Posts Tagged ‘life


century plant (and roadblock, map, driving metaphors for the life you’d like to lead)

everyone has their own way of coping with the life they lead,

making minor adjustments (and the occasional major ones) to accommodate the unexpected (i would write “roadblocks” here, but only because i just heard  a report on the tv about a 9 semi-truck pile-up in the newhall pass that has the 5 freeway backed up in both directions for miles, but “roadblock” is too simple an explanation for the way your life unfolds in front of you. it could be one of those maps that has been unfolded and folded again and again that has made the creases soft like cotton, little pieces of rolled up paper left laying in your lap as you stuff it — after struggling to get it put into the same configuration as you found it — back into the glove compartment. you know, the compartment were you put your life’s issues that you don’t want to have to deal with while you have your hands on the wheel. i am now done with that ‘driving’ metaphor.)

meanwhile, the century plant continues to hold raindrops in its own special way.


thorns (remembering the past)

there is a period of my life that i’m trying to reconstruct that isn’t as clear to me as other parts of my life have been.  there is a general feeling that i can remember, but the details are shrouded in a fog of forgetfulness.  it isn’t a long period of time, just four weeks and one day, and bracketed as it is by deep despair and complete elation, you’d think that it would reveal itself, but no.  i may resort to embellishment of the general feelings, knowing as i do my modus operandi during that period of my life, and perhaps that will provide the truth of the emotions from that time if not the actual day-to-day facts.


untitled 3 (time stands still)

it may not bother you, but every now and then i worry about the lives i might be stopping, for just the briefest moment, when i click the button that activates the shutter on my camera and makes it open and close.  that somehow during that briefest of moments, time stands still.  it stops the mother at the kitchen window watching her children play in the backyard; it stops the young couple walking along the beach holding hands, discussing their dreams; it stops a plumber on a saturday emergency call or the policeman in his cruiser as he turns into a vacant parking lot.

it may be that because i mostly photograph plants and landscapes, i don’t think of the consequences of stopping time, but when i look out at the world below i know that life is moving forward and it worries me that i’ve stopped all these lives that i can’t see by pressing the shutter button and that by doing that i’ve captured their moment, just like i’ve captured my own, but without their knowledge.  that seems a heavy obligation.  (it’s true, time has only stopped for the itsy-bitsiest of seconds–an atomic second, let’s say–and no one felt it, their lives did not end, obviously, although i imagine with 7 billion people on the planet, someone did die at the exact moment i pressed the shutter button and stopped time here in ______ ______ and their time did stop then too.  this image then is a memory of their last breath, even though they may have never seen this landscape in their lives.  do you understand my concern now?)

it’s a little frisson of anxiety at the activities of man (and other living beings on the planet) that i have no control over even though i have captured this moment — and now i’m sharing it with you, the viewer, making you culpable for the moment of stopped time and responsible for those lives as well.  sharing does not alleviate, nor ease my guilt.  i hope you’ll (you the viewer as well) understand and forgive me for taking a moment of your time and saving it (and sharing it) with the world (regardless of how many people might actually view it–i still stopped time on sunday, november 13th at around 3:21 p.m. pacific standard time and that is a memory of the world at that moment.)


7 stations on the road to the ocean, after hiroshige (day one)

you leave the world behind you (lot’s wife’s view, should you turn your back to where you’re headed and look instead at what you’re leaving behind–without the drama of fleeing from the burning hell of sodom and gomorrah and that pillar of salt threat, obvsly.)  what you are setting aside, turning away from, is not, visually at least, as awful as one might think,   it has its charms, its beauty, it’s home after all, but when you do turn your back on it (as we will) you feel a lift, there is a flutter of anticipation — not just brought on by standing up too fast –in your heart, that heady combination of fleeing and arriving.

once the day has begun the sound of the ocean dissipates, even though it looks as if you could throw a rock into it from this height, but that roar and boom (shot from a circus cannon) is replaced by the constant thrum of motors, tires on pavement, the engines of commerce heard from as far away as the freeway miles behind you (city dwellers don’t know true silence, do they? neither do those who live closer to the land–only if you listen deeply and you do have to want to listen deeply or you’ll miss the constant hum of the earth.)

