Thursday, May 27, 2010

Further Observations: Life in the Highlands

Text by: Vincent Stanzione

Happy girl, Happy doll, Happy life.

Sometimes just looking at a photograph can make you feel like the world is a perfect place to be human. Some photographs give you the sense that one can’t be grateful enough for all that one has in this lifetime. Some children just seem to have what it takes to make it on the face of the earth. You can see it in their smiles, the way they align their clothes, the way they present themselves, the way the position themselves for a portrait. The pride they have for who they are and where they are.

Some photos make you say, ‘I love this kid. This kid is how all human beings should be: grateful, alert, open, smart and proud to be who they are.’ I love this child for the sense of hope she emanates, for the innate intelligence she exudes, for the will to be happy that she manifests, for the care she takes to present herself and the doll.

This is a poor child who is wealthy. Over the years I have been blessed to come to know these kinds of people. They have something that people with "everything" don’t have: the spark of life and the inherent goodness of humanity. She dressed her doll like she dresses herself and she takes care of her doll as she does herself. She doesn’t know that other people would define her as poor and that doesn’t matter because the world is all hers.

She has deer eyes. A sign of the wild. She has the smile and nose of a baby jaguar. A sign of the divine. She has the face of the ancient ones. A sign that her life will be a blessed one. When I contemplate this photo I want to get down on my bended knees to ask the gods and goddesses to open this child’s road, to remove the obstacle and make her dreams come true. She has that look that makes you feel thankful every second of the day.

As precious as life can be

Photography when it is great is divine because it take possibility and makes it reality, it takes chance and turns it into an image. A true photographer can not leave the house without his camera because a true photographer knows that the crossroads of opportunity and improbability don’t form on an easily found grid that says this is the right time and right place to make a photo out of life’s constantly moving and changing forms and figures.

In a great photograph there is always the element that says this is an instant in the life of this being that is manifest for all time. And this is what one sees and experiences here in a picture as precious as life can be created in a precious instant of time and space.

The child holds a fluffy dog in one arm as if it weighed nothing and what looks like a marshmallow on a stick. She smiles at the camera as the puppy looks on as if to say ‘take the picture.’ It is the effortlessnes of life that sets my mind in motion asking why I try so hard when a baby child makes it all seem so easy. It is all heavy and light at once, meaningful and meaningless. An image of life in the normal time of normal lives of normal people and that is what is so priceless and unimaginably sacred about a photo that reveals the real in this world that is covered in unreal images of unreal lives. A shoeless child, as adorable as the puppy she holds as if weightless, and something sweet at the end of an ordinary stick; what more can the art of photography ask for in its search to create the perfect image of a precious life.

Who has who bound at the neck?

A lot of times we human beings take on the looks and expressions of those beings with whom we live. My next door neighbor turned into looking like her sheep. Up in the hills where I live the people are known for having the power of turning themselves into animals. In fact, they keep animals to hide their soul-anima when an enemy is after them. Unfortunately the place I live is forested with people whose ancestors were extremely rebellious types and part of that was what made them the tricksters they became. The other part came from all the trickster-like stories that make up the deep structure of their minds. It has been easy living around folks like that but it has made me strong in ways I could have never imagined.

All the women keep sheep, goats, cattle, hens, roosters and cats. All the men keep horses and dogs. I know you know that is a gross generalization but more or less life is like that up here around the house. The domestic animals are very useful for catching any bad vibes that one’s enemy or rival or envious friend might have for one or what one has. Better have one of the animals take it for you then one of your kids. Children are the vulnerable ones who pay debts of their parents so it is always wise to have animals around to pick up on anything that might be sent your way from the bad side of the Santo Mundo.

My next door neighbor kept just a few really ornery rams and sheep for as long as her children were young, just in case. She put so much thought into those animals as the protection of herself and her family that she pretty much became one with her animals and they with her. They both ran each other up and down the hills looking for safe places to graze while taking care of one another through the most vulnerable times of their lives.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ V.S.

Photographs by Tom Waters

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