Time to Rest

I had said the trip up was harder on my lungs, struggling to adjust to the altitude, the pack, the ten or so extra pounds that I disparagingly refer to as the Turpin Ten, and the trip down was harder on my body, knees that ache from the constant constraint.  Before me, I could see the serpentine trail of switchbacks, first right to left and then the reverse until they disappeared somewhere in the distance farther down the mountain. The sun was three hours past crossing the meridian, three hours past high noon, what they used to call the ninth hour, 3 p.m., the hour of Mercy. The shadows, where there were shadows, were beginning to lengthen. Gone was the shade of the early morning eastern path where we could hide from the sun behind sandstone cliffs as we ascended the 2100 feet to the lookout. On our return the unrelenting sun, still not far enough across the sky, had not paled in its intensity, the clear cloudless blue announcing there would be no unexpected shower today, no break from the heat that emanated from the smooth rock surrounding us

Conversely, there would be no flash flood waters rushing past us like the pounding torrents we experienced yesterday as we made our way to this valley. I pull tighter the waist belt on my pack, asking my hips to bear more of the burden than my shoulders, weary of the load at this late hour, and while I have pulled long and often on the water bladder, the pack still seems as heavy as when I enthusiastically strapped it on at dawn. It is mercifully time for a rest, for sitting in the shade of a tree, away from the radiating heat of the merciless sun.

Exiting the apex of the switchback, I zig along the straightaway before the next turn, where I zag, taking in the sculptural stone walls that surround me. Midway, down on the right, a tree clings to the side of the mountain, and a breeze is blowing up through the canyon, the leaves fluttering invitingly. The shade from the tree crosses the path on the eastern side, and there are just enough branches for me to hang my two cameras, my walking stick and my hat. Beneath it, just off the path is a flat rock. It begs my pack to lean against it in a manner that creates the perfect backrest. The very lowest accessible branches are like a footstool, elevated just enough to provide comfort to my tired and swollen feet.

Purposefully, I approach and begin the arduous process of unraveling pole, camera, and pack straps, hanging them safely in plain view away from the trail action and safe from oncoming disturbances like the coterie of office mates that can't help but take up space and quiet to reveal the mundane details of their office step competitions. Slowly, I lower myself in the loamy soil and lean back against my pack, marveling at the near perfection of it all. It is then that I realize placing the hat over my face would shield me from the sun's rays that flicker between the leaves that rustle on this gentle slope. It is the one missing ingredient, and so I pull it from its branch on the tree and settle back into place.  My weary bones seem to exhale synchronously with the breath that leaves my lungs, and my heavy lids slowly slide shut. I drift from this spot, in the shade, under the tree, into contentedness, happy in the company of friends, satisfied by the toil of a good day's climb, rewarded by the majestic beauty and wonder the universe has delivered on this day and comforted by the peace of the valley. Instants become seconds that become minutes, and before too long, reality sets in and I acknowledge that without care, I could lose the last of the afternoon sun that illuminates the path and my way home, and I am inspired to rise and dress for the final push to the valley floor.

That's when I see it.  Close to the rock, where my pack rests, lies a penny in the dusty sandstone soil of the path, face up.  This cent, this copper currency, monetarily insignificant, an unlikely sight on this dusty trail.

I never fail to pick up a penny if I happen to see one. My mother tucked lucky pennies like she did Kleenex, in lunchboxes and pockets, to be found later like armor safeguarding me against the unimaginable. The gleaming copper coin conjuring memories of penny loafers and days in that small southern women's college where ponytails, polo shirts, and add-a-bead necklaces were the uniform of choice. Boys in pink colored oxford cloth shirts and khaki pants tailored to the perfect length, wearing belts decorated with frogs and turtles, skipped classes and shuffled to and from parties where they served grain alcohol punch. A penny was first in what became a collection of lucky talismans collected from travels and friends through the years, which now resides in a small linen bag that is never far from me. These amulets imbued with belief, inanimate and influential, of protection, fortune and safe passage on this human journey.

