air and water

Posted by on April 16, 2006

So much I could say about South Bend might sound like a lament. I was advised to seek out unconventional beauty to get through my stint in the Midwest– this one-story, unlovely straw-colored land of mediocrity. Mediocre, that is, in every area save work ethic…which…is unlovely. I find I seek out unconventional beauty without being advised, and did so all the more vigilantly this past winter, thinking it would help me not to despair. But I found instead that it is hardly a cure for depression. In fact, it sometimes heightens melancholy. Nevertheless, the above image is the sort of thing I find beautiful here and I spent my winter looking for it relentlessly, relentlessly, out of car windows dotted with moisture. Mostly: things made of metal or cement, wearing old paint that has rusted or run into nice colors, created accidentally out of air and water working its cure upon the Midwestern workday, which, if not for what weather could do to it, would be the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I am not at all depressed anymore (for anyone concerned) but I now find that my vigilant search for Midwest beauty was so thorough, so effective, and so closely bound up with a season of sadness, that now images like the one above act as potent reminders of the two solid months of gloom I sat under helplessly. It works the way smells work when they evoke memories. I suppose beauty, whether conventional or not, can sometimes work against you when you assign to it sad associations.

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  1. Lucy
    April 16, 2006

    this photo is beautiful

  2. anna j
    April 17, 2006

    WAHOO–Julia’s blogging again!! i love the way you think, and your beauty-ful musings are inspiring. i enjoyed seeing the final draft of the bicycle haiku too. and tonight i’m in a goofy rhyming, word-laying mood, it seems 🙂

  3. Lucy
    April 19, 2006

    “I suppose beauty, whether conventional or not, can sometimes work against you.”

    Maybe it’s not the beauty that works against us, but the significance and emotions we attach to the form the beauty takes. That you find beauty in what others see as decay in itself is beautiful.

  4. Julia
    April 20, 2006

    Lucy is right. It isn’t the beauty itself, but the emotions that you can attach to it, which, over time, can merge in your mind with a certain kind of image. A certain kind of image can become almost iconographic, or, to put it in modern terms, is like a logo or brand. Beauty in decay now iconographically (sp?) reminds me of an emotional state: one where you are sad, surrounded by a culture of ugliness (and there must be many such places in this abused world), and putting a lot of effort into finding something beautiful in order to assuage the sadness brought on by distaste for your surroundings. I kept thinking after I posted this entry that this final line was wrong and not well developed, so I’m glad Lucy pointed it out.