Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Synesthesic Mind: Picturing Memories

Recently, Alex and I caught a bit of a program featuring the artist, Stephen Pace, who for many years, resided in Stonington, Maine. (He died in Indiana at the age of 91, while painting a portrait of his beloved wife, the artist Pam Pace.) In the piece, he said something that resonated with both of us and it's something that I have often thought. To paraphrase, he said he often paints not what he's looking at, but what he remembers.

His words resonated because so often, when my hands get that itch to create, specifically to paint, and I just can't or won't make time to drag the easel and paints out to the subject, I snap a photo instead. I take a huge amount of photographs. Of everything. With my synesthesia and unique, fairly photographic memory, this might seem redundant, but with the view that if it's not recorded, it didn't happen, I want to be able to refer to that blue quality of light, that tip of a leaf, the freckles on my daughter's face, the brown egg hue of my son's summer skin, the strength and tenderness in my husband's hands.

Sometimes photo-heavy blogs (like this one) are viewed as throw-away or as having little value. I've never understood this. Again, perhaps it is because my brain is making different connections, literally seeing and sensing things differently, that I think this. To me, first sensing, stopping and looking, then recording an observation with a photo is not any less than recording one in words. Both, writing and photography (or other media) require participation, then processing on the audience's part. I adore words, language. Words have color, texture, flavor. But for me, a photograph or painting or other similar piece of art, says more to me than any string of sentences could ever say. Words are the looking at. Words, to my mind, don't as easily convey the feelings, the welling-up, the fullness, the richness of a moment.

So I stop. I wait for a breeze to pass. I have to be patient. I have to be quick. Moments are fleeting. I might not have words for that one blip in time, that one passing look, that hair that fell across her forehead, that particular gray-green of the coming storm. Words fail me too often in my memories. That is why, having that photo helps me etch those precious, sense memories so that one day, when I do turn to canvas and easel, I will paint what I remember.

peas with pottery
Nikko blue hydrangeas
beets coming along nicely
broccoli forest
daisy love
late sun lilies
garden rainbow


  1. I missed that program! I'm hoping they'll re-air it at some point. I'm from Stonington originally! I LOVE your photos! (Can you tell me what the pink flowers are with the Black-eyed Susans? We have some here and there, but haven't been able to identify them.)

  2. Yes! Those are bee balm or Monarda, and they smell like bergamot, correct? Bergamot oranges contain the essential oil used in Earl Grey tea. (Which always throws me because it just seems so obvious that the tea would be made from Monarda leaves, given how fragrant the leaves are. Nope.) Do you have the red ones like I have or do you have many other colors, too? I have some pale pinky lavender bee balm. I still haven't laid my hands on any purple yet. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I love talking plants! (And how lucky are you for being from Stonington? As a kid, I lived in Blue Hill and Castine. Love Down East.)

  3. Bee balm! I thought they were Wild Bergamot! And we have just a FEW of the pink ones like you have. They're really neat to look at! The kids LOVE finding new plants and figuring out what they are! We're fortunate to live in a GREAT area for doing just that!

    Wow! Blue Hill/Castine, huh? Nice!

  4. I love that! And this:: "Sometimes photo-heavy blogs (like this one) are viewed as throw-away or as having little value. I've never understood this."

    Last year we had a visit from an unschooling family/blogger and she commented off handedly to me that she only posts important deep meaningful things and doesn't really follow those more shallow photo blogs, you know, blogs that show what they had for breakfast (like mine obviously). I thought about that for months (still do, obviously) and the thing is I remember in pictures. Images are more important than words. The wordy telling me how to live my life blogs without images ... I find myself skimming through it to the end, unable to even read it. Besides, I make my own choices. But seeing life, seeing colors, seeing images, seeing families --- that shows me how people live, what is important to them, what brings them joy, and I am moved by that more than anything. I have a photographic memory too, as well as sense memories tied to colors and images and sounds. Images are feelings. Images are memories. Images are smells and tastes. Images are life.


  5. GACK! Did you give her the squint-eye? I find myself often doing the same with the skimming, looking for any sort of image to anchor the author's words. I see people say this a lot. Oddly, it's also from a lot of folks that claim we "mommy bloggers" just try to show perfect lives, um, but forget we have photographic evidence...not that our lives are perfect, but we're living what we write and our pictures show it. That's a whole other post I want to write... PS--WHY AREN'T WE NEIGHBORS YET???

  6. I LOVE this post! I have been feeling lately that my blog is not valued to others because I have so many photos, but pictures tell a story too.
    Like you, I love capturing those moments and then having them to go back to. Plus, my kids love being able to click through the blog and check out all the pictures. I love seeing how other people live through pictures. I think photo blogs are beautiful!

  7. Darcel, thank you. I absolutely agree, of course. I love your photos, seeing your life and your connected family. I've always taken photos, from my first $1 Kodak I got at a yard sale, and like you, we're all so glad to have these memories to return to, to see just how much we've changed (or not) over the years. Photography is an important part of our unschooling and our life and my family's well-being. Thanks so much for your comment!

  8. I don't know about the eye, but I should have. I really just felt sad. We don't often connect well with other unschoolers in our local area, and was excited to meet people of the RU sort from SOMEWHERE ELSE, ya know? There is a local matriarch of our US group and every time we go to an event she talks to me in such a nice voice about how blogs are not the "real world" and people who blog things when they should be living in their communities, and how she just doesn't see the real connections or use of FB and blogging. Then she will look at me and say oh, I know you blog, but you know what I mean. But in such a nice voice I guess I am supposed to just smile and do what I'm told. Bwahahhahhhahahahahahh!!!!!!!!!!! And they wonder why I don't ever go to any of their events. Even though they are the only unschoolers in our entire area. 8-O

    I am who I am and I can't be anything else. And I blog lots of pretty pictures. :) And I would love to be neighbors. In my dream life. ;)

  9. Of course she is probably a closet blog reader and follows you and I just got myself into hot water again. ;P



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