Sunday, December 28, 2008

Artist's Statement

6 pictures for you

(January 11 I'm having my first photography show, at St. Gregory's in San Francisco. One of the things I have to do is write an artist's statement. This is the draft I've submitted to Paul Mahder, my curator and friend.)

I live in San Leandro with a strong-willed calico cat, too many books I rarely read any more, and almost 9000 pictures on my hard drive. I wore out my first good camera in the 1970s, took pictures at a fledgling country club in the early 1980s, and then money (the lack thereof) and life diverted my attention from photography.

July 2006 I was gifted with a Nikon digital point-and-shoot, and I had the feeling that I had come home. As good as the intervening years had been—writing and editing, painting and making collages (though making collages was sweet indeed)—I had the sense that this was what I was meant to do. The hard work felt easy and exercising my eye rejuvenated my soul. In a very real sense I came back to life.

January 2008 I was gifted with a Nikon digital single lens reflex that I carry with me almost everywhere. I take pictures of everything that crosses my vision—at a height of 44 inches, my height sitting in a chair. I am particularly fond of the homely detail, the ironic (or iconic) inconsistency, the wear and tear of urban life I can see and reach from the sidewalk or through the window of a Paratransit bus.

Throughout I try to shoot with a “benign eye” that reveals the beauty in what may not be conventionally pretty or generally noticed. Formal values—color and composition—are crucial, though I’ve never met a rule I’m unwilling to challenge. My earliest visual mentors were the Northern Renaissance painters who held everything they saw in the same pristine clarity, which I take to be a kind of love.

Wild Bunch

Note: "3808" and "Wild Bunch" appear on my photostream at

Shrink-Wrapped Glory

Shrink-Wrapped Building

Old rock and roll is one of my best teachers. “To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him—and I do.” The kind of photography I do is often a contemplation. “To see, see, see it is to know, know, know it,” which often brings something very like love in its wake and can unleash a surge of gratitude where the world is seen to be “charged with the glory of God’s grandeur, like shining from shook foil, like the ooze of oil,” as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins knew so well.

Shrink-Wrap, Take Two

Note: "Shrink-Wrap" and "Shrink-Wrap, Take Two" appear in my photostream at on November 18, 2008.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Writer's Block--and International Acclaim

"International acclaim" may be putting it a bit strongly--but when an Italian psychotherapist on Flickr asked if she could use some of my pictures on her own blog, it got me thinking. She doesn't go on and on; instead, there is a photograph and a brief passage of text. She makes me wish I read Italian, which I don't.

Today she used this photograph. I call it "Floating"; she calls it "Musica," which lets me find something new in it.

Maybe I'll try brevity and see if I can recover the soul of wit--or at least my writer's voice.

"Floating" can be found on my Flickr photostream on October 31, 2008.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dinner with the Governor

Almost monochrome
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

In the spring of 1989 I read in the paper that George Wallace finished his last term as governor of Alabama to generally high approval ratings from both black and white voters. The writer cited substantially improved health and education indices as a cause. Hmm, I thought. Months later, on August 20 (I know the date because it was Mama’s birthday), I read in the paper that Jesse Jackson had gone to Montgomery to meet with the Governor. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall, I thought. Wily young populist fox meets with wily old populist fox.

Talking to Mama later that day (she was in Tennessee, I was in Arizona), I told her what I’d seen and said, “You know, I ought to write a letter to Wallace before I wake up some morning and find out he’s dead.”

“Well, why don’t you do it?” she asked. “What do you want to tell him?”

“That I think he’s made good use of the shooting that put him in that chair, that he’s helped people and turned his life around—and that I’m not just blowing smoke, that I have a right to say so, because of my being in a chair too.”

I wrote the letter that night. I can’t remember what I made explicit and what remained unsaid, but I remembered his having gone to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his father, and having asked forgiveness of the congregation. I thought about what being brought low can do to a person. I know I expressed my appreciation and good wishes and thanks for his good work. The next day I called the library and got an address.

When I was home for Christmas, Mama asked me if I’d heard from the Governor.

“No. Maybe it didn’t get to him, or maybe it was too personal and he took offense.” We went on to other things.

I went back to Arizona, and graduate school. The end of February I had a lot on my mind: my final exams in the middle of the week and going home to see Mama on Saturday. So, Monday when I got my mail and saw a return address from “Wallace, Troy State University, Montgomery,” at first I thought it had to do with some inquiry I’d made in regard to my research. THEN I opened it.

