Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

“The self is an idea”

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

A photo takes itself, by the Exist sign next to my front door


Sunday, August 24th, 2014

I am getting much inspiration from Odilon Redon today.

Tout se crée par la soumission docile à la venue de l’inconscient.
Everything is created by quietly submitting to the arrival of the unconscious.
– Odilon Redon, 1898

From Disappearances, in Halsnoy, Norway.

From Disappearances, in Halsnoy, Norway.


A reminder of why

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I taped this to the wall across from my desk today. Someone once said this to me because he liked something I wrote.

Note to self: do the work, show up, even if you don’t know what you’re going to say. We all have something to share, even with only one other person. He or she may be waiting for it right now.

Peau de dieu dans les fesses & singeries on my desk

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

I’ve just re-organized my office and the surface area
of my desk has expanded to include the collage corner. (smile)

So while I’m working on something serious, I can look over
and construct a phrase like, “Le secret des origines est
dangereusement épicé.”

A few 2012 intentions

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Cheers to a new year!

The night before the night before Christmas, when Chris was told to f*ck off

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Tonight I was moping around the Marais in the rain, eating Belgian chocolates, longing for Chicago and slipping into the feeling of old horse-drawn, cobble-stoned Paris, fantasizing that I’d find a small abandoned Christmas tree that I could drag home and hang my earrings on.

Sinking comfortably into my solitude, my eyes in the shadow of my wide-brimmed winter hat, I took the least populated streets until I found a clean, dimly-lit café terrasse and installed myself in the corner. There were only two other people outside: men bent over smartphones, quietly complaining to each other about their jobs. Inside there was only a woman about my age at the bar, poking fiercely at an iPhone. The waiter was cheerful and so was I, when he set down my glass of rouge that sparkled so prettily in the over-head heat lights.

I took out Le Monde magazine and turned to the article on Ai Weiwei, but my vulnerable pre-holiday state of mind needed the comfort of English. So I took out The New Yorker and felt more at home. Between these two subscriptions, if I spent all of my spare hours reading, I would still never finish them.

Two days before Christmas, this normally busy Marais street was wonderfully silent. Sitting in the warm red light, across the street from a building draped in twinkling blue, with both colors swirling around each other on the shiny pavement in between, it was a lovely scene.

Until it got better. I then had the luck to witness something really great. The men had just left and the girl from inside the bar came out, apparently needing some privacy to yell at her boyfriend. I looked up and our eyes met. I expected her to turn around and find somewhere to be alone, but she didn’t seem to mind me eavesdropping. She faced me as she yelled into her phone. “T’es ! Un ! Vrai ! Con ! Tu m’as pris du fric puis tu m’as jeté ! Je ne vais PLUS être ta connasse ! Je comprends pourquoi les gens te jettent, Chris ! Et moi, je te jette ! VA…TE…FAIRE…FOUTRE ! ET CREVER DANS TA MERDE !” With that, she went back inside, gathered her things and left.

Stunned at the beauty and force of her efficacy, I smiled and took out my pen to write down this treasure.

Merry Christmas eve eve Chris, wherever you are with this girl’s money.

Lonely man. Green light.

Things people say without thinking

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Overheard in front of Arnulf Rainer‘s work at Paris Photo.
“Je suis un peu malade de la tête, alors c’est normal que j’aime ca.”

Ok, well I like his work a lot and I’m not sick in the head!

Arnulf Rainer's work at the Christophe Gaillard stand at Paris Photo


Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

You’re going to tell me this photo is so banal and I’m going to tell you how much I love it.

You’re going to tell me it’s an ordinary country road and I’m going to tell you it’s the road between my parents’ houses, the route I’ve determined is the fastest, with the least traffic and the most open space.

You’re going to say it’s in the middle of nowhere and I’m going to say it’s a place I feel love.

You might know the stress of traveling between two pieces of your family, the guilt over not being there, the balance in your mind, the simultaneous leaving someone behind while joining someone else, looking behind you and in front of you and wanting to go in both directions at once.

No one can know how many times I’ve travelled this ordinary road, or how personal is the shape of that tree, how loved is this view over cornfields that make me feel so strongly a sense of place.

But I tell you, from a person who think she was born with one foot in melancholy, I am happy driving on this piece of road, in silence with the windows down.

Making it a real job

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

A birthday gift from my dad, I got to see Joe Bonamassa in concert tonight at the Olympia in Paris. I recently joked that his music had become the new family religion. I’m proud to say we’re a Chicago family and like big guitar sounds and blues.

It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. He played almost 2 and a half hours and looked like he loved it as much as we did. When leaving, my spirits were so high I couldn’t fit into the metro and had to walk all the way home.

At one point Joe said he had taken a photo of the facade of the Olympia and sent it to his mother so she’d stop bugging him about getting a real job. He’d made it. Well I think he did that quite a while ago (opened for B.B. King at the age of 12! and will have his 34th birthday in a couple of days). It made me think of my parents and their relation to photography as “a real job.” I think they now believe I’m capable and do not worry as much, even if I have not reached the level of the Olympia.

