Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Swallows

About a month ago my sister, mother, and I took a day trip to a little out-of-the-way town off an out-of-the-way road for some good 'ol fashioned antiquing. One of the vendors we visited specialized in hand painted prints from mid-19th century natural science books. Her booth was smothered in carefully protected images of flowers blooming, snails sliding, fish jumping, and birds floating - wings spread - their anatomy dissected on the page for the hobby-naturalist to enjoy. Mom bought two of the little pictures for me; images I admired but couldn't bring myself to purchase even for their measly price of $20. What did I need with another old picture anyway? But as soon as I got home I immediately placed each into an individual wooden frame. Stuck them on the wall by the couch and realize now I can't pass by the spot without looking at them for a moment. Each picture is a swallow in flight. Although they are painted, the colors are drab; yellowed background with the look of tobacco stains and the birds themselves no more than blackish/gray streaks. From the standpoint of color and interest - they're not much to look at. But there they are everyday, hanging mid-air, so much energy contained in the tiny images, caged within a small frame. Nowhere to go. Ambition-turned-frustration, captured.

When I think about the past year, things I've mentioned and things I haven't, I understand why the pictures hold a smidge of significance. There have been so many stops and starts, and the gathering of energy for some sort of venture, adventure, or change. Then the inevitable obstacle that always lurks and not knowing what form it will take. Maybe it's just the head cold I've been trapped under for days, but lately it feels like I walk within a frame. Like the little swallows. Mustering the nerve for forward motion but not enough to overcome the confines.

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