Before slipping it into the zippered compartment of my hiking shorts, I look for the year of its minting.  Two thousand. Y2k. The new millennium. The turn of the century and the year I moved west to California, a move of providence and luck that set in motion all the future eventualities that made me the woman I am in this place that I love, made my life.

Slowly, I descend the treacherous zigzags of the steep terrain, step after step navigating the sharp turns and loose gravel of the path. I have only recently discovered that switchbacks are indigenous to the west, deeply rooted in the mountains and valleys of this part of the world. The switchback is an ascent of pace, patterning as it does the steep inclines of the titanic west, so different from the east where the horizontal hand over hand climes affect the discipline and efficiency of my Puritan ancestors. This ethic, this frugality, reverberated deeply within me, rewarding speed and destination over the journey. I no longer feel this way, my beloved California broke me of this type of productivity. Like I said, Providence and luck.

Switchbacks have taught me much about conquering the peaks and hollows of my own life. I prefer steady steps at a comfortable pace with companions of similar sensibility, taking frequent breaks along the way when the path is straightforward and shaded, reveling in the natural beauty borne of some more magnificent design. I am meant to wander these canyons and narrows and relish the majestic grandeur of each moment along the trail, rather than merely see it as a means to an end.

Time to find cover

The torrential rain and ravaging wind came fast across the plain and effortlessly tossed the car along that barely discernible ribbon of road as you deftly gripped the steering wheel and kept us safe.  

Water gushed from the sky and whitewashed the valley floor falling harder and faster than the desert sand could absorb as we pushed onward towards our destination outside of Zion.

We came upon the hillside invitingly dotted with white canvas tents set against the darkening sky still ripe with rain.  Our reprieve,  our reward, spellbound by the red rock and mercurial skies of summer in Utah, the explorer in us excited by the adventure on which we were embarking.

Present Time

It is referred to as conditions of carriage, the binding rules and regulations for carriage that apply to all passengers traveling. Too many years of airplanes and airports have left me well seasoned in the language of the sky. But the language of the road, specifically my road,  is different.  My conditions of carriage have more to do with the spirit of my fellow travelers,  their willingness to be present, to be game,  to choose routes unexpected. It is the decision to release the noise in our lives and embrace all the quiet lessons of nature. The cadence and vibration of space, the rhythms of the wind, the sound of the water as it runs down mountains to make its way into crystalline lakes. We become seekers away from the claims of lives of demand. The world on the road feels more authentic, humble and simple - full of goodness and surprise. Pulses quicken as we charge forward towards the unknown,  deeper and removed from the expected, those places and things on which we have become dependent. We are intrepid. We are resolute. We are present.

 The  Ivanpah Solar  Power Facility is a 370 MW facility which consists of three separate  solar  thermal power plants just off  interstate  highway 15 on the Nevada-California border in the Mojave Desert. There are also plans to build other large  solar  plants in the Mojave Desert.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is a 370 MW facility which consists of three separate solar thermal power plants just off interstate highway 15 on the Nevada-California border in the Mojave Desert. There are also plans to build other large solar plants in the Mojave Desert.

Time Slipping by

What would she say, this mirage of my younger self,  to my older self,  as she rushed by peering at our future selves in the garden lunching so contentedly?  

She,  such a confident stride of swagger and purpose, her movement focused on speed, a rose-colored flash of brisk pace from one end of the gallery to the other, checking this museum off the endless list of must-sees, to do's, can't misses.    Would she even notice the couple tucked in the small break in the trees, sitting together on that small patio in the garden surrounded by red lanterns, leisurely lunching?  Would she even see it? 

Would she have used the photographer's eye, sizing up the composition and arrangement of color and movement, patiently waiting for the breeze to blow the leaves just so?

Or would her mind be fixed on the mental list that always ran in her head of calendars and meetings, shoulds and shouldn't 's?  Would she even notice that time is slipping preciously, irreplaceably by?  

rose dress.jpg

September 5, 2018

Today is the culmination of a year of adventure, reflection, joy and I am immensely grateful for it and all the ones that have come before.  As part of the celebration, another dear friend, who has been a North Star these last years, sent me this piece written by David Whyte. in the last paragraph he beautifully articulates how I have come to think of friendship, and of the people whose images are included below.  