“Dear Miss Park,” Wallace began, “Please accept my apologies for the delay in answering your letter. I have been under the weather and have fallen behind in my correspondence.” He went on to express thanks for my “kind sentiments” and acknowledged “the situation we both share.” The ending was simple. “Please know that I am sincerely yours, George C. Wallace.”

The first time I read the letter I could barely see it for tears. Somehow he conveyed to me a courtliness that spoke of more than manners, something that touched me to the heart.

As it happened I went home early to see Mama that week. She had a stroke on Wednesday and died on Saturday. In the months and weeks that followed more than once I thought about calling Troy State University, getting the Governor’s secretary, and flying to Montgomery to take the Governor to dinner. I could have done it. Mama left me enough money that I could indulge the occasional grand gesture. I didn’t do it. I wish I had.

Note: The photo "Almost Monochrome" appears in my photostream at

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Little Things Mean a Lot

One Step
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I have a pain in my right side. At first I thought it was a pulled muscle, but now I don’t think so. I think it may be a tiny hair-line crack in a rib, acquired I know not how, which is possible because I have osteoporosis as well as the osteogenesis that is the reason I use a wheelchair. “But I’m too young for little cracks like that,” I think. “That’s for old women; I’m only 63. I can’t start falling apart yet.”

It’s not a bad pain, nothing I can’t live with, mostly a wince when I turn or lift my arm in certain ways. But it’s there, in the background. I have an appointment with my orthopedist Tuesday, to see what he thinks. Maybe it’s time to go on Calcitonin, a medication to aid bone healing and reduce pain, that’s supposed to be good for the small fractures associated with aging.

I could have called my medical doctor but it would probably have taken longer to get in to see him and he’s rather dour, whereas I always feel supported when I see Dr. W. He’ll tell me if I need to see Dr. D, who might know more about the latest medications. I’m just not as comfortable with him. But at least I’m not playing ostrich. I’m doing something.

While I want to convince myself that this pain, and my concern about it, is a “little thing,” my own words come back to me:


Get full value.
Don't cheat yourself.
You are being called
to spend everything
for a moment's bliss--
with no guarantee
that payment will ever come through.

Only fools hoard their heart.
You are no fool.
This grief and this longing agree on that.

Your love yearns to cry "yes."
What option is caution
for the soul that would be free?

Finally the oyster knows itself
to be not different from the pearl:
soft flesh made precious in pain,
all a jewel in God's fiery sea.

Note: The photo "One Step" appears in my photostream at

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Early Sky
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Several years ago, on a cold, gray Sunday afternoon, I went to Border's. I may have gotten a latte, a magazine or a book, but I was by myself, enjoying it, and not paying much attention to anyone else. When it was time to go home, I went back to the car.

Getting in took a while. First I positioned the chair by the driver's side seat and placed a slide board under my bottom and on the seat so I could make the transition without having to stress my arms or shoulders. Once in, I put the slide board in. Then I reached to take out the seat cushion and remove the back pack from the chair.

Now "the contraption," otherwise known as a car-top carrier, came into play. I pushed a button that opened the box on top and let down a chain with a hooked arm on the end. I manuevered this hook under the wheelchair seat, pushed the button again, and--ta dum, the chain rolled back up, folding the chair as it went and then slid the folded chair into the box on top, which then closed. All I had to do was close the door, put the key in the ignition, and--using the hand controls--drive off.

But before I could do that, a young man who'd been standing off a ways came up to me and said, "You demonstrate the indomitability of the human spirit." I may have thanked him, I'm pretty sure I nodded (I hope I looked gracious), but I was not glad. I didn't want to be an example of the imdomitability of the human spirit. How did that young man see me if that's what he saw? I didn't want to consider that.

And something is shifting, something I find myself investigating in these blogs as I explore the interface between photographs that have quickened new aliveness and the experience of living in this body of mine. I revisit that Sunday afternoon and have a better sense of what the young man observed.

Edna St. Vincent Millay burst on the literary landscape in the 1930s with "Renascence," which contains these lines: "The world stands out on either side No wider than the heart is wide." I'd add the eye that opens and the body that may have been misread. At least that's how it's coming to seem to me.

