Thursday, July 15, 2010

Writing on the Wall . . .

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If you were to travel to the small town of Arras in northern France, and managed to find this facade of one of my dream houses, you would be very close to the stretch of wall where the following photos were taken. Mysteries abound in this life, and messages left on walls, then torn off, leaving enigmatic traces, have always caught my eye, and can easily tempt me to stop and tarry, trying to gain some insight . . .
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It was on the tip of my tongue
But I couldn't quite remember
A message I'd seen long ago
Perhaps in the pages of a book
From the library
Checked out in childhood
Perhaps from a bathroom stall
Where messages of vital importance
Were scrawled that we saw
While on the road across a continent
Stopping where we could for sustenance
And for relief in squalid roadside restrooms
In campgrounds where all walks of life
Rubbed shoulders and left messages
On walls or scribbled on napkins
In a chrome covered diner
I just can't quite bring it into focus
There was something that seemed
Momentous, inspiring, nearly infinite
Yet the more I try to hear the words again
The further they recede through a mirage
In the morass of clamoring words
All vying for attention
All claiming to be the true word the one word
A cacophonous howling of wolves
And yet the essence of the message
Hovers just out of sight
On the fringe of the forest
Just in the shadow beyond the edge of the trees
Refusing to emerge into the daylight
Coy, teasing, infuriating, maddening
I want to yell myself hoarse
I heard the message long ago
But didn't think to write it down
Now it has gone on to hidden realms
Leaving just the faintest memory
Which I wish I could share with you
But I wouldn't know how to begin
To describe it
So I search for it always
On walls
Hoping against hope
That the writing on a wall somewhere
Will serve as the key
To unlock this memory
For now only the walls remain
And their mysteries
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Exile is not a material thing, it is a moral entity.
All corners of the Earth are worthy.
All places where dreaming happens are ... ???
As long as the place is ... ???
And the horizon is ... ???
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52 comments:

pRiyA said...

Dream Houses??!!! You have a post on them too! Rather different from mine though.
I love these pictures. These walls are works of art in themselves and the colours of the first picture just transport me into another world in another time. Beautiful!

Steve said...

Owen, your photographic eye is amazing... either that is France is dripping with art and artistry at every turn!

The Sagittarian said...

These are so good I almost choked on my Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc! What an eye you have, I am sure many poeple would have just wandered on past all this with never a thought about the why's and wherefores! I'm so glad you is me Bruv!

Alberto Oliver said...

Yes Owen, the house of your dreams, the house that shelters the key to unlock the memory and more, to unlock the secret languages which the life talks with. The Owen´s eye that see beyond cliches and conventions, the Owen´s eye that, though knowing that will never find the whole true, never give up in looking after it. And that, although sounding myself quite R. Frost-style, is what make the difference my Owen friend.

"All corners of the earth are worthy.." and all moments.
=)

henk van es said...

L’exil n’est pas une chose matérielle, c’est une chose morale. Tous les coins de terre se valent. Angulus ridet . Tout lieu de rêverie est bon, pourvu que le coin soit obscur et que l’horizon soit vaste.

Looking around on internet I came along this text, by Victor Hugo...
Thanks for this post, I do like the colored photo so much, a hidden treasure of Arras.
Nice summer, Owen

BLOGitse said...

Great post!
There are always too many questions and only a few answers...
But we should always have hope.
Greetings from Casa,
BLOGitse

Deborah said...

I like your verse a lot, Owen. First of all, because it's poetry I can understand, secondly because it speaks to me. Although perhaps those two things are the same.

What outlet would you have if you didn't blog? A one-man show in Paris or New York, maybe??

...louciao... said...

Please accept my deepest respect for and appreciation of the poetry and photos you have shared here. Please accept my apoligies for lacking the words to properly express the way in which your artistry has touched something deep, though nebulous--just beyond my grasp, within myself, echoing my own experience of this half-seen world.

The Pliers said...

Your poem is monstrously good!

I love the red and green treatment on your dream house's wooden shutters and door, beckoning...

The Victor Hugo ain't too shabby, non plus!

TechnoBabe said...

You find the most interesting places over there to photograph. I really like the front of the home. And all the posters, old, torn, still giving out their message till they are no more.

...louciao... said...

I got so caught up in your poem that I forgot to mention that I absolutely ADORE that door/wall/window picture! If I had come across that façade in the little town of Arras I might have just blissed out. Now I can experience it here in a controlled bliss. Much safer.

Amy said...

You know I'm loving this door. The smattering of moss in front of the door makes it infinitely better. Good find.

Karine A. said...

Henk t'a déjà donné la réponse, il s'agit de vers de Victor Hugo, et ce poème te ressemble. ..

Jessie said...

Wonderful words, wonderful pictures, I really love the top one of that door and window, the place of dreams! :)

mythopolis said...

A very interesting reflection about the things that come and go. The passage of time reducing many things to cryptic fragments of evidence of something that once was. Like memory itself, which distills a past moment down to a few images, and feelings. I remember the wall, I remember the words there, but don't remember now, what they said. I know they are in my head somewhere. But where, dammit!?

Clytie said...

