I see slick movers and makers in a monotone world. As the gray horizon cuts itself across the roofline, serious-minded men with soft hands contemplate their next gambit. Theirs is a world between worlds. They speak a language known only by those whose hearts reflect their central paradox: both citizens of the fray and aliens to it all the same, they attempt to simultaneously live a life and provide commentary on this thing called living. So it follows that their language is strange and you, dear sir, are their translator.
But your translation betrays your own paradox: that of a painter who is preoccupied with photographs. So tell me, do you see as the camera sees or do you push and pull the light as it pleases you? Maybe a dose of each method in the same chemical tray? Do you paint quietly by an open window or in the silence of the darkroom? Does the work end with a satisfied sigh or with a stop bath? Forgive me but the means of translation are every bit as fascinating as the end result, particularly given the currents of the year in question.
Now, please excuse my tangential mumblings. No matter your method, this world between worlds needed translators like never before.
Did you translate at Stormont Castle in Belfast when Sean Lemass and Captain Terence O’Neill shared tea from a pot that had been brewing for two scores and more? Did you translate through the sky as Edward Higgins White somersaulted in low Earth orbit with his beloved Gemini 4? Were your services required amidst the cannon fire at Winnie’s state funeral in the shadow of Big Ben? Was it your hand that translated Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella from black and white to color for CBS? Did you help humans understand the inhumane on Bloody Sunday or work to relay their prayers from Selma? Did you paint a photograph of the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows or chase the tornadoes in Minnesota with brush in hand? Perhaps you aided Horowitz in his offstage errands or drafted letters to Kentucky for Ali? Did Dylan seek your hand at Newport to stumble honorably between his acoustic and electric worlds? Did The Beatles entreat you to discern the screams at Shea? Did the Cubs beg you to decode the hints in Sandy Koufax’s arm? Did you greet the first Cubans to arrive at port in Miami? Did you douse the anti-war flames as LaPorte burned himself to death at the steps of the United Nations?
Did you tell these brilliant men, gently, that theirs was no longer the largest city in the world?
Your shutter surely quivered at each of these moments, even if it wasn’t fully released. And as the world tilted forward, these men began to see that they themselves might be the aliens. They, each in their own elusive language, began to understand the extent to which they truly did live between worlds.
And with that I’ve just realized that you might just be the perfect person to help me with something. To help us all actually. Let me explain: I’m lost between the world I could touch and the one I can’t find, between people and appearances, between family and ambition, between action and slumber, between war and peace. See, Howard, we need a translator again now. I suppose we always do.
I see the tides of time turned inside out when the lens becomes the brush becomes the message. “That’s what I see,” says he.