but now, as you walk toward the ocean, even when you briefly turn your back on it to see where you’ve been, the crunch of your footfall on the path keeps beat with the rhythm of your heart–should you be accompanied by a four-footed companion–you’ll also have their snuffling as a counterpoint to your tempo, but it all comes together, sweetly and simply.  (i do think that parts of you start to fall off of your body at about this point in your walk to the ocean; the failures, the missed opportunities, the little procrastinations and white lies — even those that keep society civil, all these plus your petty battles for ascendancy, those small triumphs that bolster your insupportable ego, all of that begins to molt so quietly that you’ll not even notice the shadow of their feathered flight on the wind coming up from the ocean below.)


dual citizenship (and other mishaps)

the most aggravating thing, should i be so bold as to rank life’s aggravations, which i will be, bold that is, and come out (not that i’m not already out, you know) and say, perhaps exclaim would be a better choice, if you’re going to put an order to the vagaries of living that drive you crazy (metaphorically, obvsly, what i’m saying is that i’m not crazy, but aggravated, although i imagine if one were so inclined — not to be crazy about it — aggravation could be closely associated with crazy, if one were to take the meaning of crazy as a state of aggravation, but not being that one, it’s hard to say how it will be met and what meaning will be ascribed to the word–we all have our own experiences with definitions and english, god help us (if you believe in that sort of thing, god that is, not english, although for the sake of this argument–were we?–you should probably believe in english, as well as god and country–a rick perry moment if ever there one), filled to the brim as it is with subtle shades (not redundant) of meaning and innuendo, the most aggravating thing is, i’m not sure there is a most aggravating thing.  surely there are times when i’m aggravated (as i was moments ago when i sat down to write this post about the most aggravating, annoying ____________), but the fact is i’m fairly certain that someone who can’t sit still (that foot tapping, jiggling leg of anxiety) is aggravating — you do notice that one’s self is never aggravating, only other people, objects, roadblocks to your serenity are truly aggravating, so the roar of  the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner just as you’ve laid down to take a nap is aggravating, but could you, with a clear conscience, say it was the most aggravating thing, or only the most aggravating thing at that moment?  and now that time has entered into it, it’s whole new ball game (trite phrases are also aggravating, truth be told–see you just can’t get away from it, well, i suppose if you were a henry james or a jane austen, you might not even come near a trite phrase, avoiding it like the plague [see what i mean?], but for the rest of us, it is just one of life’s many aggravations.

you know what else is aggravating?  post titles that are tangentially and diametrically inconsistent with the contents of the post itself.  i may be accused of that as i often have a title in mind, and it may have something to do with the photograph, it may have something to do with what i want to say, it may have something to do with the inspiration for the post or it may have nothing to do with anything, but it is something that has just come to me and i feel it’s important to get those thoughts down before they flee my peaked little brain, possibly i find it important to make those notes (and what is a blog after all, if it is not a gathering place for ideas, notes on this topic or that one, something you may reference later in a larger work or never again because you’ve forgotten you’ve written it.)  if i’ve aggravated you today or in the past, please note that i will more than likely aggravate you in the future, it is in my nature to be aggravating.


the sky report (and obituaries)

this time now, if i hadn’t lived through the 80s/90s/aughts as a gay man in the time of the plague, is when my contemporaries will begin to drop like flies.   the paper is suddenly filled with the death notices for ____ _____ who died at 5_ of __________ and leaves behind his loving wife of 35 years and 5 kids, numerous grandchildren and the odd spinster aunt or the occasional widowed uncle.  it gives you pause.

when your heart skips a beat (and whose doesn’t, i ask you?), you think to yourself, “is this it?” and of course, it isn’t, but you think it regardless, because now is the time for all good men (especially the men at this age) to come to the end of their lives.

when that escalade swerves in front of you on the freeway going god-knows-how-fast and you think to yourself, “is this it?” and of course, it isn’t, but you think it regardless, because now is the time when you find yourself contemplating the end of your days.  (and here, particularly, in southern california, my one fear is dying on the freeway, anywhere lord, but on the 5, i pray–and i’m not one who talks that often to god, but should there be one — or a goddess — please deliver me from death on a freeway at 75 mph.  is that too much to ask?)

