Porte d’Aubervilliers, 1932 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

hcb porte  d'aubervilliersHenri Cartier-Bresson snapped his images inside what he called The Decisive Moment, operating on instinct, capturing the essence of life.

Somehow he knew.

Somehow we can know.

That is all I know.

 

 

 

 

Here is my prose-poem from Vignettes & Postcards From Paris inspired by this photo:

Escape

Based on the photo Porte d’Aubervilliers, 1932 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

The boy was the poorest of the poor in Paris between wars. He stopped and his feet slid inside worn shoes, which sank with an ooze in the mud. Underneath a grimace of gray sky, he leaned against the tin wall of the hovel he called home and listened to the chaos within.

Scraping, clawing, scuffling. Yelling, screaming, crying. Bumping, knocking, thumping. The last vestige of hope drained from his body; soon his father would come for him. The cold metal clawed his shoulder through an overcoat that weighed down his frame.

Panic spread from his stomach in escalating surges, poisonous petals growing with each pulsating push to grip and twist his bowels. His lungs were afraid to admit air.

He sought escape from the maelstrom with every vibrating atom of his being. He waited. And waited.

He reached out his empty little soul. His face took on a concentrated intensity. His eyes focused, unfocused. His chest slowed its rhythms, his mouth fell slack. His hearing slowly muffled, the violence became silence. The cold metal released his shoulder, and gloom gave up its quest to permeate. His dirt-caked body felt clean—and then he left it behind.

In this moment, though he did not know it, the boy instinctively practiced the ancient art of Transcendental Meditation.

Sunlight crept along the filthy slum, glinted on the window’s jagged glass, and turned the mud a tawny tan. It moved as if seeking him. It snuck over the folds of the boy’s soiled cap and rippled down his arm. Wave upon wave of warm, liquid love infused the center of his chest and rolled through his veins.

The sunlight was gentle, like a hand blessing him.

 

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: “The photo takes me, not the other way around.”

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Henri Cartier-Bresson, French photographer, 1908 – 2004

Henri Cartier-Bresson taught me how to reignite my intuition—to follow the inviting urge to meander in concentric circles until meaning becomes clear, to take a startling encounter with the Greek statue Winged Victory of Samothrace (never italicized to me) seriously enough to write a book about it, and to be attuned to signs and premonitions.  He taught me how to live.

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A photo tacked to a periwinkle wall: A seven-year-old, knobby boy-knees braced below shorts.  Shock-still, attention riveted down to the box he grips.  He’s poised to snatch something like a firefly in a jar; some image has dazzled him and his mouth lifts in a victorious smile—he’s about to trap it.

A soft cusion of sleep one winter night in Paris: swirling dream-shapes, dark, misty objects, night’s silence.

“Henri Cartier-Bresson,” a man’s voice said.

My eyes popped open.  I had heard this; my eardrums had vibrated.  The air still rang with sound.  But I was alone in my apartment at 3:30 a.m.

I knew with certainty that Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Parisian photographer of previous decades, whom I had only heard of, had a message for me.

—“Don’t Think” in Wings

Thus began my romance with Henri Cartier-Bresson.  As in the story “À Propos de Paris,” He’s French, but he speaks to me in English.  He died in 2004, but to me, he  is in present tense.

Henri is my mentor in a strange way.  Uncanny synchronicities often happen to me related to him, and sometimes it seems he’s inside my head.  Henri reappears with a message every so often.

Here is a photo Cartier-Bresson took in 1947.  WHICH famous author was this???

truman capote hcb

 

WINGS Book Launch Events

The initial Wings book launch tour was sizzling!  Thank you to artiste Anna Elkins for joining us with her gorgeous, colorful sketches and effervescent presence. Here are a few highlights:

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Our first event was at BOOK PASSAGE, and “the Bay Area’s liveliest bookstore”  was crowded with champagne lovers and eager readers.

 

 

 

Special guest, mentor extraordinaire, Georgia Hesse, dishes about the deeper aspects of France.  You can find out more about this “grande dame of travel writing” here.Wings w Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Taste of This Place” transported everyone through revolutions, wars, reigns and riots.bp signing black and white

 

 

 

 

 

University Bookstore in Seattle was our next stop, where we sampled IMG_8834Jurassic Cheese and celebrated “Bastille Day on the Palouse”, followed by an exquisite private event in Seattle.

 

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Kings Bookstore in Tacoma gave us a warm welcome, including flowers.

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A private event in Auburn was a chance for a pink champagne toast and “Coasting Beyond Boyhood”, a story about Normandy.

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Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane with its vibrant atmosphere packed them in and included an introduction by Christina Ammon and an appearance by my travel writing guru, the boisterous aIMG_8938nd brilliant Tim Cahill, who spoke about the origin of our stories and why thIMG_8915ey can reach the universal.

All through this tour, Anna Elkins and her work added pizzazz and panache.

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