Treatise On Giving Up

by Lauren Christiansen

I started thinking about shooting the cows at the end of last August, as summer hauled its cooling carcass down to rest. I would go and stand in the field for an hour or so, high socks sticking on the low scrub that had survived haying. The herd wasn’t always there, but I went looking more days than not, wanting to find the right slice of light and the right cow to make things worthwhile. I was borrowing a camera from my father, my first time with analog photography, and the economics of it scared me. The 3,000 pictures on my camera roll became hilarious when I realized the cost of 3,000 photos on film and I, in my broke and broken state, became shutter shy.

I used to think the point of things was to finish them, and that my problem was never completing anything worthwhile. Only small things, like emptying the dishwasher or sending holiday cards before the new year. Necessary, cyclical things that had to be done in order for them to start again. I wanted an invulnerable, magnetic throb towards a project that would take more than a to-do list jotted down on a receipt back to accomplish. To work feverishly in the truest sense, body in so much motion that it becomes overwarm. Then experience the elation of finishing and the anguish of having finished. Like that’s the only way to feel the lining of one’s own veins.

The cows didn’t teach me this was wrong, nor the camera. No, it was mostly muttering my way out of self-beratement on the walk to the field and on the walk back with a still-empty roll of film. I ended up with no even remotely bovine photos, found pleasure not in the process but in the waiting. In the delay. Making space for my own returns. Now, despite the crumblings of the world, the season’s carcass quickens once more and I start to tell myself another story about the future. The animals and the grass. Some pasture overseas where cows also are. Putting off my regrets until they dissolve on the tongue and permeate the bloodstream imperceptibly. Letting little things ply my attention: the threads unwoven every night and an Ashbery translation, the nectarine on the counter, so ripe it feels bruised, the slivers of daylight coming back home.

Lauren Christiansen is an emerging writer from New England with an MPhil in American Literature from Cambridge. She has work in Rejection Letters and has written a tragicomedy of bizarre essays for her newsletter, Keats-Free Zone. In her spare time, she is a staff reader at Five South. You can find her on twitter @anti_corporate.

 

Photography by: Annie Spratt