family, nature, photography

homeland, heartland, the story & image

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I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.

~ Leslie Marmon Silko – Ceremony

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god is RED

My mother has an affinity for the Native American People. As her daughter, i felt the same connection to the earth beliefs of those tribal people: the interconnectedness of all things. i was born on Whidbey Island near Mount Baker and a reservation. The first shoes i came home in from the hospital were moccasins, and in my travels, i remember the pair of fawn-colored moccasins my mother used to wear. My mother had long auburn hair that swept the back of her thighs and the wind pulled it behind her like the dark, red scream of a horse’s mane. i remember driving across country, kicking up sand, looking out over desert and prairie. Looking out for rattlesnakes.

My mother recently visited me here in Maryland after the holiday and before the other and final one just passed. She brought my little sister Angel, who is now 13. We visited The National Museum of the American Indian, a most impressive circular, curving structure Situated on a 4.25-acre trapezoidal site, and new in the Smithsonian area on the Mall. So much care was put into the 15 year planning of the structure and design, i encourage you to read about it . . .

We watched some native dances, with accompanying drumming and singing. This took place in the Potomac, the central gathering place in the museum’s entry point which soars 120 feet to the top of the dome and spans 120 feet in diameter. All the way up, curving stairwells are lined with the heads of people, peering over to watch the presentations & dances. The word Potomac, which comes from the Piscataway word meaning “where the goods are brought in,” honors the Native peoples from the Washington, D.C., area.

I watched several dances including the Welcome Dance and a Fancy Dance. In some dances, performers imitate the movement of warriors sneaking up and killing an enemy or of them – Counting Coup, which was a way of bettering an opponent, almost teasing him, sneaking up on him, frightening him without killing him. The children volunteered to line up in a circle as a dancer performed the Counting Coup, startling them when he leapt in front of them randomly, then taking a “gimme five” slap to show they stood their ground and did not move. The act of touching a live enemy and getting away from them, touching rather than killing the enemy, was a way to show bravery. This was called Counting Coup and Eagle feathers were awarded for this act, the Grand Coup.

WWII

The WWII Memorial, newly erected in Washington, D.C., was something my mother wanted to see especially, out of all the monuments. Her father, my grandfather, Andrew Joseph Paull, who i was named for, would’ve been thrilled to see such a site, finally honoring those veterans. He was a POW in Tunisia, North Africa for two years before he finally came home. From him, my love of music, my knowledge of the guitar and Blue Grass, love for gardening and nature, the sour taste of crab apples, the sweet taste of creamed coffee and pancakes, buttered corn on the cob, and falling asleep to John Wayne Westerns.

Remembrance

Every time i visit, Arlington National Cemetery, i see and learn something new about the place itself and about American history. How “the remains of the Vietnam Unknown” at the Tomb of the Unknowns “were exhumed May 14, 1998 and based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972.” (the year i was born) He is no longer a soldier “known only to god” as the white marble sarcophagus declares. Of course we visited the Eternal Flame where John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis lie, flanked by two of their children, and the simple white cross at the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite. Something i had not seen before was the Nurses Memorial. A bone white, smooth granite statue of a nurse in uniform overlooks a rounded burial plot, her hand gesturing lightly from beneath a cape as if to say, “look at all these women who served alongside and cared for you.” The plot of grass where the nurses are buried is curved and concave, like a spoon where medicine is delivered, a bowl where food is given, a basin where the body is cleansed, a cupped hand to hold the head and hand of the dying, and a womb, a place to hold you and deliver you back.

My mother loves the Native American people and its history, my mother’s father was a WWII veteran, my mother treats men who are veterans at the VA hospital in Detroit, Michigan, my mother, the nurse – i wondered if she saw all of this.

All creatures great and . . .

There were birds: geese flying over the frozen Reflecting Pool before the Washington Monument and black squirrels everywhere we went on the path to the memorials. On the way back to the Metro a boy and his father sat on a park bench. My eye was drawn to the small, brown mouse sitting between them, eating a tiny, gold ball of caramel corn, shuddering. “His name is Buster,” said the boy smiling, “i think he’s cold,” he then said, adding a frown.

As for me . . .

This year. Wait. Last year. Right, the day has past already. All is quiet on New Year’s Day. This will not be my Year In Review, but more my time for reflection. It was a year for growing, for losing, for gaining. I lost three friends – i gained three others back. i lost a beloved pet, i welcomed a new one to love.

My Photos. My Pictures. My Scrapbook. My Informal Online Gallery. i am not brave enough to use phrases like my “work” or my “art.” Eugghh . . . no offense to anyone who feels comfortable with that sort of language, but i would just see myself as some wildly pompous assclown to go around touting myself as some grand photographer. I don’t even get PAID to do this stuff unless it’s a wedding. And i intend i think, to keep it that way, unless i sell it to someone who truly enjoys the image enough to hang on the wall, fridge, bulletin board, etc.

Have i gotten any better? i think so. And more – i SEE things better now and understand the tools and am getting better at conveying the basic and emotional element contained in the images i see and try to capture. Which means with more time (and MUCH more $$$) i will go about improving the tools i have to truly render the images i can see, but not perfect.

i try very hard to explain why and what i see when i take a picture as sometimes, the content is not fully expressed until perhaps you know what you are looking at and why. “Why did i want you to see this?” and “Do you see what i see?” is a game i play with all of my photos.

There’s not enough space or time here, but in my next rant – i will be sure to tell you what i think photography has done for me (and others) as an [art]form. People like to squawk about that one, and also like to argue about how digital technology is an abomination to the process. Lest we forget, any artform is documentation of the human experience and the human experience is a vast story book upon which everyone wishes to scribble on the pages. It is all proof we existed.

You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.

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