When I saw yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Surfaces, I immediately thought of water. On Thursday night in my “Rivers & Literary Imagination” class, we discussed the way water works metaphorically in Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers. Thoreau is fascinated with the tension between a river’s surface and its depths, and he is obsessed with the way water is both transparent and reflective. In all his works, Thoreau shows a penchant for puns, and A Week is no different: when Thoreau uses words such as “reflection” and “depth,” he implies these words’ figurative as well as literal meanings, and he repeatedly puns on the word “current,” referring both to the flow of a river and the Present Moment in the flow of time.
Time can’t be frozen, but water can, and the Current of Time can be freeze-framed through a camera’s transparent lens. I shot the photo at the top of today’s post in August of 2007, while walking (and wading with) Reggie at Goose Pond in Keene, and the rest of today’s images come from December of 2006, when my fascination with the surface tension, reflections, and textures of freezing water influenced several blog posts. I can’t fish December, 2006 or August, 2007 from the depths of time, but I can rely upon these photos and blog posts to remind me of what was Current then. The images I sketched resonate with what was going on in my life at the time, and they provide a surface through with I can see, via the eye of memory, the depths which lay beneath.
In December of 2006, I’d just stuck a tentative toe into the waters of online dating, and I was left cold by its superficiality. The image of a religious icon might serve as a window into a deeper, more spiritual realm, but when your own self is reduced to a clickable thumbnail displayed alongside other lonely-hearts, it’s hard to believe anyone will see through the skin-thin veil of appearance to perceive the depths of personality lurking below.
I first clicked on J in January, 2007, and what attracted my scanning eye wasn’t his photo but the wry humor of his profile itself: in a sea of online romantics all claiming to enjoy sunset walks along the beach, J’s profile was the only one that made me laugh by making fun of the absurdity of so many people all trying to stand out by sounding exactly the same. When I emailed J to tell him I was grateful for a spot of humor to enliven an otherwise demoralizing activity, I wasn’t intending to flirt; having already given up hope that online dating could ever work for me, all I wanted was to share a laugh with another drowning soul.
That first email was a great way, I realize now, of breaking the ice: instead of starting with the usual online pick-up lines and virtual winks, J’s and my relationship began with a shared laugh. Ultimately–countless emails and three years of laughter later–it didn’t much matter what either of us looked like in our clickable profile-pictures: what made our relationship click was a quirky sense of humor that continues to the present. J made me laugh when I first met him in January, 2007, and he still makes me laugh now. Under the surface of a frigid February, I can look through the water of time to see a pattern that is still current.