Thursday, April 12, 2007

Extended mind

Pluvialis' father died on March 20.

Blogs come loaded with the sort of oddness and distance that comes with many things made of words and not eye contact and tone of voice. Someone online might be anyone, and a blogger is a creation of someone -- probably someone like everyone, who'd like to burnish what is best and throttle what is worst in them. Their writings are a kind of homunculus version of themselves, with more of what they like and less of what they don't. I've no doubt I am one of these walking textual homunculi, one eye always cocked to my pettiness, my indolence, my tendency to the boring and pretentious.

It might be the case that I am blinded by my great and enduring friendship with her, but Pluvialis is not such a creation. Her writings are her, they stack up and walk and look you in the eye with an expression that belongs only on the face of my friend. What she writes laughs and cocks an eyebrow and dances with irony and good humour and scholarship worn lightly as air, and is almost accidentally a piece of her, as though if you could reach inside her you would end up with a twisty silly-string handful of words, wriggling and nipping like puppies.

So much of this is her father's legacy. I met him only a few times, and to me he seemed a quiet man, with a quick smile and hint of conspiratorial mischief lurking in the crinkled corners of his eyes. Most of what I knew of him came from Pluvialis, and from his photographs. She always spoke of him, and I would often be privy to the plans and schemes collecting around his latest idea for a shot -- often something in the night sky, a moon or an eclipse or a comet -- a love they shared. Earlier this year, Pluvialis missed the McNaught comet which was visible over Cambridge, and wept with loss and disappointment. I was impatient and dismissive. Just a damn comet, I said. Or I didn't say it, but she knew that's what I thought. Writing this now, I can't believe my thoughtlessness. Comets. Her father. An old, old, extraordinary sense of the wonder of things that come, and are gone, but are seen.

When first we met, he spent an hour showing me photographs he'd taken recently. He talked to me with them, with a few words and an indicating finger to touch the things he especially wanted me to see. Being with him reminded me of an old optometrist's advertisement I saw years ago of two people walking through a wood, leaving an enormous trail of fluttering photographs behind them, a metaphor for all the things we see in our lives. His photographs weren't just the evidence of a wit and intelligence more formidable than most I saw prancing in Cambridge -- they were themselves that wit and intelligence. An emulsion mind.

My favourite photograph taken by Pluvialis' dad is of a street sweeper leaning to the gutter to feed a sparrow. Something seen.

Pluvialis is quiet, too. She too has an astounding facility with images, and can spend hours with pictures, eyes like flint, seeing what they say. But really, her mind is words like her father's was photographs. They are not something she makes, but something she is made of. And my god, her father was so, so proud. I don't suppose he would have thought of it this way, but she got it from him.

RIP Mac.

5 comments:

Scrivener said...

What a beautiful appreciation and remembrance.

pluvialis said...

Oh thank you thank you. I have put the sparrow picture along with others on fretmarks. x

Heidi the Hick said...

Beautiful tribute to a friend and her father.

Blog world is weird. We can become so attached to someone only by their words, even though we have never heard a voice, seen the handwriting, or sometimes seen the face. You are so right though; in rare cases the words and the writer are one and the same.

Will you please hug her for me next time you see her?

Xtin said...

Heidi, you can count on it.

Jake Allsop said...

Belatedly, I have read your piece. It is beautiful. I thank God that Pluvialis has such a good friend in you.