O my floating life
Do not save love
to the flood.
—Lorine Niedecker, Paen to Place
How do you tell yourself to yourself?
What is your process for remembering, for mediating experience, for archiving the self?
I am a person that believes in synchronicity and signs. When one follows the other or when one is repeated often enough in a short enough time span, I am compelled to pay attention. The series Waterlogged began this way.
At the time of its making, I had been caught in the undertow of one of those unusually serious and draining periods of life: job loss, a parent dying, my first child born less than two months before that death. I had been in it: everything coming all at once and from all sides. Any one of those single events is an opportunity calling for both reflection and transformation. All of them at once have the capacity to take all your points of reference from you, and leave you reeling. It is the kind of juncture in which, to paraphrase Rilke, "You must change your life or die."
After a night of torrential rains, I opened a closet where all of my journals were stored. They were all—twenty years worth— soaked through with storm water. Stacked neatly atop one another, swollen and sticky with gum residue and running ink. Destroyed. Or in the active process of becoming so. Simultaneously mystified and mortified by witnessing my past bleed out into oblivion, I began to photograph them.
First loves. Failed loves. Bad choices. Life-changing travel. Things that inspired me. My unwritten, unknown future, written and wondered about by my past self. Some of it still legible. Much of it looking like another language, or pentimenti, or a secret code.
Synchronicity and signs. It seemed particularly inauspicious that of the entirety of my household goods, only these personal historical objects were affected. The thing that is most striking in this is the revelation that is handwriting, which has almost become anachronistic, a throw- back to an inefficient and sentimental way of doing things and communicating. Who writes in longhand anymore? When you once were able to identify someone, in voice and person, by their hand, what takes the place of that now? Their email address? Their social media handle? Caller ID?
When my mother died last year, I immediately set about searching for things in my possession that she had written to me. Something about her handwriting was evocative in a way that little else was. Throughout her prolonged sickness, I found witnessing her handwriting deteriorate as her illness progressed touching and poignant in ways that were gut-wrenching, reminding me that even while she was still alive that everything shifts and will come to an end. One’s entire life and conception of self, how they understood time, and people, what they valued and what they reviled—all the things they both could and could not say, that they knew or never cared to know, that all ends when they do. What’s left behind is everyone else’s interpretation. Their conjecture of another’s lived life.
There are moments in life when you are confronted with the reality of the insignificance of your own specifics. With Waterlogged, I chose to submit to the abstraction and diminishment of those facts, instead of futilely trying to hold on to them.