May 5, 2011. Bonamassa at the Olympia.

Time for Outrage

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Stéphane Hessel began the evening by reciting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71, which he kept in his breast pocket when he was a prisoner in the concentration camps. The sonnet was a message to his wife in case he were not to survive. Fortunately for us all, this courageous man was standing before us at the age of 93, his presence both rousing and reassuring, for he has survived horrors I can barely imagine.

Stéphane Hessel taking a question from the audience.

Hessel was at Shakespeare & Co. Monday night, for the occasion of his book “Indignez vous!” being published in English under the title “Time for Outrage!”, the first title under Charles Glass Books.

His book, a call to action and attention to human rights violations, to fighting for civil liberties, has sold almost 1.5 million copies in France since October. At 3€ and 32 pages, a sharp contrast to the size of its message and call to waking up, it is quickly and often shared.

Someone had the for-sight to offer it to Charlie Glass as a Christmas present, a fortuitous exchange that sparked its English translation.

Charlie Glass and Stéphane Hessel at Shakespeare & Co. Paris.

Later in the evening, at the end of a dinner to which we were graciously invited by Sylvia Whitman, Hessel departed with the words of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, and again captivated us all. After he left, comments went around that no one commits such things to memory anymore, let alone recites them with such endearment. We can all Google anything we want and have it at our fingertips. Proposed keys to living long and well: laughing, poetry, caring deeply about humanity, and the occasional tagine aux légumes.

Thank you Mr. Hessel, we are all grateful to have been in your presence. And thank you Charlie and Sylvia, for making it happen.

The only thing Nietzsche ever said that made immediate sense to me

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

A glance at my bookshelf

Cheers to a New Year

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

My Own Private Idaho under a full summer moon

I had to go. A spirit in my feet said “Go,” and I went.

Mathew Brady, a father of photojournalism.

Thank you kind stranger, thank you dimples

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

I was just sitting here listening
to someone play a mean saxophone
and thought, “I’m grateful for jazz.”

It’s Thanksgiving,
I’m away from my family,
and I’m having a tinge of homesickness.

Among countless other things, I am grateful
for telephones and webcams.

Giving thanks to...

Another Rebirthday

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Seven years ago today I woke up in someone else’s life.

I didn’t anticipate how dramatic the change would be. I had big, impatient plans whose tires were spinning on the rug that I had arranged to be yanked from under my feet.

To start, I began drinking wine at every meal (excluding breakfast) and eating cheese that smelled like untouchable socks. I learned quickly that confrontation was not avoided here but even sought out and played with, that smiling while walking down the street made you look simple, that my pronunciations of regarder and rue de la verrerrie were better after drinking fruit juice, and that I understood nothing over the telephone and would have to go in person to read lips. I started swearing more in my native language to compensate for my impotence in my new life’s language. And, I didn’t recognize myself in the reflection of others because their eyes were looking through the heavy filter of my insufficient words. My small supply of adjectives just did not cover the scope of my thoughts.

The dream remained a dream, and every day was surreal
until surreal became real.

Me in 2003, when blog wasn't in my vocabulary and I didn't own a digital camera. Photo by V.M.

If change is the only constant, and because I like to count, I can say there have been 2,555 days of change between the me today and the girl in that photo. I knew her, I know her, I am her, I was her. I have sometimes forgotten her, hidden her, found her or denied her. I have pushed her very hard and yet not enough. I have taken her in and kicked her out, into the big wide world, to widen her peripheral vision.

Some days I have no regrets.
Today, I’m happy to be here, wherever I am.

On my street today, a man dressed in green, all the way down to his broom, said to his street-sweeping partner, “Partage un peu mon frère, la vie n’est que courte et éphémère.”

The 5:13 to Marseille

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Marseille and I met on Sunday around 6:30am, when I rolled in with the mistral while the city still slept.

I climbed into a train full of dreaming Luxemburgers on their way to Nice, found an empty couchette with an open door, went in and locked it. As always, I feel a surge of giddiness when entering an empty place and locking the door behind me. Alone in the dark, I put my feet up and smile at the moonlit morning shining through the window, proud to have survived the pain of waking at an hour I usually identify with endings, not beginnings.

Arriving in Marseille, the only people I see are street cleaners and those still living Saturday night.

Walking around the old port, I watch the light change. The Fort Saint-Nicolas de Marseille is behind me on a hill, the sun already touching it. I go as high into the old citadel as I can, following the sun’s rise.

At the end of the 12th century, a chapel was built here. Some quick math on my 21st century cell phone tells me there have been about 127, 750 sunrises since the first stone was placed on this hill. As I pull a pain au chocolat out of my camera bag, I wonder how many boats have passed, how many people have stood here and what they ate for breakfast.

