Sunday, February 28, 2010

an explanation, with pictures

Since October, I've been ill or recovering from illness nearly every week. My immune system is worthless, and my mood has been pretty dark for months. I miss myself energetic and positive, but my motivation to get with-it is low. Posting entries to this blog or to Flickr has been postponed indefinitely while I try to get my act and priorities together. And maybe I've put off connecting here because of the way it reminds me of the creative passion that ignited me so recently, but that now seems quite far away from me. Poetry and photography are iffy at best right now, but I've been reading like a fiend and that feels like a step in the right direction, albeit another exercise in escape.

A few months ago, I agreed to be a mentor for a high school student's senior project in photography, and have made a couple of trips out with Emily since January. They have been fun and at least a little bit productive for me. I hope she feels the same way!

Yesterday we went to one of my favorite locations, a neglected pioneer cemetery in North Portland, to see what we could shoot. The weather cooperated for once, and although it was muddy, the morning was warm and the light was pretty good for interesting shots.

I love this little cemetery for the theatricality of its impressive decay--it looks as though a Hollywood set designer was turned loose for a few acres of horror flick excess. Most of the amateur photographers I know in Portland apparently prefer the old cemetery on SE Stark (Lone Pine? Is that right? I can't remember the name of the place), and don't seem to know about my forgotten old wonderland. It's my gorgeous little secret, and I feel very protective of its unique solitude in my very hip, competitive, and noisy city.

It's not far from Doc's house, and he was the one who first introduced me to the ghosts there, walking me dangerously alongside a well-trafficked street without sidewalks. Since then I've found a safer way to gain entry, and we have returned several times together to wander among the sinking graves. We once took Grayson for a picnic, then spent the summer afternoon--all three on separate missions--peacefully solitary, taking pictures and just looking at the way things fall apart. A perfect day.

There are many graves of children, as well as family plots, dating from the mid-to-late 19th century. Some are so decayed they are impossible to read. A few are quite recent; I spotted one yesterday from 2009. Some have mementos left behind, and even fresh bouquets appear occasionally. But every time I visit, even with friends, the place is quiet, and we are the only visitors.

I have brought models to shoot here as well, and had good luck with the light and privacy, capturing some interesting contrasts and textures. Everyone new who visits this place is impressed by its gentle, sad comfort. It was exactly what I needed yesterday after months of self-pity and isolation. Today, while the weather holds, I'm going for a long walk and will spend the afternoon with my pictures and putting the final touches on my poetry manuscript. I have a book coming out this year--by spring with any luck--and must finally get priorities and motivation to their proper places again.

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