After a welcome vacation, I am back to my routine. When I sat down to write and consider images for this post, it suddenly occurred to me that I took very few photos and spent even less time drawing while away.
We were visiting two favorite places, San Francisco and Kailua, Oahu, easily the cream-of-the-crop of the numerous locales my husband and I have called home during our life together. For once, I didn’t feel any particular need to record what I was seeing, and for the most part I just let the sights and experiences be enough. It was surprisingly liberating.
On my way to the De Young Museum to see the exhibit “Teotihuacan”, cherry trees, fuchsia, and vinca bloomed in the bright and warm sunshine of Golden Gate Park — a welcome change after leaving Vermont in the midst of a chilly snowstorm the day before. And as the day came to an end, a ribbon of hot pink progressing to fiery orange hovered over the thinnest strip of deep blue horizon, lightly resting on the Pacific Ocean like a technicolor meringue. No photo or drawing can compare to being fully in those moments.
A couple of days later, we sped along the H3 Highway from the Honolulu airport to Kailua. The lush green of the Ko’olau Mountains, deeply engraved by threads of waterfalls that have trickled down their sides for centuries, paired with the scent of humidity and tropical flora, brought in a sweep of memories formed at a time before iPhones and when I was way too busy with little ones to spend more than a few cursory moments here and there drawing.
There’s nothing like a full sensory experience for facilitating re-entry into a bubble of remembrance. For whatever reason, the image of a snow globe popped into my head, and it occurred to me that what I was experiencing could be equated to looking into one of those little enclosed worlds while reawakening it with a good shake. Although, like memory, there’s no way to physically (re)enter the environment it confines, an emotional magic resurfaces from somewhere deep within to be felt and enjoyed once again.
Which brings me to this: five years ago author Jonathan Safran Foer gave the commencement address at my son’s college graduation. Unlike the speaker at my own commencement — of whose talk I remember exactly zero — Foer’s message has stayed with me. In a nutshell, he was observing that the world can be divided into two camps: archivists, who take full advantage of technology to document life’s both great and small events, and eye-witnesses, who record nothing physically but rather rely on memory alone.
Short-lived moments are precious, which dictates the desire to capture them in photos or on video. Yet human memory involves emotion in a more direct way than technology. The point of Foer’s speech was that being more fully present allows us to hold onto our experiences more closely. He wasn’t saying one approach was better than the other, only that striking a balance between the two is perhaps the wisest course.
I don’t think I could ever give up my camera. And as I have often expressed, the act of drawing allows me to more fully notice and record details that I might otherwise miss, in some ways strengthening a memory of time and place. But it isn’t the same as basking in a fleeting experience without any buffers or intervening devices. This time around I was happy to let go of the tools and to enjoy both the restfulness and the exhilaration of immersing myself in a change of environment without them.
On a Different Note_________________________________________________________________________________________
My mother-in-law has a great eye and a wonderful collection of art books that are always a treat to peruse whenever we visit her. She is often ahead of the curve in ferreting out interesting artists and reading material about them. She requested a subscription to Juxtapoz magazine a while ago, so this trip I had an opportunity to sift through several she has saved. I was very impressed — feeling it has a fresher and less “establishment” approach than ARTnews or other like publications. The interviews of highlighted artists are smart and well-written, going into the depths of practice without being oppressively long. I think you might find it worth checking out.