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Too many medical appointments in January left me exhausted. I was lucky insofar that pain-levels were very bearable, but had times when I felt as insubstantial as a ghost. If only I could move through walls. Or, being short of steps, enter another world through my wardrobe.

With M.E. you never know exactly which form the fatigue will take from day to day. Lately it’s invaded and mucked up my reading more, which feels as if another shutter has come down. Before M.E. I used to be a voracious gobbler up of texts, could loose myself in a book’s universe, find my dreams inflected by its mode of speech. Now physical and cognitive symptoms mar these pleasures: with increasing tiredness my vision blurs (I literally can’t focus my eyes. Even those tiny muscles slacken!), concentration wanes and waves of nausea rise. In the end a kind of grid falls over the page and compresses the text into an impenetrable block where single words can’t be identified, and chains of them never get to speak, to mean. The page becomes pattern, nothing more, nothing less.

Reaching for a book wherever I lie is still a reflex, my hunger for stories, theories and other lives undiminished. But short-term memory is one of M.E.’s many calamities and at my worst when I turn a page, even on my kindle, the moment of switchover not only erodes but erases the content of the page I just left. As fatigue twines the tight coils of my brain with barbed wire I forget that I am an intelligent human being.

A small comfort: there’s a place in me that I can still reach into – through layers of weariness – and let a string of words swim up from its sediments. I have fun with tweets: 140 characters can become instances of creation!

At the end of last year I treated myself to Ishiuchi Miyako‘s mother’s 2000-2005: traces of the future, a book I’d long coveted but beyond my means until I found a copy at an affordable prize in Switzerland. The wonders of on-line commerce! IM photographed her mother in the years before her death and then focussed on the clothes, dentures and make-up utensils she left behind. I find her work haunting, beautiful, devastating even. There are close-ups of her mom’s aged skin, of scars left by severe burns; images of kimonos, shoes, lipsticks and, most affectingly: undergarments so delicate and of a transparency akin to skin stretched over a frame, and – although entirely old-womanly – inhabited by the spectre of desire and other matters of the flesh… The sense of vulnerability and mortality, decay, is overwhelming. And of exposure, nakedness, although we never see the mother’s face or figure.

Is there always/necessarily something ambiguous about making work or writing about a parent, a dismantling of sorts, no matter how much love? It pierces me to think how my dad would react to the work I’m making now, delving into something that pulled the ground from under his feet. Yet on I go. And I know that history floods in through the tiniest of gaps: the burns on Ishiuchi Miyako‘s mother’s skin stem from an accident, but my mind’s leap to Nagasaki and Hiroshima was immediate, and looking for a website to connect her name for you I found that on the strength of mother’s she was commissioned to photograph objects from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The other day I was retouching one of the photographs I copied when at my mom’s last summer and had my father’s youthful face enlarged on the computer screen. It was eerie seeing his features up close, decades younger than I am now, and a strange thought momentarily stirred me: he could be my son. Tables turned. Upturned really, by the shifting of powers and the context in which I’ve been staring at these images.

Using the outlines of my Irrational forms (see post#85) as guides I’ve made some small makeshift collages from childhood photos of my dad and his brother, and my brother and me, placed with/against one of him as a POW. I’m not very good at operating a scalpel knife, it requires strong&steady hands, and absolutely can’t be done lying down. But for now I do want to make the cuts physically (not photoshop them), make collages where layers can be traced and felt, by fingertips&eyes. None has been glued: I keep shuffling the partial images and bringing them together in different ways. Work in process.