Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Revise for Reason

My father is an architect. I've enjoyed being able to say this for many reasons. As a child, I didn't have to explain anything, translate acronyms or find other verbs for what he does. He designs. Simply, he designs homes, churches, schools, banks, wineries and even prisons. But really, if I had to say what my dad taught me about architecture, it would be the importance of, what he calls, the sequence of time and space. Space isn't only the physical world around you, but your experience in that world that defines how you feel about that space. "Architecture is about 90% psychology and 10% math," he'd say. And I believe him.

I believe him because I used to go to work with him. I literally used to tag along with my dad some days while he went to meetings, helped tie ribbons on trees that needed to be cut down and sat in his office playing darts while the onion skin paper would pile on the floor. But mostly, I adored watching him draw. Even later in life when we'd have lunch and I'd be rambling about what to do as a career, my dad would pull out a yellow legal pad of paper and make notes of points I took way too long to make and take something as abstract as my aspirations and make them into concrete images. He never told me what to do, but what he found helpful and purposeful in having a job that forces you to do something for others. If I were to say, I feel lucky. It would be an understatement.

What I can say is that I have a long list of Robert Frost quotes and poems in my head, ice-fishing jokes as well as a need to not just nest where I live, but to get out and experience some place on a daily basis that feeds me. These photos above are taken from a place I try to go daily and the sequence of these shots goes from the beginning to the point where I usually turn around and head back. To my father, these photos would be a series to show a sequence of time experience--from the start of the dirt road that is flat and rising to the view of Lolo Peak that stands over this valleyed city I currently call home.

Currently, this trail that I run, bike and sometimes just walk has taken on a new experience. I'd love to say it is because with all this rain there are more wildflowers in the meadows than ever before or the watery song of the meadow lark seems even clearer this year, but really it is the view of Lolo Peak that has shifted for me. I know it has shifted for many Missoulians. Over three weeks ago, a dear friend of ours died in a wet slide avalanche while skiing a couloir down Lolo Peak. He was a very dear friend to many. Someone whom you feel lucky to know, someone who teaches you a lot about time and space sequence in how he lived his life. Someone who never told you what to do, but asked a lot of questions. Someone who loved this world, struggled with darkness, but I'd like to say knew there was always light, somewhere.

Chris Spurgeon was a wild and beautiful man. The first time I met him was briefly at a bar. It was the first weekend I had moved to Missoula and I asked my now-husband. "Who was that?" I asked because I thought I had just seen someone suited for a 18th century French film, someone rugged and worn with refined features. Someone quiet with most likely a lot to say.
"That man," Greg said, "rides his motorcycle 200 miles to run a 50 mile trail race. Wins the race and gets back on his motorcycle and rides back to Missoula and closes Charlie B's. That man is Chris Spurgeon and he's legendary."

And he is, legendary in so many ways--in so many ways that you cannot take a picture of. Someone's spirit has yet to be photographed I believe. But we take photos of views and vistas. Mountains and childhood friends. Moments we know we cannot take hold of, really. But we try. Today, Lolo peak isn't a monument as much as I see it as a reminder. Chris was someone who took his time--I mean took time to nap, read books, took long runs, needed a lot of time alone and thought it silly to kill dandelions. Aren't they flowers too as much as weeds? And so this view, this peak that stands and will stand longer than I know any of us will be standing is more of a reminder. It's a physical and beautiful reminder of how much time it really takes to get where you want to go. To say life is a sequence of events sounds all too easy and vague, but really maybe Wallace Stevens said it the best, "Death is the mother of all beauty."

Death is not the point where you turn around or even an end as much as it might just be part of the time and space sequence my father speaks so clearly about in design. This point or destination that lies beyond us is only speculation. We just don't have any pictures of this place. We don't know what lies after meadows, mountain peaks and buildings we call home. But we get sunrises, elephants, fathers who teach us and give us immeasurable gifts and if we're lucky, friends who live their lives as John Muir and hopefully maybe too, time to revise even ourselves.

Last year, I had an art show of poetry and photographs of natural landscapes of Western Montana with my friend Kelly. Chris Spurgeon with the only one of my husband's friends to come. I recall watching Chris quietly read every poem, lean in to every photograph and really look. Really take his time. Later he walked up to me and wanted to talk. He had a lot to say about poetry. I listened. He asked for a poem from that show and I want to share it. But I want to tell you is that I have been revising the poem. I have been revising it with Chris in mind, with Chris as a reason. So often we write from images or brief moments that might not make any sense at first. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years or some event to help guide meaning into the poem. Or so I hope. As Robert Frost said, " A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom." I can only hope someday to be as wise as Chris. For now, I will focus on delight. For now, I will write and revise.

City Horses

Behind fences in the noon sun, they look tired

from all the work they haven't done,

left alone too long from boys who only fall

in love with women sixteen feet tall,

screened lips that flicker red. Even in Montana,

horses look silly in cities, slowing traffic down

to parade some past. A Pow Wow bridled

on a college campus. Up river, children learn to hide

without the long shadow of barns, spend nights

with the sky of parking lots instead of fruit

orchards to feed Appaloosas. The west,

harnessed by a lone billboard, preaches

the burnt word from a church's shot gun,

held in the hands of someone's twelve year old

son. But horses, even in their shoes,

find fields open to be alone. Alone to run.

1 comment:

  1. Emily, I just love reading what you have to say. You always remind me of my love of Montana -- it's always such a treat! Jessica