Copyright Paul Corbit Brown 2013
“Syncronicity is: I was reading your blog the other evening when I was in Rome, and a few hours later, I decided to take a walk thru the streets (actually it was the wee hours of the morning) and I found this…”
— Paul Corbit Brown, May 14, 2013
Paul Corbit Brown has been photographing since he was twelve years old. His work has carried him throughout the United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Russia, Israel, Palestine, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq), Kenya, Rwanda, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and most recently Haiti. Brown has a gift for simultaneously accepting the humanity of each person he depicts and unsentimentally sizing them up. His photographs are clear-eyed looks at the difficult situations the individuals portrayed live in, but because of their directness and compassion they are hauntingly beautiful.
Over the past year, I’ve become fascinated with stories about childhood encounters with animals. It started with Julian Martin’s description of his grandmother clubbing, skinning, and cooking a groundhog; since then, it seems everywhere I turn I hear great stories about courage, life and death, love and affection, loyalty and hearbreak connected to children and animals.
What’s your story?
I hope you’ll consider being a writer this year for the Essays on Childhood project. (Click the link to see deadlines.) I am working on an essay right now that I plan to share via EOC, and I leave you with a little portion of the story to, hopefully, inspire you to jump in!
Some months after Peter’s death, a black snake took up residence around the brick patio in our back yard. It was the perfect situation for him. The bricks heated up to a glorious baking warmth under the summer sun, and he could bask all forty inches of himself for hours undisturbed. My mother knew black snake in the garden was a good thing. Black snakes, or “rat snakes,” have no venom and are not aggressive toward humans. Shy and retiring, all they really want are three things. They want to lie on a rock in the sun. They want to be left alone. They want to eat small mammals.
This snake was doing well for himself on our property, and he no doubt was benefitting us as he ingested pests like mice, moles, and shrews that otherwise might have overrun our shared environment. Every now and then we would find one of his shed skins, long and lacy, lying on the patio. My mother named him “Oscar,” and she took a special pride in allowing him to co-exist with us. When other neighborhood mothers would shudder and say, “Betty, I just don’t know why you haven’t killed that snake. It’s hideous. Aren’t you scared he’ll bite the children?” she would laugh and present a lecture on the nature of black snakes and the long list of good things they bring to any house fortunate enough to attract them. My mother was loyal to Oscar, and he was constant and true to his nature, as we all expected he would be.
Then came the day when the nature of a black snake challenged mom’s allegiance.