Jan 4, 2010

Old Faithful

While I was home this Christmas, I set up my mother's bible near the bay window in the living room to photograph it. She explains that I tore this page while she was nursing me. Genesis. Sigh. If she was only reading Revelations.

The pages are separating from it's disintegrating spine despite layers of scotch tape carefully creased with perfectly painted fingernails. 

They want to know exactly what God means. I have questions about this but they don't come out of my mouth softly like I want them to.

During a phone interview last week at work, I spoke with a Rotary Cadre member we are profiling for a project in Panama. He said after our shoot, he's staying on a few days to take some pictures. He explains that he speaks the language and knows the people in town so it's easier for him to get access...go into homes and get to know people. Even if he's not connecting or sharing meaning, he can at least get what he needs. This is how I feel photographing these pages.

I was surprised to see how may of these books were marked. How can the onion skin pages hold up under such stress? The tiny writing and highlighting and underlining and white out with the more-right idea on top. The coffee stains and some pages completely missing or torn out by a nursing child. The pages could be yellowed by time or Virginia Slim menthol light 100's or both. How to know history exactly? I try to read her writing. I look very close and squint. I wonder what she is thinking so seriously about. Maybe if the word "and" really means "with" in this particular case and how that changes everything.

One of my new years resolutions is for more questions to come out of my mouth. Easy girl. Softer now.


  1. Fascinating...This is how someone's life looks like. If you could see all the raw ideas, coverups, feelings and do overs. It makes you wonder, do I do this with what I believe to be true, and if so how much?
    It is as uncomfortable as it is relatable.
    The whiteout is the showstopper.

  2. I've never had a relationship with a book like this. I have always worked so dilligently to preserve them in the condition in which I received it, and I wonder with what permission or invitation would I allow myself to unleash my thoughts without self-judgement on the pages. Whiteout is a good idea. No one ever said what you thought will always be the truth.

    P.S. where's jasmine?

  3. I was just talking to Ruth about that same thing Stephie. I thought, if it was the Truth, God breathed, would you write in it? It's a wonder this searching and researching. Such itchy monkeys as David would say. The itchiest.

  4. You know what I really like about what the Baby Miriam did to the Bible?

    She tore it such that the first book, the one about the origin of man, is titled "GENES".

    She started her quest for truth by scratching at such an early age, that little itchy monkey Miriam.

  5. I feel somewhat violated; like someone just opened up my heart and peed. You know I don't have many secrets; you could just ask. Or to put it another way:

    Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it whall be opened.

    Some folks just call it growth.

  6. I probably misunderstood some of the comments that have been made. I felt judged, dissed and misunderstood and the anonymous post is probably an over-reaction

    The show should certainly go on. I wouldn't want to stop it.

  7. Oh! I think it's tragic that you felt so violated! This is a beautiful and loving portrait of a person's profound relationship with the Bible, and earnest search for the meaning in it. I think it's gorgeous, and not even a little bit derogatory. I wish everyone, including myself, had the fortitude to engage so fully with ANYTHING. I think you're amazing. I think everything about this post is amazing.

  8. Well, I didn't feel "sooo" violated. I felt "somewhat" violated. I'm probably feeling overly sensitive because as I get A LOT older, my children drift farther and farther away; not just geographically.

    I think it was more the comments than the "portrait". But, this statement "Even if he's not connecting or sharing meaning, he can at least get what he needs." I've always thought that connecting and sharing meaning is what gets us what we need.

    And the comment by Stephanie: "I wonder with what permission or invitation would I allow myself to unleash my thoughts without self-judgement on the pages." In Malachi 3:10 God grants that permission and issues the invitation to . . . "prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing . . ." God wants us to "prove" Him. And self-judgement is what it's all about.

    When we engage with a book - not only the Bible - but any great book with great ideas, it is a relationship . . . between what is written and what is being thought about what is written (between the author and the reader). Most of my books have notes in them, but I promise that none of my books are hand-scribed, gold-leafed, illuminated texts or even first editions. You should see my copy of Huckleberry Finn or The Wise Woman by George MacDonald, etc. etc.

    Why the Whiteout?

    Because when I first started taking notes in my Bible, they were large and scrawling. As the study and search continued (most of those notes were taken between the ages of 24 and 34) I had to make room for more notes and observations and occasionally even my part in the conversation between God and myself. Thank you for asking . . . engaging.

    See, I not only believe that it is the God-breathed truth, but that it's God's words to me and that it's a two-way conversation; and although He may never forget what I'm thinking about what He's saying to me . . . I will definitely forget, if I don't write it down. Ten years from now what He is saying to me will expand to include new ideas and truths about who I will have grown to be at that point in my life and I may have to resort to sticky notes. I learned that one from my second heart.

    Have you seen the movie Avatar? I would give just about anything to have just one person look into my eyes once in my life and say "I see you."

  9. The photographs of "Old Faithful" are my notes, scrawlings in the margins of my life. I wanted to photograph this relic before it completely falls apart. I wanted this magnificent labor of love to live longer than the pages would hold through time. I got the idea when Henry was pulling books off the shelves in your office and littering the floor with it's pages on Christmas day. What if those were the pages of your bible?

    I understand what you mean "even if they do not share meaning.....one can get what they needs." This was not an excuse to pilage a lost land without understanding it's roots. What I mean by that is that although I don't completely understand what I'm looking at I can communicate that I feel I must preserve it. There are many editions of the bible as you point out above. But there is only one copy of yours, Old Faithful, my Mother's bible. I wouldn't be who I am without you or your journey to understand the truth.

    I am your daughter, your second heart. I not only see you, I am part of you. Blood and bond.

    "An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times." - East of Eden

  10. Thank-you...i-spilled-coffee-on-my-keyboard-oh-for-yellowed-pages.

  11. I love the pics and the tiny notes, highlights, thoughts, and insight that decorate each page. His Word is truth, life-giving, and a relationship. Old Faithful has made your mom faithful, and so many others faith-filled. Mim, I love your creativity!