The other night I watched one man take his life - or rather his death in his own hands, so to say. I watched a documentary made in 2006 by Canadian Oscar winner John Zaritsky on National Public TV around midnight. I am so glad I happened to come upon this as I am absolutely pro-choice in life and death. I am for options. I am most certainly against unnecessary suffering.
In the documentary Craig Ewert, 59, chose assisted suicide from fear, justified fear in my opinion, over the serious potential of suffering helplessly due to the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease. He had to face a future that eventually would lead to his inability to move any muscle, not even an eye. He rightly worried about how to communicate his needs in such a state. To follow this man's, an accomplished English professor's last day was deeply moving and odd in the realization that no, Mr. Ewert would not chose death if he had better options. No, this man was not without conflict, but he stuck to his decision as time was of the essence. Too soon he may no longer have been able to swallow the overdose of sleep medication by himself a requirement by Dignitas, an organization that offers the option of euthanasia legally in Switzerland. Oddly this very scared, yet heroic man passed away in an apartment on a street that shared the name with my Mom, where my parents had lived in their very first apartment in Zuerich.
The social worker present for Mr. Ewert's last choice, a middle aged man, employed by Dignitas, shared a story in the documentary where in he described how he sang Beatles songs upon request for one man in his charge. Surely a kind of guy to my liking, present for another in whatever form it may take, to the best of his ability. Human beings deserve a dignified exit of their choice, under no pressure, but in the compassionate care of another human being. "... it is known that 21% of people receiving assistance by Dignitas and 65% of women attending Exit do not have a terminal or progressive illness" - Wikipedia
Personally I had the honor of having been present to a few patients dying in a care facitly, two beings right under my hand. It is an awe inspiring powerful experience. It is certainly an aspect of living we tend to be too protected from, too walled off. After all death is natural, we all share the fact that we will die. I have performed the last ritual washing and preparing in my function as a nurses aid in the nineties and I insisted on doing so as a last service to my Dad only a few years ago.
While I tend to refuse to be a casual onlooker to personal misery, say on TV as regards war scenes and the like, I watched this documentary with unflinching eyes, because this man, Craig Ewert, chose to share his last choice with us, wanted to be seen, heard and understood in his last, most controversial to some decision. This choice, the whole shebang of sharing what led up to the decision and execution, and Mr. Ewert submitting himself to the taping and telling of his story was an act of true heroism in the face of death. It deserves our attention, consideration and admiration.
Chet Atkins, a revelation to me, never heard of him until the other day when I happend to come upon NPR's fundraiser on TV. This voice of the singer/song writer, so pure and deep, it got a hold on me, it got my absolute full attention. I could not believe this guy, Chet Atkins, sheds tears as he sings about his Dad and moves the grown men in his audience to cry along with him! A tear jerker of the highest order.
I am grateful to NPR for having once again introduced me to something new, profound and important. And this is what Congress defunds, not the wars, not the corporations, but a public radio station that means the world to us. Here, in my small, if hip town of the City Different in The Land of Enchantment, we have our own public radio station and it has trouble staying afloat, meeting it expenses and started only recently to ad commercials where there used to be none. We know out in the boonies, public radio will not survive, the funds will not be there, as simple as that. Do we have a skewed sense of what is and is not important? Yes!
Taiwanese video plea to live and dream, received the day I am to test drive a scooter as I so miss my old stolen Honda Elite. A sign from the heavens, the goddesses that acquiring a low cost means to get around and have fun is not an over the top luxury? Ah, it is easy to bend the world to our liking, at least in some ways.
P.S.: Nope that Kimko scooter is not for me, too tiny, toy-like for my comfort.
Glued to the TV, on despite a decision to turn off service totally and sell the equipment, I watch the horrors in Japan unfold along with the rest of the world. This triple catastrophe is so beyond words and comprehension that really I can not write without sounding trite and redundant. Of course my heart goes out to those directly affected in their loss, shock and suffering.
One of my teachers from my teens, Paulo Knill, intent on helping us to ground, would instill our confidence in Mother Earth by claiming She would always be there for us, support us, hold us. How wrong he was. I suspect as a civilization now a days we have greatly underestimated the power of nature. How else to explain the building of nuclear power plants along fault lines, be they in Japan, California or elsewhere? It does not make sense, never has, yet still our President insists that nuclear power will be part of the United States future. Sure, President Obama must be beholden to the nuclear industry, we know he received a lot of campaign monies from it. At least the Swiss and Germans put an immediate moratorium on further expansion, even plans already approved for the nuclear industry. If there is one good to come out of this let it be a radical rethink of energy demand and supply. Despite voices to the contrary, we do have the means now to go ahead with alternative, renewable energy. Nobody says that we have to continue to support a life style that wastes enormous amounts of energy. Locally we were able to shift in to a radically lower level of water consumption within only a few years. We can become more mindful in regard to electric necessities as well.
