I had the dubious fortune of visiting my old ornaments. Separated but not entirely lost in the divorce, they are remembrances. Jules and I reminisced over their (she and David’s) favorites. There was a horn; every year they vied to place this on the tree. They took turns; year by year they remembered who had put the horn on the year before. Colleen and I have a tree. Ours has a mix of old and new (memories). She brought ornaments from WV. We bought ornaments. New memories and new traditions are now part of me. Old and new, it’s something that makes you think hard at this time of the year.
No! No Freud today! It’s merely an exercise and lament. When I’m dead, someone looking thru the image catalog will have no reference to time and place. I have a database that will inform. Sure. But, I look at a series and piece together my past memory. The waterfall? I haven’t a clue to what or where. But the adjacent images on the same day, tell a story. I was in Amish country. Someone told me an eagle had nested among the powerlines. There was an image in an Amish market. The African daisy was on sale outside the door. I got some. And the clincher was an Amish farmer plowing the field. For me, in my mind, an image is the trigger for memory. By itself the image might mean nothing to the viewer. To me? it is the anchor to a memory of the day. It’s not photographic memory in one’s sense of genius and it is, most definitely, in my own mind. Convoluted? The brain is like that.
I’m a better photographer than Colleen. My skill has been honed to pay attention to detail. It’s knowledge, experience, and better equipment (cameras). Colleen can weave and spin. I am a mere amateur compared to her skill. Ask me to weave anything and I would be at a complete loss. She was looking for old family shots (another story). To protect the innocent, these are old shots of family pets. They are treasured memories to her. Period. Wistfully, I wish they were better and did the beloved pet more justice. By comparison, out of hand, I know the essentials and had the tool to get (better) portraits of our cats, by the hundreds, so far. Sorry, I am truly sorry, I was not there to preserve Colleen’s dear memories. My regret lacks the words to convey the feeling. Precious photos are not always good photos. They are the anchors that crystalize happy memories and the names of beloved pets now departed.
Key: 1. We met in the third grade in Elkins, WV. 2. Our first trip: Maine. It was Colleen’s life long wish to visit. Pemaquid called to her. 3. Dancing at my cousin’s wedding. 4. Photography, but, of course, in a museum, no less. 5. The Olsen house, Wyeth, Maine, dream, happiness! 6. Loving. Yes, we do! 7. Imagine this! Art! “A la Dali.” It’s Scotland!
I don’t believe in God. I wish that I did. I’m a doubter. That way I can have a foot in both camps. But, the science in me says, “No God.” It will be eternally black, as though sleeping a dreamless sleep, forever after. I’m ok with that. I guess. The death of Patch, and the Pandemic of 2020, and reading all the obituaries; my time is coming. Some, a few, will miss me. Things on the internet last a long time, forever? No matter. I will not be around to lament. So, I shall do so prematurely. Bad karma? I have had a good life. There were many opportunities afforded to me. I am thankful. My blessings are too numerous to mention. At the top of my list of gratitudes is Colleen. It is epic and, oh so fragile; we almost never met again. But, we did. Life is ephemeral. In a short time, no one will recall our loving and my memories. In the short/long time we have had, it has been a wonderful life! And, we will “be” for as long as this post survives the “internet.”
Who could have imagined we would be in a folk dance group picture together at eight years old and never realize the significance of “forever.” It picked up decades later and, indeed, became, “happily ever after.”
I could use an alternate brain. It’s simply amazing the number of things I have forgotten. I don’t throw things away. I simply put them away… in places… and then promptly forget until… here’s an example. Back in 2007 Carol gave me a gift that I kept safe and never used. I found the card, box, and all, the other day. We are still in touch, so I thanked her again. … yup! It’s back in the box. I’ll find it in another ten years… and thank her once again.
I pulled up a random pic in Lightroom. Boston, near the Old North Church, fall, 2016. How did I know? Colleen’s white winter jacket with liner. I got her those earrings. Nikon D200?? It was retired in 2014. Aha! I had dropped my Nikon D610 to the ground (October 2014) necessitating major repairs. Ha! I almost forgot that!
Jules has said it: “I don’t know what I remember because I’ve seen your pictures all my life.” True enough. Or: my own memory is linked to the cues from the pictures I have taken. … my external brain drive if you would so understand. Otherwise, I would have no direct recollection without the image posted here. But, now, I do recall much of that cold fall trip to Boston. Colleen? Her memory would not be so clear as mine on the events of that day. It seems that taking the picture “cues” my brain differently to recall events. Ha ha! (Photographic) – memory.
