Monday, March 28, 2011

The Problem With My Pretty Life- Part I

I was blog-stalking myself the other day, revisiting what I'd said. Thinking back to what was happening a year ago. Scrolling through all the pretty pictures, all the sweet little sayings, I got to thinking how very 'pretty' it all is.

{Quebec window boxes. Guh. That whole city is pretty. }

It's not that they're not real. I do lead a very pretty life, for which I feel more than a little guilty. I get to take pictures of very pretty things. Sometimes what comes from the lens is true.

{Like this. This is true.}

The problem is it's not the WHOLE truth ALL the time. I edit. Everyone edits. Don't even tell me you didn't doctor your profile pic a little. Be honest.

For example, last Thursday, I was pulling these i.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes out of the oven, and plopping a sweet scoop of vanilla ice cream and shoving a couple Pocky sticks in I thought--"My goodness! I should take a picture of this melting bliss!" I did so, but then sighed..."Aww, the window is all dirty!" (Because this is what happens when you have an awesome horse field across the street)

 {Note the tag on the hot pad sticking up. Aesthetically appealing? Uh-huh.}

So I moved the very hot ramekin to the counter and took a bunch of shots, none of which I was happy with. In between 'poses' I would scrub the tile with my elbow, move a bit of shmutz out of the way, try it with a fresh towel. Nothing. All of it was dumb.

The absurdity of it all washed over me.

"Really? I'm taking pictures of my dessert? My life is just this? What a joke! What luxury!" Swearing at myself in my head, I couldn't even fully enjoy having my cake, let alone eating it.

Did I ever tell you that one of my dreams as a kid was to work for National Geographic? I just thought that seeing and capturing the world, in all it's dinginess, and raw glory, and bringing that vision to people would most certainly be the best job. Ever.

I worry now, however, that after all the art schooling, all the Etsy editing and designer magazine-ing and my own Blog-o-vision, that I'd be quick to edit, crop and not tell the whole story. To forget to show the dirt, and the pain and the crummy parts too.

Because no. No... life is all of it. The manure and the flowers that grow from it.

Has my blog become my own version of "The Happiness Machine"? You know, Ray Bradbury's story
about the Leo, tinkering garage inventor, who claims he's made a contraption that will provide pure elation to one and all.

{I actually do enjoy scrubbing scum out of shower grout. I should blog about THAT!}

Finally he convinces his wife to climb in and give it a whirl. She hates it.

"It lies, that Sadness Machine!"

"Sad in what way?"

His wife was quieter now. "Leo, the mistake you made is you forgot that some hour, someday, we all got to climb out of that thing and go back to dirty dishes and the beds not made. While you're in that thing, sure. a sunset lasts forever almost, the air smells good, the temperature is fine. All the things you
want to last, last. But outside, the children wait on lunch, the clothes need buttons. And then-let's be frank, Leo-how long can you look at a sunset? Who wants a sunset to last? So, after a while, who would notice? 

 {Timp in a summer sunset}

Better, for a minute or two, a sunset. After that, let's have something else. People are like that, Leo. How could you forget?"

" Did I?"

" Sunsets we always liked because they only happen once and go away."

"But, Lena, that's sad."

"No, if the sunset stayed and we got bored, that would be a real sadness. So two things you did you should never have. You made quick things go slow and stay around. You brought things faraway to our back yard, where they don't belong...

In the story, the 'machine' burns down, and takes the garage with it. Finally Leo comes to the conclusion that he's been blind:

"You want to see the real Happiness Machine? The one they patented a couple thousand years ago. It
still runs; not good all the time, no! but it runs. It's been here all along."

"But the fire " said Douglas.

"Sure, the fire, the garage!... What burned in the garage don't count !" 

They followed him up the front porch steps.

"Here," whispered Leo Aufmann, "the front window. Quiet, and you'll see it."

Hesitantly, Grandfather, Douglas and Tom peered through the large window pane. 
And there, in small warm pools of lamplight, you could see what Leo Auffmann wanted you to see. 

There sat Saul and Marshall, playing chess on the coffeetable. In the dining room Rebecca was laying out the silver. Naomi was cutting paper-doll dresses. Ruth was painting water colors. Joseph was running his electric train. Through the kitchen door, Lena Auffmann was sliding a pot roast from the steaming oven. Every hand, every head, every mouth made a big or little motion. You could hear their farawayvoices under glass. You could hear someone singing in a high, sweet voice. You could smell bread baking, too, and you knew it was real bread that would soon be covered with real butter. Everything was there, and it was working."

*And here I am. Blogging the prettiest parts of my pretty life. All sunset, no sweat? My job as an artist to to truly 'see' and to let others see too. do I show that balance? Show that life is often really lovely, even with changing dirty diapers, and cleaning, and hefting, and organizing, and grading, and laundry and hygene and every day stuff?

Does pretty have real substance? Does ordinary have beauty?


Becca said...

Yes. I concur.
I like the enso symbol-- the incomplete zen circle. It is a reminder that the beauty IS the imperfection, the smudgy windowpane is the real subject.

L said...

For me the cure is mostly time. Not a lot, but at least a couple of days. 2 days after something happens it is funny and you can tell the crazy right along with the beautiful and feel fine. And that even usually makes it more interesting. Of course, we all have our limits- I will never post a picture of my kitchen sink. The world isn't ready.

Susan said...

Though your subjects are often simple or
mundane, you present them as sublime. You elevate and celebrate the underappreciated, and remind us to stop, and breathe, and see the world as you do. This is your gift.

Feeling foolish? Indulgent, trivial, narrow? Challenge yourself by shooting something really DARING.

Feeling DARK (rare, but possible)? Go out and shoot that.

What is out there in the world that you think is UGLY? That you can find no beauty in? Challenge yourself to capture that.

Do you see the pretty, even in the gritty? See what happens.

Kaje said...

Thank you all for your perspective and validation.

Susan- I like a challenge. :)