Note: "Early Sky" can be found in my photostream at

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Things Change

Change of Focus
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Things change, especially the things I take as rock-solid certainties. When I wrote my blog profile, I referred to my power chair as both central and peripheral to my existence—and thought I’d summed the matter up succinctly. But no. Behind a simple statement about my means of conveyance lies the whole issue of my disability, something that gets more complex as I get older and as I get more able to be with the nuances of my own experience.

When I was a little girl, we didn’t talk about “it” because there was nothing that talking could change. Somehow I got the idea I wasn’t supposed to have feelings about living in a body that would sometimes fracture of its own volition, about looking different, about being unable to do so many things that other children did. It wasn’t supposed to bother me that some people on the street would stare and some people would avert their eyes and refuse to look at me. I had good manners and made good grades and my parents gave me nice presents, so there was nothing to say.

As a young adult I concentrated on Good Grooming, perfect makeup, never a hair out of place, had long red fingernails, and bristled if people mentioned my being disabled. After all, I could do almost everything but walk so why did they need to say anything? I lived alone, I drove across country, I had a full-time job, I even moved the furniture in my studio apartment (the hardwood floor meant I could slide things). I could get out of the chair, scoot up a flight of stairs on my bottom bringing the chair with me, and get back in it at the top.

Then in my thirties, after a bad accident, I couldn’t go from the chair to the ground any more, was limited to horizontal transfers. Fast forward to the present: more accidents, weight gain, a brace to prevent a vulnerable lower leg from fracturing, an arm that doesn’t rotate properly, and I have become what I thought I would never be: a Disabled Person, someone for whom being disabled affects most activities of daily life.

I don’t drive any more. I use a bedside commode instead of a toilet because the transfer is safer (and it’s still difficult). I use a slide board to get in and out of bed. I can’t turn on my side in bed without deliberate and difficult maneuvering. I have a harder time than I used to reaching things in the kitchen. I, who used to be pain-free, know about frequent aches. I, who used to go longer and harder than just about anyone else, generally lie down in the afternoon. Along with the changed visage of middle age, I have a new body, one that I don’t yet identify with, one that is not yet entirely my friend. And still, with all of this, the I who investigates, who takes these pictures, whose eye and heart still finds newness and beauty along the sidewalks I travel, is both able and grateful.

This photograph "Change of Focus" appears in my photostream at

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feeling Groovy

I may have painted between the lines when I used Daddy's shirt cardboard, but something in me wants to kick over the traces, do it differently, make a new statement.

I was just thinking, wondering which of my poems fits this mood and realized that while I'm not grieving any particular romance, the apparent loss of romance in later middle age--"which of course can have its creative compensations"--is a kind of grief. And if I tell the truth, it's grief for losses I've been feeling in recent months rather than depression about the way things are. A subtle distinction perhaps but important and by no means an indication that every moment has been misery. Far from it. But I do have a poem that seems apropos:


the next time
I get a broken heart
I don't want to act civilized
and talk things out
in a rational

instead I want
to throw things
and make huge scenes
in public

I want
to hold on to his leg
as he drags me behind him
while he tries
to walk

I want
to break glasses
and smash plates
and not ever
clean it

I want
to cause a commotion
not take responsibility
feel sorry for myself
be self-indulgent
throw a tantrum
raise a ruckus
suffer loudly
be immature
have a fit
blame him
carry on

and howl
at the moon

over and over
Note: The photographs "Green Set (c), (a)" appear in my photostream at

Monday, August 4, 2008

I've Always Been a Good Girl

One Way--or Another
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

When I was little, Mama would give me the cardboard from Daddy’s shirts when they came back from the laundry. One Christmas I got a set of oil paints. I remember painting on a piece of shirt cardboard, the paints spread out on a towel at the foot of the other bed in my room. I was very careful not to make a mess. I don’t remember what I painted.

Note: The photograph "One Way--or Another" appears in my photostream at

Friday, August 1, 2008

Barack Obama Made Me Cry

Obama '08
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

It happened this way. At a town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, Obama responded to a young heckler who took him to task for supposedly not doing enough for black people. After detailing specific actions he’s taken, he ended by saying, “The only way we’re going to be able to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, old, young, disabled, gay, straight.” DISABLED? Did he really say “disabled”?

He did—and all of a sudden I understood why it had meant so much to a friend with multiple sclerosis some years ago when Jesse Jackson had a silver stripe—for chrome wheelchairs—included in his rainbow. Howard kept saying, “He knows we’re out here, he knows we’re out here.”

Now I knew what he meant, because Obama was talking about me. I matter. People like me matter to the possible future President of the United States.

