Friday, April 8, 2022

Wait, water pictures?


One might think that my tithe of one water a picture a day in my Agua Fria story would satisfy me. But no. I can't write those fast enough for all the water pictures I have! And those are all old pictures. Right now it keeps snowing and raining and melting and everyday, in every stream, in the run off and glory of early Spring, there is something new.

So I have a lot of water pictures.

I am neither fishing for compliments nor insults here when I say that my water pictures are rarely commented upon by anyone who sees them, but they are always so engaging to me that I never feel bad about it. Yes, I get super excited about a coyote picture, or a turkey picture turning out especially well, and someone saying "You took that?", but water pictures are like getting to work with my own personal, private alchemy. They're like throwing leaves into a rainbow and seeing what comes out.

It's not hard to find water around here, and I take hundreds of photographs, yet somehow every picture is a new invention I didn't exactly come up with, but that I, by all the weird rules, get the credit for.

Down at the creeks I photograph wild guesses, delighted at the excuse to join the world of the stream on its own, intimate level.  I gather them all up in their hundreds. Then I take the pictures back to my laboratory. Often they are faded and muddy, random, greyish, and unfocused. But it doesn't matter. I pick one, small, hopeful lump out of the bunch and I cook it down until I can smell the freshness of the stream again, maple wood, rotting leaves, cold ice, and the smell of wild birds.

I slowly heat the photo until it thins and clarifies, until it breaks apart a little. I add a thick pinch of darkness and stir. I throw in dried, powdered algae- brilliant green, crushed daffodil pedals of darkened yellows, autumn leaves preserved by winter snow to hold their rust and umber. I stir and stir and sometimes nothing happens. But sometimes, keeping at it, it thickens! If it does I choose my moment where it comes together, and I pour it onto the acetate and spread it as thin as I can with a silicone spatula on my kitchen counter. 

I cool it. 

I cut it square.

I peel it carefully up, hoping it doesn't tear.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I hold it to the window and...

Only then do I know.

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