Defrosting after shoveling the walk. This is novel because I grew up in California, where there was no snow to shovel. New York had snow, but of course there are people for that; you would never actually shovel your own sidewalk. But we got a good couple of inches last night, and on my way home from dropping JR off at work I noticed the first alert denizens of my street out front, making their way to the curb, one shovelful at a time. Conscious as I am about being a good neighbor and celebrating in the undertaking of a community effort, I grabbed our snow shovel at the ready, and went out to do my part.
I am not very good at shoveling snow, but I will get better. I expect Detroit will afford me a lot of practice. Just as I am not yet great at managing the upkeep of a 3-floor mansion and home-cooked meals every night, but I have faith that a combination of practice and potential will guide me through it. It’s strange to think I have perhaps found my calling, and it is to be a Midwestern housewife.
Strange especially given how progressive women on both sides of my family have been about getting into the workplace, not to mention how successfully they have flourished there. Domestic arts seem to have been abandoned two generations hence, but I have the hand-stitched linens to prove that my namesake, Great Grandma Rose, had the skills. Personally, I got my first job outside of babysitting at age 13 and have been at least part-time employed ever since. I do not question the ability of women to thrive in the workplace, and know many who would be equally unhappy folding their own laundry as I am sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day. But I wonder if my particular mental makeup - which always left me feeling a little outside the domestic-work-for-hire culture of New York - is actually the perfect combination of OCD and multitask capacity necessary to managing a large household.
I’ve been pretty happy doing it so far, anyway. I’m sure the novelty of shoveling snow wears off after 20 years, but then, doesn’t the novelty of everything, eventually?
I really agonized about taking an extra year on Couches of Detroit. Being a calendar project, it’s time sensitive - good in one sense, because a deadline of some nature moderates my inner procrastinator, but difficult because a failure to meet my deadline means a full year push. No one wants to buy a calendar halfway through January (except me, apparently - somewhere in Detroit needs to carry Slingshot Organizers).
I am a hasty person. Candid photography suits that. Photography in this digital age has given me |> to help reinforce my instinct that I’ve gotten the shot I want. It’s also easy to accumulate a lot of work quickly, provided you carry your camera everywhere (though that’s not always good for your camera). All fine and good, but you can’t rush snow, and after the fact, I discovered an unexpected twist to the calendar concept.
It started simply. People leave couches out on the street. One in particular caught my eye. Seriously, my initial artistic process is not much more complicated than: “I like couch. Couch good.”
Which is why I didn’t do anything about it for a while. That first couch - a luscious 70s floral in brown plush, iced with three untouched inches of fresh snow - I never even got a picture of that one. I probably drove by that spot 20 times in the month it sat there, continuing to like the couch, but such is my awesome power of procrastination that I did not take its picture. It wasn’t until the couch went away that Cave Brain got sad: Where couch? Remember couch? OK, paying attention to couches. Hey, there are lots of couches! Couches good! Maybe I will even find 12 great couches and make a calendar for 2011. Can do.
All through the late Spring and summer, I shot couches. I was really smooth about it, walking up to couches on street corners, all, “Are you a model? Because I’d really like to take your picture. Boys, I think we’ve found our Miss July!”
But in early Fall, when a young woman’s fancy turns to laying out her Couches of Detroit calendar for 2011, she realizes the problem. Miss November is sunny! Miss February is framed in leaves. I grew up in a place without seasons, so a couch shot in August could easily look like a couch shot in November, but here is different and couches different now! Adding an element of time to my photography project created a new ripple, and different thinking about the nature of a calendar made me realize Couches of Detroit was not remotely complete without the lovely Misses of winter.
So, another year. I said I was hasty. I know. I regret how quickly I did 50 States, could have done it better (and maybe still will - at some point I have to give my massive archive of photos of that trip more than a cursory and sleep-deprived glance). I have to give myself permission to take more time with my projects, even when (as was the case with 50 States) I have patrons invested in my output. It’s good to produce work and you can’t make a living without making deadlines, but it’s bad to rush something too quickly into production. Our insta-culture often loses that.
Yesterday I took a really good picture of a couch. One that made me feel justified taking an extra year to do this calendar better. Make it as good and meaningful as I possibly can. The snow here is so cheap, it’s practically free. You just gotta wait for it.
I make lists, and do the things on the lists. I repot our live Christmas tree so it has room to grow bigger for next year. “Welcome to the family,” I say, as I give it some water. “Any New Year’s resolutions?”
The dog is outside playing in the snow. When I let her back in, she has a dusting of snow on her nose which makes me happy. There is a younger version of myself, about high school age, that I carry with me all the time. That person evaluates my life, how much it has improved since then. High school is inevitably about discovery; your relationship to it varies based on whether you discovered the good stuff or the bad stuff about life first. In my case, I couldn’t wait to get out of school, away from my parents, and make a start in New York City.
Which I did, and for a bunch of years in my twenties, high school me was very impressed. You’re doing it, wow. You’re really doing it! Doing it was paying a lot in rent and having glamorous friends and a stressful, low-paying job in a costume shop. I got a dressmaker’s dummy and stood before it with pins in my mouth, and high school me had a moment of perfect actualization before her dreams became outdated.
Now I’m ready for my thirties. I cook dinner every night and watch sports on TV and love my fiance and my dog. I got a new dressmaker’s dummy (in a bigger size). My high school self still comes to visit, like a skeptical younger cousin. You’re making pasta sauce? Again? Who cares about that? It’s a weird moment to realize I’ve passed the point of being cool to teenagers, my former self included, and even weirder that I really don’t care anymore about impressing that miserable, perpetually disinterested little bitch.
I finish my coffee. The Christmas tree in its new pot drips water all over the garden table.