A Camera Is A Tool For Seeing Without A Camera

The post title is a quote attributed to probably the most notable photographer during the Great Depression.  Her name was Dorthea Lange.  Whether Dorthea herself uttered that wisdom has yet to be proven but I can attest that after 30 years of snapping photos [mostly nature, weather and music performances] that this quote has lived up to its claim.  I spent quite a good deal of time behind a camera — until I saw something happening to the landscape of this country that made me put it down in exchange for a pen.  My photos weren’t loud enough for what I needed to say.
Migrant Mother’ – Dorthea Lange, 1936
‘Migrant Mother’ was Lange’s most famous image — an iconic photo in American history. Lange was concluding a month’s trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state of California for what was then the Resettlement Administration.  There are no known restrictions on the use of Lange’s “Migrant Mother” series of images. A rights statement from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information with the black-and-white negatives is available online to this day.  
According to Wiki: The Resettlement Administration (RA) was a New Deal U.S. federal agency that, between April 1935 and December 1936, relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government.  The organization had four divisions: Rural Rehabilitation, Rural Resettlement, Land Utilization, and Suburban Resettlement.
The goal of moving 650,000 people from 100,000,000 acres of agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land was unpopular among the majority in Congress. This goal threatened to deprive influential farm owners of their tenant workforce. The RA was thus left with enough resources to relocate only a few thousand people from 9,000,000 acres and build several greenbelt cities, which planners admired as models for a cooperative future that never arrived.
…a cooperative future that never arrived.
Seems the one that was admired then is coming up on its own as a matter of necessity. Economic hardship, which on the surface does not appear to be anywhere near as bad as Dorthea’s photo suggests — but then, the government isn’t going to hire a photographer to go out and take those photos.  Now that press is owned by ‘influential owners’ who would be ‘deprived’ of their advertising dollars. They don’t want us to see those images but we see them without cameras.  In our neighborhoods, cities and streets.  Same as war images that are no longer shown or are photoshopped into so much propaganda, or the mainstream ‘wag the dog’ embedded reporting.  
Media has changed since 1936 and has had some glorious moments of integrity.  The time of courageous reporting from Edward R. Murrow is past and we have revisited (and somehow stooped lower) than McCarthyism.  There are few dissenting voices of reason on the idiot box.  That is something else that is coming up on its own as a matter of necessity — with internet freedoms — how long that will last is a matter of opinion and speculation.  Eventually, all opinion and speculation will mean nothing without electricity.  
Something that hasn’t changed since 1936 — agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land.  Now we have a population that has more than tripled because of cheap oil.  Add global warming to the mix, failing infrastructure and resource depletion and we’re staring down the barrel of an even larger humanitarian crisis in the United States. And what is popular with Congress?  Monsanto. 
The best thing for it IS a cooperative future.  Permaculture heals the land and so does community working together.  That cooperative future is arriving whether the government points a camera at it or not.
No electricity isn’t so scary for some photographers . . . natural light is best anyway.
Moonrise , Hernandez , NM – 1941 / Ansel Adams

Blue Moons, Time Outs and Ma’s Tough Love

Originally posted on a former blog called Zen and the Art of Radical Detachment on September 5, 2012; from El Paso, Texas after WOOF’ing in New Mexico. ~ G

The shifting energies of the blue moons [two in a row] are usually seen as rare events — the next month to witness this phenomenon isn’t until July of 2015.  It is difficult to imagine what the moon will witness us going through then as it is to imagine where it will see humanity two months from now.

Here in El Paso, working with an executive producer who reports on Occupy events around the country, I am lucky to experience how the culture is shifting — which still feels to most to be underground, but it is exciting to witness it bubbling up and creating conversations that have been long overdue.

Are they too late?  I can’t say that with certainty and I don’t think anyone can.  If there is one thing I have learned about change — is that it is the only constant — and it comes with a lot more chaos than structure.  I’m finding [again] it is best to embrace my understanding of the Tao and simply go with the flow and offer my assistance where I’m able while witnessing history unfold.

