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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

perfect water

Today carries a certain perfection in the Russian calendar. In truth, all water is considered holy on this day. People make their way to churches, empty bottles tucked under their arms, or knocking against each other in strong bags from Ikea. I am one of them.

I enter the monastery that blooms so random and wild in the summer. Now, an ice sculpture stands in front of the church - a crudely carved angel, her head bowed in grace. Inside, the rooms are lit only by candles and the patches of sunlight that make their way to the icons that cover the walls. Incense remains heavy in the air, familiar and comforting. I buy two candles and light them in front of my favorite one. I do not need to pay anything for them, but do all the same. One for E and one for me.

We came here yesterday as I had mistaken the day of perfect water. It was during a service. Her eyes wide, she stood completely silent and still for some time. People stood (as there are no pews in Russian Orthodox churches). They stood in their winter coats with warm hats shoved in their pockets. They stood in awkward poses as this is what you do when you stand for a long time.

Now, I am in line and see giant silver vats full of sacred water. Old women dispense them, carefully placing funnels and little white pans on the floor so not a drop is wasted. They say the water is chemically perfect on this day, and that you may drink from this bottle during the year when you are sick. They say you may put a bit of this water on the walls and floor of your apartment to make it a good home.

Sometimes I drink it in the morning - -just a splash at the bottom of a little cup. I drink it at truly difficult moments, after I look at the sky or my hands through it. It tastes wonderful, like the well water I drank as a boy on the farm.





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