Self Portrait: Crossed Paths

The bright light of recent days allowed me to take this self-portrait—of sorts. The idea of crossed paths comes from Polish poet Adam Zagajewski‘s brilliant poem “Self-Portrait,” which I’ve shared below. Needless to say, there are numerous other ways to evoke the sense of crossed paths, but this is the one that made sense to me when I took this—and now, too.

Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
The fourth has no name.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand
the great philosophers–but usually catch just
scraps of their precious thoughts.
I like to take long walks on Paris streets
and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,
anger, desire; to trace a silver coin
passing from hand to hand as it slowly
loses its round shape (the emperor’s profile is erased).
Beside me trees expressing nothing
but a green, indifferent perfection.
Black birds pace the fields,
waiting patiently like Spanish widows.
I’m no longer young, but someone else is always older.
I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,
and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses
dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.
Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me
and irony suddenly vanishes.
I love gazing at my wife’s face.
Every Sunday I call my father.
Every other week I meet with friends,
thus proving my fidelity.
My country freed itself from one evil. I wish
another liberation would follow.
Could I help in this? I don’t know.
I’m truly not a child of the ocean,
as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,
but a child of air, mint and cello
and not all the ways of the high world
cross paths with the life that–so far–
belongs to me.


On Friday I walked up the great mound at Gas Works Park with my son and saw some children playing on the big sundial up there in the bright light. It was a good day for flying kites, though these kids were happy just splashing in a big puddle. Simple joys, though I’m not sure where the water was from as it hasn’t rained here for weeks. As A. A. Milne says, in his lovely little poem “Wind on the Hill,” “Nobody knows.” Which is just how I like it. (You may click on the images for a larger view.)


No one can tell me,
   Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
   Where the wind goes.
It’s flying from somewhere
   As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
   Not if I ran.
But if I stopped holding
   The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
   For a day and a night.
And then when I found it,
   Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
   Had been going there too.
So then I could tell them
   Where the wind goes . . .
But where the wind comes from
   Nobody knows.

Codes (I)

This is another series I’m working on, Codes. I like the way the landscape is inscribed—by nature and people—in ways we tend to overlook in our daily comings and goings. At least I often do. Taking pictures of these patterns is, for me, about paying closer attention—or a different kind of attention—to my surroundings. Historian and photographer John Stilgoe explores and celebrates this mindfulness of the everyday in his wonderful book Outside Lies Magic, which I strongly recommend for anyone who likes taking pictures.

(You may click on the images for a larger view.)

Streets of Vilnius (I)

This is the first part of a series of photos from a recent trip to Vilnius, one of my favorite cities in Europe. With each visit, I see new layers of uncompleted change, which, to me, is best represented by its spirited youth against the backdrop of its medieval old town. It reminds me of this short, sharp poem by the Sigitas Geda, a Lithuanian poet who died (too soon) in 2008. (You may click on the images for a larger view.)


cut into
an excavator

the beautiful
of dead

(from Biopsy in Winter, 2008)

Bow Lines

A very short series from some shots I took last Saturday in South Lake Union down by the water. The images reminded me of the poem Marinero en tierra by the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti. (You may click on the images for a larger view.)


Si mi voz muriera en tierra,
llevadla al nivel del mar
y dejadla en la ribera

Llevadla al nivel del mar
y nombradla capitana
de un blanco bajel de guerra.

¡Oh mi voz condecorada
con la insignia marinera:
sobre el corazón un ancla
y sobre el ancla una estrella
y sobre la estrella el viento
y sobre el viento la vela!

(Marinero en tierra, 1924)