The political right calls for deregulation, but look at the horror of those 6 nuclear power plants in the control of one private company that does not communicate openly and honesty with the public. Can it get much worse? This is what my and maybe my generation's nightmares are made of. A destructive power on the prowl that we can not detect with our normal senses - horror of horrors.
Astrologer Erin Sullivan likens the harvesting of nuclear power to the stealing of fire by Prometheus, something terribly offensive to the gods. Do we consider a 9.0 earthquake normal, or an other effect of global warming or as some would have it punishment of the gods or Gaia or others would want to see it as the coming of Christ in the last days of earth? The flood and destruction does appear biblical for those that grew up in the Christian tradition. Who knew that tidal waves would come in such a low, relentless force rather then those humongous super waves we imagined? Global warming has my vote. It gives us an opportunity to make amends and correct our errors and live more in harmony with nature as we strive towards a more sustainable life style individually and as a people.
Finally please, I heard that if you text in your support for Japan, the banks will take longer to deliver your donations, so it seems best to go with the traditional organizations like the Red Cross, but please do not forget all those pets that no doubt are in dire need of our help as well.
We stand humbled, yet tall, not broken,
in silence with those suffering in Japan,
we bear witness, with arms outstretched,
we invite pure light,
while we hold a vision of nuclear reactors
cooling in white, bright, soothing light.
My Isabella-girl favored hanging back with me today versus running with the guys. She had the time of her life exploring every nook and cranny along Aspen View trail. Living in an urban environment, I am so grateful to be able to offer my pups occasional off-lead freedom, outside our glorious dog park.
4 years ago today Sumo came over for a play date with Isabella for the very first time. One week later he was handed over to me with "you can have him." My neighbor was tired of chasing after this escape artist who got bored alone in the yard with the company of an old dog and cat only. For Isabella it was love at first sight, she was overjoyed, would not leave his side, never fought about food, toys or bones and eventually would squeeze herself into a corner of her bed to make space for him. But our Pretty Kitty insists too on getting close to this Pretty Boy, wanting to snuggle, to this dog's horror.
Here I had stuck him into my favorite funky carpet shoulder bag in preparation for taking him along on my scooter. He never minded hanging out inside the bag and loved sitting on my lap riding along, snapping at the air and never making a fuss, never even calling out to other doggies or endangering us in any way. He is such a good boy and we are so glad to have him.
Two weeks after his first visit, Sumo is a very happy boy waiting out a storm inside with good company and a rawhide to chew on.
This is about the hunting, versus farming style of collecting a menagerie of cherished images 'image-cherie'.
Go seize the opportunity, go hunt for images. I realized one fine day that I felt like the Goddess Diana, flat chested, sprite, almost athletic, with ropes across my torso, pups attached to either end, I would leave the comfort of my home for the adventure of hitting the pavement ha, of my 'hood in expectation of finding something of interest to shoot. For a rather retreating, mellow, far from flat chested Cancerian that was a remarkable shift in attitude. So here I would like to share with you a few examples of images I hunted successfully, even though I am not really in favor of those masculine, aggressive terms and have started to look for alternative expressions.
This must have been the very first time I grabbed an opportunity, fished for my camera and snapped away with the guy staying completely unawares. He had been singing, I smiled, he explained how he had worked long hours on this engine and was looking forward to soaking in the hot tub. He took note of my Isabella-girl and smiled at her while I had the good sense of aiming my Nikon. I love the series of images that emerged from this short encounter.
Here I approached the Railyard like I have done so many times, but come on this powerful visual, woman with yellow work gloves working to set the tracks for the yellow train. It would have been nice to have better zoom, as I was rather far and time was of the essence, still, I always liked the outcome.
I was staring up the cathedral, interested in the hanging of the brand new bells, when this guy sprinted across the pastoral lawn (no dogs allowed) threw his backpack to the ground and knelt down in front of what must have been the most beautiful saint (Kateri Tekakwitha ~1656-1680) in the Christian tradition. It took me a moment to realize this to be a worthwhile moment to immortalize, the man seemed so sincere, soon to run off again with vigor and enthusiasm. I do wonder what he might have prayed for, the love of his live?
