Monkey Mind

I am sitting in the video editing space at the Denver Post, where I have worked now for a bit more then a year since the Rocky Mountain News shut its doors.  I am editing my first multimedia piece since arriving here and am loving it:  the quiet, the solitude, the freedom of visuals mixed with movement and sound.  I feel like a child after falling off my bike.  I can get up again.  I can do this.  I LIKE to do this.  How did producing multimedia pieces get to be this mountain in my head – just like everything else…???

I am forever struggling with my profession – with the intensity, with the guilt that wraps me up like a warm, wet blanket when my job is NOT intense, with the hours, with obsessive nature it brings out in me, with the “what if’s” that linger.  I want to find balance in my life by enjoying my child, my home, my new chickens, my garden.  But invariably, I am drawn back to the darkness enveloping the corners of our world, of my world, which at this point in my life consists of a city, Denver, and sometimes a state.  I am not boarding BA flights to Africa, not finding ways into Bosnia, not hiring drivers to get to Pushkar in India – maybe driving my Highlander down to the San Luis Valley to document  child poverty or to Taos to shoot food… Guilt, yearning and relief all at once  flood my soul as I think about this life I am leading.

Haiti.  I would have been there fifteen years ago.  I wept openly, not a norm for me, as I saw the images of the children being carried by their fathers, their mothers, crushed by the falling cement.  Limp.  Dead before they had lived.  I never took the time to cry years earlier – until the tears would flow maybe a year later – maybe ten years later – after witnessing massive death in the most unfair of ways – famine in Sudan, in Somalia – in many places.  I was relieved that I was not there, to be honest – I feel like I should be saying this to a priest in a dreary confessional.  I felt that burden of deciding whether or not to get on a plane to the devastated country lifted – but the weight of not being there sinks into my body, at the same time.  I am in my own personal hell at times.

Now, as a mother living an externally quieter life, the tears spring forth as I watch a posting on Facebook from my friend Melanie of a camera woman, Margaret Moth, who was hit by a sniper’s bullet in Somalia in the early 90’s and is now struggling with cancer.  I spent a fascinating dinner with her and my departed friend Carlos in some far away place many moons ago – so many that I cannot remember the exact location.   But I remember her raven hair.  Her crooked smile that leapt from a mouth that had had a bullet cut through it.  Then a posting of Don McCullen comes up from my friend, Mariella.  I often think that I should shoot landscapes like he does now to see if it quiets my soul, as he says it does his.  And then a posting from a new friend, Bruce Strong, from Southern Sudan, an area of the world that transformed my soul when I traveled there TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO with Chris Hedges and a place that I returned to over and over to cover famines, wars or to write a book about the Lost Boys… all of this while I am toning images of my child, Theo, lying on my bed after bath time.  My child who I dreamed of through those years, many years ago.  He is here now.

Now, with a belly that flaunts a scar across it’s bow after a traumatic C-section, with arms that do not feel like wings anymore, but more like weights, with knees that crack from years of kneeling in dumps, gravel pits, bush hospitals and the like, I feel so far away from that person, from that life of years past.  I wanted to run from it – fast and hard.  But I do not know this person I am morphing into.  I would have never met her before and here I AM her, now.

Years ago, on my thirtieth birthday with my friend Gwen in Nairobi after shooting a genital mutilation ceremony in Somalia, I recall someone telling me that I would never be able to have my cake and eat it too – and I remember being completely indignant of that declaration.  “I can too!!!  Just you watch me!!!” I shouted back, after too much champagne.  What is so bizarre is that I have had my cake, and I have eaten it, too, and now I am left wondering what the hell is next?  Should I leave it all and buy a small farm in a quiet place -fading into the background with my child, my organic vegetables and my Araucanas?  Do I really WANT to do that or does my burned out mind want me to do that?  And then there are the maddening moments in between spent obsessing on what huge social documentary project to tackle next…

No! my mind shouts as I watch interviews with children about their third grade teacher, Dawn Romero, from my neighborhood elementary school, Stedman.  No! as I edit images of her wrapping these children up in her arms, her wings.  No!  Don’t leave, my heart tells me.  Don’t go, Judy, my mind relinquishes.  At least for today.


3 Responses to “Monkey Mind”

  1. 1 Joanna March 20, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Judy, Thank you so much for writing this. There is so much truth,beauty, longing, honesty in your words. For now a big hug from Joanna.

  2. 2 Joanna March 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I had to add this – never thought I’d quote Donald Rumsfeld but here goes…

    “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

  3. 3 Sophia March 24, 2010 at 9:25 am

    hey can u post pics of ur new chickens

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