I. The (Yellow) Barn in Progress


In the sharp light of afternoon, its bones glow like an annunciation. From here, the healer’s shadow against the front panel looks like a visitor, or self-portrait, looks as if two figures are working: one on the inside, floating just above the ladder, directing the hammer; one on the outside, pausing between nails/brushstrokes, the gold straw of his hat nearly blending with the lumber. The light slices across the still-green December yard, forcing the eye to focus first and longest on the builder’s double, then on to the incomplete loft, a froth of bare trees, finally reaching a fringe of Aegean sky, before bouncing back down to the hay bale, and below that, a stippling of green floating in shadow. At this distance, it feels as if I’m orchestrating a painting of a painting: slight left, and there will be more wagon/less torso/more red; slight right, and there could be pasture/curious horse; tilt up or down, more or less brownish green, more body/less shadow, more or less blue with red-tailed hawks/purposeful, lifted arm. But soon, I will pick up a hammer, too—the apprenticeship of looking grown lonely and long.


II. The (Yellow) Barn in Progress, II


The air is colder now, the loft just enclosed, its high forehead peaking towards a sky settling into the light of swifts and bats. The right window frames a tangle of brush caught in the last of the good light, the brushstrokes frenzied behind the this is new glass sticker on the windowpane. Our two figures move along the wider frame of the barn, as if examining a fresh canvas. I have stepped from the shadow of the porch and into the action. You let me pound the last of the nails—or so you said—to stitch up the barn’s right side. I am capturing the structure for information—this length here, this height there—so it can be moved from the farm to my yard. For a moment, our shadows mingle, so only our heads are distinguishable: bodies assembling/disassembling, multiplying/dividing. Later, you will look at this photograph and wonder how I can be in it, while wielding the camera. I will remind you that we were just building in the sunshine: you, the structure you can see and touch; and I, an origami house big enough for my spirit and the spirits of all animals.


III. You/The Healer Comes to Anchor the Yellow Barn


You tethered it to the earth, like a kite. Still, I was afraid to get too close with the camera, in case I spoiled the moment. Early March, with a sky the color of a bluebird’s wing, as if preparing for their arrival. You still wore your dark hat and coat, and in the frame, it looks like you’re kneeling on a map for finding water, kneeling in front of the barn, fastening the first anchor. The barn shines like a new body, not reborn, but replicated to resemble rebirth. It looks like the husk of something sturdy—laughter in the warm blue column of your chest is the sturdiest thing I know. Maple branches crisscross the open Dutch door as if vying for a first glimpse. You laugh into the cold, bright day despite the pain climbing your shoulder; you are accustomed to pain and to laughter, and I, standing next to my new shell, know I will be the first animal to shelter here.


IV. Healer and Daughter(s) at the Pond/Still Life of Pond without Lily Pads


In this frame, the world has tilted, so the girl in the wheelchair is nearly at center, at the top of the curving edge of bank and pond. At this angle, we could be gliding past planet earth, just outside its boundaries, trees and skies rippling like loosely cut construction paper in the water. The healer is fully in shadow, with no white to mark the shape of him where he stands. I am on the opposite bank, in the sunshine, carrying a bucket of worms; soon he will teach me to bait a hook and cast a line. The space next to what may or may not be another planet/home—is small, so that my line and his shoulder are connecting points; I reach for his hat, as if wearing it will make my outline more friendly to the fish. What is the strongest line/layer here? It is the invisible triangle: figure 1 on the near bank; figure 2 on the dock, waiting; figure 3 in her wheel chair; back to figure 1, firmly tethered, hurrying towards. The triangle is always moving, but the healer’s daughter remains at center, even when the eye that is the world/camera has moved past her.



Photo used under CC