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Dreams of Buddha and Mexican Cowboys (in the Hidden Valley)

June 13, 2010

I’ve been stuck in my apartment today, sick.  Waking up at 10:30 A.M., 12:13 P.M. and then 1:47, 2:24 with the same stuffed-up aching head, I finally got up to stare at the computer screen.  I called André to thank him for all the tea and juice he brought for me regularly before leaving the house.  He left me more  beverages and some oatmeal ready on the stove to cook.  We have had bumpy times as of late, yet keep showing up for each other. It’s amazing to feel taken care of by another human being.  It reminds me of my mother and how she would give me vitamins and juice and cook for me when I was sick.  I still feel shards of resentment from time to time for mother’s over-bearing behavior in other situations, but as I grow older more appreciation for demonstrations of love and concern slide through the cracks in my softening awareness.  Adults seem to weave in and out of situations where they have some one to help them out when they are sick. I have spent times alone, ill and angry at myself for not being well enough to get anything done. I’m slowly learning how to have more compassion for myself, but even today, as I lay half awake, the soldiers of anxiety were marching around my head, shouting that I haven’t got enough done in the last month or so that school has been out.

I haven’t been working a job, yet still find it hard to accomplish even my tiny goals in an acceptable amount of time. The feeling that I’m losing the battle against time never seems to leave and my condition worsens at the thought of how irrelevant and miniscule my need for more time is to time itself. I’ve wasted so much of it on various things and still do by obsessing about it and not accepting myself for just doing what I can. Then I’m pressed up against the idea that there are large gaps of knowledge that need to be filled in order to be capable of doing the things I want to do properly. And even in the areas I am proficient, I have much work to do organize and market myself. It’s agonizing.

Ultimately it’s up to me to shift perspective, however, it’s difficult in a culture whose relentless messages touting the importance of success, skills, and ability has shaped everyone in the environment that surrounds me. I seem to take things quiet literally, believing you if you suggest I’m not cut out for the job market.  I’m sure I’m not the only one beating myself up for feeling this way.  After all, I live in New York City.

Tuesday I will go on an interview next week for an unpaid TA position in a program in the Bronx that teaches kids photography. The class will only run for 5 weeks, however, it’s a program I would like to continue with as one of the things I hope to do with my degree, besides making photographs to show and live in the world, is to teach.  The Chair of the program I’m currently in the middle of, Nayland Blake, has demonstrated the value of both mental and emotional intelligence in imparting wisdom and useful information to others.  When you teach somebody photography, there is the possibility that you’ve given them a tool to better look at themselves and grow as a human being.  For me, it’s been a slow process.

One of the things I was fretting about this afternoon is the slight possibility I would have to work part-time while finishing my last year of this program.  I don’t want yo be in a total mess of debt when I get out of grad school.  But, I’m afraid I won’t get everything done and I’ll miss out on things.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure to go to artist’s shows and lectures while in art school and the of course, making your own work.  I’m fine with making my own work, but there’s this thing in art school and the art world that still baffles me; where in conversation, the names of other artists, past movements and current shows are incessantly stacked on top of each other like leaking ice-cube trays.  Each thing is a part of, or an analogy, or compared to another thing or person through the context of this or that. I usually manage to connect 1 or 2 useful names, at tops, from the stack in any given situation before they eventually melt into a giant puddle. Once in a while I find myself talking that way and wonder if I’m making any sense.

I look around my living room and am reminded I want to photograph the way it looks right now but am unsure I’ll pull out the camera in time. I’ll have to use my 4×5. My Mamiya 7 is in the shop and I’ve been upset that it’s costing almost 500 dollars to fix it.  The quality of the light is nice right now and it highlights the things that have changed around the place in the last couple months.  When I was in California last I took pictures of my parents house.  It’s a house they’ve rented for ages now. Over 10 years and this is the first time I took pictures of it.  It’s the standard pink track home with reddish curved tiles on the roof.  My dad had spent his whole life doing beautiful masonry work on opulent homes and yet they never managed to get around to building their dream house.  When I was about 3 years old I used to go over to my grandparents house and tell them how my parents were fighting over the “god-damned property” again.

They had a piece of land in Utah they wanted to build on but it didn’t work out.  We moved to San Diego when I was 13.  We lived in a few different places by the beach while I finished school, then I moved out when I was 17.  My parents moved to a suburb of San Diego, about 45 miles north-east called Escondido.  When I was in my early twenties and would find myself in a bad place I would end up living there with them. They lived in a few different places but this one has been the one they’ve stayed in the longest.  Escondido is like the lame place you didn’t want to say you lived when you were a kid.  Kind of rural and smallish.  The last time I was there, just this last April I was struck by how beautiful it is and also by the potential for wonderful and odd things.

Two Buddhist monasteries have been built recently near my parents home. During the trip, I visited both of them with André, my parents and some friends, but on different days.  The second one we went to was on the day of the last big earthquake that hit Baja, Mexico and I didn’t even feel it.  I was taking pictures of these statues that completely captured all of my attention.  Just before getting to the monastery,  we walked past a horse ranch featuring a wild horse tied up to a tree, waiting to be broken in.  A Mexican Cowboy rode another horse down the paved road with a rope in his hand, successfully controlling the animal. ( I took some pictures of this but they’re not that good.  The better close up of the horse is in an earlier post.) All this just outside the monastery and just down the street from the Christian school and several Christian churches that have been there forever.  I felt excited and was looking forward to going back again, maybe for a few days late in the summer.

My mother called me this afternoon, in the midst of my worried and sickly broodings, to inform me that they are moving by August. My Dad will go to Utah to work and be near my very old grandmother and extended family, and my mom to work in Palm Springs.  Their story continues and so does mine. I’m reminded that home is where the heart is.  Tremendously cliché as that sounds, it renders true. Lately on days when I really fucking hate New York and get frustrated with being one of all these people that are trying to do something, I have this fantasy of going home to the place of Buddhas and Mexican Cowboys and then… maybe teaching high school photography or something.  I don’t even know if high schools there still have darkrooms.  I would teach digital if I had too. I still have really close friends in Southern California and even if I didn’t, I can always go back.  But without my family, at the moment it the idea feels weird.  And fantasy is just there to create an outcome I feel I can control, so I feel safe for a few moments.

I think about families that have this one house that they always go back too and how for me the homes kind of pass through my life, leaving certain images, smell, textures and memories that I may or may not encounter again. I’m into the idea of embracing it; the contingency and the impermanence. Mostly because I don’t really have choice, yet have to acknowledge the process towards that acceptance and understanding becomes entirely something else.

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