Saturday, January 30, 2021

Touchstones and Palimpsests

"We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone."

- Haruki Murakami (1949 - )
Kafka on the Shore

The panels of this triptych are "digital double exposures" of images taken at two very different times and places: the foreground consists of photographs of reeds in a pond and a tree basking in a warm sun one autumn day in 2003 at one of my favorite little parks near where my mom used to live on Long Island (before passing away in 2017); the background consists of splotches of paint I found on an old tire that was bobbing up and down in the Port of Piraeus in Athens, Greece in the summer of 2008 as my wife and I were waiting for a boat-ride to Santorini. The fusion of images serves as both touchstone and palimpsest, tinged with melancholy and hope. Melancholy, because ever since my mom's passing, the little park has become less a place to visit, and more a ghostly memory of times past; and the Athenian splotches of paint serve only to strengthen my wife's and my own longing for trips to "faraway places" that - before the pandemic - we used to take for granted. And hope, because though such memories of times and places are indeed ghostly, they also point to happy experiences yet to arrive. Memories fade, but meaning only deepens.   

"It is as if the Caru'ee were able
to perceive an echo of the past,
and unconsciously, as they built
upon a palimpsest of books written
long ago and long forgotten,
chanced to stumble upon an essence
of meaning that could not be lost,
no matter how much
time had passed." 

Ken Liu (1976 - )
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

No comments: