Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…

Stringing Pearls…



I am a woman on a mission.  I have set a goal to see most of the movies nominated for Academy Awards before they roll out the red carpet.  Midway through today’s flick my mind wandered and I visualized myself with fine silk thread and I was stringing pearls.  Even for my right brain that often goes haywire, it was a strange experience.  Several events and experiences were represented on that strand of pearls… all unrelated, yet related.  Each pearl was a link to the past and the present simultaneously – creating a synergy.

The first pearl evolved from the images in front of me, the film, The Artist.  I was consciously aware of the fact that with no words my imagination became a part of the creative process.  I took the visual images in the film, the body language, and the facial expressions and became one of the screen writers.  I made the film what it ultimately was to me.  I was as much a participant as an observer.  This led to the second pearl…

 In 1994 I was fortunate enough to have seen Glenn Close as Norma Desmond on Broadway during the opening weekend of Sunset Boulevard.  As Jean Dujardin’s character George Valentin fights the idea that films need to become “talkies” I could hear Glenn Close singing in my head, “…with one look I can break your heart, with one look I play every part, I can make your sad heart sing, with one look you’ll know all you need to know.”  Ironically, a precocious Jack Russell Terrier plays Vanentin’s sidekick, hero and comic relief for the film.  At one point Dujardin’s character mouths the words, “if only he could talk.”

The third pearl led back to a film I had seen several weeks ago, Hugo, adapted from the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Spoiler alert: there is a link to the silent film days and the transition to the world of talkies.  This silk thread tying together these thoughts (aka “pearls”) made me aware of the fact that because there was no dialogue in silent films I was experiencing a more participatory role.  I thought about great transitions in history and those who openly accepted that change and those who fought it until the end… sometimes their end.

My father was a professional photographer.  As a child he took me under his wing to teach me the art and science of photography.  I was not permitted to use color film.  His philosophy was that until I mastered black and white photography I didn’t know enough to move on to color.  He said the color in a picture was “entertainment.”  “As long as you can be entertained by color, you will never learn to make photography the true art form it should be.  Color is a crutch.  Learn to use lighting, shape, form and value with composition to create art.  Only then can you add color.”

I thought of some of the world’s greatest photographers, many of whom lived, flourished and took a new medium to acceptance as art sans color images.  In black and white photography we think immediately of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier Bresson, Margaret Bourke White, and W. Eugene Smith.  I thought of Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the Dust Bowl, especially the iconic Migrant Mother.  Somehow “…with one look, you’ll know all you need to know” without the “entertainment” of color images. That being said, other photographers have so artistically mastered the art of color photography it would be hard to imagine their photographs having the same impact in black and white.  Steve McCurry is a perfect example.

As the pearl strand grew I asked myself about those who confront drastic, and often scarey changes in the world.  We think of microwave ovens as a normal part of daily life.  I am old enough to remember when they were first introduced.  I think about my parents who could not, and would not accept this frightening and dangerous machine.  It was as if it were some evil put on earth.  Had I not bought them one, and literally set it up in their kitchen, I fear they would have continued to cook “the old fashioned way” for the remainder of their lives.  It still boggles my mind that you can put pieces of paper into a machine that looks like a copier, dial a phone number and those pages will travel through the phone wire to appear just like the one in front of you thousands of miles away.

The final pearl on my strand this afternoon was to take these questions into the present day.  In one word, “technology.”  Okay, I accepted welcomed color photography, microwave ovens, cordless phones, cell phones (although an archaic model that doesn’t take pictures, doesn’t text, doesn’t tweet), a Kindle, and a personal computer.  I’m afraid, however, that I stand with Norma Desmond and George Valentin when it comes to the “i-family.”  My land line and archaic cell phone are working just fine thank you… and i-pads… I have a computer, why would I need one of those.  Pictures are meant to be taken with a camera, not a phone.

I attended a brown bag lunch yesterday with Sarah Braunstein, the author of The Sweet Relief of Missing Children.  At one point she quoted Franz Kafka, “A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.”  Perhaps all art should serve as an ax…

Put me in a 100 minute silent film and I’ll hear more than the orchestra.  Some days I fear the world is spinning past me and out of control.  I don’t want to be a silent film star, but I’m happy where I am.  I am, however, concerned that pretty soon I will be left with no means of communication in the dust of a world in a hurry.  I guess the question is “Can I live with that????”


