in the warm comfort of my office.
Memory can be a trickster. It’s superficial and evasive. Photography, far from helping remember an experience, focuses the attention on certain details.
Processing the images is a pleasure. Simple adjustments like contrast make them look their best.
But during the time spent in my virtual dark room I forget other things like a pair of dogs playing uproariously in the park, their two owners standing by to watch, maybe conversing, maybe saying nothing to one another. These direct impressions, once lost, might never be accessible again to me as a writer, not in quite the same way.
Last summer I spent time in the woods sitting and writing, recording things as they happened. A mink swam past, oblivious to my presence. Damselflies battled and mated over a few square metres of languid stream.
Winter doesn’t provide such physical luxury to the writer. But today by the winter stream the weather wasn’t too cold or blustery. So I opened a note on the phone and tried to swipe a description of the scene before me.
The creek runs through a crystal palace.
Angles and tangents record the wisdom of water,
whatever ideas it held when it froze.
A memory storage of lines leading nowhere and everywhere.
A dream and anxiety of ice.
It’s all too easy to take a few mindless photos on a homeward rush. It’s too easy to hurry. It’s easy not to think about the small, rich gifts of life.
Today I’m glad I paused and tried to put into words what can’t be put into words. My clumsy swiping said something photography couldn’t express: a personal response. There was more to what I wrote beside the stream today, but it’s harder to share. I’ll save it for a deeper context than this.
The power of language is different from that of images. I remain torn between. It’s a good place to be.