breaths between the tip of a finger and any canvas.
If you animated grief I reckon it would be one of those dogs on the beach in Thailand. The kind that hobble along a few meters behind you, and sleep at the window while you relax in your air conditioned, German owned, ‘nouveau riche’ Thai operated concrete Villa.
He would be the one you made eye contact with that first day and just don’t have the heart to shoo on. He seems content, you would think, yet resigned, or maybe sad, you would say gazing down at him from the beach side bar. In reality though, as the days went on he would really just look like death knocking. Like if he spoke he would recount tales of a harsh existence. Like he just needs someone with the guts to put him out of his misery.
As you sip your Mojito you promise your companion you will not touch him. No seriously, you promise. And you certainly will not feed him. Just some water maybe. No, nothing, you promise. But then she is not looking and you whisper a kind hello. And suddenly there he is, a bestie, all yours.
I am scared to get that close to grief. I don’t imagine I could pack up and leave it in Ko Lanta. It would be in my luggage emitting mysterious odours and arousing suspicion. Or worse, I would be sorting out my affairs and joining Soi Dog, another crazy ex-pat raging against the machine.
And yet this one is a pointless battle, because grief is the silent partner to love. It waits for us to sign that dotted line before it shakes our hand. It is deception, compassion, fear, strength, guilt, regret, remorse, joy and anger. It is the dog you cannot love and cannot leave. It pulls you in and changes you. It makes you feel. It is relentless in it’s appeal.
I always thought that Phillip Larkin’s poem Going was about death, but now I imagine it might be about the inevitable grief that accompanies it:
p style=”padding-left:150px;”>There is an evening coming in
Across the fields, one never seen before,
That lights no lamps.
p style=”padding-left:150px;”>Silken it seems at a distance, yet
When it is drawn up over the knees and breast
It brings no comfort.
I feel that imminent evening coming now. As certain as sunset, it is coming to greet me again. I wrote about it when I saw the Hanky Project. I wrote that my own hanky would say: “She opened her eyes briefly in the hour that I sat looking upon her and I leapt into that last connection like she was a pool of water and I was on fire”.
I don’t know what I will write on my next hanky. I guess I am going to have to feed the dog.
I have sat cross legged on carpet since I was a wee’un, leaning into huge boxes of photos of strangers and family. Boxes full of the rejects, proof sheets, the over/under exposed. My Dad kept them all. I would wade through them for hours. Sometimes I would even shove some in my socks to take with me, to keep looking.
I used to think my Da was just a photographer, like it was just the job he had before his strokes. But now I understand, he was a Photographer. This is a certain type of person. The type of person who races back into the house to grab their camera just in case there is something to shoot.
He always said he was not an artistic photographer. Not like Chinese Eddie. But I don’t know. I’m trawling through those boxes now, still, again and thinking there is some art in here. These images might be from Balmain, Yarraville, Footscray, Newport. Not sure. I don’t know anyone in the photos.
The old woman with the ciggie is my favourite. The painfully shy teen, the Larrikin, they are classics too. They are all there. Times really change and then they don’t. And that is what a Photographer sees, and shoots, and shows us.
I have taken a lot of photos around Fitzroy, since I began this blogging caper. Before Flash I was just someone walking the dog, discovering my phone camera (Nokia N73) and getting into this thing called Facebook. It was the birth of my awareness of audience, as separate to my ‘connection with people’.
Audience is not the same as connection. The audience is the ‘masses’ that we fantasize are watching and reading us. Audience is sometimes the voice in my head that reacts to thoughts that I have before I even write them down. Audience can feel like a cheering crowd or an empty room – a party with the cool people or a party where no-one shows up. I wonder about the implications of giving the entire western world the same neuroses previously bestowed only on writers.
Before all this self-consciousness, like so many as vulnerable as I to the reward of public approval, I started to share. I jumped eagerly from the bandwagon into the ‘social media’ river and floated with it as it got bigger, faster and more difficult to navigate safely. I could talk forever now about the ocean of technology and the tides of privacy and ownership that ebb but rarely flow onto the shore of the individual’s ego. I probably will, but not today, because it is midday and I am still in bed and, well, it is time to get up. I will leave you with some snaps from 2011.