My time in New Mexico taught me many things about our notions of change, especially when it comes to the concept of time — a man-created structure.  Clever, yes — but applying this structure to nature’s rhythms is counter-intuitive.  I learned this from the goats, chickens and ducks, whose days begin with the sun and follow it’s natural progression throughout the day, all season long.  They are the timekeepers.  That alone is a lesson in respect for nature — then when you realize how far removed most people are to this knowing, to never witness this most ancient arrangement nature has with the sun and moon, it makes you sad for them.

It also makes you compassionate toward anyone who is disconnected from it.  I think this rhythm is the heart of humanity when it comes right down to it.

We’ve always been meant to live in harmony with the song of the land.  But we have been hearing the screeching, sour notes of industry so long that many have forgotten the song.  Indigenous peoples still sing it and you can hear it in your heart if you are still enough to listen.

Empire is like having to live with an abusive father [or Uncle Samsara], all the while longing to be with mother.  Knowing that when we care for her, she reciprocates.  She provides and nurtures us back to health when we are ill and she is always there — we, however, will not be.  And it has always been this way.

Man continues to rage and break chains against the knowledge of his own death without realizing it is part of life — part of the ancient arrangement with nature.  Without her, history would not exist — the stories, the struggles, the love, the joy — we would not exist.  The human experience from the first cave drawings to the Mars Rover are all owed to the fact that we existed on one living planet in the vastness of the universe — one we will no longer be able to explore because we have squandered the resources to do so.  In a drunken petroleum rush for the ‘look what I can do’ search for ‘human excellence’ — she has been sending us a message that we are not excellent — no matter how much greenwashing, back patting and chatter about ‘exceptionalism’ we hear trumpeted in those sour notes.  The message is becoming ever clearer that we are in for some tough love.  As evidenced by the record heat and drought this summer.

Personally, I am not upset by her message.  I understand it because of my connection to the earth and because I understand science — which is her language. [Don’t confuse science with technology.]  Science is the language of truth — and men have butchered it with religion, politics and commerce since time immemorial.  Mother nature is about to sit us all down in the corner for an epic ‘time out’ — and we’re going to have a very long time grounded from our toys to think about what we’ve done.

When?  Again, certainty isn’t a term I use often — like guarantee.  But if current history is any indicator of future behavior, we’re going to continue to behave like brats, hurt people, break stuff, take stuff that doesn’t belong to us and rage a bit longer.  Like the ‘terrible twos’, Western civilization is throwing its final embarrassing tantrum before mom puts us in that corner for the last time.  Those who listen and heed her message are preparing.  Some are preparing better than others. It’s not a contest.  All you can do about change is get ready for it the best way you know how, with what you have available and go with it.

Unfortunately, the ‘best way’ in this country looks a lot like violent revolution.  Fighting to keep a broken system that is teetering on the verge of collapse seems ill-advised rather than an educated, compassionate look at the reality of global collapse which will impact everyone on the planet.  I think even Mr. Spock would agree that was logical but I think we lack more than the political will — we lack the ‘supposed’ adults to have that conversation.  Which is why I think it is important to gather the wise ones, spiritual leaders and healers to the table now.

As Chief Oren Lyons stated in his eloquent speech to the UN, the four words we all must pay heed to now more than ever, implement individually as well as bring to our communities: Value Change for Survival.  It is simple, really.  Only our industrial, state-structured brains complicate what is not complicated.

It’s the bottom line of bottom lines.  What do you value?  Are you, yourself willing to change for your own survival?  The survival of your species?  If we don’t break this denial and make these changes, will she allow us to stay?  If we allow this system we’re addicted to continue unabated, I’m not certain she will.

What is certain?  The sun will continue to shine and every moonrise will play on our mother’s face whether we are here to cast shadows upon her or not.  I am certain she owes us nothing.  I am certain we owe her everything we are.  I am certain she will collect.  She always has. . .if ancient history is any indicator.

New sights and sounds

The senses are overwhelmed here at the homestead in New Mexico. So much to study that it has been difficult for me to know where to begin.  I had to introduce you to someone I met while weeding the raspberry patch. I stopped everything to take some photos of him.

Calligrapha vicina / Calligraphy beetle

I was quite literally stopped in my tracks when I saw him — I had never seen markings this intricate on a beetle or bug in the Midwest and was taken by how much they looked like the hollows in a guitar or musical notes.  Lucky for me, there are experts on site and all I needed to do was ask.  The calligraphy beetle.  But, of course!

