This post is a follow-up to the one called “Moments” from almost exactly a year ago. I hope you’ll read that post as well, and watch the videos!
Just today I was looking back through one of my old journals, 13 years past, and discovered that it was this very week in 2000 that the idea and the title for my collection of short stories, The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility first popped into my mind. The title came from a story I had already completed, “Family Man,” and all I knew was that I wanted to expand on a feeling of connection between members of the human family. That was a little moment of inspiration that has rippled through my life for all the subsequent years. I had just begun to study independent publishing, and I then proceeded to go on a detour away from my own writing to publish others, in the form of Bliss Plot Press and the literary journal, Prima Materia. It wasn’t until 2009 that I birthed the finished book of my own stories into the world, and the years since have been frequently occupied with shepherding its slow growth.
So, obviously, a single moment can be profound: a turning point in one’s life. But that is not really what I’m exploring here. Rather, I’m interested in those moments that either simply pass by with little consequence, too often unnoticed, or those moments into which we fall like a meditation, a brief creative trance outside of time, here then gone.
The “occasional video” art project I described a year ago has continued: short spontaneous videos shot with my little Bloggie camera, with no editing except for trimming head and tail. In that project, I look for a balance of random banality and ephemeral beauty, something that might fit the Japanese aesthetic called wabi-sabi, which suggests that poetry and grace can be found in the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."
From the past twelve months, here are my latest four video moments (about 1 minute each):
Moments: Sitting in the Watery Boneyard
Moments: Accidental Video While Walking the Dog
Moments: My simple way of enduring a shopping trip...
And here’s a different kind of moment from my current novel-in-progress. The protagonist is feeling various stresses: ex-wife, kids, money, and a new mystery: who is stealing his life story? So this is how he uses a little slice of time to escape all that.
At Father Demo Square, he found the perfect view up Sixth Avenue and set up the tripod. He loaded a roll of Ektachrome 160 into his Canon SLR, attached the quick-release plate using a nickel in the screw slot, and seated the camera on the tripod head with a solid click. He screwed the delicate cable release into the top of the shutter button. Then he framed through his zoom at about 150 mm, with the flow of traffic in the foreground, the Bleecker Street sign at the middle left, and the glowing red and blue spire of the Empire State Building piercing the black sky in the upper right.
These shots were going to be time exposures, turning taxis into streams of light and people into ghosts, all motion gone liquid and translucent, rivers of life flowing through the concrete immoveable canyons of the city. On his budget, film and processing for the sake of experimental art had to be strictly rationed. He had one roll, 36 exposures, to work with tonight, and he hoped for at least one beautiful image from the roll. He worked carefully, selecting different combinations of f-stop and shutter speed, writing down each exposure in a tiny notebook. He pushed the plunger of the cable release with his thumb as he counted along with the second hand on his watch, lit by a miniature flashlight held in his teeth. Five seconds, seven seconds, ten seconds, f 5.6, f 8, f 16. For the last third of the roll, he brought out his flash unit and, without attaching it to the camera, held it high over his head and sent a bolt of illumination into the scene as he held the shutter open. Any moving object catching the beam would appear a little more solid than the surrounding swirls of cloudy motion.
He was like a boulder in a stream, standing still while everything flowed around him. With his full attention given to the work, he experienced time in an all new way. The moment stretched out without limits, nothing existed but the immediate task, all past and future forgotten, his very self and all its stories gone, melted entirely away, merged with the air and sky and all the vibrating waves and particles of the animate and inanimate worlds upon worlds surrounding his centerless center.
It lasted a few minutes, a quarter of an hour, and then he packed up and walked home, smiling.
I invite your thoughts about the value of being mindful of moments, and about the challenges of capturing them in art. Thanks for visiting!