Leica Minizoom, 35 mm B&W, 400 ISO
Leica Minizoom, 35 mm B&W, 400 ISO
The wind brings clouds that brush their muted grey across the sky and choppy caps of white in the reflecting sea. An Island of green lush trees bridges the gap between horizons, vivid in the haze.
Our apartment is far enough away from civilization to deem going anywhere unnecessary, so we read and write and watch the changing light play across the expanse outside our window. A shallow blue cargo ship rises and falls with the tide, moored stationery since morning.
Branches dance in the breeze outside our door, movement tempered by distance, perception. The boat is barely moving. On the island all is still. And beyond, only birds can break the spell.
— Dubrovnik, Croatia
A man stands in front of his home bowing before a table laden with fruit, food and paper money, Joss stick pressed between steepled fingers, whispering prayers with closed eyes.
It is Tet 2015, the lunar new year in Vietnam, and families are gathering around low metal tables on the sidewalk cracking roasted watermelon seeds and piling up empty cans of Biere Larue under the table.
The scent of sandalwood is filling the air on the road to the Thu Bon River, incense sticking out of trees and signs and taped to stray wires, adding density to the warm night air.
Motorbikes line the sidewalks and tourists walk in gutters side-stepping traffic trying to avoid the busy street as hawkers selling candle-boxes and crab doughnuts ask passerby to “Buy something,” wandering from group to group fishing in an overcrowded fishbowl. Further along the river and away from Old Town gather greater crowds of locals waiting patiently for the show.
As we reach the riverbank a lady paddles her prow into the thick shoreline grass and asks us if we want a ride. Four dollars?
Why not. We drift amongst the floating candle-boxes lit by tourists and the Vietnamese family in the sampan gliding next to us. Clusters connect and gather at the bend where the water stills — slowing spinning and lighting the river in a kaleidoscope glow. We pull in next to ten or twelve other boats packed with people waiting for the fireworks.
Two minutes after twelve a cheer goes up for the men holding punks as they head for the fuses. Mortars explode and showers of red and blue and champagne gold rain down above us between the collective exclamations of an awe-faced crowd watching the fireworks on the screens of their phones.
Hebah’s head rests on my stomach as we lean back, looking into the smoke-filled sky with child-like smiles. We were both working on December 31st, so this is our recompense. A new year in an old land.
As we walk back home I see the man, his table cleared, standing over a small metal barrel poking orange flames with a metal rod.
A dark house on an arbitrary plot of land on the plains of Nebraska sits silently as cars and trucks drive by in whirring monotonous drones of pistons pushing multi-colored cages inhabited by blank nodding faces unknown. Its black-lidded eaves droop over empty windows staring with dead eyes.
I’m walking along an aged fence stumbling through tussocks of bladed grass.
No cars stop to pull in the driveway to grind the relentless weeds beneath the wheel.
No dog is barking as I walk up unasked for.
Only the crunch of gravel meets my step as my eyes make contact with the clouds.
I line up the horizon in my viewfinder, press the square button that opens the shutter that gathers light and captures a moment as the streams of change flow steadily around it carrying only fragments of the photograph over time until this moment too is dissolved into the canyonlands of time.
“Look at you,” a woman’s voice says, “you can’t even put your shoes on!”
A door slams across the lawn.
“And don’t you dare come back ’til dark!”
Through the window I see the lady who regularly rides her pink-and-purple children’s bike around the parking lot. She’s shuffling toward the pool leaving splotches of steaming grey rising from the afternoon pavement, slowly twisting the yellow inner-tube around her waist.
“Don’t come back, now, or I’ll beat the shit out of you,” the woman’s voice says, speaking lowly through the window screen.
Head down, the lady disappears around the corner.
Hours later she’s back and asks for a towel, peaking timidly through the cracked door of the apartment, limp hair dripping across her face.
“You left with a towel, what happened to it?” the woman asks.
Not waiting for an answer she goes on, “You have no business being inside this house dripping all over the carpet — Get out!”
The lady stands still.
“Now!” the woman says. “And don’t you dare come back without that towel.”
I pace across the living room. The woman’s voice ringing within my rage. At her. At myself for doing nothing.
Our lives on display as the summer sun opens our windows.
We reach an impasse in the failing light and choose a bend to pitch our tent and table above the foggy valley floor.
It’s nighttime now and with the icy logging roads behind us, I uncap the Old Crow to heat my stomach and blow life into the gasping fire against the rain and rivers of mist that flow through the hills and swallow us whole.
The flames begin to gather and grow hot against the frigid night, vaporizing raindrops back up to their other being, adding with our breath. We draw our chairs closer to the fire and talk. Bringing us back into our bubble, words straining at the darkness in electric fingers of light.
Night lasts long outside and by morning we are ready to return to warmth. Thankful for a presence with the calm.
It’s been hot here. And dry. Strange words in the Northwest.
But the Wet is never far away.
I’m drawn outside to the first patter of rain, the faint knocking of a long-missed friend, feeling the warm clammy drops of rain on skin.
The downspout begins to creak its metal-water warcry. Drip. Drops connecting, weeping together, a rivulet. A stream.
Green leaves unfurl beneath cloudy skies and the promise of a healthy soak.
I look at Gregory, the rescue lion turned guardian of my garden.
I found him sitting on the edge of a dumpster, one step away from an early grave. He’s actually a broken clock, but he fit nicely over the gap in my fence, thereby finding his new home and purpose.
I’m a little obsessed with gardening. The earthiness of it. The satisfaction of growing, sustaining, and mutually benefiting from each other’s attentions.
It’s a form of meditation on the present and a calming way to be productive after hectic hours spent working.
It’s not the act of traveling great distances. It’s a travel through time.