Saturday, November 28, 2009

who the hell did i think i was?

top 5 things that i miss about the grand canyon:

1. my job. i liked working at a front desk - a lot. and i liked my coworkers. we had fun together. i never dreaded work. i never wanted to sleep later or not go in at all. i always wanted to be there, to hang out, laugh and have a good time with my coworkers and the guests.
2. the acceptance. i've never been in a place as accepting or open minded. it doesn't matter if you went to college, work at mcdonalds, or if you're 55 and living in a dormitory with a 20 year old from thailand. it doesn't matter if you're an alcoholic, a loser, an outcast, or a recluse. everyone - and i mean - everyone is there because something about normal life doesn't appeal to them / or something about normal life doesn't work for them.
3. simplicity / rhythm: my life there can be summed up like this - work, save money, see things, take pictures of things, sleep, rest, write, go to church, consume as little as possible.
4. no expectations. no one had any expectations of me. and i had none of anyone else. i wasn't supposed to be anything - i was a person without history. i was taken completely out of context. i wasn't great, or funny, or awesome, or spiritually mature. i wasn't fun, or smart, or nice, or mean - i was nothing. and we all kept just enough distance that we never burdened one another with our expectations.
5. happiness. i was just always happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the hour when the ship comes in

these are some pictures from frick park with mark, steve & jon. the sun was magical this day. it's the first time i remember seeing the sun since the day that i arrived home. i love a gray city - but i do think that all of the rain and clouds make it more difficult to stop feeling gloomy sometimes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

i wish i understood what he was singing

it's been a month now since i left the grand canyon. it's been a dull, slow shock to my system. leaving the comfort and safety of happiness, isolation and simplicity to return to the realities of life and relationships and what it means to be human. i will watch great men fail. i will be hurt by people who love me. i will do things that i would have never thought i would do. i will change. i will look back, and look forward, and have no idea who i am, or who i've been. i will try to relate to a God who i love so deeply, and i will fail constantly. i will stop trying to relate to that God, even though i love Him deeply. i will lie to myself. i will lie to everyone. i will try to manipulate the people i love the most. i will allow them to manipulate me. i will not do what is best for me.

why would i leave the grand canyon? i didn't miss my friends, i didn't miss my home, i didn't really have a boy to come home to, i didn't have a better job in pittsburgh - and i liked it in arizona, a lot. there are many parts to this answer. but the answer that i can give, that makes me the least vulnerable to my listeners, is that i don't think happiness is the only way to measure meaning in my life. i think the nature of retreat is rest, happiness and simplicity. most importantly, it's temporary. if it lasted, it wouldn't be the same - it'd be real life. the question then becomes, how do i take parts of that time with me? how do i find a balance? or - are they too black and white? the city and the wilderness. community and isolation. desert and forest. i don't know the answer.

i used to be a christian who set up pretty conventional boundaries and lived by pretty conventional rules that helped me stay safe and happy. it helped me avoid ever getting hurt. it helped me avoid the contradictions, the gray areas, the dirt, the mess - the reality. it was like living in the grand canyon. good - happy - peaceful - beautiful - but not real. and the problem is that once you've been pushed too far, once you've gone past those boundaries, you can't go back. the old ways just don't fit - the old ways of relating to God and people and yourself just don't work. and i'm left with the same question that i ask myself about the grand canyon and pittsburgh - what do i do now? how do i find a balance? or - are they too black and white?

i took these pictures this morning. they are for brian werner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

this is not the sound of a new man / or a crispy realization / it's the sound of the unlock and the lift away

at 5 am, it was too early to leave and too late to go back to sleep. plus i just wasn't tired anymore. i was woken up by the sound of laughter and shoes going up and down the stairs to get more beer from the refrigerator. i was kept awake by feelings of loneliness and emptiness. i was aware, at the time, of the difference between being alone and feeling lonely.

