Monday, May 9, 2011

Weeki Wachee springs, Florida

I was telling the story of an accident to a friend today.  Back in Spring, 1992, a friend and I were travelling down a wide boulevard in Palm Springs around 2 a.m. and broadsided an approaching vehicle that had suddenly turned in front of us.  After all these years, the details of the accident are fairly hazy but the moment it happened is what still mesmerizes me.  Facing possible death can do some amazing things to one's mind and this has only recently been studied on the scientific level in the last few years.  The question that has been asked was, "Can we bend time with our minds during a moment where we feel our life could end in the blink of an eye?"

For me, the nanoseconds before and during the actual crash were more euphoric than an experience with the time-space continuum.  In fact, I found it to be more surreal than anything else--almost like diving from a tall platform and the moment where the air ends and your body enters the water.  And despite sustaining some fairly serious injuries to my neck and spine, I don't recall any pain.  It was as if nothing in the world mattered than that very moment where life become unavoidably and irreversibly complicated.

Weeki Wachee spring, Florida by Antoinette Frissell Bacon (1907-1988) was a photo originally used in a 1947 issue of Harper's Bazaar and has gone on to be used countless other times in magazines and on album covers.  It depicts a faceless, young woman, gently draped by a nightgown, floating elegantly in calm waters while keeping her head just above the surface for air.  Not much else is known about this black and white picture yet so little needs to be said.  Where it was taken, who the woman is--none of it really matters as the timely and poignant film speaks enough volume.  What's left to view is how carelessly she seems to float with her feet lightly kicking and hands relaxed and thrusting downward to aid her buoyancy.

Emotionally speaking, what is missing is color and rightfully so.  The contrast of the dark background with her white dress and natural skin are enough to evoke the sense that she is the iconic subject of what surrounds her of which gives the sense of being overwhelmed.  Whether that be a good thing or bad thing is up to you and that's what makes this such a gorgeous photo.  It is unassuming enough to allow each viewer to choose for him or herself how to feel yet all of us can easily sense the simple and graceful tones it plays.  Art like this is to be cherished but more importantly, this particular piece nearly demands that we each must also feel what it expresses.

I don't know how else to say it other than to be repetitious but this photo gives me a great sense of overwhelming.  Where I am confused in my own emotions is if this feeling is because of the challenges and frustrations life has placed around me or a sense similar to free falling.  Or could it be both?  On the one hand, while I've been immensely fortunate, I still feel the pressures of age, responsibility, and solitude.  My youth is gone and with it my ability to behave and enjoy life as I did when I was a child.  My responsibilities dictate when I can sleep, what I can eat, when to pay my bills, inspire me to get to work, and everything else that needs and should be done.  And spending the vast majority of my free time alone, I know that sense of floating in a void with no one else around and how incredibly somber it feels.

On the other hand, however, there is an uninterrupted freedom in being able to survive it all.  Life itself is extremely precious and there are always moments where I am reminded of that.  Those moments become a catalyst to remembering all that I am thankful for and how far I've come despite the world's attempts to hold me back, tempt me, or keep me from reaching my goals.  When I'm able to grasp reality and elevate myself above it, it's as if I'm afloat without a care in this same world.

In the end, I'd have to say this photo exemplifies that line between that same sense of surrealism whether faced with overwhelming odds or reminded of just how lucky I am no matter what the realities may be.  Part of me wishes that were me, right this moment, listening to the same song I have on now and with my eyes closed while I overcome anything and everything life is about.  Because the slow motion effect floating in the deep has on me is what's most important, not the surroundings which buoy my existence.  It is purely about existing.

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