And today, as I kept reciting the list, which I’ve memorized like a mantra, I realized it’s not just a list of the excluded or the marginalized. More important it’s a list of the people who belong, who have to be counted—and that includes disabled people.

It’s been hard to come out, as it were, as a disabled person, despite the fact of that disability being so very obvious. But if Barack Obama knows me well enough to make me cry, I might as well “stand up” and be counted.

I think they were tears of joy.

Note: The photograph "Obama '08" appears in my photostream at

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"And the Red, Red Robin . . ."

Blue. Bird.
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

"Goes bob, bob, bobbin' along." I don't have any robin pictures so this will have to do.

It's been a week since Anita told me she wanted to quit, to take a job with more hours. And the situation has resolved itself quite nicely.

The next day she said her employer-to-be told her she wanted to give some of Anita's hours (the reason she was taking the job in the first place) to a former caregiver who had come back on the scene. This did not sit well with Anita, not well at all. "If she does that now, what might she do later?

"Can I have my job back? I'll be loyal to you."

And I said yes. The things that had been getting on my nerves seem to have become non-issues, and we're settling in well, establishing our own routine, which includes starting the day with a few minutes of hot chocolate and talk.

No, not a bad outcome at all, and the red, red robin does go bob, bob, bobbin' along.

Note: The photograph "Blue. Bird." appears in my photostream at

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Suspended for Sexual Misconduct"

Electric landscape
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I keep thinking about an article I read recently in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Epis-copal Church comes under fire for parolee priest: Murderer who was ordained has been suspended for sexual misconduct with parishioner” (by Matthai Kuruvila, B-1, 9, Friday, July 18, 2008).

“Sexual misconduct with parishioner”: I think about how familiar these words are, and how familiar these issues are and how close to home they come.

A former president of my own seminary in another denomination resigned because of sexual impropriety: adultery while being pastor of the church he served before coming to the seminary, adultery that continued after he came to the seminary. This man saw nothing inappropriate in his being a moral arbiter of gay and lesbian students seeking ordination—and was quite proud of having written a book on manners that sold well.

A seminary classmate brought sexual abuse charges against the pastor of her home church, who counseled her after the death of her husband and shepherded her on her journey to seminary. He didn’t rape her, and it was still sexual abuse. After he got his obligatory slap on the wrist from the denomination, many people saw her as a nuisance who should shut up and go away, when she kept demanding real help to put her life back together again.

At a conference I met a psychiatrist who had lost his license for sleeping with a patient, “for her own good.” He could not see that he had done anything wrong. He didn’t rape her, but I doubt that she could call him between sessions and say, “Honey, I’m feeling horny. Let’s get it on.” When I met him, he had lost everything but what he still saw as his innocence.

It’s been said that “a stiff dick has no conscience.” What’s the comparable witticism, unfunny as it can be, for a woman? While I was a seminary intern I was powerfully attracted to a member of the congregation where I was working, and it was grace that kept me from making a grievous error. It was probably grace that let me get together with this man later and find out for myself it was a mistake—but not for moral, ecclesiastical reasons.

Any of these stories warrants lengthy reflection. Every one of them stirs the pot as I keep going back to the Chronicle story. As I try to see what’s roiling beneath the surface, the first thing I see is the difficulty of even touching on them. The reticence I feel to broach the subject of sexual abuse—victims and perpetrators—has to do with issues of privacy and with issues of so-called “politeness.” Then there’s the old voice that says, “Don’t. Just leave well enough alone. Nice people don’t talk about bad sex.”

This prohibition likely stems in part from reluctance to face the dark numen that can be part of sexuality bereft of the ethical and the kind, the forthright and the mutual. It’s hard to talk about the possibility that we might falter, that someone we’ve looked up to has faltered. And it’s also hard to admit that our best-intentioned efforts may not prevent or easily ameliorate the grievous effects of sexual abuse by those in positions of power. Here I’ve reflected on situations involving clergy and a physician—but we don’t have to be clergy or physicians ourselves to hear troubling echoes that ring true more than we may like to admit, even to ourselves.

I think that’s enough for now.

Note: The photograph "Electric Landscape" appears in my photostream at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Only the Shadow Knows

Only the Shadow knows
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Anita quit yesterday. She'd gotten an offer for double my hours and really needs the extra money.

"I'll stay with you till you get someone else."

