I know about texture. I have curly hair. I love plants, from prickly pear to lamb’s ear. I run fabric through my fingers when I walk past racks of sweaters and coats in department stores.
Then there are the memories of the places I’ve been—foreign countries to visit relatives, deserts to visit friends, parks to be alone and clear my mind—offering up a shard of pottery half submerged in soil in a garden path. Bougainvillea bright and papery against a pocked stucco wall. The oversized floral clock in Niagara Falls. The ancient stone paths in St. Victor la Coste. The moist shale creek bed in the Cleveland Metroparks. Shining tinsel and matte wooden cranberry beads against evergreen boughs.
Simply, I find beauty in details, depth in connectedness and delight in the juxtaposition of things.
At the same time I love Cleveland and the variety, the richness, the flavor, the ethnicities, the food, the festivals, the art scene… well, the texture of it.
In the short chapter “A Tourist in Your Own Town” in Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg reminds: “When we live in a place for too long, we grow dull. We don’t notice what is around us.” And Harry Beckwith in Unthinking suggests: “We so rarely experience … moments of single focus on a simple thing, and that feeling—our Zen-like moment of connection to one thing—delights us.”
So I decided to feel delighted. And wondered what would happen if I approached my own town as a casual type of tourist: immersed in each locale with a singular focus.
What I have found are thousands, really countless still lifes, tableaux, everywhere I look. And in truly experiencing a place, the fabric of existence in any situation—whether it’s just on a break time walkabout, a holiday cookout or a trip to the library—in the moment, I am really seeing. And feeling a place, checking in with what mood it creates, thereby reflecting on what delights, alarms, moves, humors, disturbs, or provokes nostalgia.
Whether it’s a fascination with the imperfect and transient beauty of wabi-sabi; a study of how the natural world creeps in, even where you’d least expect; or an examination of patterns (which might not be as cool as fractals, but hey, maybe they will), it remains: Things aren’t always (or only) what they seem on the surface, and you just might find yourself taken with the bricks in a historic market building when you stop for groceries on your way home or the patterns through stone walkways when you stroll through a lush garden or Japanese textiles at a museum when what you thought you really wanted to soak up was Cubist paintings.
Texture 216 is not about glamour shots—or obviously even pro shots—just the camera on my cell phone, what I always have with me when I find myself exploring a place, taking a look at what’s lived in, loved, respected, dismissed, despised, abandoned, touched by humans, or forgotten by time.
Take a look around Cleveland with texture 216. Let’s celebrate and save the places we love, and learn from those we don’t. It’s our history, our future.
How does Cleveland feel to you?