When I Write…

In the middle of writing the Lord Franklin series I could tell it was really consuming me. It had adventure, mystery, intrigue, survival, defeat, loss and death. Not that I was dwelling on all of those elements personally. Instead I was trying to navigate between the historical narrative, the songs I wanted to include in the piece as well as the photographs I wanted to use that best related to the frozen north. For the first time in a long time, I was really obsessed with something. Though everyday life and work intervened, it was a story I needed to complete.

When that type of obsession happens I find seemingly minor details can pop into your head at any time. It happens when you are passionate about the subject matter I suppose. Insert this paragraph here, quote a passage from this book there, that sort of thing. Not being under professional deadlines it can be exhilarating and exciting when you see a vision for a piece coming together. Sometimes you even dream about that vision as it turns out.

About halfway through the writing of the series I woke up at 2 A.M. on a weeknight with a thought. Just a sudden realization that came to me in that fuzzy world between deep sleep and awareness. For the past few months I have been leaving my  notebook (a marvelous little one I picked up with the softest paper imaginable, eco-friendly and fair trade made from leaves of  the Lokta plant in Nepal for the record!) on my little bookshelf/nightstand. When I came to that awareness of an idea,  turned on the light and grabbed my pen these are the words I wrote which are only slightly edited for clarity. It was 2 A.M. after all!  I am sharing them because in perusing the notebook the other day I realized that it really says a lot about me and ‘where I am’.

‘When I read I want to ‘see’ what I am reading about. When I ‘see’ I want to ‘hear’ the sounds of what I am seeing. When I am ‘hearing’ what I am ‘seeing’ I want to understand why that is so important to me. I yearn to express myself in this way. To make these connections between a long ago sunken ship together with a contemporary song and a photograph of my own that ties the two elements together. It is my way of combining the things I am passionate about. The things I have always been passionate about if I really think about it.’ 

When I re-read it the next morning it actually did not come across as profound and brilliant to my mind as it was when I wrote it. But on further reflection, it is inherently and uniquely me, especially the last two sentences. That is a very important realization in my life right now. As I related in the series, I have been seeing a therapist and my head is a bit of a jumble at present. Backwards and forwards in time reliving memories. But these recollections also jog my memory further and make me think how this-all of this idea I have laid my claim to and set my flag on have always been there for me.

I realized it is absolutely the way I engage subjects I am passionate about. It has always been important for me to visualize a story, be it a song or a book. So I need to see the Arctic, an English country lane, a pagoda in China, a baobab tree in Africa, a ship on the high seas or a steam train chugging its way through the Canadian Rockies in my mind. I think the photography came about because I needed to catalog my favorite elements to the stories for myself.

It also explains why music is so deeply embedded in me. Why I feel music so much. Sometimes it can go beyond actual music and be sounds such as birdsong, wind rustling through the grass, or waves crashing on shore. Digging deeper through my life and what that 2 in the morning thought was about I realized it was the idea that sound itself is an even deeper connection for me than I ever realized.

Combined together, the ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ explains a great deal. It is my visualization, my way of understanding, my prism. A way of interpreting my passions easily. If I expand the idea it is precisely why from the start I tended to take photos of favorite things-bridges, ships, trees, etc. They were always my fascination from an early age. So it is years later that when I am reading a book I need to make the same sort of connection. To tie all the elements together if only just for my personal benefit.

In therapy I am connecting the dots of my life up to now. Seemingly innocuous and never forgotten memories from childhood have significance because they correspond to my life right now somehow.   When I started writing this blog I can see now that like with the connections I am making in therapy, the dots between the present and past definitely become connected eventually. These ideas I bring out have always been there. I just needed to find the clarity and space to locate and elucidate it all.

That is where I feel I am right now at this exact moment. I initially thought what I wrote early that morning would work its way into the series, but I realized it was instead a realization of something that has been laying dormant for most of my life. Now it has been firmly unleashed and I can say that like the connections made in therapy that rocked my very core, I can truly say that I have a deeper understanding of why I need to have this space and present my photography in a deep and personal way. And to quote from this song by the great songsmith Chris Trapper- ‘I’m happy where I am.’

Happy Where I Am-Written By Chris Trapper

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

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My Four Seasons-Winter

GROWING OLDER

“You probably won’t take no advice from me. I never took none myself, you see. It’s just when you get older, you like to pass some on….but nobody’s listening.”