A few years later only steps away I almost missed this wedding party. They spilled out of the white decorated truck, disheveled, but very excited looking. One after another straightened their hair, put on their jacket and straightened themselves out as they ascended the stairs to the main entry of the church. They were close and I missed a whole bunch of opportunities, but it was their moment, still check out that kid with the big guys, hand folded on his back, speaking volumes.
Dealing on the plaza is no big secret, still I was almost scared at my own bravery of pointing my camera straight at them and catching the exchange. It's such a familiar scene hanging out on and around the bandstand with dog, dope and guitar.
This is about the farming, versus the hunting style of collecting a menagerie of cherished images 'image-cherie'. Usually I grab my camera and head out with my two pups on lead intent on capturing whatever captivates my eyes and spirit with little forethought, certainly minimal planning. Only on a few occasions did I attempt the farming style of image construction. For the first time ever in 2007 inspired by a flickr assignment I took on in total privacy, out of sheer curiosity. I chose a favorite object of mine found on Fire Island several decades ago, my 'Schneggehuus', which became my talisman and my spirit helper in finding a home of my own, first in New York City and later in the City Different.
I placed the object simply on a black plate on a table and started to aim my camera. The light from the above window proved to be a challenge, so I submerged my snail house inside a clear glass bowl filled with water which I placed outside, on a tiny mirror under a blue sky and this is one of the results:
Yesterday inspired by the attention a reprocessed image got on flickr, it made Explore, I took it on to finally give it another try with that favorite shell of mine. Something I had been meaning to do for years. I dragged my big oval mirror out in the yard on the table and placed my shell on the mirror under a blue sky. This is an Ortonized, intensified, or sugar coated version:
It was a challenge to keep out all that did not belong in the image, such as yard stuff, walls, overhanging branches, white tracks of airplanes on a mostly blue sky reflected in the mirror, all in a small confined space with not too much room to move.
By late afternoon the sky had turned gray and I thought I should give it another try, now with the light coming from the other direction. No longer intent on capturing the white shell against a blue sky I felt free to move in very close and this is the macro got:
too ugly to lay eyes on
too old to be noticed
invisible female Anglo
garbed in bright wool sweater
in the middle of the day
with green light right-of-way
on bike, barely escaped collision
with younger male Hispanic pick-up driver
likely undocumented, unemployed
maybe on drugs or drunk
he drove off with no care
no turn of his head
no blink of an eye
no feeling of regret
'got that bitch - almost'
Below, in my earlier posts, I shared with you two of my images most popular on flickr maybe the world's largest photo sharing site. Now I want to share with you, whoever you are, some of my personal favorite images. It is one thing to capture a thing of beauty, like a sunset or an antique entry and a whole other thing to discover beauty where there had seemed to been none. That discovery is one of several aspects that I love in the process of looking at my world through a lens.
Heavy Equipment in soft early morning light can look amazingly beautiful, and believe me, that was a revelation, a true eye opener, after all I am a woman with zero interest in mucho macho male tools or toys.
I would pass our pottery studio many times, but with this image below, for the first time ever I noticed the sun and chose an advantageous time of day for my image that to me shows beauty where so often I had seen none before.
Light is of the essence, certainly in photography. One early morning my neighbor, by chance, invited me in to her home with my camera, free to snap away. Nothing was arranged, nothing was planned. Miss Pearl, as I like to call her, thinks of her home as rustic, I would call it artistic.
Claire de Lune meanwhile claimed inability to live without beauty. Something about having captured two very different works of art of her choice together, shows also something of the essence of the home owner. Something of her fierceness, despite her advanced age, yet soft vulnerability, along with her common sense that lets her so to say 'chop wood and carry water' and live on her own in her own gorgeous, I might ad round home.
Finally, for now, the next image, one of my first takes with my then brand new Nikon, I almost missed, almost passed by, but instead I back tracked, took a good look and snapped away, Isabella was still a puppy on lead in my one hand, camera in the other. I had been accused of sitting on the fence. This image makes it plain that fences can be reasonably comfortable and might be preferable to charging ahead without proper foresight. This dragon never fails to make me smile. To be able to seize an opportunity, to stop, look (and listen to the inner response) to be present to what is and surrounds us are skills to be practiced by any mensch, much less photographer, ad infinitum.