Persistence of Vision

Today was spent working on the 2022 calendar. Every calendar I have made has a title that has personal meaning for me. The first, 2018, was titled One Good Year. This sprang from my desire to have one year where no one died. The previous years so many people died. My husband, my brothers, my friends. I wanted one year where no one died. Amazingly, no one did. It felt magical. So every year I have developed a title that is important to me. In 2022 it is Persistence of Vision.

Persistence of vision refers to the optical illusion that occurs when visual perception of an object continues after the rays of light proceeding from the object no longer enter the eye. It is also understood as how we experience a sense of motion from still images rapidly viewed through a projector. At its most basic, persistence means continuing on with any task.

2021 required persistence.

The year began badly for me. I was isolated from my loved ones. I was lonely and depressed. I felt abandoned by people I thought were friends, but proved not to be. It was hard in ways I did not expect. 2020 had already been exhausting with the anxieties and fears from corona which did not magically go away. 2021 did not seem an improvement. It was a difficult time and in reviewing my photography for the year, I can see how my work suffered in those early months of 2021.

I hasten to add, I am not unique in this. it was bad for many people, and I recognize that I am lucky. No one I love died. I was safe and in a sane country. I had enough to eat, a place to sleep, and no one was trying to kill me. And I know from being in a far worse emotional place that nothing lasts forever.

I reminded myself at least once a day of Mark’s favorite quote from Tom Stoppard, “Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight.” And things change as they do. Friends returned, and I was comforted. I made changes in my life, and made decisions that put me in a better, though more solitary, place. I found my peace and the light returned. I made new friends, and came to new ideas of what I want from this cold life. My passion persists. My vision persists. My work persists.

And my work changed, I think for the better. When I look back at 2021’s photographs, they are images of isolation. My love for the arctic remains, but I see it through a different lens. Small structures, distant clusters of people, industrial machinery. Photographic narratives of people in an indifferent landscape. Beautiful, but the scale is not human. We were not meant to be here. We are all foreigners in this place.

At the end of 2021 my life is good. I am content. I have purpose that will require me to work as hard as I ever have. Taking on the Spitsbergen Artists Center is a big project, but a meaningful one. Whether I succeed or not, I believe it is worth trying. Making a space that encourages creativity and where anyone can come to Svalbard and experience the awe and beauty here, that is a worthwhile task I think. Hopefully others will think so too.

I think that happiness is overrated. I prefer contentment and a sense of purpose. I know good people here. I have been supported when I most needed it. Times have been hard, but I believe the future can be better. I have persistence of vision.

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