A photographer and museum curator’s collection of meditations and conversations on art, writing, and life in general.
After a friendly introduction, Peterson’s (The Blossoming of the World, 2011, etc.) book immediately jumps into heavy topics, beginning with caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, but it does so without losing much of its light tone. This lightheartedness persists as the book branches out into a variety of other subjects and formats. There are transcripts of informal conversations between photographers as they reminisce about how they started and an email exchange between the author and his best friend, Jan, about pursuing art while coping with chronic illness (the author has Parkinson’s disease). By recognizing other voices, the author shows appreciation for those he admires and who’ve supported him in a way that doesn’t often come across in solitary reflections. The volume’s title comes from an account of a moment when the author was struck by the beauty of a deer in his yard; in it, he tries to explain why he stopped to watch it for nearly an hour. Overall, this book attempts to find ways to talk about personal feelings (in art and life) with someone one cares about, even if one can’t necessarily share the precise feeling. To that end, there are stories about the distress of missing a moment of possible mutual understanding; in one chapter, Peterson expresses admiration for his dog but confusion about its erratic insecurities. The author’s writing does sometimes depend too much on idiom, but that same playful inclination sometimes gives the book unexpected momentum. For instance, he describes friends and family, in a moment of slightly melancholic reflection, as “the soil from which we”—that is, he—“grew.” Later, during an essay about Parkinson’s and his attempts to ward off its effects, Peterson characterizes his disease as being like a pack of uncaring wolves, and unlike himself, “the wolves have nothing to prove.” Selections from the author’s photography emphasize the painterly aesthetic of his writing.
An irreverent, heartfelt work that cheerfully wanders through somber topics.