I hopped online this morning, missing the days that I would mindlessly cull through galleries and independent portfolios of artists, iced coffee pulsing through my veins. I haven’t done it in awhile, for a lot of reasons like babies and time and priorities. But I woke up early and treated myself to a nice, long hour of just… looking. And it was blissful.
I have a hard time looking without thinking, without feeling. It’s not a bad problem to have, I suppose. Sensitivity is a gift – a challenge. But I sometimes fumble around the door to find an off switch. To go back to the time when I could flip through beautiful portraits and visit installations without a hidden voice inside of me, nudging, “You’re seeing this for a reason. Feel it. Use it. Live it.”
So of course, without fail, I was deep into my looking when I was smacked by this beautiful photographic series from Sarker Protick over at This is Paper. And the hidden voice began to shout.
The combination of Bangladesh photographer Sarker’s words and images were heartbreakingly beautiful, especially in light of tomorrow’s holiday. Because after all, there’s little more romantic than loving those around you until the very end, yes?
“It was in the afternoon, I was sitting on my grandpa’s couch,” Sarker writes. “The door was slightly open and I saw light coming through, washed out between the white door and white walls. All of a sudden it all started making sense. I could relate what I was seeing with what I felt. John and Prova, my grandparents. While growing up, I found much love and care from them. They were young and strong. As time went by it shaped everything in its own way. Bodies took different forms and relations went distant. Grandma’s hair turned gray, the walls started peeling off and the objects were all that remained. Everything was contained into one single room.”
“They always loved the fact that I take pictures of them, because then I spend more time with them and they don’t feel lonely anymore. After Prova passed away, I try to visit more so John can talk. He tells me stories of their early life, and how they met. There are so many stories. Here, life is silent, suspended. Everything is on a wait. A wait for something that I don’t completely understand.”
I’ve written before about the perspective our elders can offer, and how the space in which they live – that silent, suspended space – offers great purpose. Where else will we learn the ingredients of our grandmother’s famous shrimp dip? And how else will our grandfather tell us that great story about the crab apples in the summer of ’52?
But perhaps the most important lesson the generations before us can teach is this: purpose. What lies ahead, what has come before? What fills our heads and hearts and minds and souls when we sit – silently – suspended? When the end feels near (does it ever?) and youth feels far?
It reminds me of an excerpt from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
Image Credits: Sarker Protick
p.s. My thoughts on love.