I am learning to look down as well as up lately.
There is abstract art in the fall of the leaves, stories engraved in the ground’s cracking. Sometimes it is difficult to believe the green of shoots breaking head above the ground, the microcosms of mountains on stones’ surfaces.
My memory is a fickle thing. I forget my wallet, my phone, papers, pencils regularly; sometimes it is as if I wander the world with a trail of lost things behind me. The things themselves are fine, in the end. What bothers me are the moments. I want to hold on to them tightly as a shell, closet them like oysters, shine them into brilliance by tasting them again and again in retrospect. But I trail them, too: litter my past with landscapes I’ve seen and watch them to dissolve to nothing more than a vague sense of displaced freedom in the headlights.
Photography helps. I try to capture things as I feel them and as I see them. Maybe 1% of the photographs I take end up on this blog, if not less. The remaining 99% tend to be precisely the same scene with slightly different angle and lighting and are evidence of my quest to memorialize. But in the end, a photograph of a landscape is a creation; it is not a teleportation device, as much as I would like it to be – the thousands of photographs of lakes and mountains ultimately, I realize, have nothing personal left in them after they have been repeated 100 ‘one-more-times’, are all postcard duplicates in a way.
What I am realizing, though, is that the world does not exist only in the 180º of my camera. It is also up and it is also down and it is also upside down. And so I have started looking at my feet once in a while. Here I am finding the textures my landscape photography misses. Like stones, like soil: who tries to remember the feel of sand on a beach in favor of a fiery sunset? But our memory is never just the sunset: it is also the wind, it is also the sand. We remember in composite. Having just one piece leaves the jigsaw incomplete.
These textures of rock and succulent are from the side of Marsar Lake in Kashmir. We had woken up early and hiked up steep rocks, over a pass, past snow not yet melted, encountered flowers we’d never seen before and never would again. The lake was the most brilliant turquoise I’ve ever seen, and I have far too many pictures of it. Of this I have only one. But it is enough.