How was I going to photograph endless piles of books for two whole hours, I wondered. My photography class was visiting the building that houses The Friends of the Library Book Sale, and just seeing all the shelves and boxes crammed from floor to ceiling with books was activating some of my darkest deep-hidden emotional responses.
For months I’d been de-cluttering my house. Clothing, kitchenware, tchotchkes, outdated electronics… old books, many of which were among the accumulations at The Friends of the Library. My home had felt lighter and I’d felt less depressed after unloading so much of my stuff. But here, in this jam-packed place, I felt my breath trapped in my chest. It was like I could sense the countless agitated souls of all the homeless books taking flight. And I had this unshakeable need to escape.
It took several days to gather up the courage to view the photos I’d taken. Finally, dropping them into Photoshop, I rotated an image of shelved books ninety degrees and extended the concrete floor to concoct an unsettling gray sky. Then, de-saturating the color on the trim of an old oak bookcase, I crafted a frame for my fabricated landscape of the week.
“You’re gonna have a great new life, Meena-Mouse,” I told the quivering mouse in the Hav-a-Heart trap as we approached a nice shady spot in the grass by a stream. “You take care of yourself little-one. There’s a food store right over there and if you follow the stream you’ll come to houses nearby.” I held the cage up to examine Meena one last time.
In addition to the Trader Joe’s Organic peanut butter I’d used to lure the poor creature into the trap, I’d fed it oats, bits of chocolate, and blueberries cut in half. I’d stuffed pieces of tissue through the top of the trap so it could have a soft bed. And first thing in the morning I’d driven down off my hill with the mouse in the trap, carefully secured in the passenger seat, so it wouldn’t be caged up any longer than necessary.
The last few mice I’d let loose had frantically clung to the trap with their tiny feet. That had freaked me. I’d had to clunk the trap on the ground several times to get the mouse to drop out, to go free. This time I was prepared for that. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the mouse immediately springing out with a fast flying leap—right into the water.
For this week’s fabricated landscape, I flipped a photo of trees reflected at the edge of my pond. The frame was pieced together in Photoshop from a warm scarf.
Altered Horizons. Due to loss ,everything in my life has been altered, changed to some different reality. Not by choice. After being crushed by grief for so long, it is comforting to create small worlds and set horizon lines that reflect my eye level and personal physical position in the scene. In creating these fabricated landscapes, I can choose and control. I can build stability and balance, if only on my computer screen.
This shot was taken standing on the shores of Kezar Lake at Quisisana Resort in Maine. In Photoshop I changed the colors, and then flipped the image upside down so the water became hills, and the sandy beach turned into a sky. Burning the color from a circular patch in the “sky,” I created a full moon.
I don’t want to live on the moon; the light is too beautiful right here on earth.
In my fabricated landscape of the week, a tarred road and its shoulder become the sky and land. In the sky I pasted an image of a Queen Anne’s lace flower that many consider to be an invasive weed. I think it makes a magnificent moon.
Being reflective was never one of my talents. Rarely would I look back at things said or done, examining actions and motives, realities versus perceptions. Not my own, nor another’s.
And now, stepping into the role of grief group facilitator, I am having to develop my skills at reflective listening, responding to the thoughts and feelings I sense from the communications of another, so that the speaker feels heard and understood.
Focus on the other person’s message and feelings. Don’t make judgments. Don’t offer advice or my own perspective, I remind myself. But I’m kinda like an old upended tree trunk, absorbing the wet and warmth, and impervious to almost everything else around.
In Photoshop I turned the reflection of trees and clouds in my pond upside down for this fabricated landscape. Definitely not paying respectful attention to what lay before me.
No one could quite identify the huge tree at the far end of my property. It was surrounded by the thickest thicket and wetland scrub so we could only view it, its top, from a distance. For years I’d wanted to mow up to that tree but the land was too swampy to get anywhere near with a mower. Also, the field was riddled with the downed trunks of huge trees, cut when I built my house at the turn of the century.
In the middle of the heatwave and dry spell, the landscapers agreed to try clearing the field. It was one of those days when I hardly dared to go outside for fear of being fried. But the landscapers called to me, they’d reached the tree. (Although the bulldozer had half sunk in the still-wet land.)
It was a shagbark hickory. My favorite for photo-shopping fabricated landscapes. Snaking around behind the tree was a small murky creek. And under the tree’s canopy were two rocks, large enough to sit on. I greeted the shagbark like I was meeting a long-lost loved one.