This is my April Art of Waiting submission. For those of you unfamiliar, The Art of Waiting is a collaborative project between an international group of lo-fi photographers that seeks to explore what it is to wait, what we do when we’re waiting and other variations on that theme. I’m pretty proud of this essay so, here goes. And check out The Art of Waiting when you get a chance. Fantastic works are being created on that site!
The other day I had a sweet hour and a half to kill before picking up my son from preschool. It was a sparkling spring morning, just right for a solo walk on the beach. As I crested the dune and saw the waves crashing I was delighted to see that I was the only soul around. I wanted to give the new Natalie Merchant CD, titled ‘Leave Your Sleep’, a good listen-to in my headphones so I pressed play and started walking. The sun on my bare arms and legs was warm as was the sand beneath my feet.
Usually there’s a point to my beach walking, be it wearing out the kids with the walk, searching for sea glass or finding things to photograph. This time it was different. One of my latest projects (much to my husband’s chagrin) is to make a table for our deck out of driftwood so I was scouring the beach for suitable pieces. Although I was searching, it wasn’t the entire reason for walking. I was really just walking for the sake of it. It made me feel very much like David Carradine in “Kung Fu”—just walking the earth. Being alone made the experience that much better. No worrying about other people watching you thinking you’re crazy, no dogs to worry about startling, no little people to keep track of and best of all, no talking, just a nice, solitary stroll.
As I meandered I found some really nice pieces of wood but most importantly, I started to find some peace. It’s been a stressful few months for me and even though the past few weeks have seen many of those issues resolve, there was still a part of me that felt weighted down. The purposelessness of my mission left me feeling like a little kid exploring on my own with no one around. The music and lyrics of “Leave Your Sleep” added to that feeling. Merchant set to music Victorian-era poems that remind one of childhood and lighter times, before becoming an adult and being bogged down by the weight of responsibilities. My soul felt lighter, my step springier and my mind suddenly much clearer. It was very meditative.
As I wandered I spotted a lot of wood up ahead near the top of a dune. Curiosity got the better of me and pretty soon I was standing in the middle of the wreckage of a small fishing boat. Most likely it was washed ashore during one of the bad north east storms that characterized this year’s brutal winter. Scattered piles were mostly covered in dry, white sand, but there were still some gems to behold. Long pieces of wood painted brilliant shades of aqua, cobalt and bright blue peeked beneath the scrubby twigs of some hardy plant life that somehow survives on the edge of the world. Among other things I found a badly-rusted-out beer can, the intact bottom of a large, clear, glass container and the frames of nautical seating areas.
All the while I was listening to my new music and the song “Maggie and Milly and Molly and May” came on. Set to a waltz-like tempo, it’s the tale of four young friends who go to the beach in search of nothing in particular but they each come home with a treasure. The last line of the song hit me like a ton of bricks: “For whatever you lose (like a you or a me), it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea”. It was one of those serendipitous moments in which you realize that everything happens for a reason. As soon as got I home I looked up the author of the poem and found it was e.e. cummings. I’ve never been much into poetry. It always seemed to me to be either sickeningly sweet in its rhyming and subject matter, like a greeting card, or way too complicated for me to understand, but this one really affected me. And so, I have purchased my first book of poetry and will read it. For this month’s roll of film I will attempt to capture each of the poem’s twelve lines on a roll of medium format film. Lovely things happen while you are waiting.