I took these pictures. I know it because they are in my files. And it was from my deck container garden. Do I remember? No. I’m old and headed on to demented. Oh well, we knew this would happen. I hope not. Memory is a funny thing. I have forgotten more than I remember. I remember more than you know. I constantly amaze myself with obscure trivia that just pops up on demand. My images are my brain’s external storage. My photos have always served as an anchor. I can often see a random pic and recall the circumstance and place where it was taken. This flower and moth in my container garden? … not a clue. Demented? …every day you meet new people.
What do you remember? What was your earliest childhood memory? My daughter Jules gave me an entirely unexpected observation. She’s seen the slides and video of her childhood many times over. She saw herself in all the pictures of all of our travels so she knew she had been there. And, she said that it was hard to separate the actual memories from the picture recollections. What was reality and memory got blurred. Darn! I could’ve kept them in a closet, with Photoshop – add backgrounds, and saved a lot of money. I did it once. We were traveling Xmas eve. So, we faked Xmas day on the 26th. No one was the wiser. The pictures looked just like Xmas day. Shhhhh….
In this time of corona, school was cut short this year. The classroom sessions ended early, sometime in March. Colleen and I met in third grade. We both went thru classes to the last day of that school year, May 27. That was a couple days back. I can recall the exact day and year because it was my brother’s birthday. And, who would have thought that history would get us together so many decades later. We orbited, separately, living full lives for so many decades before finding each other once again. That’s pretty amazing to me. There were a lot of moving parts that fortuitously fell into place for this to happen. We did sit in this very style of school desk. They seem to have gotten smaller over the years.
I lived in Elkins, West Virginia more than 50 years ago. Everyone has gone and moved away. The town is so small. I remember it larger. Maybe my legs were shorter. Surprisingly buildings remain and I can remember the people who once lived there.
My third grade school, Elkins First Ward, is now an apartment building. Repurposed and re-tasked, the town has changed so that the number of students has dropped and shifted. The high school nearby is gone too. Third grade to sixth grade. I had a split class in fourth grade. Half were fourth grade students (us) and the other half of the class was fifth grade. We still got educated “good.”
My house – back then – my mom built it. Well, at least she directed the construction. Three bedrooms, we lived there for five years. I lay in the side yard looking up at the clouds and thinking my parents were so old. The summers were endless. Kids in the neighborhood would surround the house and we’d play steal the flag. It’s fifty years later and no tall trees overhang the house. It hasn’t changed too much.
Anne Leyen lived here. She moved to Ohio shortly after I moved back to New York. I tried to reach her. I just wanted to know if she has had a nice life. Her sister eventually replied that Anne does not do reunions and does not do email. Oh boy, I guess she’s older than I thought. Twitter? Her dog Taffy shit in the front yard. We stepped gingerly around her yard.
The Nestors lived here. The youngest daughter painted my brother Eric completely with white house paint. Eric took a bath in turpentine. I can’t imagine it was healthy. The paint eventually came off.
Ricky Solow lived here. He was bigger than me so that put me behind him in the pecking order of kids. Eventually I triumphed – brains over brawn. But the chips you have as a kid you never leave completely behind. We watched Kennedy debate Nixon. I was annoyed because cartoon programming was suspended.
The Trimble house, they lived here a while. It was right across from the school. Colleen invited me to play one day. All I remember is the three speed English racer her brother had in the hallway. Yes, back then it was forward to invite a boy over to play. It’s a nice memory that sat with me more than fifty years. The house changed a lot, but it’s still there. And my memory has mellowed quite a bit too. I rode a Roadmaster Sears one speed. The English racer was so exotic. I ride a Specialized Tricross nowadays. And Colleen remembered that I nearly fell out of the back seat of my father’s car when we were kids. Someone else pulled me back inside and my father drove on without ever checking. No harm, no foul.
Available light has a soft appearance different than the look of a strobe. The majority of professional style images are all done with strobe lighting. Smartphone photos by far are the most dominant images posted to Flickr. This was a throwback day.
Sometimes things go to hell. I have had all sorts of problems underwater. The first worry is that salt water will leak into and damage your gear. Yup! Been there done that. Fried two cameras and counting… one strobe…. Fortunately, the strobe main body is waterproofed. So, the batteries fried not the $400 strobe. Dive computer – o ring failure – check, yes. Forgot my memory card on one dive… yes, stupid!
