Ruth Lauer Manenti
October 11 – December 3, 2017
I was in Telluride, Colorado taking photographs. The year had been a difficult one. I had experienced hardship, loss, scandal, disappointment and illness. I had become fragile and untrusting.
In Telluride I read Orlando by Virginia Woolf. The book begins with Orlando as a young nobleman and an attendant and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. After the queen’s death he falls in love with a Russian princess and because she was not a member of the English aristocracy the relationship was not allowed. Yet, so in love was Orlando that he cared not for his reputation and the two lovers plan an elopement to Russia arranging to meet by a bridge at midnight. But the princess doesn’t come, leaving Orlando alone on the coldest night of the early seventeenth century.
As an outcast Orlando becomes a recluse and returns to writing poetry. After several years, he shows his epic poem to a famous poet, Nicholas Greene, who is dismissive of the manuscript. A few months later Mr. Greene comes out with a new book. Inside the book Orlando discovers his own poem under Greene’s name. These two betrayals cause Orlando such great despair that he sleeps for seven days and seven nights. Those near him tried to rouse him and still Orlando slept. When he awakens he sees that his body has transformed into that of a female, and continues to live on as a woman.
While reading this novel I would pause to look through the windows. The assortment of windows, at different times of day brought a variety of views altering the landscapes and surroundings, at times summoning me to leave the indoor world, step outside and go walking. It was breezy outside. There was beauty in every direction. As the winds blew around me, the winds moved within me and as the clouds passed through the sky, so did the ups and downs of the last year. Orlando had turned me into a poet….. and what was scandal compared with poetry? As a poet I could see the mountains as I never before had. The low lands where the streams flow and the high mountain peaks covered with snow even in July, sung like ascending and descending musical scales. Life had to be that way. For valleys are the natural lows, the depressions that fall beneath the earth’s surface, and peaks are the natural highs that flower in their prime and allow for views of grandeur and understanding. I thought to myself, “I’ll be alright.”
While sleeping I was aware of the fresh air of the high altitude and when I awoke, though it had been 7 hours and not days my sorrow had turned into a pebble thrown from a high cliff down to where it could no longer be seen, where it would, without a word, land and disappear leaving just the slightest trace, good enough to have served a purpose.
These photographs were taken on walks inspired by my reading of Orlando last spring.
Ruth’s work has been collected by the New York Public Library as well as many private collections including Lois Conner, Louise Fishman, An-My Lê, Frances Barth, Bruce Gagnier, Sylvia Mangold, Seane Corn, Dan Walsh, Chris Martin, Connie Hansen and Russell Peacock.