Kayla Eason on finding meaning in the finite
During quarantine I’ve started a small herb garden in a recycled lettuce container. When I water the green clusters, the sweet mint smells blue: silence, the act of opening. Some things just smell like a color. Every morning, tiny leaves have appeared at the stem’s tip and I think of a poster in my high school geometry classroom about the Fibonacci sequence in nature. Spiral patterns of growth. A sequence of time, too. The days ever multiplying behind us. In color theory, blue represents the infinite.
I think of the Guggenheim Museum in New York—it’s architecture defined by a spiral. You ascend or descend the museum via a circular walkway which winds around the structure’s entirety. I first visited when I was 21 on a proud solo trip to NYC. I’ve always loved being alone in museums. I think that is what I miss the most: solitude amongst strangers.
I think of Sally Mann’s photo The Perfect Tomato. A black-and-white photograph which presents colorless forms, abstractions of light. Mann’s naked daughter stands in a ballet pose—arms out to the sides, one toe pointed—on a wooden table in a garden. At the girl’s feet, fat tomatoes. Mann had said that photos of her children are about a “larger cycle.” Here, a childhood moment, and yet, the naked body, the rigid, graceful pose, a prediction for the future. Tomatoes fully grown. Their decay inevitable.
We can say nothing lasts forever, or we can say that everything is cyclical. The assemblage of a plant like the assemblage of an architectural wonder like the assemblage of a child’s dance. Patterns in our own memories often revealing connectivity to the larger cycles. Kind of like being alone in a crowd. Or experiencing color in a colorless thing.
Kayla Eason is the author of Mia (Orson’s Publishing), and you can find her photography and other writing at kaylaeason.com.
Sally Mann (born 1951) is best known for her black-and-white photographs depicting her children in her 1992 photography book, Immediate Family. The New York Times Magazine used an image of her three children for their cover the following year.