Things breakdown. It will happen. Be prepared. Have a backup plan. My buddy forgot to charge his batteries. I had spares to loan him.
The latest calamity? The wire that connects my strobe to the camera sheared. It’s a fiber optic system that simply broke apart. At the beginning of the dive…it’s always right when you are in the water and at the beginning of the dive. I even have a back-up camera – (did not have it that day).
So? There has been only one dive I recall when I did not have a camera. Otherwise, you improvise. I love it when my advice rhymes. I went available natural light. I haven’t done this in ages. You have to white balance every ten feet deeper you go. And there are a bunch of settings to adjust. I did it on the fly and it only took a minute to recall all that I needed to do. Saved! Well, it was enough for me to come away with images. You know? Make lemonade when they give you lemons. I tested and experimented. It’s a learning experience when things breakdown. Yes! I could take a sharp highly magnified image. The main difference is that your odds are better when everything is working. But you can still get something. So it was not a wasted dive. I learned something today.
So? What caveat? It’s about backup storage. It’s enough to strike fear. Do you worry about losing all your images on your phone? Have you heard of the cloud? Do you remember floppy disks? Or VHS tape. Did you ever see a Betamax player. 8 track tape?
The New York Times published a very earnest article by a so called expert who advised – use Google cloud. It’s advice. And therein lies the caveat. All that other technology became obsolete and discarded. Floppy disks are coasters. There are no readers, so they are toast. Companies come and go. Kodak! Did you ever think that the great “Yellow father” would be an historical footnote? Ever hear of a platinum print?
Pardon me Mr NYT. Fine and dandy, but at least let me have redundant back up on an external drive that I own and control. Google forever?! Do/did you Yahoo? I zen too, but I want my photos to be preserved. Zen will live on; will my photos? They say my blog will be on the net forever. I’ve got my posts on word and the images on my hard drive. Paradoxically, anything you wish would go away will follow you forever too. Like old girl friends…did I say that?
This image is disconnected from my story again. Yes, sentimental again. It just keeps happening. Personal. What is clear is that folks like a happy ending. Go to the movies? It’s always a happy ending. Mostly. Really. Think about it? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? I never watch the last scene. Too sad. I know how it ends. They die. I don’t need the reminder. Nor the visual. Be careful about talking about sadness or sentiment. Folks want uplifting stories.
Did you see “Saving Private Ryan?” Tom Hanks says to Matt Damon (paraphrasing), “Nope, that is my private memory. Mine. I don’t share that with anyone else. It’s mine.” (That movie also ended badly.)
Here’s an image that would never ordinarily make this blog. It’s plants – coral. Boring. Who likes pictures of green leaved trees? But fall foliage, ah, a different kettle of fish entirely. Is humor (mine) obvious? I’m more in your face. Did you understand the reference to the ‘kettle of fish?’ No? Sorry. Someone might.
It’s nice when someone gets it. I like to whistle (while I work) – “If I only had a brain” from the Wizard of Oz. Once, just once, another surgeon got it. Did you? Ok. I’ll give you a hint. I do brain surgery as my day job. Duh?
It’s been a hell of a month. Big doings going on my way. Decisions, pondering, rearranging my life. That’s about as much as you get. But a couple years back I had another life altering encounter. So, yes, this is another special day. I suppose I could backtrack and recall lots of great days. Birthday, Christmas, on and on….
It’s very interesting. In this digital photography age my images are all numbered. The numbers repeat after 9999. So there are many images with the same numbers since I went digital in 2004. I do a search and all the 2345 images come up. It’s interesting to see what they show. Images come so fast now. I hardly remember except to look it up.
(An aside: the rhododendron sat on our deck for about thirty years in a container and survived everything that brutal winter and summer in NYC could bring. It would bloom on David’s birthday in April. When we moved, we took it. It’s transplanted in the yard on Long Island. Retired… and hopefully happy.)
Still, there are some special days. Two years ago, this was a very special day for me. Sorry, I ain’t sharing. You will have to settle for this image that does not match the story. I was just wondering how I’d work in this orphan coral image into a post somewhere.
I’m just speed reading my image collection and stopped here. It’s not a great shot. It just evokes the memory of a hot sunny summer day with a bit of breeze. I got a lot of these days in my memory. And then, perhaps, not enough… It’s nice to be reminded.