Like a lot of people these days, my Facebook page is filled not just with friends, but is also loaded with band pages, science pages, TV show pages and other interests. One of those interests that I follow is a page called Native Americans. It is a page filled with Native American wisdom and sayings, not just from one nation or tribe, but from across the United States. A few weeks ago there was one saying I felt compelled to share with my friends. It said-“When an elder speaks, be silent and listen.” I am not sure what tribe it comes from, but the simplicity of it really struck a nerve, and the other day I thought it might be helpful to start this section off with it.

I was glad I saw it because in preparing this series I really had some trepidation about writing about the “winter” years of our lives. The years we grow older and eventually pass on. Part of the reason is because unlike the other three seasons, I have not experienced it yet. Mild jabs at me for being 46 with my formerly red hair changing first to a brownish hue,  and then speckled with ever increasing dabs of gray aside, I do not feel old. Regular gym workouts and trying to eat as healthily as I can help. But the other reason for the trepidation about writing this section is I did not want to sound smug or condescending about the aging process. Which is why that Native American saying really made me stop and think.

After I posted it, Jennie helpfully reminded me that it is a great quote….but it means you need to practice implementing it a little more. And she was right. Too quickly as a society we tend to ignore the learned words of our elders. It isn’t just about our families, our moms and dads or grandparents that we do this to. We also get very impatient with seniors in line at the grocery store, or walking in front of us on the sidewalk. We get annoyed with the elderly when they seem oblivious to the technology we have long since conquered. “What is this Facebook thing I hear so much about”, or ” how do I send a text message”? I realize as I myself get older that there will come a day when the world will be moving too fast for me to keep up, or even care about it, so fast and changing is the technology era we live in.

But take a moment and replace the faster internet speeds and smart phone technology, wireless connectivity, automation, and other cool advances and gadgetry that we live and thrive with in this era, with the advances from another era. Mass produced automobiles, commercial radio, television and polio vaccines among countless other things were inventions created and developed in the years when today’s elderly were younger. They understood all these things thoroughly at the time, but sometimes our cynicism in these days must make someone who lived through earlier advancements feel exasperated and defeated. What is worse is the advice passed on from our elderly often gets brushed aside.

I think it is this final point that is behind blues man Seasick Steve’s song, “It’s A Long, Long Way.” Steve is a man who payed his dues and then some, and had been plying his trade across the world for years and years when suddenly, he gained success and a devoted fan base a few years ago. Steve definitely tells it like it is. In the song he sings from the perspective of an even older man, desperately trying to get people to pay attention to his words. It is so brutally honest that you can’t help but feel moved by  it. So whether it is from a Native American phrase, or from the mouth of Seasick Steve I hope for a time when we treat our elderly with that sort of respect. Not judging or assuming but learning. And above it all….listening.

 

Continue reading “My Four Seasons-Winter”

Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 4

LOOK WHAT THE WIND BLEW IN

 

031

“If my car broke down, well then I’d run to where I find my freedom”

After the awakening feelings one encounters with the coming of spring, the pleasure that summer brings gives way to reflection once fall arrives. The crisp air and cool nights clear the head and bring me outdoors to enjoy nature once again after the oppression of a New York summer. As a city dweller that usually brings me to Central Park, with my camera in hand taking photographs of the changing season. But whether it is in Central Park or elsewhere, I find that one of my favorite subjects for photos over the years has been quite simply, trees. Sometimes they are in groups with the wind blowing through them, sometimes it is because of the interesting shapes and contortions the trees have, or different textures the tree bark will have. But often times I also take photographs of lone trees, standing apart from the others, and it has only been recently that I have thought about why, and as usual with me, it was aided by music and two songs in particular.

The person responsible for both of those songs is Chris Trapper. I feel in some ways as if I could have an entire blog devoted to his music alone. Since being introduced to his music about 10 years ago his songs have been a constant in my life, never far from the surface below all the other music I listen to. He is the rarity as an artist these days for his consistently strong and thought provoking material. When someone asks me which album they should get by him, my truthful answer is any of them. It does not matter since they are all equally good. When I began thinking about this edition of The Soundtrack Of A Photograph, I thought I wanted to only choose one of Chris’s songs, along with photographs of trees I have taken. But then it dawned on me that actually what this edition would be about would be the bookends that two different songs by him have provided me with. The introduction began innocently enough on a Sunday night at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut where my then girlfriend (now wife) and I were to see another band; Great Big Sea. It was a happy circumstance that we became fans of Chris Trapper that night as well.

11-15-2011 10;58;58PM

Continue reading “Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 4”