History, What Is History?

ruins

Every river has a bridge. And every island town a saint. Often, these are never built, never seen. Much of what is leftover will show the habits of the people who are no longer there. Not just to imagine, but to know what we cannot ever see—how, for instance, a galaxy beyond our deepest possible human travels turns itself in space—is new to us. This we can know, just as we can know how quickly an apple dropped to the ground falls, accelerates. In general, we are much more used to delapidation and decay here on earth. To get from one muddy bank to the other, one might need a ferryman. One will need to have arrived at that very spot where he polls his ferry across the current. Or not. If not, that bridge may someday be constructed. If not, in the middle of the ocean, one day a temple may be erected. If not, there may be other things that must occur. Or not.

The American Landscape

slide

There is something to say about a photograph that can be lost. For if it can be lost, it can also be found. And those who know about negatives, know, too, that these negatives are generally scattered here and there. These are about as good as gone, though, as a last resort—a very last resort, they were sometimes resorted to. One would hope, shifting packets, sifting through the pile of debris, to find reddish-tinted strips of plastic, or the gray-and-black and clear-to-clearish ones, to find the missing picture—or, rather, the negative from which the picture was special ordered-up, or just peered at in its tiny rectangle and, through the light it was held up to, remembered. But today, with today’s “cameras,” which are really not cameras at all (they are merely scanning machines), there is never any real sense of finding and losing anything. Yes, there can be locating (and re-locating), as well as mis-filing a ‘picture’, but without anything to be held in the hands, there is really nothing to behold. And so, too, does it go with the passing loves of our lives that have passed by the “lens” of our DSLR-cameras. At best they reside in some skeuomorphic folder on our skeuomorphic desktop; at worst, they are deleted. Nothing. But a picture, a paper picture! One that was taken with a 35mm camera! One does not have to have the face or the body or the smile or the smell or the garnet necklace given to our loves in these real pictures to feel them body & soul, to feel a lifetime later the loves that we have all forsaken and blown and destroyed. All of them. In piles and stacks in shoeboxes in cartons in plastic bins we keep them. We keep them all. And some, though they are there (they must be!) we can never find again. In the multitudinous past, they elude us all of our lives. Still: there is something gorgeous about these post-card romances even if immediately afterwards, in the break-up, one had had an unaffected scorn for them all.