Welcome to
Transactions with Beauty.
Thanks for being here.
I hope that this is a space that inspires you to add something beautiful to the world. I truly believe that 
you are required to make something beautiful.

– Shawna



Help Me Out

Help Me Out

This is one of those posts that is probably going to go off madly in all directions, but it starts with this video, because I keep hearing these words in my head, where at the beginning Bruce says to the audience, “help me out” and then gives us his great laugh.

So anyway, I was thinking about how sometimes just saying, “help me out” can be a kindness. I think people in general want to feel useful, and when you ask them for help, it’s saying, I trust you to help me, I trust that you have my back. I believe that you can do this thing. Sure, I’m fine on my own maybe, but it would be better with a little help.

There’s the story that David Remnick writes about Leonard Cohen in The New Yorker where Cohen talks about his stage fright. There’s a concert in Jerusalem and he feels things are going poorly.

“By then, it was apparent that there was a problem. “Look, if it doesn’t get any better, we’ll just end the concert and I’ll refund your money,” Cohen said. “I really feel that we’re cheating you tonight. Some nights, one is raised off the ground, and some nights you just can’t get off the ground. And there’s no point in lying about it. And tonight we just haven’t been getting off the ground, and it says in the Kabbalah . . .” The Jerusalem audience laughed at the mention of the Jewish mystical text. “It says in the Kabbalah that if you can’t get off the ground you should stay on the ground! No, it says in the Kabbalah that, unless Adam and Eve face each other, God does not sit on his throne, and somehow the male and female parts of me refuse to encounter one another tonight—and God does not sit on his throne. And this is a terrible thing to have happen in Jerusalem. So, listen, we’re going to leave the stage now and try to profoundly meditate in the dressing room to get ourselves back into shape.”

I recalled this incident to Cohen—it’s captured on a documentary film that floats around the Internet—and he remembered it well.

“It was at the end of the tour,” he told me. “I thought I was doing very poorly. I went back to the dressing room, and I found some acid in my guitar case.” He took the acid. Meanwhile, out in the hall, the audience started singing to Cohen as if to inspire him and call him back. The song was a traditional one, “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem,” “We Have Brought Peace Upon You.”

“How sweet can an audience possibly be?” Cohen recalled.”

shawna lemay photography

So sometimes you need help, and there it is. You don’t even have to ask for it. That’s a real sweetness. Someone will see your distress and sing, “We Have Brought Peace Upon You.”

I recently re-shared a poem on Facebook by an author I’d never heard of but am glad to now know. Danusha Laméris. Her book is The Moons of August, and this is the poem I’m talking about:

Small Kindnesses

by Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

coffee cup by shawna lemay

So anyway, I was thinking about asking for help, giving help, about saying bless you, and picking up dropped lemons at the grocery store, and I was thinking about Bruce, as I often am these days. Which led me to think about the book that the wonderful Canadian photographer Lisa MacIntosh put together of her photos. And so I got that off the shelf. Maybe that was another thing that got me playing Springsteen. I remember when Lisa mentioned on social media that she was going to be taking photos at a show. And I remember when she posted photos of Jake Clemons. And I remember when she came up with “Ask” as her word, and as a project. She’s an inspiration. So, I got her book of musician portraits off my shelf, and re-read the intro by Jake Clemons, and her words on him. And looked through all her amazing photos. Wow.

In the books she says, “At the end of the session, Jake commented on the fact that I didn’t mention Bruce Springsteen. If you know me at all, you know that Bruce is at the top of my list! I replied, “I’m not here with Bruce Springsteen, I’m here with you.””

Which I think sums up in a way the feeling of the photos – the photographer is utterly present. And so the viewer feels, too, like they are right there.

Also, so when we say, help me out, or, I’m here with you, or we have brought peace upon you, or thank you, or bless you, or hey baby, maybe that’s where the holy resides.

As a tangent, when our beautiful dog Ace was alive, he’d always be underfoot when I was cooking, and if I needed him to move, I’d always say, excuse me, Ace. And he’d move. And someone asked once if we’d taught him that as a command, which we hadn’t. I always felt that was a bit of a holy moment, that gentle movement, the understanding.

And then in other news. Nils Lofgren followed me a while back on Twitter and so does his partner, Amy, and I’m as you know a relative newcomer to the ESB love and well, this makes me smile every time I think of it. I mean how nice is that, speaking of kindnesses.

Who By Fire

Who By Fire

A Belief in Photography

A Belief in Photography