Friday, December 15, 2006

Knowing Strangers

I found this article interesting.

Every day a photographer found that she passed by the same people in the street without speaking to them or attempting to know them. She gradually became curious about them and eventually garnered enough courage to ask them a little about their lives and took photographs.

It reminds me of when I used to walk my children to school. Every morning a woman would always ride her bike (rather awkwardly in a tight knee-length skirt) on the pavement alongside us. I never spoke to her but eventually I felt I knew her. Unconsciously I would find myself making up tales about where she lived and what she did - piecing together fragments of sightings of her into what was probably a completely fictitious life.

On odd occasions I see her still - even though five years have passed since I last accompanied Hodmandod Minor along the road to school. She still cycles the same way and is little changed. I still don't know her name or where she works - and really I think I would prefer not to know - sometimes it is interesting to preserve a little mystery.

Since I no longer have a regular routine any more there are few people I see in such a habitual way. In fact I can think of only one man: a man that sings about God's love in the middle of the square outside the town hall. His voice is so obviously outrageously happy that I think he must be either insane or really in possession of a wonderful secret. Sometimes I think I would like to know what it is.


Anonymous crimeficreader said...

Keen observation leading to expression of imagination = best skills available to a great writer.

The reading of your writing says it all Clare.

I can see the cyclist now...

Fri Dec 15, 09:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Maxine said...

I notice someone, eg the person who sells you a coffee at the station stall, or who sells you a ticket, or whatever. If you catch the train at the same time each day these individuals that you see very briefly yet specifically every day can become almost familiar. It is quite a shock when one of them disappears, as they inevitably do. Have they been moved to a different station? Quit? Moved back to Colombia? etc.

Fri Dec 15, 10:46:00 pm  
Blogger Rethabile said...

You should perhaps ask the happy face guy what his secret is, no?

Fri Dec 15, 11:22:00 pm  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

You are such a writer! Making up stories about people. I don't know. (I would never do that!;))

Sat Dec 16, 12:13:00 am  
Blogger Jan said...

For years I walk through this city and pass the same folk. I have watched them; I have seen them sad, joyful, busy, saunter. I have watched them age. I feel I know them. But in truth I know absolutely nothing...

Sat Dec 16, 09:06:00 am  
Blogger Lee said...

I agree completely with crimefic. This is wonderful writing.

Sat Dec 16, 09:24:00 am  
Anonymous marly said...

Such choices we have to make in this curious place . . . If this is a sane world, perhaps the madness of the man on the square is pitiable, and you should glance, and then avert your eyes. If this is a mad world, then that man’s sanity must look crazy—and exultation like the work of a zany. But if the world is a mixture of mad and sane, twined like a gorgeous snake around a perfect tree in the garden: what then?

Sat Dec 16, 03:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Debra Hamel said...

I like this. There are people that I watch too. I don't really want to know more about them than I do, because that would render them dull, or known, at least. More interesting to preserve the mystery.

I remember that in school it used to be interesting to try and figure out what your teacher was all about. Knowing what the answers were would have made her/him a less interesting person.

Sat Dec 16, 06:58:00 pm  
Blogger twitches said...

Hm. The only people I see on a regular basis are the Starbucks baristas I go to twice a day. i really need a life.

Sun Dec 17, 05:30:00 pm  
Blogger Tammy said...

I need to get out more ;) I love that she stopped these people and they allowed her to take their pictures. I'd love to chat with the singer ;)

Sun Dec 17, 08:20:00 pm  
Anonymous clare said...

Thanks CFR - yes that cyclist was quite a character - somehow she manages to cycle with her knees almost locked together (or so it seemed to me). Maxine: yes, sometimes I only notice people when they are no longer there - a bit sad, now I come to think about it. Rethabile: Yes, I think I shall speak to the happy man - I think he might like that. CB: It is a bit of a liberty, really - if they knew. Jan - Yup, tis all invention, we know nothing.Lee: this is something I can bounce back to you! Yes, Marly: your beautiful snake (what a wonderful biblical image) is something I think of a lot - we are all mad and all sane, I think. Everyone is on a different point along a line - but the line keeps moving. Debra: I agree entirely. It is very important to keep a certain amount of mystery - especially with teachers. The best teachers need to be kept out of reach. Twitches: well, you do fantastically well with the people you do encounter - so many become subjects in your poetry. It seems to me...and Tammy: Yes, that study was interesting, wasn't it? Such a novel idea. I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Sun Dec 17, 11:11:00 pm  

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