The other morning, while writing about turning 50, the image of a pretzel came to mind. No, I don’t feel like a pretzel, but the dot to dot path through my daily life seems to trace a similar shape. Only rarely do I allow myself the liberty of locking onto one of those dots and allowing it to lead me away from this prescribed circuit. Between professional and personal photography projects, writing, parenting, selling eye wear, outdoor adventuring, buying groceries for teen-age appetites, and failing at all attempts at domestic order, I feel pulled so many directions that if I become completely absorbed in any one, I will more than likely drop a thread that forms part of the weave and find myself dealing with the consequences later. At least that’s how it seems most of the time.
Having recently spent 3 weeks traveling, I know that the world doesn’t come to an end when I let go, but translating that into being home AND letting go is a bigger challenge. Being home and making space to pursue what calls me rather than simply falling back into the well-worn ruts of “what I’ve always done”. For the last 20 years, I’ve allowed my children’s “needs” to dictate the pace and parameters of my life. Now its time for that to change. The line a pretzel follows goes first in one direction, then another, overlapping and doubling back upon itself. In then end, a graceful shape is formed… a cohesive whole. If I stop and dwell a while at any of the points upon that line, the whole will not be impacted. The next point will still be there to guide me back toward the center, only to be drawn away and back again. The weave may change, but I don’t have to hold all of the threads anymore.
I write all of this in Seattle after rereading Parisian journal entries and editing more photographs from a month ago. I smiled to myself noting the remaining mild discomfort of being on my own in Paris, footloose and completely free. I had forgotten that I felt that way on day 2. I wrote that I was having a hard time with the idea of no agenda and that I was feeling the need for some kind of “organizing principle” around which to orient. While my memory, and the photographs, clearly attest to the fact that I had no difficulty wandering here and there as ideas came to me, I was also up against some internal resistance to doing just exactly that.
With no children tugging on my sleeve to tell me they were hungry, different from the last three times I visited Paris, I found it hard to choose when and where I wanted to eat. Due to the exchange rate, Euro to dollar, even a simple restaurant meal lightens the wallet significantly and I found myself thinking like I did when I lived in Paris at 23 and quickly running out of money. I had to convince myself that it was ok to sit down, take some time, order food and wine and enjoy a meal rather than huddling under an awning in the drizzle munching a baguette sandwich of butter and ham. After all, I only had a little over 48 hours before moving on to Lyon. My wandering finally led to a small pizzeria near St. Eustache. It had started to rain in earnest and I needed to regroup. My plan for rain was a bit of a scavenger hunt.
Near the Palais Royal and headed north toward Montmartre, a network of “galeries et passages couverts” have sheltered pedestrians from the elements since the nineteenth century. I decided I would try to find those that I knew about. Some hid themselves and I never did find them, and led me maze-like through an area I thought I knew reasonably well.
As the rain turned to showers and finally stopped altogether, I ventured back out among the tourists near Louvre, criss-crossing the Seine, in and out of the neighborhoods bordering the river. As the day wore on, my discomfort with a lack of agenda disappeared. I repeatedly found myself standing on street corners gawking at gilded domes and intricate capitals of columns that soared above my head. Having lived in Paris, I didn’t expect to be awestruck by the same monuments and architecture that had surrounded me on a daily basis.
Revisiting my memories while writing this, I realize that it was about this time of night when I finally returned to my hotel that night… I still had the better part of the next day to explore before catching a train to Lyon.
When I awaken tomorrow in Seattle, I will be throwing my camera bag back over my shoulder again to Fremont to “embed” myself with the “Giant Puppets Save the World” group in the Solstice Parade and shoot photographs for “Long Shot” the Photo Center Northwest’s 24 hour photography marathon. Paris to Seattle… and then back again to write some more as I move through the back log of unedited photographs.