We areÂ looking at them, intensely,Â but they have their backs to us,Â unaware, busy. They are public now, in all their nakedness, but their interaction is most private, hidden from us. The mother is washing the child (a foot), but no one (but the jet of water) is washing her. The water isn’t heated,Â but there is soap.
And what is most fascinating is the place: a simple platform of rough planks in a margin between an old clapboard houseÂ and a forest. It isn’t so much a margin, as an overlap,Â of wildness and civilization. TheyÂ overlap,Â theyÂ don’t contradict. The house isÂ made of old wood, and one imagines the waterpipe is slowly rusting away.Â Â The forest is held back from them – though it already encroaches upon our view. The act of washing is animal and human (soap).
Upon this sea of generality (nature, culture), the platform floats like aÂ lifeboat for individuation:Â those drops of water, that little toe, those breasts. This mother washing this child. Medieval philosophers forged a wonderful word for such intense individualness: haecceitas, literally: this-ness.
ThisÂ is the best kind of image: it includes everything, and everything in it is alive with tension. But what counts in it, we can only look at it, and never claim as our own.Â The only way we could know, or feel, or even imagine the one thing, this thing, that goes on there,Â would be to do it.