There is a beautiful piece of cinematography in Nikita Mikhalkov’s movie Urga, where one is presented with a vast panoramic field of emerald grass. There’s movement in the distance. The image gets closer and closer and slowly coming into focus. It’s accompanied by the sound of rumbling hooves and snorting. Wafts of agitated dust float in a state of suspended animation which hastens the suspense. The camera eventually centres on the focal point, Gombo, a vigorous Mongolian equestrian shepherd mounted on his stocky steed fill the screen.
The scene acts as an apt metaphor for the personal essay. One begins with something out of focus. A word like ‘nostalgia.’ A sentence like ‘It happened like this.’ A quote like Soderberg’s ‘People want to be loved, failing that admired…our soul seeks connection at any price.’ An image like Avril Paten’s painting, Windows in the West. Then, my journey begins. I have no maps. I have no coordinates. Just the loose excursions of my mind. My reader joins me on this pilgrimage or saunter; a description that’s dependant on the subject. It’s often a highway to seemingly nowhere, but the scenery is interesting, occasionally captivating. It’s worth the effort.
It’s an image of what’s going on in my head, albeit a glass darkly. But the process of pen to paper sparks a chemistry that is leading to a place. The place appears and disappears in a literary eclipse. We appear lost, but in the large vat of editing, the destination emerges.
Like a camel on the road to Kathmandu, the personal essay can take the load I have to pack on. My memoirs, musings, my angst, the wanderings of my mind, my peculiarities and fears, my worldview, and philosophies. The introduction to the personal essay was like bursting out of prison and finding a voice for all I have to say.
Image by https://unsplash.com/@linalitvina