"No. Just finish the week --and maybe you could do laundry and change the bed, and do grocery shopping, once a week till I get someone." This is fair, I think, and doesn't saddle me with someone who's already out the door, someone from whom I've already in just these few moments begun the process of disengagement.

She agrees. Oh, yes. Gladly.

Today was all right. Wednesday. One down, two to go. I hadn't been devastated yesterday. After all, it was only the seventh time she'd been here. And while things were generally going well, I had reservations.

She's a complainer about things in her personal life; I don't think she knows how much. And a sigher. I can't stand her deep lugubrious sighs. And she likes me so much.

Who knows? Perhaps the new person will be neither a sometime curmudgeon nor a complainer. While I can get lonely, very lonely, a part of me likes the prospect of being on my own in my own space again for a while. Things aren't too bad.

Then, this afternoon, I go out for a few minutes and come back to a message on the answering machine: "It's Anita. The woman I was going to work for wants to give some of my hours to a caregiver who used to work for her. Is your job still open? Call me."

Nothing in me rises in delight, breathes deep, sighs with relief. OH SHIT. How do I say I don't think I want her when I haven't made a single criticism of her work?

"It was so hard to give notice because you've been so sweet to me."

Only the Shadow knows.

Note: The photograph "Only the Shadow knows" appears in my photostream at

Friday, July 11, 2008

Two-Part Invention

I don't think I've made a collage since I got my first Nikon (a Coolpix P4) two years ago and today I made a collage.

With my photographs there is the immediate constraint of sitting; my eye level opens up certain possibilities, subtle ones usually, and pretty much rules out others. With my collages I often set myself the challenge of working with just two pieces of paper, two disparate images, to see what I can get with such seemingly limited means.

Today, when I took my collage book outside to photograph it (something I haven't yet mastered to my satisfaction), my upstairs neighbor, she of the yellow toenail polish, was sitting on the steps. And I have a picture of a collage that is very like a collage.

Note: The photograph "Two-part invention" can be found in my photostream at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Homage to My Father

Homage to my father
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Daddy would have been ninety-nine today. He died in 1978, almost half my life ago. He is still my shining star and my bete noire, “a man of such grace and gift as to beggar the telling of it.”

He was capable of great tenderness and fearsome rage. My last words to him, before he was killed, were “Go to hell.” Six months after his murder I revisited a former psychiatrist, to tell the story of my grief one more time.

“There’s something wrong here,” he said. “For this much time having passed, your grief is too raw, too extreme. I think you’re trying to separate the Good Daddy and the Bad Daddy. I promise you that if you let them come together, you’ll wind up with more of the Good Daddy.”

Dr. Mathews was right, more right than I knew then. I still adore my Daddy—and I haven’t been free not to tell the good stories, not to sing the songs of praise. Finally there’s room for in my heart for the darker songs too. Happy Birthday, Daddy. It’s all right.


Bury the Old King. Let his bones
give to the land what he could not,
what he would not
in his hatred and his fear
of the gentle blooming life
that would not obey his will,
that was unable of itself not to grow.

For this he cursed the land
and for this we bury his bones
as the only mercy we can ask for him,
as the only mercy he can at last give.

Note: The photograph "Homage to my father" can be found in my photostream at

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Way of Thorns

Way of thorns
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

“If I hadn’t posted it now, I could have posted today’s photograph next Easter season.” At least that was the direction I was going when I sat down to write. A little irony, a little brittle humor, and the rest I wasn’t sure of yet.

This is an unusual photograph for me in that the symbolism is so easy to read out of or into the picture, though I didn’t see that when I took it. I simply saw the long curve, the pattern of light and shadow, the parallel lines, the repetition of sharp points. But when I posted it, I experienced a physical sense of disquietude, in part about making any of my own “way of thorns” public, in part about acknowledging how deep is my connection to the imagery and belief of the Christian tradition. But at the level of declaration what my right hand embraces, my left hand rejects, still. And then there is the Space that simply is, that holds it all, where declaration and rejection are simply two more patterns to be observed. That Great Spaciousness does not depend upon a season.

Recent weeks have been replete with thorns—and I sense a subtle Easter stirring. Even yesterday, with Anita’s first day . . . even last night, with allowing myself Advil to ease the aches I too often put up with. . . even this morning, getting up with a hint of free-floating well-being. And I notice the desire to wrap up, to present in a package, what is perfectly fine as it is.

