Alone or in a Crowd

Venice Glass 0780

The thaw is almost complete, only piles of dirty snow where the plows had pushed them to when clearing the streets and driveways. The lake is once again liquid. With not a ripple of breeze the water is an unwrinkled mirror of the softly white sky above. But now the sun comes out from behind the clouds and the landscape is suddenly high-contrast again, the shadows deep, the lines sharp, the water like a sheet of stainless steel!

I am fascinated by change, how something appears one way one instant and something different the next. I want to see the exact moment the change comes about because I am unsure things can change as they do. When we live in the present that is all that it seems it’s always been. The past is gone except in our unreliable memory. Was it really like that?

Photographs are my attempts to hang on to the past. It is not the same, of course. More than the image my camera captures are the feelings invoked by the lines and colors. Texture is even more important to my eyes. I like the stubble from the summer’s corn harvest on the snow-covered field, the individual fibers woven into a fabric, the shadow of hair on skin, the tiny crumbs on a piece of cake.

Growing up I wanted to get out of the background, leap off the mesh. I wanted to stop the clamor of voices around me, supporting me with what they say I was so I couldn’t hear my own voice in the crowd. At least this is the story I hear now in my head.

Stories are not necessarily what happened in the past. Our stories are slivers of memory that some other weaver than us took like threads from a much bigger skein to weave this piece of a rag, what I remember of the past that has become who I am.

When we get back with family, we hear their voices again and we are who they have always known. It’s a fascinating study of change and how things change like reflections on the lake.

When I lived on the East Coast my friends were mostly Filipinos – co-residents at the Martland Hospital program, my cousin in New York, and my sister when she joined me from the Philippines. When I came to Indianapolis that all changed. The friends I socialized with were my best friend, Aldo from Rhode Island, and new friends like Karen whom I dated for a while. She was “the girl from Portland.” She was more interested in a relationship than I was. I wonder today where I would be if I had taken up with her. I would probably be living in Maine, surrounded by New England folks!

Instead I stayed here in Indiana, a very different kind of place. When I started working at the state hospital, Filipino colleagues invited me to join the Filipino social group, The Barangay Club. I went to their socials for a while but found the activities interminable. I was not interested in playing mahjong or gossiping about people. We didn’t have anything in common. I was more interested in getting to know America and Americans. I came here to widen my world, not to shut myself up with enclaves from the Old Country.

So I made my choice. I have no Filipino friends and the people I associate with are from many parts of the world. It’s sometimes lonely but I’ve made my choice. In the last couple of years, largely through Facebook, I’ve gotten back in  touch with family and friends from the Philippines. It’s different. We chat online and I am getting to know who they married and what their children are doing. But I am no longer in the room with all those voices telling me what I am. I turn off the computer and all I hear are the voices in my own head.

Help! Stop! Can I have quiet please?

About orlando gustilo

Digital content producer, photographer, writer.
This entry was posted in memoirs, philosophy, Photography, psychology, Still Life, Writers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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