Sunday, April 28, 2013
Twenty four years ago, Jesse Damiani was born into my life, and I became a mother. He has always been completely Jesse, unselfconscious, unconcerned with what others thought, but interested and curious and alive and moving (often loudly and disruptively) through the world with boundless energy. (He can also be incredibly pesty and infuriating at times, but since it's his birthday, I won't belabor...)
Last summer, Jesse and I took a trip to Turkey together. One of the qualities I appreciate most in my son is his huge bright and kind heart and the way he can focus the energy of his heart completely in the present. Traveling with him was an incredible adventure. Neither of us are very good at knowing where we are at any given moment and we aren't so good at keeping up with room keys and car keys. But Jesse's connection with the present moment is powerful, and exploring a beautiful country with him and his joyful exuberance and love of new languages was a blast. I can remember countless moments as if I am right there: walking into the Hagia Sofia and gasping at the beauty of the space, rising in a hot air balloon to view the fairy chimneys in cappadocia, walking through the ancient streets of Ephesus with Jesse singing mewithoutyou's "Allah Allah Allah", meeting loads of fellow travelers and enjoying meals with them, swimming in the Aegean Sea. Below are some images of Jesse from our trip.
What I didn't know 24 years ago, Jesse, was that I would learn so much about about life and about the human soul through being a mother. Your ability to follow your dreams and to be yourself without dwelling on others' positive or negative opinions of you is an inspiration to me. I didn't know that you, and your brother and sister would be such powerful teachers for me. Happy Birthday Jesse!
Saturday, April 20, 2013
A few weeks ago, I heard the tail end of an interview with Amy Wallace Havens about her brother David Foster Wallace on To the Best of Our Knowledge that stopped me in my tracks. At the end of the interview, they played an excerpt from his commencement address at Kenyon College. I wish these were the words I had heard at my college graduation. It is worth playing this short mp3 to hear this in his own words. I hear these words in my head everyday as I move through my life trying to stay awake and alive in everything I do.
Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already -- it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Caroline and I had such a great time during her session. She is interested in literature and epigenetics and loves playing the violin, and she LOVES to play...a true Renaissance woman! This is what she wrote about our time together:
"Working with you was so much fun! You are the perfect balance of warmth and professionalism, combining receptiveness to my ideas with your own unique style and expertise. I felt like I could be myself around you and my photographs show this. Yours was not a formulaic, "do-these-pre-packaged-poses" photography session; it is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to capture the personality of me and my family on film."
I look forward to hearing about your adventures in life, Caroline!
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I have so much fun every time I photograph this family! These girls know how to play!
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
I am looking forward to Josh and Katie's wedding this weekend!