If you’ve been on Facebook anytime in the last two months, you’ve seen the black-and-white photo challenge. The rules are simple: once a day, post a black-and-white photo, no people and no explanation. I got tagged, but wanted to do something different. (To those who know me–no surprise, right?)
I’m a writer, so the idea of not making any comment on the image seemed like too much constriction for me. As a fan of black-and-white imagery, I wanted to join, but not bore people, who have seen enough desaturated images to last a while. Here they all are, with the thoughts I had when I took the photo.
Here’s an image of a portion of the Melrose (Phoenix) welcome sign. It is carved, rusted, and reaches from one side of 7th Ave. (just north of Indian School Road) to the other. It’s bold and daring and makes a commentary on the Melrose Curve.
Most streets in Phoenix are on a grid. Occasionally, there is a curve, which becomes noteworthy. On the front side of this portal (not shown here) is a bright pink line with a curve in it.
I walk about five miles every morning about dawn. (It’s a kind of walking meditation combined with Robert Moss’s idea of setting up a day with Sidewalk Oracles.) Here are some items from my walk through Melrose.
Phoenix still has alleys. They contain big trash barrels and yes, odd and weird views into the neighborhood. I encounter homeless people finding refuge from the busy dawn world, dogs, cats, an occasional coyote, and what I think was a bobcat. It was too fast for me.
One person put up a metal fence. On the side facing the house are attachments. I don’t know what they are, but they are held in place by things that are almost wing nuts on the alley side. No one unscrews them, which I find particularly interesting. In fact, it’s the entire reason I took the photo.
Further down the street, I saw an imprint of a leaf. But wait, it wasn’t an imprint after all. It was a glob of tar. I had to work to continue to see it as beautiful.
Right there was what I wanted to learn. We see something and label it, and it becomes that. Which, in turn, reminds me of the beginning of a poem by Walt Whitman: “There was a child went forth every day, / And the first object he looked upon and received with wonder or pity or love or dread, that object he became, / And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day . . . . or for many years or stretching cycles of years.”
Plants, not the beautiful, arching, graceful ones, but the ratty, street-level ones,
fascinate me. They are graceful and wonderful. At this time of year (end of October), some are going to seed. That’s an even more graceful time. How I wish this were true for humans. Sadly, we never look at old people. They are closer to death, and we are afraid. So we don’t look. And miss the story of creation and destruction.
Coming out of Melrose, I stop by my favorite coffee shop. Urban Beans is not in Melrose, it’s in Mid-Town, at 7th Street (not Avenue) north of Osborn. I order coffee and watch the forks cast shadows.
Then it’s time to get on an airplane for a business trip. The brand name “Airbus” describes exactly what flying is like today. It’s a crowded bus and it’s hard to keep my equanimity.
But then again, if I am lucky, I get to hear someone’s story. Those stories are tiny windows into someone else’s life. I am witness to them and am grateful.
This sign makes me believe the seats are recycled from a much older plane. I haven’t seen a “no smoking” on the back of a seat in a long time. Although we are still told not to smoke or vape in the emergency instruction portion of the bus trip.
Changing planes in Charlotte, N.C. has some surprises. If you have time, and have to change concourses, make sure you sit in one of the big rocking chairs–if there is one free. It’s a nice touch.
So is the layout of the airport. It’s easy to find food, which is in a central location in addition to in each concourse. The airport is under construction. You walk from a beautiful, bright, naturally-lit concourse into an area that has a rough, unfinished floor, creating a roaring sound of roll-aboards, and hollow announcements. There is no finished ceiling. Lighting is hanging down, air ducts are unfinished, but the gates are labeled, and the TV screens lit. Use it till it’s built. It will all change again later. If you think this looks like a grate, you are right. I turned the photo upside down. We assume the light source is always from the top of an image, and changing that, changes what we think we are seeing.
–-Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a collage artist who combines letters and papers to make meaning.