While contemplating ways to turn my sabbatical into a full time gig, another thought has been slow to develop, awaiting, it seems, for the right combination of stop bath and fixer to come together for the image to render. The image, of course, is always there. In what form, to what degree of expression and saturation — that is anyone’s guess. I am referring to the line made famous during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, attributed to “ragin’ Cajun” James Carville, has all the simplicity of a Rubik’s Cube waiting to be restored to color-coded order: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The intended audience for this linguistic artifact of Carville’s arsenal of distinct wordplay was the crop of Clinton campaign workers, but quickly spread and became a catalytic force in the election that shifted voters’ attention toward the early 90s recession and away from the then-current administration’s efforts in the Persian Gulf. A cynic might only see the self-serving nature of this tactic, and certainly such an assessment is not without merit, but it may be equally valid to suggest that this redirection impacted perception as well as interpretation; experience is never unmediated, memories are always colored with the filters of perception.
In my recent travels, therefore, it is telling that the moments of greatest significance have been people, a realization that brings into stark relief that what I miss is tempered by what awaits:
strolling with and without purpose,
a conversation, or many all at once, making short work
of twenty blocks or a few turns around the reservoir,
pausing to mark the path the cherry blossoms make their own
each spring, leaving traces of cotton candy pink on the ground, year round.
the latest adventures of dancing girl and the urban cartographer,
that put petulant antics of impossible characters in perspective.
hesitation, then slow blooming exhilaration on faces, young and younger,
in leaps and laughter.
oh, the laughter… infectious, soothing, a salve for the senses
that blister too swiftly without apt balm,
the space of rumination and silliness*, a most wonderful distraction**
found(ed) in the comfort of friends.
New York and Philadelphia are both gritty cities, that’s true, but the grit, too, has purpose, story, context; and occasionally, the grittiness recedes long enough for the rest of the image to come through. Readjustment from sabbatical back into the awaiting semester — this return from leave, which a follower of a follower on twitter described as “landing” — fills me alternatively with dread and anticipation. The invitation to see the familiar anew, however, has the potential to serve as a parachute to soften the landing. Knowing when to pull the handle to deploy the chute in time can be tricky when you’re flying through the air. New toys and old friends can help.
Part of the seeing, again, collection:
…so many previously overlooked or unrecognized corners teeming with stories if someone is willing to ask; conversations yet to be had; words to be written and read; ingredients awaiting a turn in the skilllet or chopping block; battles to be fought for the purposes of larger goals; goals to reconsider.
Yes, perhaps returning won’t be so bad after all…