The door is indeed a dream.

The poem ... the pictures ... and the comment of mythopolis ... they all say it perfectly.

ewix said...

Stunning opening shot.
Evocative indeed.
Came to you via Louciao.
I'm full of admiration for your blog.

Nevine said...

I'm sure you know by now what my impressions of your first shot are... As for those elusive memories... I say let them go... Don't try to remember them... The harder we try, the more elusive they become... Just release your thoughts... and the memories will come pouring back... when you least expect them.

Love how you merge words in an illustration of reality, Owen!

Nevine

James said...

I love the old colors and textures in the top photo. If that is a taste of Arras than it sounds like a dream place.

Owen said...

Hi all, wonderful comments... I'll be back in here just as soon as I'm able to respond...

Am having a bit of a time of it at the factory these days, may be a little slower for a while, and a little less present out visiting your blogs, but I'll be around when I can, so please bear with me, and bear hugs to all...

Stickup Artist said...

Oh My, that first one is sublime. Layers upon layers of time. I love it! I'd frame that sucker. They all have such an eerie feel, distressed and distressing, especially with the word "danger" on the second from the bottom. Feels somehow like a cautionary tale, a warning or admonition. It is all so intriguing. So much to take away...

Virginia said...

Wonderful images. I wonder why they are there. It almost looks like the work of a street artist? Do you know why Owen? Certainly something to think about. Another grand post. You're amazing. I'm so glad i 've gotten to know you my friend.
V

PS I'm sad for Paris tonight.

tattytiara said...

Really rich post. Very, very nice.

Vagabonde said...

I love Victor Hugo. These words come from his Oeuvres Completes, Actes et Paroles, Pendant l’Exil 1852-1870 – “ce qu’est l’exil” - “L'exil n'est pas une chose matérielle, c'est une chose morale. Tous les coins de terre se valent. Tout lieu de reverie est bon, pourvu que le coin soit obscur et que l'horizon soit vaste.” He also said: “L'exil, c'est la nudité du droit. Rien de plus terrible.” Exil must be terrible, at least for me I can go back to France anytime I wish (or I have the money!.) Your photos are beautiful and they give the right atmosphere for Hugo’s words.

Owen said...

Hi Priya,
Thanks so much for visiting some of the other dream houses, just saw your message about the one in the woods, that's one of my favorites too. Love your "transport me into another world in another time"...

That, dear Priya, is the dream of the magic lantern, the objective of this blog ... to leave this world behind and step into another one, a different world, even if for just a little while...

Owen said...

Steve, that is exactly why I wanted to move here all those years ago, because France is literally dripping with art almost wherever one looks... well, apart from a few squalid shopping centers and violent suburban Paris housing projects... I'm sure it's not my eye, anyone could find alot of beautiful subjects here, if their eyes are open... unfortunately, there are fairly large numbers of people who walk around with their eyes shut and blinders on... One has to watch out for them, because they will blunder into you while you're trying to take a photograph of something lovely...
:-)

Owen said...

Dear Saj,
Heaven forbid ! I'm going to start posting only horrid photos that no one will want to look at, that way there will be no risk of being responsible for your choking on your marlborough sauvignon... no, that would never do at all !
Thanks Sis !

Owen said...

Hola Alberto,
I suppose one must never stop searching for glimpses into the true nature of things... and that is what words on torn papers pasted on walls offer, a little window into other worlds, other realities... I love visions like these that transport one far away... Best wishes to you...

Owen said...

Hello Henk,
So many thanks for thinking of searching for this text on the net, I should have guessed it was a citation from someone well known. It is possible that at the bottom of the paper on the wall that was torn off, it might even have credited Victor Hugo. In any case, it is a wonderful quote, vast like Hugo's incredible mind was. And thanks to you pointing out that this was Hugo, I was just now able to go off and read a little bit about Hugo's exile during the reign of Napoleon III, for 18 years, which I wasn't at all familiar with. Interesting, I've been out of the country of my birth for 18 years now, a sort of self-imposed, chosen exile of sorts. I can relate to Hugo's sentiments here. Yes, many thanks to you Henk, you have helped contribute to my education. How else would I have ever discovered Wirwignes, if not for your research.

A fine Summer to you too...

Owen said...

Hi Blogitse, many thanks, indeed, there will always be questions... which makes me think of a line from Eddy Vedder's fine song "Guaranteed"...

"A mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul, so it goes..."

Hope all is well in Casa...

Owen said...

Hi Deborah... Don't know about a one man show, but thank goodness for blogging, for it is an outlet, even if an obscure one. Maybe someday it will go viral and turn into a book... well, maybe not, but at least it feels a little bit like a provocation of sister Fate... like pulling petals off a daisy... she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me...
:-)

Owen said...

Dearest Lynne,
I do accept, I do accept, from you, respect, apologies, rasberries, strawberries, accolades, marmalades, cheers, beers, roasts, toasts, yes, I do accept anything you care to toss this old hound...

And yes, thoroughly agree that it is best to bliss out in controlled circumstances, otherwise you'll end up like me, passing the night sleeping on streetcorners after having gazed at facades like that one well into the night... waiting for Godot, waiting for the muse to speak...
:-)

Owen said...

