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Friday, October 28, 2016

In the mood to lose my way with words and images

Friday, dark and lingeringly wet but not actually raining now.  The commute is almost bereft of traffic most of my way into campus, giving the dark side streets a post-apocalyptically eerie emptiness.  The illusion was thoroughly dispelled by the time I hit the main arterials, where all the traffic missing from side streets was now queued up at each of the lights.  This morning's mix of tunes shifted through instrumental, Icelandic, Spanish, back to instrumental, and finally settled on English.

John Mayer's song 3x5 popped up as I slowly rolled through campus. It's almost an anthem to anti-instagram/snapchat/facebook, savoring the real view over the recorded-and-shared view:
Didn't have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm
In the mood to lose my way with words
   - full song lyrics here  
I suspect most of us can relate.  Too many self-important selfies blocking the scenery behind, or photos of reclining sandaled-feet in front of oceans, photos of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in other places instead of anything that really shows and shares those other places fill our social media streams.

On a recent trip to Vancouver, walking along the beautiful waterfront on a bright sunny day, most of the others walking along were in small groups, each with their own small screen walking heads-down-eyes-on-screen, pausing only long enough to take a selfie and then back to shuffling slowly along looking down.  Anything they recorded was all about where I am, rather than about where I am.  Both elements are essential to the story-line, of course, but there has to be some balance in the mix.  Or so I think (maybe a tiny bit like the angry old man on his front lawn with the plastic flamingos, shaking his head and finger at anyone younger than himself?).
Didn't have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
And yet... I always do have my camera with me, and I really like that I do.  It's nothing fancy, just the one built into my phone, but it allows me to capture the small (and large) things I do see with both my eyes.  I'm no crack photographer by any means, but I do enjoy the challenge of trying to capture even a bit of what I see. Maybe pausing long enough to enjoy the big view of Vancouver's waterfront and then being inspired to try and bring home a visual sample of it...


Or some small and whimsical juxtaposition that caught my eye...


Or even trying to capture a fleeting moment of magically-shifting light as it momentarily dances through my kitchen window...


Or, and this is probably the most difficult kind of thing to capture in a single still photo, attempting to snag a feeling in and of the moment...


I think there is value in having both eyes and camera, so long as both are engaged.  Eyes outwardly focused, seeing and absorbing, feeding the soul and participating in the world around us.  Camera at the ready to capture those moments and experiences as best as possible, now and then. Then, the most important part of any saved experience - the retelling of the story.  In an image or with words, or with both. Storytelling is what connects us to each other and creates the sense of a shared experience.
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm
In the mood to lose my way with words

Today's playlist:

  • Easy Virtue, Robert Walter's 20th Congress
  • Track 6, Sigur Rós
  • Oculta Realidad, OBK
  • Pipe Down, Bill Frisell
  • 3x5, John Mayer

Monday, October 24, 2016

The poetry gourd

Dark and brooding, this morning's commute weather, and the car behind me clearly has retrofitted too-bright too-blue headlamps.  No doubt it will have a comically large spoiler on it's backside, too.  Overall, though, traffic is light this morning, the lights seem synced with my personal journey, and campus arrives in short order.


As all one of my regular readers will know, my morning cuppa is usually a "gourd" of yerba mate (mate, for short).  A quintessentially South American tradition, there is something very soothing about cupping the warm round gourd (in my case, a beautiful multicolored silicone gourd from Argentina) and sipping the warm earthy beverage up the metal straw (bombilla).

I've been working on mindfulness lately, and nothing is as conducive to that state as the simple satisfaction of drinking mate. It both gives energy (being a caffeinated beverage) and soothes. Like good poetry, it inspires reflection.

There isn't a lot of mate poetry, or at least not that I have found.  This rather surprises me, given its qualities.  But I did find this poem:
Mate is exactly the opposite of television: It makes you chat if you’re with someone, and it makes you think when you’re alone. 
Whenever somebody arrives at your house, the first thing that is said is, “Hello,” and the second is “¿unos mates?” (Would you like to drink some mates?).
This happens in everyone’s house. In the house of the rich and of the poor.
This happens among chatty and curious women and also among serious and immature men, as well.
This happens among the old people who live in nursing homes and among the adolescents while they study or get high. 
It’s the only thing that parents and children share without having arguments about it.
Peronists and radicals, they share mate without hesitating an instant. 
    - Lalo Mir, from Mate Is Not A Drink
And this one, too:
Flower of light and energy
Blossoms through the heart
Gently enveloped in fresh fruit and leafy tone  
An unfolding of nature’s secrets
Following patterns ingrained
By days and months and years
Of perfected work under the sun (shade). 
Inhaling this bouquet - classic, friendly…
World of taste, without exaggeration,
If you recognize that drinking
Is as much of an art as creating
You’ll let the vines penetrate
Their way through your veins 
   - from About Campfire Yerba Mate

Today's playlist:

  • Meet Virginia, Train
  • Dang Me, Roger Miller
  • I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You) [Live], John Mayer
  • Bigger Than My Body, John Mayer
  • When Cicadas Marched, Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy