As I slip back into my life back home, there is still so much I want to tell you, and to show you. Conscious, though, that you might weary of these travel posts (those iconically interminable 60s/ '70s evenings viewing friends' slides or home movies), I'll be trying for balance between there and here, then and now, words and pictures, long and short. . .
I often feel this in my quotidian circle: details that seem revelatory, even occasionally profound, confirm me as "odd duck," overly sensitive, making too much of small details, when I try to share them. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, my perspicacious and wise insights (yes, I kid!), are not always appreciated as such if delivered during a family gathering. At best, they probably appear as quirky, if passionate, observations. The conversation is fast-moving, someone in the corner tells a joke, a baby needs to be moved, quickly, away from a wine glass, my emphasis on the light hitting a statue loses its listener, I wonder if I'm being tedious, I feel those accusatory nouns bookworm, bluestocking . . .fragility ensues, which I hide as best I can. . . I leave my description of the woman at a window, framed in apricot, watching the crowd at the Pantheon (see, above), leave it mid-sentence to find a cloth for the spilled wine. When someone eventually remembers that I was telling them something, apologizes for losing the thread, for interrupting the conversation, I pretend I've forgotten what I was saying, and tuck the anecdote away. I grab my own glass, turn into a rapt listener at the elbow of someone else's day . . .
Oh dear, that last is such a revealing paragraph. Will I leave it? For now, yes, I think so. Realize, please, how partial is its meaning, how particular the phenomenon it details, how little it relates to, perhaps 80% of my life. . . .
So, anyhow. . . (coughs awkwardly)
Those posts I read:
The first It's Your Job to Do the Pointing appeared on The Cassandra Pages recently; the title quotes a Guardian article by Oliver Burkeman whom Beth further quotes as having said that a writer "should pretend" to see "something in the world that's interesting" and to which the writer is directing the reader's attention. She goes on to acknowledge that, simple as this dictum might be, the path to achieving it can be complicated: "Of course, it really isn't that simple. First we have to train ourselves to be people who actually see something: people who are able to quiet down enough that we become an eye, an ear, a sensitive skin, but not so sensitive that we cannot bear it. Then we have to learn how to express what we have learned through our senses, intelligence, and experience. Finally, we have to learn how to give it away - how to point our effort toward the invisible reader rather than back at ourselves; how to become a vessel that fills and empties over and over again."
I'm hesitant to think of myself as "a writer," but, after all, that's what I do here, write. And I am the first to admit that I seem to have been pointing "back at [my]sel[f]" here, in talking so much about my feelings. But I do think that the blog allows me a training space to "be [a person] who actually see[s] something," even if, in this post, I may have diverted my attention from the broken-hearted studio sign of my original observation.
A second post also clarified some of my reasons for focussing on details and wanting to record them; titled The Contra-Flâneur, this was posted on the lovely and erudite (although never tediously so) blog, Parisian Fields. Taking inspiration from an essay by Georges Perec, the writer builds an inventory of what she sees from a window overlooking the intersection of Paris' Boulevard Port-Royal and its Rue St. Jacques. Not only an inventory of the buildings and the vehicles and the trees and the businesses, but also of the many activities she observes, what people are wearing, what they are looking at, with whom are they conversing, etc. As she says, she follows Perec's lead in writing about "what happens when nothing is happening."
And I guess that's much of what catches my eye when we travel as well. In fact, it catches my eye at home, as well, but travel sharpens that eye by placing it in new situations and by giving it a bit more leisure as well as ensuring that there is generally a camera to hand.