Living in Frames, by meshing the lyrical moments of life with the captured images of experience. This is a reverie, a journey, the fork in the road, and the never-ending story....

Thursday, February 28, 2013

new tools.

I know people who swear by using voice recorders for brainstorming and working through the creative process with. I picked one up today, hoping this may help me with some of my organization, and also so I can have it on hand when the opportunity arises for certain conversations and interviews. After all, I'm always looking for that next little piece of inspiration to cross my path, and
how many times have I wished I could remember exactly what was said, among myself and certain interesting friends or acquaintances--how many of these interactions actually end up being stories later..
I'm fascinated by what people have to say, and how we are always expressing ourselves on some level or another. I've also taken to a newfound interest in documentary studies. As an undergrad, I produced a small film about land management for an environmental sociology course, that later became a teaching tool. I am hoping to try to combine my love for the visual and my love of words again, sometime soon, in the not so distant future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

spring cleaning.

Dear Readers:
So, for those of you who having been following Living in Frames since the early days, you have seen the many incarnations of this site. Yesterday and today, I've spent quite some time trying to reorganize and reconfigure all these years of sporadic thoughts and visuals. And yes, I actually deleted some of the posts which I felt were irrelevant to the times.
What you will notice is:
  • There are NEW tabs below the LIF main heading. I have also enlarged all the photographs in my portfolio, and have added a whole separate page for my poetry.
  • I have eliminated all the links on the front page, and you can now locate them on my about. tab and publications. tab.
  • The biggest feat however, was adding meta tags to all my blogs. This was tedious as hell, but well worth the time. Now instead of doing a manual search (without knowing exactly what you are looking for), you can just click on one of the various topics on the right-hand-side and it will plop you down with a bunch of entries that are related. I've done my best to label the last five years, but if you notice that there are any entries that should have better-suited tags, please just drop me a line and let me know. My whole aim is to make LIF interesting and easy to navigate, so I want to hear from you.
And I hope you continue to enjoy reading LIF as much as I enjoy producing it.
Thanks for following!
Sarah E. Caouette

Monday, February 25, 2013

a wasteland of talent.

I've be thinking about the Don DeLillo quote: "Talent is more erotic when wasted." What's the difference between living a hollow or full existence, really? Talent could arguably be subjective, just as what people choose to do with their lives is. It's all the matter of someone else's opinion--whether a person has true talent, and whether it is being neglected or abused.

If one truly possesses a gift for something, I'm talking someone who is born with it and burns for it, then wouldn't it take as much exertion on their part to not gravitate toward their instinctual aptitude, as it would to pursue it whole-heartedly?

Talent is unlike a skill one's learned or mastered--talent is a natural inclination, an ingrained sensitivity--which is why DeLillo's observation reverberates in my brain and stimulates an area of discomfort. It is erotic because it is what shouldn't happen--someone consciously making the decision to not exploit their capacities, but instead, maintain a level of mediocrity that is deemed unsettling. Even self-destruction is an intoxicating contemplation--going against the grain, and rousing a sense of wrong.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

her valentine's day parade.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day, having been born within such close proximity of the holiday; I’ve avoided any expectations, because I’ve seen how miserable they can make people. By de facto, I’ve tried to just focus on the verity that I was born within a month designated to showing the love, and making sure others feel cherished and appreciated. And also I have considered that I am probably better at loving others, than being loved or loving myself.

 Five years ago, how I celebrated and thought of this day, really changed. I had been living in Boston, a couple years out of undergraduate school, and was working for a sizeable marketing company. My job was literally to make clients happy, so that they maintained loyalty to our firm and our long lineup of elite brands. Some requests were over the top—renting yachts in the French Caribbean, arranging a meet-and-greet with Elton John in Vegas, getting into El Bulli in Spain. Yet with some of the other requests, I rose to the challenge—finding the best burger in Manhattan, helping to arrange a picture-perfect wedding proposal, helping a dad get tickets to Hannah Montana to have a father-daughter date. With anything, there were the rewards, and then there were the moments where I had to stop and assess what I was aiding/condoning, which was well-packaged confirmation of entitledness and outright extravagance—to break it down: what I was earning as an annual income (which was pretty decent at the time), was what these people could spend in a matter of hours without flinching. Needless to say, this made me question what was most important to me.

 Right after Christmas, only after six months with the firm, my much adored grandmother was diagnosed with stage-three cancer.  She had gone to the hospital with a stomach bug, and left with an appointment for chemotherapy. This news knocked our whole family blind-sided, as she was the light that guided us all home, and we just couldn’t imagine her not being around for any occasion. And though her chances seemed meek, we rallied around her, taking turns with her care and making time to be with her. How much we hoped for a miracle when we prayed each night, wanting to believe a mistake had been made, and even those of us who had lost our ways a little, reined it in to be there for her through hell and high water.

