Random Work

Click here to this photo larger.Some of us like to work at random.

Working at random is an adventure. There's an eagerness to see what will appear, an optimism usually lacking in regular work for clients who have expectations and deadlines. Working at random, without deadlines, ambling along, the only expectation is that something new will appear and that all wrong turns will be serendipitous.

Some people wonder where to start. Start where you are. For this essay, I start at my desk in front of the computer, as shown in the photo. Looking at the top left and moving clockwise, you can see a branch from a pin oak tree, a list of open invoices, a photo of aspen trees, a printer, glasses on top of green client folders, an electronic tablet, a keyboard, a calendar, pens, pencils, an empty glass, a modem, and a telephone. Sitting in the middle is the computer screen.

If you look closely, the computer screen in the photo displays a photo of the desk and computer taken two minutes earlier. And if you look at that computer screen, you see a photo of the desk and computer taken two minutes before that. And, if you look at that computer screen. Well, you get the picture! [Click on the photo, you'll see a larger version.]

Is this how the past recedes? To a pinpoint? I think of Proust, not because I have read À la recherche du temps perdu (On the reseeking of lost times), but whenever someone thoughtful writes about memory, Proust's seven volumes gets mentioned. I am old enough to have memories. Many have receded to a distant pinpoint.

PhotoPrayer link: the whole universeThere is something grand about looking into the past. It's like standing on a high desert plateau on a clear night and looking up: all those points of light! Nobody looks at the ground except for footing. If old people lose themselves in remembering, it doesn't matter that the individual memories are mundane. A single point of starlight is as mundane as a grain of salt, but look at their number, their magnificent array!

Last night was clear as my wife and I walked through the dark street-light-free utopian Village of Arden to a potluck dinner, clear enough to see stars overhead and between trees, clear enough to wake a yearning to stand at night in the high desert again instead of here, just a few hundred feet above sea level. I have friends in Arizona and a sister in Nevada. This winter the sky there will be especially clear!

—Danny Schweers, 10/3/2008

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Note: the photo above is of a mock orange, a coriander seed, sea salt and table salt on a black background.