A Gosling, A Pair of Chuck Taylors, The Meaning of Life

April 14, 2016

A gosling follows around a young boy’s sneakers. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

My earliest memory is from a time when I was alone in a crib in a room of a small house on Sunset Drive in Beverly, Mass. The experience precedes any concept of room, or crib, house, sunset or place; it is, I now know, from the time when I first sensed myself as an entity relating to something other, outside me.

I remember a pattern of light and shadow playing upon the surface of a wall in that room. It was a warm summer’s day. The window was open. A slight breeze gently moved the sheer curtain through which the late afternoon sun flowed. In a time before any sense of sun, breeze, shadow, or wall, I was completely held by that movement playing within the trapezoidal patch of light, articulated by the oblique angle of the sunlight streaming through the window.

My mother tells of how, as soon as I could stand, I shook the crib until it “walked” across the bare hardwood floor, providing a view down the hall to the living room and kitchen where my older brother and parents could be heard.

[A gosling follows around a young boy’s sneakers. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)] A gosling follows around a young boy’s sneakers. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)I don’t remember this, however.

I remember being captivated by the shapes playing upon the wall and, later, by the leaves moving in the trees above me as I lay in the pram and gazed up from the windows of the swiftly moving Ford automobile.

These image memories are very strong within me. They precede the words with which I describe them now. They are “sui generis” with my dawning sense of self.

Do You See What I See?

For as long as I can remember, photographs and all forms of visual art have fascinated me. Early visits with my mother to The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston revealed the visual arts as vital in communicating truth, in understanding ourselves, and each other.

As a graduate student at Yale, I studied art and architecture, as part of my degree work in theological studies. While classmates parsed verbs of Hebrew and Greek, I was drawn instead to languages of line and form, color and texture, to more fully understand the meaning of life.

My camera is a tool with which I come into a deeper understanding of my “raison d’être” and that of the world.

Have you ever played the children’s game of trying to find something hidden and being told you are “warmer” or “colder” as you move about a room?

My camera is like a Geiger counter, or metal detector, with which I record hot spots of meaning. When I’m viewing the world through a lens, I can feel the pulse, the rhythms, within the scene before me. A telling image is a record of a moment when I was getting “warm” or even “hot.”

Seeing Self

I was visiting with friends Ruth and Dick Ellsworth many years ago and learned of a gosling that came from its shell when their young son was present. Tobin was wearing an old pair of Converse sneakers. Perhaps the egg was on the floor at his feet as the gosling peered through the crack and first glimpsed the world. However it came to pass, the baby imprinted on those sneakers as its mother.

Everywhere Tobin went, the gosling followed.

I found the boy and his young charge outside in the driveway. As promised, the gosling was by his side, attention riveted upon the sneakers.

I composed this photograph from that compelling encounter. Here you find four elements; the graveled ground, the gosling, and the two sneakers worn by the boy.

How can anyone looking upon this image not wonder what the gosling is apprehending of its world at this moment?

Viewing this encounter again now, some 20 years after recording it, I am struck by how I, too, have come to see these sneakers, toes worn to reveal mouths not unlike the broad bills of parenting geese, as plausible sources of meaning for this young creature trying to make sense of the wide world into which it takes its first few faltering steps.

I see myself here, as a baby seeking meaning in the shadows playing upon the nursery wall, just as surely as others sought meaning in a cave contemplated by Plato.

I see us all in this moment, like this little bird, seeking to make sense of our world.

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