 I flew from Boston to Philadelphia one long-weekend at the end of January, to see her. My mother had flown there the week prior, and had hated leaving her mother and sister, just to return to a job that now felt meaningless to her in the scheme of things. My mom warned me of what to expect, but nothing prepared me for the heartache I was about to experience.

 There is nothing more depressing than the oncology ward at a hospital. When I sat there waiting with my Grammy and my uncle for her appointment, I could still see so much life in her, even with her head shaved and her feet swollen, while everyone else appeared a faded grey of too many cigarettes, too much time in the steel mills, or too many years of vice and stress. She liked to tell us stories of how the one time she got drunk on champagne she had danced on tables. Now here she was with terminal liver cancer, and I couldn’t help but feel like the hand she'd been dealt was unfair.  

 She called her doctor, Dr. Ponytail. It was cute to see her blush over men who were kind and attractive to her. I held her hand as he told her they wouldn’t be continuing the treatments, her eyes full of tears, and her fleshy body trembling. It was as though someone had dimmed the switch of hope inside her, and that car ride home had never felt so long.

 I flew back to Boston, with that voice in my head, saying, “Sarah, you need to get back as soon as you can.” But when I returned to work, we were preparing for Valentine’s Day, my voicemail box was filled with the demands of my clients, and I couldn’t keep up with the flower and gourmet chocolate deliveries.

 My boyfriend asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, which I hadn’t really had a moment to think about. I was turning twenty-five, “a quarter of a century”, and I guess I was supposed to want something a step up from the usual. We talked about maybe taking a trip somewhere, Vieques sounded devine, a nice escape from the madness and corporate drudgery. Though making plans to enjoy myself on some island removed just didn’t seem right, and so we ended up keeping our fingers on the trigger which never got pulled.

The night of February 13th, I was at home in my sterile barely-furnished condo, reading a book to fall asleep. But my mind kept on drifting to another time, when things were easier, when my Grammy was healthy, and I really didn’t have a care in the world. A time when I would sit in the backseat of the family minivan, face pressed to the glass, as we would drive down my grandmother’s lane lined with big old maples, anxiously waiting to see her and to get that full warm-body hug of hers. As I slipped into sleep, it felt like someone crawled into bed with me, just as I used to snuggle up with her in the mornings before breakfast, and I felt held and a euphoric feeling of peace.

My phone rang the next morning on Valentine’s Day. It was my mother. She didn’t speak at first, but I could hear and sense her pain through the line.

“She’s gone, Sarah,” she said.

I swallowed hard and said, “I know.”

We wore red to her funeral—just another piece in the family lore of Norma Lenore. She was a woman who worked hard, who loved her family, and who never wanted a parade. And today when we wake on this day, we tell each other how much she is missed, and how thankful we are to have been taught the reminder: to love like there is no tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

at the yoke of expansion.

Over a couple eggs, I got into a discussion this morning about addictive personalities and the separation between needs and wants. I come from a long lineage of strong personalities and compulsive behavioralists—all the ‘aholics in a row—and I would probably place myself somewhere right in the middle if asked truthfully. This conversation also came at a most appropriate time, with Lent beginning this week on Wednesday. I do not personally partake in such religious practices, but I do recognize the importance of tradition and belief.
“You don’t strike me as needing much—never have. It’s your laissez faire attitude which I dig,” I was told, as I portioned onto my plate exactly the amount of hot sauce and ketchup I knew I would use for breakfast (Waste not, want not, right?).
See, I have always had this fantasy of selling everything I own except for what I truly “need”. This started when I was about twenty years old and I had read somewhere about this man who lived on a house boat and who kept the number of possessions he owned to the barest minimum—and if he acquired one more item at any point, he would give up something else in return. This sounded groovy to me, like some new-age monk. And so that following summer, I challenged myself by living out of a van for three months. It was a success, and definitely perspective-changing. Then just two years ago, I spent the better part of a year living out of a suitcase, and couch surfing from place to place. There were a lot more unknowns at that time, in regards to my life choices, but there was really something about keeping the things I did have control over, simple—like the amount of “stuff” I was lugging around.
In his essay, On the Origin of the Inequality of Mankind, Rosseau wrote:
“The simplicity and solitude of man's life in this new condition, the paucity of his wants, and the implements he had invented to satisfy them, left him a great deal of leisure, which he employed to furnish himself with many conveniences unknown to his fathers: and this was the first yoke he inadvertently imposed on himself, and the first source of the evils he prepared for his descendants. For, besides continuing thus to enervate both body and mind, these conveniences lost with use almost all their power to please, and even degenerated into real needs, till the want of them became far more disagreeable than the possession of them had been pleasant. Men would have been unhappy at the loss of them, though the possession did not make them happy.”