Le Vieux Port, Marseille, from the Fort Saint Nicolas at 8:10am

Where small things die

Monday, July 19th, 2010

this is not the monstrous moth that woke me up just now.
he, or she, is still at large.

every night she bangs her head against the walls,
ignoring my indications to the open window
because there is no light outside to draw her.

yet there is little light inside,
which could explain why she flew into my closed mouth,
alarming my eyes.

this moth was found sleeping eternal in the floorboards,
in the same situation where the lumbering crunchy bug just died
at the hands of a q-tip and an espadrille.

No, I don’t want a piece of paper

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

This will never happen again. Now will never repeat.

Mantra of the day

April Rain

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

It’s lovely
It creates colorful, reflective eye-candy,
A bunch of bling-bling on the windows.

It turns the sky all shades of purple, blue and brown
You see it reflected at your feet,
the direction you turn to shelter your head…

Because it spits in your face
and wets your pants,
it makes odd odors surface
from old winter coats.

It finds the holes in your boots
and quickens your step,
postpones the spring skirt,
sends a chill up your back.

It is lovely,
if only for that nearing break in the clouds
where the sun will re-appear
while the rain still falls.

Spring night lights

Everything but the words

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

i am the worst procrastinator!
when i have to write.

i am trying to write…

i have eaten dinner,
cleaned the kitchen,
plucked my eyebrows,
updated my facebook page,
changed into more comfortable clothes,
replaced my contacts with glasses,
taken off my hat,
put the hat back on
because it helps me think,
i think.

i lit a candle,
played with the candle wax,
charged my phone,
charged my iPod,
charged my laptop,
changed out of my shoes,
and watered the dying plant.

i made tea,
searched for chocolate in the cupboards,
finished the last two cookies,
cracked some walnuts,
looked out the window at the half-moon floating on a diagonal,
and sat back down at my desk.

i checked email,
i checked Facebook,
i checked Twitter,
i commented on one thing,
and “liked” another,
i clicked apple-tab back to Word, and all my notes,
changed iTunes from “repeat all” to “repeat one”

i turned down the music because i thought i heard the neighbors making love,
i turned the music back up because they are.

i opened a new email,
to get all this out…
and go back to this breakthrough,
because the right idea is now growing.

it’s four minutes from tomorrow

and the fear is gone.

I am ready to put it down.

Searching for Silence

Monday, May 11th, 2009

i’m standing in the shadows on a wide, red-dirt road,
wet and lumpy from yesterday’s rain,
that begins and ends in darkness.

on the corner, a bare light bulb is hanging.
in the middle of the road, the light doesn’t reach me.

in strong brown boots, i stand carrying only a borrowed book.
a hotel key to bungalow number 7 is in the pocket of my jeans.

to the right and left, sleeping houses are sheltering families,
their windows hidden by burly dark bushes.

a stray dog stops in the yellow light at the corner,
he looks in my direction while peeing on a parked car
and then moves on.

i look up at the sky and see more stars than i remember ever seeing.
the air is cool. i keep still, listening to the symphony of night bugs.

i am relieved to be out of buenos aires.
away from the noise,
out of the pollution.

i take a deep breath,
the air is tinged with gasoline.

Somewhere Over the Autopista

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

I moved this week. I wanted to see the city from higher up.

Sitting in my bed on the 14th floor, I look out on the autopista 25 de mayo and it feels like the building is in its path. Lying down I see the sky and think of Georgia O’Keefe being drawn to New Mexico.

Looking out on autopista 25 de mayo

Looking out on autopista 25 de mayo

But on the ground…
on the ground in Buenos Aires is another experience.

Walking on loose sidewalk tiles concealing muddy pools of water that splash your feet,

you don’t hear your cell phone ringing above all the noise.

You hold your breath crossing the street in the billowing black cloud left behind by the bus.

You keep your bag close and look over your shoulder.

You duck into a kiosco searching for something that costs 1 peso so you can get enough change in this short-of-change city to take the bus.

You keep walking because at the kiosco “no hay moneda.”

You smile sweetly at the banker and get 10 pesos worth of coins instead of the allotted 5.

You hear a honk, a “tsst tsst,” or an “hola mama,” grit your teeth and get used to it.

You step into the middle of the street to get the bus driver to stop, then jump off at your destination as he slows down just enough.

Then aaaahh, you hear the ubiquitous bandoneon coming from the music store door,

While the cartoneros on the corner work on sorting today’s garbage.

You stop at your favorite café with its black-and-white tiled floor to get a café con leche and buttery medialunas.

You say Hola to all of your neighbors, who recognize you on the second meeting.

You get lifted up to piso 14 and lie down and look at the sky.

Setting west over the autopista

Setting west over the autopista


Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Packing up the scraps of my personal belongings, I find Tagore’s Gitanjali in my hands and try to put it into a box.  I hesitate, then open to a random page and read:


Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to break them.

Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed.

I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room.

The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love.

My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.

Thanks Rabindranath.