Note: The photograph "Way of Thorns" can be found in my photostream at

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam

Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

At 7:05 I cancelled my 8:36 Paratransit ride to church because I had to give them at least an hour’s notice or I would have gotten a “no show” on my record—and enough no shows can jeopardize one’s ability to use the service. Had they asked why, and sometimes they do, I would have said I was having difficulty with bowel management.

Actually I was afraid I might have difficulty with said management because I got up later than usual and the last couple of days have been difficult in that department. Usually getting up early enough to let two or three DietPepsis work their magic lets me have my bowel movement before I leave the apartment home, on the free-standing bedside commode that I’ve had to use since my last broken hip. Peeing away from home I can handle; a woman’s urinal in a discreet black bag on the back of the chair takes care of that.

Today I might have had a problem, and I might not have had a problem, and the truth is, I wanted to play hooky. Generally when I stay home from church I wind up getting lonely, eating too much, and knowing I would have been happier if I’d pushed myself to get up and ready and out and about.

Except right now I’m relishing what feels like stolen time, a day that’s all mine, nobody to account to. I remember, years ago when I worked, I’d often bring a pile of work home on the weekend. It would sit on the couch all weekend, accusing me, till I finally admitted, sometime on Sunday night, that I didn’t have time to do it, at which point I would experience a guilty frisson of freedom. I’d escaped. I’d made it through again. The time between then and bedtime was all mine.

In the clear light of Monday morning what had seemed so pressing, what I had thought would take so many hours, was usually quite simple. The not-working I tortured myself with all weekend was a complicated and painful game I played with myself for the high of the putative escape.

Currently I have some external structure in my life, but not a great deal. I have therapy one day a week and other occasional medical and personal appointments. Then there’s church in San Francisco on Sunday. Sometimes Paratransit is a dream: quick and efficient; sometimes an hour’s appointment can eat more than half a day.

Generally four days a week I have a home health-care aide to help me with housework and cooking, shopping, and things like washing my hair. Judith, who just left after three years, could be high-maintenance in terms of energy. I don’t know about Anita, who starts tomorrow; I do know it will take time for us to get to know each other and to learn how to work together. Sometimes when there’s someone with me I feel that I have to be “on.” Sometimes I don’t.

And the fact is that right now I have this stolen block of time, “where the buffalo roam, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” Sometimes it’s okay to escape.

Note: The photograph "Chimney" can be found in my photostreat at

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Crown of wires
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I’m still mulling over the difference between a blog and a journal. This past week would have been a fruitful one for journaling, if I were still drawn to keep a journal. There was the end-of-the-month melodrama of holding on for a new month and new money (I ended up with $2.57 in the bank). I was really pissed off, again, at someone about whom I had recently gained a fair degree of equanimity. My weight seemed to multiply itself by ten every time I looked in the mirror. Judith had left and Anita hadn’t started yet; I had all the housework and too much solitude despite three appointments and feeling pressured for time.

When I was young, and serious about being a painter, I knew I’d done something good when I had the sense it had the right to exist in the world separate from me. I’m starting to think that blog entries also have some kind of right to exist in the world, in part because they are shaped and deliberate in ways that journal entries typically are not. Even if small, this can make them worthy of protection and possible notice. That disciplined shapeliness may allow me to address deeply personal material in this very impersonal forum in a way I could not risk with material bounded only by feeling.

And there is, of course, the delight of the writing, when correcting a line opens up a new line of thinking. “This past week would have been a fruitful one for journaling . . . “ I can't remember that I originally wrote, but last week I kept thinking I should be able to take the direct roil of feelings, get them out, and make a blog of them. But this was pretty much coming out of old journal-mind. I know that now; I didn’t know it till I saw myself write “if I were still drawn to keep a journal.”

And felt a palpable sense of rightness. I can do this: I can find a way of looking at my experience the way I look at my photographs, the way I look at the world through my photographs. I’m not still drawn to keep a journal, the eighty-plus notebooks and sketchbooks and hardbound blank books in the closet not withstanding, I don’t have to keep a journal. The fact is, I don’t keep a journal.

I don’t keep a diary/day-book either—and because I don’t, I can’t look back and remember hat I did a week ago Thursday. This bothers me because I feel that I’m losing time. And I think that if I have an entry for each day, like a picket, I can fence my life in and it won’t get away from me. Wrong. I don’t think so.

But I have the present, with its opportunity for occasional insights that recast pissy weeks and lingering shoulds.

Happy Independence Day.