He went on to talk about the general lack of satisfaction men feel, the more progressed they become, the more possessions they attain—by putting their energies, both needs and wants, toward superficial things.

All men are created equal? I guess I’ve never thought so. All men want and need the same things? I definitely don’t think so. And sometimes I even feel duped by commercialism and the American Dream, selling me on plastics and how to better my life with specific brands.

We are all driven by our desire to expand. We exercise this in a variety of different ways, or with a combination of ways: some have children, some acquire material possessions and wealth, some try to whole-heartedly love (with trust), some are philanthropists, some are intellectuals, and some are spiritualists trying to lead the way—the list can go on and on.

As I grow into this next stage in my life, I aim to learn how to trim the fat on all that is unnecessary, to clear the mind of daily clutter, and keep moving forward toward a more enlightened state of understanding—through art, through knowledge, and through trying to look beyond all the things we obsess over and make us tremendously unhappy.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

another helpless romantic.

Today, I was watching one of the TED talks with this engineer who designs chairs. He began with an anecdote about the romance of falling in love with airplanes and design, and how his early passion as a child has translated to a lifelong commitment to understanding  how the things he loves most, work.

Needless to say, it was a powerful message, and who would have thought the ergonomics of sitting down could be so interesting? At least I didn't at first, when I was looking around this afternoon for topics online involving being still, meditation, and introspection. I don't know what I was looking for really, and maybe that is the point as well.

I go through these periods of tremendous introspection every now and then, sometimes with a conscious effort, and other times to the frustration of those closest to me. Try to get me to be a social butterfly when I'm swimming in the deep, and frankly you will find you are pulling teeth.

However, writing down my thoughts and feelings and conclusions can be a wonderful outlet and exercise for me, while on the other hand I recognize that being too introverted can also be detrimental to one's interpersonal relationships. It's a fine balance, as is everything.

Here's the situation: I've been writing like a maniac for the last couple days, and yet I'm still not pushing myself to the place I want to be in, to tell the kind of story I know is inside me. So, what gives?

I strongly believe that the physical act of writing and purging is important--getting that ass in your chair, and not getting up until you are seeing progress or real results, in real time. But what about all the mental processing that needs to go on inside too? How can you attempt to write about something, unless you've already worked out some sort of meaning for it--the answers to: Why must this story be told? Why is this so important to me? And is it really deserving of an audience?

And then of course, there is your emotional well-being; when you dig down into a place that you are not yet ready to go. I'm a master of avoidance, especially when dealing with certain subject matter. Partly, why I have shied away from writing about myself much, and have stuck to light-hearted fiction to assess and appreciate the world around me.

Maybe I'm just another romantic, like this engineer. Maybe just as he decided to build chairs instead of planes, I'm a writer hacking out fiction when I really want to be getting to the heart of what makes people tick--what makes me tick. Or perhaps, it goes hand and hand, in this interconnected web of knowledge and experience.

Trust me, I don't have the answers, but if I ever find them in my search, I hope to God I can write a great F'n book as a result.


I don't know how many creative people intentionally set out to make art that is iconic, though I think there is ever-present in artists an internal desire to resonate, no matter what scale or medium they choose to work with.  Writers may set out to write the next best American novel, while painters strive for the avant garde. And photographers hope to document history being made, while musicians want that hit.

However, can being too aware of one's intentions, actually be a hindrance? When one is so hyper-actively focused on "making it", does something become lost from the original vision? And does knowing exactly what you are looking to do, particularly in the realm of artistic expression, allow for those inspirational surprises?

It's like working in a darkroom, in more ways than one. First, you are most likely crafting blindly (you may think you know what you know, but you don't--at least not until you find an absolute end---if such a thing actually exists). Most of the time we settle, convincing ourselves we have achieved finality, when really we have either grown beyond, or have become tired of what we first set out to do. I don't buy the piece that people truly accomplish exactly what they envision for themselves. Life is not that cut and dry, and our paths are not that clear and determined.

Secondly, staying open to what I call those little "surprises" without so much expectation, can present other fresh perspectives not dreamt of before--the happening organically experience, waiting to sneak up on you.

I thought this short video/interview encapsulates this essence well, of what lies at the heart of being an artist: