Archive for May, 2015

Making Fire


Discarded Umbrella, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

A disposable lighter, like the one I found on the ground in an alley, runs about a euro at the local tobacco shop. I shook this mini yellow one and found it to be full. The problem with it had to do with the fact that its previous owner kept it in her purse along with a handful of milk chocolates.
On a daily walk to work down the alley, the owner reached into her purse for a lighter or a chocolate and found the two had become one. She threw both on the ground.
The lighter was clogged with chocolate. I took it home and spent 45 minutes with a piece of alcohol soaked cotton cleaning its moving parts. After putting it back together, I tried to light it by pressing down the child safety mechanism, spinning the flint wheel and pushing down the gas button in one motion. This proved impossible for an adult, so I watched a video on the internet made by a teenager on how to remove the child safety mechanism. Once removed, I spun the flint wheel and made fire.

The Destructiveness of Ease


Poplar Harvest, Caselle Landi, Italy © Jim Korpi

Pearl is 86 and heats with wood. He has for the length of his life. When a friend asked how he splits his firewood, he answered,”With an Armstrong splitter.” He raised two fists head high and drew them in to flex his biceps.
Pearl had gone his whole life chopping wood by hand and can still do so. Perhaps the reason he can still do so is because he does.
“I’m cold!” I would tell Dad when the New England winters in our old house got to me. “Then put some clothes on,” he would say regardless of the layers already worn. After cutting firewood to last the winter for our family and his parents, he knew the cost of warmth.
With the ease of which we do most things there is often a disconnected violence attached, an unconscious destructiveness, a carelessness. Care is neither given nor taken.
“The reason I love digital photography is because I can take as many photos as I want and delete the ones I don’t like,” I have heard people say.
What if the photographs we take are of people? What if the intrusive act of documenting life was not as easy to do and to discard? Would we do it as often? Would we think more about what it is we are actually in the act of doing?

The Beaten Path


Ice Cream in Desert, Bahrain © Jim Korpi

The first place they stopped was the first place their Lonely Planet guide suggested they eat with their budget. Simon searched his smart phone for a walking map to the restaurant while Barb read the address from the book.
They wanted authentic food, something off the beaten path. They had travelled all over the world and used their guidebooks to get to where they needed to sleep, eat, and to all the places they needed to see.
The street was lined with vendors selling souvenirs closely related to the geography, but often not. There were soccer jerseys for teams throughout Europe and colorful postcards of landscapes far from this street.
At the restaurant they recognized three couples from the hostel where they were staying. Their guidebook suggested a hostel it considered “clean and cheap.”
During dinner Simon and Barb planned their itinerary for the next day. Their hope was to see something different, something off the beaten path.
The gondola ride they took to the top of the mountain was something the guidebook said could not be missed. If they got there during lunch hours they were told they would avoid the long lines.
They had their tickets after waiting 15 minutes in a line. While boarding the back of the crowded gondola they recognized the same three couples from the restaurant the night before.

What’s the Matter


Last Snow, Codogno, Italy © Jim Korpi

It’s not something you’ll find on Google. I looked. The search left me with a mixed feeling of internet incompetence and disconnect from all that is real, touchable.

“Tears of a Sea Cow,” is a TV series having nothing to do with “cows” or “tears” but everything to do with the reasons I get lost on the internet whenever I search for something. Just the title sent me on an endless trail of contemplations on sea cows and how anything in the sea could shed a salty tear when all around them is salt water. I was then frozen with the thought of oceans being an accumulation of all tears.

She is a brown jersey with a yellow tag in her ear reading “16845”. For the sake of keeping all the other dairy cows healthy, 16845 was lifted by straps attached to the bucket of a tractor and carried to a straw covered patch of grass by the driveway of the farm. A pail of water and hay were brought out for sustenance.

16845 gave birth to a healthy calf and soon after laid down and would not get back up.

In the hot sun she lay on her patch by the driveway with her head resting by her belly that was moving up and down from labored breathing.

I walked down to her and she raised her head. If she were healthy she would have walked quickly in the other direction, but her sickness issued a calm acceptance to whatever would come next.

She watched as I lifted her pail of water and slowly poured it over her back. Her soft brown hide twitched from the coolness of the water as it ran down the curves of her ribs and across her stomach. I filled the pail with fresh water and brought it to her mouth. She dipped her snout into the water and sucked half of the bucket with the quickness of a desperate breath.

I sat on the ground beside her and lowered my head and eyes so she was looking down at me. I read somewhere that predators use eye contact to control their prey and that sheep and cattle can feel threatened by a direct stare. So I lowered my eyes and looked down at her chest. I reached my hand slowly for her face and ran my fingers slowly back and forth across the underside of her jaw. A drop of water fell on my forearm, and then another. I looked up and saw tears streaming down from her glossy black eyes.

I looked on Google for some scientific proof for whether or not a cow could cry. I found only the confusion we often face when we look for something we will never find. But I saw it. I felt it. The tears only came after I touched her skin. They were like tears from a friend only after asking, “What’s the matter?”

My World


Baby in Rain, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

Earth spins on an axis where ever Little Jessica rests her feet. The world is hers. Everything in it was made for her.
She was fast for her age. She was walking and talking ahead of schedule. She was in ballet classes at four and French soon after.
Her parents moved to this affluent town because the high property taxes made for good schools.
In a room of guests Little Jessica is the center of all conversation and direction of all attention.
“Tell everyone what you learned in French today,” her mother says proudly.
“Bone joor, j mah pell Jessica!”
The guests smile, laugh and clap.
“Show everyone what you learned in ballet yesterday,” her mother continues.
Little Jessica prances around the room with her hands held above her head and fingers touching.
In French class the teacher asks the children to divide into groups of three and give themselves a group name. When asking what Jessica’s group would give themselves for a name, Jessica yells out, “Jessica group!”
After the lesson the teacher walks around the room with a quart-size basket of strawberries and hands one to each student. Jessica bites off the ripe red tip of the berry and drops the remaining three quarters onto the table in front of her. She then walks over to the teacher and reaches for another strawberry in the basket. “No, Jessica. Everyone hasn’t had one. Only one for each of us.” Jessica looks confused by what the teacher says and then walks back to her table. She looks down at the bitten berry she left behind. She picks it up and begins to eat what remains.