i got dressed. put my shoes on and walked to lake michigan. having a vague idea of the layout of chicago since i'd once flown into the city and made a mental image of it, it only took me a few wrong turns to finally get to the lake. it was still completely dark out. the city shined so brightly, making everything yellow. knowing instinctively that i needed to be near something big again. something so big that even in the darkness, the presence of this thing so big could be felt and understood enough to make me feel small. i sat quietly, listening to the water, listening to my little tiny voice sing hymns, reminding myself of the things i too often and too quickly forget.

the night before, walking around chicago, was so hard for me. the smells of perfume, the noise, the people, the drinking, the smoking, the stores, the signs, the lights - i felt like all of my senses were being overwhelmed by chaos. i was confused. i didn't want to be there. i wanted to go backwards or forwards. i wanted to go back to arizona or i wanted to go home to my friends. but i couldn't, i was stuck in the city for the night.

so, this is real life. this is wanting again. this is what it feels like to desire something. this is what it feels like when enough isn't enough. this is less is not more. this is the feeling of hot tears on your cheeks again, dripping down your neck. this is the comfort of your insanity. this is the crazy seeping back into your bones and veins. this is hysterical. this is when you're not strong enough to separate reality from your imagination.

so i left. a few states later, i crossed into pennsylvania and then eventually i crossed the veteran's bridge into downtown pittsburgh. then i crossed the bloomfield bridge to laurie's house. and then we crossed the street to ritter's and ate pierogies.

who will love / what's love when you've hurt / you wonder as you see the snow kissed curb / love is love's return

we left boulder. we spent the day driving to nebraska. slept outside of lincoln. woke in the morning and drove through iowa to chicago. there was snow. and then there was chicago. and then there was night.

omaha, nebraska. the bridges of madison county

i will freeze until the end / love is love's reprieve

after zion, we woke up and drove to colorado. we stopped in bryce on the way and also passed through capitol reef national park. this was one of the longest drives in my life. we were in the middle of nowhere - and by nowhere, i really mean, nowhere. not middle of nowhere pennsylvania, middle of nowhere utah. i started to go a little insane. by this point, i was tired of the isolation. tired of the nothingness. tired of the red rock, the crazy landscape, tired of a world that didn't feel like home. most of the day was spent driving through this kind of landscape. eventually, we made to colorado and on the other side of the border, we stopped in mancos, a small town i'd spent some in before. we stayed at a motel, woke in the morning, had great breakfast and drove through the san juan mountains up to boulder. there was snow. there was cold. my pictures sucked because of the fog and gray. eventually we made it to boulder and spent the night two nights with chris and lacy. this was precious time.

san juan mountains are the most scenic mountains in america.
these pictures do an awful job at showing that.
this put in a bad mood for a long time.

she's standing inside, but surely you repeat / oh God, don't leave me here

we got to the sand dunes at night. to be honest - everything about the trip paled in comparison to the night and morning at the sand dunes. this was the first time i'd ever seen sand dunes - they were beautiful. soft. and different. we were alone there, it seemed. i think we would have stayed there forever. in the night, they glowed in the moonlight. they were a ominous presence. we layed and watched the sun set, and the moon rise. the sky turned dark and the stars were everywhere, even twinkling. in the morning, they were kind and gentle. these are some of the best pictures i think i've ever taken. after the sand dunes, we drove to zion national park. a park i've never been to. i didn't take many good pictures at zion.

this is the only picture from zion that is worth anything.

i told you to shed away and trade in your blues / love is loves sad news

i picked dominic up in phoenix and drove to the grand canyon, we spent the night there and had my going away party. in the morning, we sat at the canyon, got breakfast and left. the sky that morning was gentle. the canyon was quieter than i've ever heard it. these pictures are from the grand canyon and the drive north to the sand dunes where we camped the first night. i've taken more than a million pictures on this road north, so there aren't many from this first day. dominic is a good person to photograph.

horseshoe bend - near page. the colorado river is always proving me incompetent. lake powell. or a disgrace.