Note: The photograph "Crown of wires" can be found in my photostream at

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Anita. Anita. Anita.

Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I've interviewed two women for the home health-care worker position; a third, who worked for me briefly when I came home from the hospital last August, didn't call or show up for her appointment. I started out thinking it was a done deal that I'd offer her the job.

Until, that is, I interviewed Anita yesterday. She was running late, called to let me know. I didn't chafe or get irritable. Finally she showed up, with a retarded young woman she takes care of from mid-Friday afternoon through Saturday morning. There hadn't been time to see me between her morning job and this one so, rather than not see me, she brought her charge along.

We had clicked on the first phone visit when I'd asked her if she had a sense of humor and then wished her the Southern benediction--"Hot dayum"--and a sense of rightness deepened when we met in person. I knew I still had two interviews to go--and nonetheless last night and today "Anita" whispered itself over and over in my ear.

The woman I interviewed today was lovely, very professional, an Afghani whose English was good but not so good that I would be able to speak quickly or casually. I'd be worn out in an hour from the effort of having to accommodate myself to her comprehension level. Talk about feeling worn down and constrained!

Anita. Anita. Anita. "I'd like to offer you the job." She was so happy she got teary, she had prayed so hard, she would take such good care of me. Someone to take care of me.

And my heart is singing. I thought it would be so hard to find someone to replace Judith. No one can "replace" Judith: she is as idiosyncratic and dear to me as is Brenda. Truth be told, sometimes it was as difficult with Judith as it was good, though the good usually won out. But now maybe it's time for someone to take care of me.

Note: The photograph "Open" can be found in my photostream at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Fire and the Rose Are One

Come in
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Still feeling my way with the newness of blogging, sensing into the difference (or what will be the difference for me) between blogging and journaling, noticing my desire to play with my new toy all the time, which is not the point and would surely after the fact bore me and any reader. But an excitement nonetheless.

My first take on the blogging/journaling distinction is that blogging is ideas and journaling is feelings, to put it broadly, but for me ideas are feelings and feelings are ideas. The tricky part is where other people come in. How much will I feel free to write my feelings--okay, my negative or critical feelings--about other people? I think the key point will be to reference the other person and then to go beyond that person or situation, to allow myself a longer view through an exploration (guided or not!) of where this going beyond, which is the essence of process, takes me.

"The fire and the rose are one." That's what process offers the apparent contradiction between privacy and expression, too much disclosure or impenetrable resolve. And I'm getting the sense that one way my writing got stuck, or derailed, in the past was by being too interior. I was trying, with all my heart, to limn my subjective experience--and to break out of that I would do "writerly" exercises involving the outside world. But somehow that didn't do the trick, probably because I had no vital connection to the slice of the outside world I chose to write about.

But now, with my photograph as a kind of liminal object, something feels different. For example, the picture of the open door speaks to the situation around Judith's leaving, and much else. I don't necessarily have to write about that "much else" here, at this moment, to have it resonate in what and how I write and in how I come to the writing.

Note: The photograph "Come in" can be found in my photostream at

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cool, Clear Water

Cool, clear water
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I'm wearing myself out. This is what I need: cool, clear water; ease; rest--and it's not what I'm feeling. I blogged this directly from Flickr, which is good in that I can see the image I'm working with, but I don't know how to change the image size or position.


Note: The photograph "Cool, clear water" can be found on my photostream at

Gaudi in Oakland?

Gaudi in Oakland?
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I lost this picture when I edited "I'm Pissed." Now I'll have to settle for having it right above that entry. This blogging is hard shit.

Note: The photograph "Gaudi in Oakland?" can be found in my photostream at

I'm Pissed

BlogSpot won't let me download a picture--and the first two were so easy. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong, and I don't know what I'm doing, and this whole blogging thing is siphoning energy off from photographs and Flickr. I don't want to make a fool of myself.

But I kept with it and I figured it out. This time I picked out a picture at random--"zen in the art of fortune cookies"--"Gaudi in Oakland?" The first thing I see is that the reflection isn't smooth, that there's a distortion that wiggles wavelike across the surface. I know that I deleted two American flags because they didn't fit the composition.

