I am sitting on an old wooden porch facing westward across Linekin Bay, Maine. Vacation, the same this year as last year and last year as the year before.
Over the course of this past year, I kept coming back to two of last year’s photographs. I wanted to recapture the feeling of the past vacation, to bring it forward, the past into the present. The first photo is of fog rolling in (above), white wisps just hiding the forest green of the island a hundred yards across the water. This photograph intimates September more than it does July, the air fall cooler than summer warm. The second photo is of the sunset, iridescent shades of orange shooting streaks across the sky in every direction, exaltation unbounded. Vacation, the same this year as last year and last year as the year before (below).
Only, I am right here, right now, in the present, and the two photographs are but an imitation of another present that has become past, like so much of life. But in this present, this year, I watch the herring flash their sides just below the surface of the glass water. They flip their tails to break the glass while feeding, making the corner noise of a slap. A Maine cormorant – a bird that feeds on the herring – sees the flash and hears the slap and dives deep to catch the herring. A second cormorant speeds over to the first to steal any herring he might catch, like pigeons in a park. Vacation, the same this year as last year and last year as the year before.
I am the bread of life, Jesus said. I am.
The two cunning photographs invite me into anamnesis, tempt me into bringing the past fully present, only of this they are incapable. Photographs are not time machines, but faded memories. They hint at a past, refract it. Being here is being here, not someplace else, and the memory of a photograph is limited to a square. Four corners of memory.
I am the bread of life, Jesus said. I am. I am present, not an image, not four corners of memory.
Years ago, living near the Golden Gate Bridge, I rode across the bridge on my bicycle. The blue water of the bay swirled eddies 200 feet below me as the tide exhaled itself into the ocean. The bleached city stood off to the side, and the resonant sapphire sky – no fog at all – clarified the day. Many of the people I saw that day experienced the bridge, I could tell. The Bay and the ocean, Alcatraz and the City of San Francisco. Yet, others failed to experience the bridge, so busy were they taking photographs. Pointing up, pointing out, pointing over, click, click, click. Four corners, trying to bind life by four corners. Did they see what the others saw? Or had these erstwhile photographers ceded experience to their cameras? The present to the past?
Wasn’t that the best day ever? One would say to a friend years later. Indeed it was. The friend would answer, and each would remember more the photograph than the day.
I am the bread of life. Present, not past. Not future. Anamnesis – not remembering, but experiencing. Manna is for today only, and any captured experience becomes stale overnight.
Vacation, the same this year as last year and last year as the year before. So here I am, sitting on the same porch as last year, alternately opening and closing my eyes, inhaling and exhaling. Receiving and returning. I hear the guttural sound of a trawler grow louder as a lobsterman checks his traps, uses his entire body to drag the traps up from the bottom, pulls lobsters out, and resets the traps. The lobsterman, I realize, lives a 360 life, day in and day out. And what matters in the end is not the four corners, and not the recalled vacation, but the present, the here, the now.
I am the bread of life. I am.
Photos taken by Rob Gieselmann+