RAYMOND CARVER, 1984. PHOTOGRAPH © MARION ETTLINGER
The writings of Raymond Carver resonate with me. He captures living as an act of departure from a time and a place when we once knew ourselves.
When my parents divorced, my father moved back out to California and my mother moved me into Manhattan. While my father drove a convertible, got stoned, and went to open air concerts, my mother delved deeper into fashion, painting, and a cosmopolitan cult called The Work. I was flown regularly back and forth between the grit of The City and the shine of Southern Cali, between the earnest searching intellectualism of the East Coast and the sunny disposition of the West, between a maternal preoccupation with self-improvement and a paternal conviction that everything turns out right in the end. My mother would rise at 4am to meditate and was giving all her money to other people’s causes while my father inhaled cocaine and advised other people on how to invest what they had.
I was a bicoastal urban kid of divorce with parents who were ethically opposed to adulthood as it had been defined for them. Turning thirty was a crisis for them. Now that I am grown and in regular dialog with many of my own former selves, I understand how hard it is to identify a clear boundary line for adulthood. I carry all those selves with me. One of the most pressing is the ten year old girl who stayed up late November 4, 1980 to watch Jimmy Carter lose the election. The suits won. Childhood lost. The grown-ups got it wrong.
One of my guiding impulses is to mark a history, to excavate a thing buried within itself and obscured by the naming process or the passage of time. I work with what I have. The sliver, the slice, the glimpse, the periphery. I try to capture the whole through its parts. What is the larger narrative, and at what point does it become discernible? Small mysteries mirror a larger state of not knowing.
The child’s perspective articulates a confident stance in the midst of not knowing. Matter and meaning bend for the child. Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince declares, "Only the children know what they're looking for. . .[t]hey spend their time on a rag doll and it becomes very important. . . .”