when you stand up too fast these days and all the blood drains from your head and you think you’re going to drop to the ground in a heap of limbs — and will you wet yourself, you always have to pee these days anyway, it would only be fitting that as death claims you, you would piss all over it.   who’s laughing now, you black-hooded, scrawny, scythe-carrying bag of bones?  well it won’t be you because you’ve died.   that fucking last laugh.

this time now is when i start to think about my obituary.  should i prepare one, of course, is the top concern–it just seems more practical that way–this from someone who has spent the majority of his working life manipulating language to sell something.   i know i could trust m. to do right by me, but what if he’s gone too, would there even be one?

what would it say–“robert patrick died yesterday after a long battle with life, his own as well as that of others.   he leaves no survivors (as if it had been a ship-wreck of a life, all lost at sea.)  patrick leaves a considerable legacy of prickliness, obsequiousness and the bad habit of speaking the truth.  it is known that he loved several dogs during his lifetime and at one time a parakeet.   his career in the arts was his passion and his last request was to be cremated with his beloved 1400 page copy of paintings in the louvre.  no flowers please (he was allergic) instead he requested that donations in his name be made to father flanagan’s boys town.”

“if the unexamined life is not worth living, the unexamined past is not worth possessing; it bears fruit only by being held continuously up to the light, and is as changeable and as full of surprises, pleasant and unpleasant, as the future.”      –brendan gill via this link.

don’t be surprised if one day i say, “i told you so.”


(on) photography, cloud computing & psychic readings

what choice do we have when confronted with such evidence as this?  there is the fact that what you are looking at is a photograph, which has had just the slightest of manipulations (i cropped it, i punched up the saturation–not unlike a boxer working the heavy bag at that little dingy gym you pass on the way to the subway everyday and in the summer the door is open to the street and the sounds of workouts and the smell of cigars and sweat cross your path–wrists and hands wrapped — that slap, slap slap), you see it captures a moment just like that only not like it in anyway.  that is only my interpretation; you will make your own determination about what it should (or shouldn’t) mean to you.  it is not important what it is a photograph of–and what photography means to you is consequently corrupted, that voyeuristic desire to witness other lives not your own, although it is easy, while sitting with your computer (in your lap, on a table at ___________, at your desk at home/office or on your goddamned phone, it is easy to imagine that this non-subjective image (although you must admit it is subjective to me) has nothing to do with you and perhaps you’d be right (you may also be wrong, but again that would be determined by your commitment to the photograph and your degree of interest in its interpretation, even its strength of purpose should you care to carry/worry/consider/chew on/mull over/contemplate what it means to you.)

i cannot tell you what it means.  i am only a witness to its being what it is and how the light and the moment captured what it is while i held a small metal box (rectangular and cool, with its beeps and pulsing red light as it counted down to open its shutter/eye–asleep until i set the exposure time, adjusted its flash–i turned that off, this photo was taken at night with only the street light providing illumination–the dogs pulling the leashes taut as they waited for the exposure to take hold of what was happening in front of me, they had no interest in what i was doing or seeing), and captured something i thought was interesting in its own way, a heart beat (and for those of you who have spent anytime reading what i write will recognize as a moment) of time in an evening filled with other random thoughts and ideas of beauty for its own sake (something i firmly believe in, that beauty for its own sake is as valid a statement, particularly in photography, and is as potent a statement of what is happening as a photograph that does so more literally; you are free to agree or disagree with any of this at any time–to turn your attention elsewhere, as i surely know you will; by now you have already relinquished more of your time than you had intended or reserved for someone like me and what i have to say.)

but.  should you have ventured this far and are wondering what in the hell i’m after, what could i possibly be leading up to and whether or not i will satisfy your human need for literalness–admit it, we all want to know what something is, so we can impose our life upon it, to objectify the experience and subject it to interpretation through the lens of our mean lives (yes, even you and you, whose lives most of the rest of us would consider gifted) lead a mean life, with the same anxieties and triumphs, but perhaps with a bit more gilding, at least in this life; who can say about the next?

and so.  obscured by light, color, intent, it shimmers and dips and glides, an aura, an energy, a cloud in the night sky, with you on your back, arms behind your head (a cradle) and the longer you look at it, the more you begin to imagine what it represents to you and now it is just a feeling, a sense of something indistinct, perhaps not unpleasant, warm and comforting, hot and exciting (or everything you want it to be.)  do you see it?



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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