Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Portrait of a soul

“Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations 
without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers,
and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”

                                                                                        -- Stanislaw Lem, Solaris 

Paperclay face 4-3-13

“The most adventurous journey to embark on; 
is the journey to yourself, the most exciting thing to discover;
 is who you really are, the most treasured pieces that you can find; 
are all the pieces of you, the most special portrait you can recognize; 
is the portrait of your soul.”
                                                                                             -- C. JoyBell C.

There comes a time in every 365 days project when I consider how many of those 365 days still remain. And I wonder ... 

Will the supply run out?
Will the ideas dry up?
Have I discovered all there is to discover?
Have I thoroughly explored my own "labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers," or merely tapped lightly, timidly, at their doors hoping no one answers?
Have I found all the pieces of who I am, or have I only just begun assembling the scraps?
Have I plumbed the murky depths, or barely skimmed the surface?
Will sameness and repetition ground my enthusiasm and spirit of discovery?
Is it over?
Is there more? 
Am I done?

And I pick up the camera.

Somehow I catch a thermal, an updraft, a rising column of -- not air. Something purer lifts me up and over, carrying me beyond my limited down-here point of view. Scanning the landscape from up here I spy movement, I spot a frightened little possibility, a skittering something, zipping and dodging furtively across the ground looking for a place to hide, hoping I won't notice.

But I do notice. 

And I capture it. I capture an image that didn't exist a moment ago. A face is born. Maybe it's my own face seen anew. A me that changes every day. Maybe it's a brand new face, a face made of paper, or clay, or in today's case, Paperclay. 

I mold and push and carve and pinch a shapeless blob of plasticized paper pulp until my hands cradle a little man. And the little man is smiling.

Paperclay face (2) 4-3-13
"Hold still," I say. "While I take your picture."

He indulges my intrusion. Like a gentle, tolerant old family dog that has spent its life submitting to silly costumes and the poking, prodding hands of clumsy, sticky children, the little man keeps smiling as I pose him, position him, turn him, move him. I encroach on his boundaries and trample all over his comfort zone as I shove the camera lens smack into his face, all the while pressing the shutter again, and again, and again trying to crack the code and get at his personality, to unlock his mystery, to catch a glimpse of his soul. 

To catch a glimpse of my own soul, which is far more skittish and elusive.

The pursuit is intoxicating. And like any potent intoxicant, addictive. I will want more of it tomorrow. I want more of it right now.

Yes, there are worlds and civilizations out there for the discovering. I am not interested in those worlds. I am not that kind of archaeologist. I'm searching for the bits and pieces of "me" that are still hidden, pieces I've subconsciously or all-too intentionally locked away, and which have become entombed in something like hardened earth, which rest sparkling like treasures in a riverbed.