A Whispering Medium

Silverpoint is relatively rarely seen nowadays, but it remains a delicate medium for drawing. Putting a point of real silver onto gessoed paper allows the same kind of fine detail and fragility to be expressed that are characteristic of harder graphite pencils’ work. The effect is of pale and careful imagery, a wisp of smoke, a mist, a whisper.Drawing: Silverpoint Apples

There’s an appealing air of the arcane to a medium that’s old and seldom used nowadays, and silverpoint qualifies on both counts. It’s also effective, as I found in my little experiments, on a black background to create gently ghostly drawings, but as ghosts seem wont to do, has a tendency to disappear at the slightest whiff of air, since oxidation darkens silver and it becomes less and less visible against the dark ground. Of course, that very ephemeral quality might be a further attraction, an encouragement to see the medium as a passing fancy best appreciated ‘fresh’ and gone in the blink of an eye.

Drawing: Silverpoint Blueberries

This is, after all, an age in which change comes at an ever-increasing speed and in growing quantities, and we become accustomed to nearly everything having the shelf life of a mayfly at best. We adapt, we move on. Yet we crave the sense of permanence and connection, so here I am marking in graphite over the top of the silverpoint as it fades, or scanning the images to enhance the contrast while it can still be seen. And while I still love the sense of tactile attachment and involvement that writing longhand, pencil on paper, gives me even when I’m up to my elbows in graphite dust, not to mention hoping that the neural connections such physical action reinforces better than keyboard manipulations will stay with me longer somehow, what do I do with my writings? Transcribe the scribbles to the electronic medium by sitting at my keyboard afterward anyway.

So passes our world; we labor with new tools to speed things up, revisit and relish the old methodology and tools to slow down and remember, and then run back to catch up with the new again. We, too, are ephemeral as faint images, as ghosts, and we feel our mortality even as we strive to make our marks on the world while passing through it. Our tiny voices and messages may be lost in the ether forever, and that, almost at the instant of their making, but the urge to tell our tales remains. Our little silver trails will fade, but we will have moved on elsewhere as well.

The Curvature of the Earth

You know, and I know, that if one can see far enough to and across the horizon, one can see the curvature of the earth. It’s also common knowledge that this is a perspective hard for the ordinary earthling to achieve.

photoWhat is perhaps a little less often considered is how difficult it can be to find and maintain the smaller perspective of the magical and beautiful in our world and our lives. I think I am fortunate both to realize how incredibly beyond-microscopic I am relative to the broad arc of my home planet and, oddly, how this same unfathomably huge place can hold me in the crook of its metaphorical arm, embracing me with such delicate kindness and comfort and generosity.photoWhen I think on this, I begin to see echoes of the vast rim of the third planet from the sun in smaller and smaller graces curving up right in the heart of the everyday.

A New Day

A beautiful rarity changes everything around it. The appearance of the exquisite anomaly transforms all proximal life into a sweeter reality. I have seen occasional scissor-tailed flycatchers since moving here, but these marvelous creatures clearly love to fly, and that means the sightings are fleeting and I am seldom fortunate enough to see them, let alone agile enough to record the moment photographically. But after constant misfires and long stretches of not seeing the pretties at all, I finally got my moment. Besides making me euphoric, it felt epiphanic.photoWhat if, I thought to myself, I could become like those lovely birds? Is it possible for ordinary people to be the beautiful rarities that break through mundane reality enough to spark others’ anomalous joy? Of course we can. It’s not easy, to be sure. But if we can be stirred so deeply by pretty little long-tailed birds, by an intricate mathematical equation, by a magnificent ocean wave, or by a rusty gate creaking open to a secret courtyard, why then, an act of kindness bestowed on a stranger or a smile lighting up a dark moment for a friend might in fact be just enough. And more might be better.photo