I suppose that I’m always on the look out for a story. But I don’t know. A story is a lot more than a string of words strung together to form a, more or less, linear, dramatic arc. That’s Aristotelian story. That’s Joseph Campbell and the foundation of myth. But stories don’t often come to us in tidy packages. Most don’t. A beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s Hollywood and Madison Avenue. The true stories, the real stories, come in pieces, out of sequence, and are often scattered in time.

The stories that matter to us, the ones we hold and keep the longest, are the stories that build, organically, with no boundaries set in theme or time. Who we are, each of us. What our lives mean. Who we love and count among our tribe, our family. What be believe, truly in our hearts. Why we strive. These are stories, and the people and places we choose to include as characters and settings, enter in and leave us. Some stay. Most move on. Some are like snowflakes that arrive gently and some are like hail that batter us hard. But they’re all pieces of this puzzle we call a life.

What is it that I do with this thing called a camera?

A camera is not a box with a lens and the means to capture reflections. I am a camera. We all are. The heart is a camera. Not the eyes. That’s the mistake which got us here so roughly, so clumsily, so recklessly. We rely too much on vision and on visible light. There is so much more to ‘see’ once we open up the spectrum. I am not a photographer who sees with the body’s eyes. I see with something else, a means of perception beyond the primary sense of sight. But I’m nothing special. We all do this, sometimes.

It’s not always obvious, the story. More often than not the story that teaches, the story that heals, is hidden and elusive, buried beneath layers of delusion and the crafty magic of the human ego. The trick is to see without eyes, to almost feel your way through the world like a catfish at the dark, muddy bottom of a river. We’ve got those appendages too. Special receptory whiskers. Vestigal, sensory, dormant, but still there. They’re called maxillary barbels, those whiskers that protrude from the face of a catfish.

I think my story, the one I am hear to learn and to teach, comes to me through the people I encounter and the places that speak. My story is not a biography. I am not writing it. I’m experiencing it through a continous mosaic of Nows. And the camera, the mechanical one with the lens and the memory card, helps me to pause and relfect on the Nows that speak.

I am a gatherer of impressions, emotional sartoris, starling moments that scream, and mundane moments that whisper. Thier messages are equally meaningful. But they require, sometimes, reflection. They require, sometimes, to be distilled by the alembic of time. My camera is a like a dowser’s wand that guides me to the spiritual sustanance of an ever-unfolding story. These images are the building blocks of that. Words, sentences, paragraphs. Each image is a stanza from a poem I am living within and spinning from the tendrils all the lives and illusions I witness.

This yellow Volkswagon bus parked beside a defunct, broken unindustrial building in Fort Bragg is its owb story, but its particular details do not matter. What do I have to explain? Why must I organize words and place people and event in sequence in order to feel, to be affected, to understand? I don’t. That was the rouse I had labored under for many, many years as a writer of stories and prose. It doesn’t matter. Order. Structure. What matters is that I felt something, and I don’t need to put a label on that feeling. Anymore.

Here is a fragment of my story. But here’s the beautiful, staggering part – it’s a fragment from your story too. All of us. Because it’s the exact same story, word, for word. It’s in the search for differences between them that we lose our true identity and diverge from the only path that’s real.

o O o


94 thoughts on “Catfish

  1. Insightful at the very least. I can feel the thirst for a difference.
    Not what I thought the topic was about, but great nonetheless.

  2. “The true stories, the real stories, come in pieces, out of sequence, and are often scattered in time.”
    These words have given me so much comfort. I’m just beginning to tell my story and it’s in no way linear. A piece here and there. A memory. A flash. My catfish whiskers brush against a familiar rock and I pause to reflect on what that is. Sometimes I start writing and never even get to the story I originally set out to tell.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    • It is a delusion to believe that you know the story before you start to tell it. The story tells you. And that’s the only ‘secret’ to writing I have to pass on. Thanks GG!

  3. Wow.. I enjoyed reading your writing.. It is hard sometimes to find that passage.. I will just write what I feel and think and my visions to hope it will all make sense in the end, to me or to anyone.. Thank you again for sharing..

  4. “What matters is that I felt something. And I don’t have to put a label on that feeling.” Beautiful and so true. So many things that capture are hearts are only felt, sometimes we can’t put them in words the way our heart puts them in feelings.

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