There are many more creatures here that I have never seen in the wild; roadrunners and lizards to name a few.  The lizards are quite funny to watch but hard to capture on film.  I have set a challenge to do just that.

I am learning after my first week in New Mexico and hope you are enjoying following my adventure in WOOFing.

New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral

New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
View from kitchen window in the WOOFers quarters


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
WOOFers quarters, outside


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Weeping willow out front is where the turkeys roost at night.


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Biochar stove – just fired up today




New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Potatoes, squash, melons and raspberries


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Solar water pump, pump house and cistern


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Second solar water pump, in front of goat house


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Yummy asparagus patch behind WOOFers quarters


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
View from the fire pit


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Another fire pit view


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
The goats, L to R, Bella, Lillian and little Peanut


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
My host’s straw bale house


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Two of three turkeys that like to follow you around


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Lillian is quite a ham


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
The solar oven – first try with beans but it was overcast


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
The outdoor kitchen


New Mexico WOOFing Trip Pictoral
Wood-fire cobb oven in outdoor kitchen

It is indeed rare for me to find myself speechless when visiting a place — but this is something that needs to be absorbed and savored [and I’m also learning and working every day!]  Valuable life skills to take back to Indiana that I hope one day to build upon with a like-minded community.

Travel Music – Joe Pug / Hymn 101

Music has always inspired my photography.  Before I put my camera down for a pen — I hosted house concerts in my hometown.  Booking only unsigned, independent artists who had a certain flair for storytelling; old souls who could truly turn a phrase and hold an audience spellbound.  I regret to say my music project didn’t bear fruit long enough for me to book Chicago native, Joe Pug.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Joe in Indianapolis at a songwriter’s showcase in 2008.  When he performed this song in front of a packed crowd waiting to hear Justin Townes Earle, you could have heard a pin drop.  I maintain this is one of the finest songs that year, hands down. It continues to be a beloved and incredibly profound tune for this traveler.  Please look him up online — his last CD is called Messenger.  Joe will be on the road with me to New Mexico (at least on my mp3 player). Lyrics below the video:

Yeah I’ve come to know the wishlist of my father.
I’ve come to know the shipwrecks where he wished.
I’ve come to wish aloud among the overdressed crowd.
Come to witness now the sinking of the ship.
Throwing pennies from the seatop next to it.

And I’ve come to roam the forest past the village
With a dozen lazy horses in my cart.
I’ve come here to get eyed
To do more than just get by
I’ve come to test the timbre of my heart.
Oh I’ve come to test the timbre of my heart.

And I’ve come to be untroubled in my seeking.
And I’ve come to see that nothing is for naught.
I’ve come to reach out blind
To reach forward and behind
For the more I seek the more I’m sought
Yeah, the more I seek the more I’m sought.

And I’ve come to meet the sheriff and his posse,
To offer him the broad side of my jaw.
I’ve come here to get broke,
Then maybe bum a smoke.
We’ll go drinking two towns over after all.
Well, we’ll go drinking two towns over after all.

And I’ve come to meet the legendary takers.
I’ve only come to ask them for a lot.
Oh they say I come with less than I should rightfully possess.
I say the more I buy the more I’m bought.
And the more I’m bought the less I cost.

And I’ve come to take their servants and their surplus.
And I’ve come to take their raincoats and their speed.
I’ve come to get my fill
To ransack and spill.
I’ve come to take the harvest for the seed.
I’ve come to take the harvest for the seed.

And I’ve come to know the manger that you sleep in.
I’ve come to be the stranger that you keep.
I’ve come from down the road,
And my footsteps never slowed.
Before we met I knew we’d meet.
Before we met I knew we’d meet.

And I’ve come here to ignore your cries and heartaches.
I’ve come to closely listen to you sing.
I’ve come here to insist
That I leave here with a kiss.
I’ve come to say exactly what I mean.
And I mean so many things.

And you’ve come to know me stubborn as a butcher.
And you’ve come to know me thankless as a guest.
But will you recognize my face
When God’s awful grace
Strips me of my jacket and my vest,
And reveals all the treasure in my chest?