Last April when my friend Donna Hopkins and I decided to try a poetry/photography project, I was excited. But I didn’t know we would still be working on it these months later.
Yet, I’ve found this project has given me focus. I’ve also changed the way I see the world, much like when children view events through their own fresh eyes. And I couldn’t be more grateful for this in my life right now.
This was Donna’s idea: to make a photo and send it to me where I would react to it in writing. “Let’s see where it goes,” she said, with a smile that drew me in.
First, I love her photographs. They capture moments in her life, moments that show what it means to be human. Also, she knows I use the photos as inspiration, so my writing is not literally about the photo but what comes to me as I study it. We found we were much aligned as we moved forward. The other discovery came when she titled the project Natural Histories, a nod to this time in our lives. What a perfect way to document what we are both going through as we transition into what I think of as the last third of our lives.
An example above shows what she sent- a photo, stark in its dark green and white sign contrast, but also empty with a sign that says nothing. At first I focused on the blank sign, but then my mind moved to what happens at the moment of death. I found my feelings stirred up around the idea of after life and my mother.
We are mid-way through the project, aiming to finish up next April, a year from when we started. The beauty for me is I can create a poem but return to it before we finalize. I’ve already added and deleted lines from earlier poems, and I plan to do a once over before we publish our book.
Sebene Selassie said, “each of us can cultivate our capacity to live in ways that honor our inherent interconnection. Through intimacy and imagination we can consciously create the world we live in together.” This feels like I am creating the world in which I want to live. We will all grow old. We will all die. How do we honor the time we are here on this earth?