It hit me a few minutes ago that my building sense of unease, of urgency about what and how to write has something to do with Judith's leaving. She has two days left, plus bringing Miss Lily by here on Monday and the one day she's getting paid for that she won't have worked yet. And I'm worried about who will reflect me? Who'll be there on an almost daily basis to see me and hear me pretty much no matter what I do and without my having to go through social nattering to set it up. I've come to depend on her, to know myself through her eyes and count on the relief of not having to keep everything bottled up. Don once a week and Janet every two weeks isn't enough; each one goes deep and is valuable, but as an "all" or an "almost all" it's pretty skimpy rations. And I'm scared. I don't want to go back to the place where I feel like I'm the one who has to take all the care of myself. Brenda and Christina both can listen magnificently, when I really need it, but it's not the same thing as Judith here, difficult as that can be sometimes.

Feel like I'm getting wordy--but at least I did get on to something, that this antsiness about the blog is somehow related to Judith's imminent "official" departure. That's something.

If Your Eye Intrigue You . . .

For a second there I thought the type was going to have to start under the picture, and I definitely wanted wrap-around text.

It's 7:30 and I haven't done anything with Flickr, but that's kind of fun, to have more than enough. This could be where I learn how to do illustrated books.

The original text is "If your eye offends you, take it out," but I'm remembering what Donald used to say about taking offense--how much of the problem started there--and thinking how I don't look at my own experience the same way I look at the detritus I see on the street, the worn surfaces of buildings, the broken windows and defaced storefronts that I find so fascinating and so visually appealing. I thinking about some of the rundown areas of MacArthur Boulevard, where I would so much like to take pictures but where I am afraid my presence would be seen as intrusive or offending condescension, where I would be an "other" come to use the stuff of people's poverty and misfortune in a way that is perceived as insensitive. I don't know how I would say, "But let me thank you. I see such beauty here, beauty alongside and in the presence of the hardship and the public/private pains you are right to tell me not to assume I can appropriate without understanding."

I know the eye I carry with me makes my Paratransit trips through "bad neighborhoods," derelict sections of town, often a delight because I am able to see without judgment. "Back alleys and formal beauties": the phrase that came to me at the laundromat in Berkeley all those years ago. "If thine eye be whole." Maybe I can come to let myself extend this same kind of interested appreciation to how I work, what I'm going through--all the issues of aging, and weight, and loneliness, intensified as they often are by the borderline--by extending a benign eye upon myself. Somehow "a thousand years are as a day in your sight" fits in here too.

Note: The photograph "One open eye" can be found in my photostream at
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Monday, June 23, 2008

BART Handrail

Hooray! I figured out how to send a picture from Flickr to the blog. Was thinking I'd have to get somebody to show me, but again, I did it myself, I taught myself.

This is the BART steps at the 12th Street Station in downtown Oakland. I'm looking between railings that go across the top, fitted the lens in between. The wall actually is a much duller color and, if the photograph hadn't shown it, if it weren't there to be pulled out, I would have sworn there was no reflection. I like that the diagonal doesn't slice the picture plane into two equal halves, if only because that means I can send it to the Dissymmetry pool on Flickr.

Something bright and hopeful about this. Though the picture has the feel of a descent, it is a descent to the right, and if it's this bright "near land," close to the top, what lies below has to be wonderful. There is quantitatively "more" in the world because this picture exists, and qualitatively too.

Note: The photograph "BART handrail" can be found in my photostream at

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I've Decided To Blog

The title--The Benign Eye--comes from my next book of photographs; the first, a gift to me from Janet Ference, was True Vision.

I was talking to Paul Fromberg yesterday and said I've noticed that my photographs aren't angry. Even when I'm upset or worried, there's a kind of calm in the image. I can even take pictures of things that aren't "pretty" and find beauty there. For a long time I've thought about the eye of Northern Renaissance art, how deep is (in photographic terms) the depth of field. To me that bespeaks a kind of equaminity that is worth pursuing, even if it cannot be chased, particularly because it cannot be chased.

I don't know how this blog will evolve--I hope at times I'll find myself writing into discovery. It's been a long time since I've done that. And I hope I won't write "for" some phantom audience. I know that hasn't been a problem at Flickr. In fact, as I've gained the friendship and praise of people whose work I value highly, I find myself more free, less constrained by "What will people think?" or "Am I putting it right?" It will be interesting to find out if I can do the same thing with matters of life and faith, aging and the body, borderline and loneliness--as well as the little purple flowers I find on the left-hand side of the path that I take up the mountain, away from the golden city that lies far across the desert floor.

I would like to include a photograph, probably "BART Handrail," with this first entry but I can't figure out how to attach pictures.