Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taken for granite

"Everyone breaks a little sometimes." 

-- J. Kenner, Release Me 
Broken angel  9-1-13

"... the wounds of the past and the scars of the present 
don't disfigure me in your eyes ..."

-- John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

"He jests at scars that never felt a wound."

-- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I went to the cemetery yesterday, searching for faces.

I was looking for new material, but I also wanted to revisit a couple of familiar faces that I've photographed in the past.

One of my favorites is an enormous monument bearing the stone image of a larger-than-life angel. I photographed her several years ago, and wanted to do so again for this year's 365 days project.

I have a large framed photo of this angel on my bedroom wall. I shot the photo in 2004 and it is one of my all-time favorites. I love it because of the way it captures the combined sense of strength and sadness, power and helplessness, spirituality and humanity. I was eager to see her again.

After meandering around the winding roads cris-crossing the cemetery and successfully finding a handful of interesting new faces, I made my way over to where she stands.

My heart went cold. I felt sickened by the sight.

She'd been damaged.


Her nose was completely gone, along with most of her upper lip. In their place, dead-center on her lovely angel face, a disfiguring, jagged, gaping granite wound.

I have no idea how it happened.

Natural disaster?

It's an old cemetery with lots of trees. Perhaps a branch fell during a storm.

Cemetery vandals?

God, I hope not.

Despite the damage, I photographed her anyway.

I was deeply moved by the beauty of the images I was seeing.

It wasn't the perfect beauty of the past, but beauty of a grittier sort. Even though her face was badly scarred, this angel somehow still conveyed that same combined sense of strength and sadness, power and helplessness, spirituality and humanity.

Maybe even more so.

The way she looks now ... it's like she gets it, she understands, she knows something about pain and damage, about scars and wounds, because she's been there. You get the impression that she can sympathize with the sadness and loss and tragedy that surrounds her, because she's seen it up close.

You know she knows how it feels.

You know she's felt the hard impact.

You can see it all over her beautiful face.