From Am I Alone Here by Peter Orner


I’m in one of my moods. Stymied by my own inadequacies, I want to descend into someone else’s life and stay there. p 117

Life is speeding up, a turn of the calendar page and now we are in it. I don’t feel ready. I’m drained and empty. I visited a friend last weekend, and after she got in the car to head back home, I took my camera to the water to see what I could see through my lens.

But the thing is, I didn’t see anything I hadn’t photographed a hundred times before. Everywhere I looked I was disappointed. The underside of a bridge, boats, seagulls, the water lapping on the shore… I wanted to quit, toss my camera in my bag. But that nagging voice, the one that tells me to eat my vegetables and exercise, told me to persist. So I dug a little deeper. I noticed the pattern of the brickwork; the rope wrapped round the post put me in mind of the three-legged stool I’m always referring to. And then I spied the locks, put there by loved ones to symbolize their relationship, commitment and dedication to each other. And for me, that was the treasure finally unearthed.

When one is in a creative slump it feels like scraping the last bit of the dog food container for just a wee bit more. You can hear the cup grating against the bottom and not much to show for it. There’s a hollow ringing in place of what was once a full-bodied sound.All you are left with is an empty husk rustling in the field.

And when you feel that way nothing seems to penetrate. You may ask yourself: what if the obvious no longer appeals? What if the golden trees—or russet, amber, vermillion or scarlet— don’t cause a stirring? Are you hard-hearted? And if that is the diagnosis, that you are immune to the beauty that causes everyone else to weep, then it feels as if you are moving through the world alone. Who else could possibly resist the lure of a fall such as the one we’ve had?

But what if scratching through the surface reveals another layer? In order to find it, you have to fight for it: get down on your knees and put your hands in the dirt. Forget the shovel, it’s you and the work. What you uncover by paying attention, listening and observing may mean more to you than the sun shining through the leaves. It may be that there are other quiet wonders waiting to be discovered.

For me it was the evidence of these couples and their love. I wanted to sink down into their displays of affection. To think about their choice of what lock to buy and where to put it. To gaze upon this physical manifestation of their desire to be connected to this other person. The image of their hands kept coming to mind. We know the bonds of love are strong. Stronger than spiders web; stronger than steel, iron or diamonds. When all else fails it will be love that props us up and pulls us through.

And during this month, this crazy month of commitments, deadlines and gatherings— I have to believe that is true.




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