It’s the little things that drive me crazy. If I ever die of a heart attack, most likely, it won’t be from a phone call with tragic news of a loved one’s sudden death. It will be because I can’t open a package that says, “open here”.
I can deal with the big things, but the little things cause me stress just thinking about their existence. I know they’re out there! Like when you need one of those small plastic bags you brought home from the grocery store, and you pull one out but it has a hole in the bottom. So you pull out another. And another, and another, only to find that each one of them has a hole in the bottom!
Or when you put on a dress shirt, and you can’t get that button above the wrist through the dang button hole. You give up on one arm, and you try the other one with the same exasperating results!
I could go on. I keep a list.
These little things make me wonder if the universe is conspiring against me. The big things seem intrusive but manageable, like an unexpected visitor at the door. These little things are insidious. They don’t knock and ask to come in. Somehow they are already inside, living where I live. They reveal themselves like a virus.
If the wet plate collodion process teaches me anything, it is patience and acceptance. If it could speak, it would tell me to embrace the frustration of the little things. Or get over it, or learn something from them.
Here are some examples of the “little things” (like collodion peeling, chemical problems, varnish catching on fire, etc.) that maybe I should accept more often in my work. I consider them mistakes, but mistakes worth keeping, if only to remind me what could go wrong:
The man’s face was never clear, and the collodion would not stop peeling.
Chemical spill during development…
Collodion peeling on the right, and could not get the 2nd kid to show up in the image…
This plate caught fire during the varnishing process and burned the image…
This is what can happen if freshly mixed varnish is poured over an open flame onto an image made using old collodion. The new varnish ate away the image as I poured…
Everything went wrong here. I had just made a nearly perfect version of the scene. The plate holder had a leak which fogged the plate, I had a developer accident, and I dropped and scratched the plate in the middle of development. This image is my most requested print.
This plate also caught fire during the varnishing process. I screamed like a child and tossed the plate toward a box, hoping the wind would put it out. Instead, the plate landed on concrete and shattered. But the fire was out… I pieced it back together and scanned it as a digital image.
I can never perfect this craft, but instead of getting frustrated, I’m learning to be thankful. Collodion teaches me that maybe these little things aren’t viruses after all, but small lessons I need to learn. Maybe they’re trying to teach me to handle bigger frustrations and disappointments. Maybe the little things are the reason that the big things don’t get to me as much. And maybe if I’d learn my lessons, they’d go away…
I’m stubborn and learn lessons hard. Even if I learn to ignore most of the little things, there’s still a chance that some day I’ll be found on the kitchen floor, cold and lifeless, with the corner of a plastic package clinched firmly between my teeth, and a two-handed death grip on the other end of the package, pulling with all my strength.
My last words on this earth will probably be, “Open… up… you… stupid… stupid… stupid… plastic…bag!”