Monday, February 24, 2014

The Bold White Beneath

Today winter, I walk with all that’s left after the thaw of the austere pearl world…snow is gone.  Rigid hands crack and bend.  I am audacity who goes amid naked branches, who braves stiff paralysis of digits   This gravel road, once used for service, now a muddy trench eating my feet.  On one side all forest, the other rolling field.   Hiking, solitude.
I hunt in quiet hours for image born as epiphany from the painted scenery.   Photography.  But in the deep ice of winter, I avoid it.  Connective tissue shivers to keep muscles alive, my patience for waiting drains because my cortex freezes first.  But when I layer my pants over long johns, over leg warmers over socks and wrap my head in a hat under a hood….. I emerge.  Slow at first.  I wonder if the earth is still real, the ground, still there.  My confidence is rebuilt with every test step- no slip…no slip…no hole, no surprise lake.  I forgot things were brown and green under there.

Today winter, I walk among the sticks and balance my black boots on any solid ground.   Lens, sense my way.  Not far in, I meet the bare rib cage of a deer eaten clean.  Hold my breath to steady the shot, lean in…. snap – spatters of frozen blood jewels the canvas.  I love it.  I’m a special kind of hunter, collecting the life in death.  The face has no eyes, but the teeth are well.  Portrait of a being who’s not made it.  And here is the foot, but only one.  And here is the spine, nearby.    

I’ve thought about my hobby of carcass photography, like I’ve thought about my love for abandoned buildings.  There’s just something not in them that I like.  Space holds my interest because it gives my imagination wings.  I’ve come to the awareness that I’m not interested in killing, but in this type of intimacy.  I’m curious of the intimacy that emerges when a life meets with vast nothing and is willing to stand and look at it, willing to be moved.  Emptiness….death….mystery….not knowing.  It is this intimacy that reminds me there is no time for anything else but love.
Entering the carcass, winter reveals pristine vertebrae – the bold white beneath.  I pause, hearing steps, stand and turn to see a farmer herding cattle in the field behind me.  A “Certified Angus” truck beeps, pulls in towards the barn, the little black cows are alive for now.  I turn back, continue the portrait thinking how I will love the next meat I eat, in honor of to the life it feeds into me.  I hope my life does the same.  I do not care anymore that someone sees me, knows me, as intimate with death staring into its perfect teeth.   Our secret affair is no longer hidden.  Winter makes us obvious lovers.  
Allison Distler


  1. Allison, This is so eerily beautiful. I could feel the cold as I went on your journey with you. Thanks for taking us along.

  2. Cold crunch. The spaces that invite imagining. Thanks for this Allison Beth