Dear Pliers,
Odd how the fates conspire sometimes to lead us places that they feel we need to see. I could have turned left at a street junction instead of turning right, and would never have found the facade, followed by the torn off posters, all agitating for the city of Arras to not shut down a school specializing in the arts... one of the papers in the second to last photo says "NON à la fermeture de l'école des metiers d'art"... And lucky to have good readers like Henk and Vagabonde who offered more info about the Hugo quote...

Many thanks to you...

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB.
I'm not sure if it's a case of me finding these places, or of them finding me . . . One must open the doors and windows wide and create conditions apt for it in order for opportunity to strike.

Owen said...

Amy, so good of you to notice that smattering of moss, which harmonizes with the shades of green in the door. Amazing that it can just spring up there on the pavement of the sidewalk... And how I'd love to be able to see the inside of this place... guess I'll just have to dream about it...

Owen said...

Karine,
Un grand merci... j'ai beaucoup de chance d'avoir quelques lecteurs et lectrices pleins d'intelligence comme Henk, et comme toi... c'est toujours un immense plaisir de voir ce qui poussent dans cette fenêtre à commentaires, le temps d'une pluie d'été...
:-)

Owen said...

Jessie, a giant thank you !

ρομπερτ said...

This might be one of your best entries since I had the honour to know this site. Chapeau !

Owen said...

Mythopolis,
Exactly, dammit ! Sort of reminds me of the atmosphere around that fabulous Dylan song, "Visions of Johana"....

"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze
I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel."

Owen said...

Clytie,
That's it, facilitating dreams for good readers like you and the inimitable Mythopolis, and all who may stop in here... whether they leave a trace or not...

Many thanks to you !

Owen said...

Hi Ewix,
many thanks for dropping in to this totally obscure (in every sense) blog, and even moreso if it was Lynne Louciao who steered you here... but hey, the more the merrier I always say. And I really appreciate your kind words here...
(basking in a warm glow)
:-)

Owen said...

Hey Nevine,
No doubt you're right, and I have no problem with letting go of things, just letting them sail away like a balloon on the breeze, disappearing high in the sky, loss is inevitable, loss of memories, loss of time, loss of thoughts, loss of friends; just a desire that welled up unbidden from some unknown source to try to catch the feeling of loss, of forgetting, the conflict of thinking one ought to remember something, while knowing it's unrealistic to remember all...

Many thanks indeed, and here's to hoping that green door will help take you places, fertile fields of inspiration... under the watchful eye of Amande...
:-)

Owen said...

Hi James,
I'm sure you'd like Arras... it was badly damaged in WWI, but it is doing its best to make a comeback.

Owen said...

Hi Stickup,
I like that you noticed that word "Danger" in one of the pasted papers... I've always liked that word for some reason, once a long time ago I did a whole series of photos of signs or other messages which had the word "danger" in them; we are all well advised to be aware that there is danger around us all the time, and good things can end suddenly... so caution is needed...

Hope you and your ... errr... mule, are having a wonderful summer...

I have to admit, you simply killed me with your wonderful donkey, it is a masterpiece !!!

mythopolis said...

Ain't it just like the night to play tricks, when you're trying to be quiet?

Owen said...

Hi Virginia,
I think the answer is in one of the pasted papers which says "Non à la fermeture de l'école des metiers d'art"... they were protesting against the planned closing down of an arts school. And rightly so... we need arts, and people skilled in the trades related to the arts...

Many many thanks Virginia, this realm of blogging is an amazing place, in that it facilitates the meeting of people with similar interests and tastes. So blog on !

Owen said...

Dear Tatty,

Fact : It is wonderful when you drop in here and leave a kind message like that. Almost as good as eating cotton candy...
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Vagabonde,
And I didn't even realize it was from Hugo when I saw those words on the wall, and published them again here, so thanks to you and to Henk, and Karine, for pointing that out. I guess money, or lack of it, can contribute to remaining in exile, trans-atlantic tickets are not the cheapest thing around. But it is nice to know that we could travel, if we really wanted to, and had the means, and don't have to worry about some despot throwing us in jail, or worse, should we want to return to our roots...

Owen said...

Robert... wow ! now that is a kind word, as there are hundreds of posts in the back pages here now... it will be hard to surpass this then...

But will keep humbly trying...

A fine Sunday to you sir...

Owen said...

Myth,
Yeah, "We sit here stranded, though we're all doin our best to deny it..."
:-)

Stranded on the virtual shores of the blogosphere... where we interact with phantoms and shadows and voices in the dark, or on the arctic white surface of the comment box... yet, I've met a few fellow bloggers now, and each time it has been a fascinating experience...

Roxana said...

i wanted to say something along Robert's lines, when i saw he had already expressed what i felt... the torn-out colours of the first picture, followed by the stark b/w tones of the framed images, themselves frames of a frozen, fragmented and forgotten time and human life, your words which set this impersonal, mysterious narration against the deeply subjective background of your own experience and sensitivity - i am overwhelmed, Owen...

T. Becque said...

That door and shutters are amazing! Nice photo!