Author: Carol R Craley

I am a former Philadelphia suburbanite who moved to Maine in 2002 ~ a former art educator ~ former school administrator ~former college and graduate school instructor ~ a writer ~an artist ~ and a photographer. I am currently mom to two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Emma and Sara and a rescued kitty from Georgia ~ so that is her name. I am inspired by nature, great music, art and writing that makes me ponder the world...

14 thoughts on “Stringing Pearls…

  1. As long as we can still call each other and share what’s happening in our lives, we can live with it, Carol. And we can also keep reading all those wonderful Middle School books, like Hugo Cabret War Horse, and Hunger Games, which they are making into good movies. Weather we read them on Kindles or in print, doesn’t really matter. Which movie is your favorite for the Oscar?

    • When I saw Moneyball when it first came out, I LOVED it! I’m not even a sports fan but it was great! The Help is an outstanding look into the mirror as a society. Then I saw Hugo. I loved it more!! I was so glad Martin Scorcese won the golden globe for directing. It truly is a work of art. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was extraordinary. It is a film I will never forget. The Artist unexpectedly drew me in and held me captive. It also made me a participant in the process, not just an observer. That really surprised me! It was interesting to me how silence has played a role in this years films. Max von Sydow was incredible in Extremely Loud without ever uttering a word in the entire film. For someone who loves words as much as I do, it is a little unsettling, causing me to rethink a lot of ideas. Sue, I love them all….

  2. What a fun task you set before yourself. Annually I think this year I will see all the nominees, but then I’m quite content to see what I see. Some films don’t interest me. I do think film makers are magnificent artists when they get it right. Alas, I am disappointed by images I consider provincial and not universal. Thank you for sharing your journey with your father. How privileged your were to see his artistry and learn the basics.

    • Thanks, Georgette. I also will turn away from movies I know are great films simply because they contain subject matter I have a difficult time with. I have heard nothing but rave reviews for War Horse… yet I know myself well enough to know even a cinematic masterpiece on the theme of war is not something for me. I was privileged to have learned from my father. The core of who I am in every sense is a reflection of him.

  3. Carol, as long as you can write like this, you’ll never be without a means of communication. And I have no doubt that you (and I) will continue to adopt and adapt to the new technologies that come down the pike. I really enjoyed learning about your background in photography. I never knew that about you! Your father taught you well.

    • Thanks Leon! I guess I will hold out until I have no choice and have to adapt to those “new fangled ways.” I made the mistake of spending one of my incarnations as a wedding photographer. It just about destroyed my love of photography as an art form. I am so enjoying your weekly post of images!

  4. Wow! I have to go see theArtist..bet I don’t have the same pearls going through my mind…..my mind can’t even imagine your mind going to all those places……Keep writing. I love reading.

    • Kathy, to be honest, I didn’t expect to love The Artist as much as I did. It really beautifully tells a story about resistance to change. That Jack Russell Terrier was worth the price of admission!!

  5. Enjoyed reading as always, Carol. With the wealth of knowledge and experience you bring to your writing we’ll always be educated and entertained. I now have a list of exceptional movies to see. Thank you!

    • Thanks Karen! I’m just glad I don’t have to vote… there are so many outstanding films this year… and many more to see before I watch them role out the red carpet. Don’t you have a Jack Russell terrier? You have to see The Artist just to see the one in the movie!

  6. Lots of interesting thoughts! Your microwave tale reminds me of a story line from the TV show “Murdoch Mysteries” a detective story set in the late 1800’s. In one scene, microwaves are introduced, but the machine that produces them is as large as a room. One of the policemen speculates that maybe someday the machine could do something useful, like cook a potato. Murdoch replies that it wouldn’t be very practical, because the machine is so big. The policeman replies that he envisions a day when everyone would have a room, just off the kitchen, with one of these big microwave machines – a room just for quickly cooking potatoes and such!

  7. Beautifully written, Carol, as always. I’ve tried to see most of the nominated films before the awards but won’t see all of them. I loved The Artist, Moneyball, The Help, and Hugo. By the way, I went to college with Sarah Braunstein’s mother, Ruthie.

    • Thanks CE! That is amazing that you went to college with Sarah Braunstein’s mother. I was so impressed with her writing, her process, her depth and her ability to share what she has learned from other writers, and on her own.
      Still on my mission, time is running out as I try to catch a few more films at the same time I am finishing up my “seasonal” job.

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