The first photo of me in the gallery was taken by Sam Abell, a friend, an inspiration, and one of the photographic standards to which I aspire.   It is a photo of me taken this year, as I am today.  The second photo is how I was then, a long way back before I made my life.    It was Patrick that noticed I was holding a brownie camera in the photo.  Perhaps photography was always a calling but one I found later in life.  With that gift of that first Olympus Camera 8 years ago, came a greater peace with the universe and my place within it.  I am so thankful photography found me, and I it, by way of my witness in life, Chuck.

I have no anxiety about this threshold birthday for I grew more as a human in my 50's than any of the decades preceding it, fully expect to do the same in the next one and I am excited to experience what that is going to be.  Thank you to all who have made this journey such a blessed and spectacular one.  

Jen

FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die…

Friendship is the great hidden transmuter of all relationship: it can transform a troubled marriage, make honorable a professional rivalry, make sense of heartbreak and unrequited love and become the newly discovered ground for a mature parent-child relationship. 

The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence…

Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on. 

But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the other, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

David Whyte

24 hours in Los Angeles

The peace and quiet of our seaside life, days where hardly a word is spoken, has been disrupted by the noise of power washers and sanding, spackling and grouting.  My husband, who knows my disposition for the mess that has consumed our kitchen,  encouraged me to head north to Los Angeles.  It was a spur of the moment indulgence of the photographic kind and a welcome respite from the construction site that is our home.

Carefully I place my Rolleiflex in my camera bag and walk to the refrigerator to choose which rolls of film I will take with me, knowing that this choice is tantamount to having a crystal ball.  Will I want to shoot in color?  Or will conditions be better for black and white?  How blue will be the sky?  Or will there be rain?  Will I be indoors or out?   After running the litany of options, I decide that the most straightforward and direct route will be the best, and pack my kit with black and white Kodak Tri-X film, dependable and reliable.

My Rollei is a work of art,  the shiny silver lenses of the twin reflex, the polished hand crank, and the periscope-like pop-up top known as the 'sports finder.'  The first of its kind was made in 1927, and I am not sure of the nascency of mine, but it is unquestionably imbued with the spirits of the light- catchers that came before me.  I am merely the shepherd pointing it in the direction of the early morning sun rays that peek over the horizon casting contrasts across the lobby of my hotel.   

This place of white stucco walls and, richly patterned tile floors, deep velvet cushions, in the colors of how I imagine 1920’s LA, has become a home of sorts, and it feels right and proper that my vintage camera hangs from my shoulder and that I am shooting in film.  The hotel stands at the intersection of style and substance where I can as easily reach the boutiques that tug at my commercial side,  as I can the museums and art galleries that speak to the artist emerging within me.   Standing on the black and white squares of the inner courtyard I am reminded of all the days and nights spent in rooms emblazoned with the letter P, surrounded by lush green palms and ferns against the light and shadows of the endlessly unbroken California skies.   The chill mix I associate with home and him, the soundtrack of our life together, plays on repeat in the background as memories confront me. These walls tell the story of my monumental moments.  The corner suite where I hung my dress for the Oscars on the floor to ceiling picture frame filled with polaroids of LA  life. The Penthouse Suite where we watched the basketball championship with my mother on our road trip up this western coastline so different from the one she knows from a lifetime spent living in the east.  My sincere desire for her to understand why this state is a state of mind that has become my barometer for life’s goodness.  That picture of you standing in front of the stark backdrop of bicolor striped awnings with the brightness of the afternoon's high sun bouncing off of unblemished white walls,  while Little a. threw her arms so tightly around you, her Tio, and smiled broadly with that mouth of metal.  The photographic road trip where, before dawn,  I brought my Pollito her morning coffee and marveled that two people could so serendipitously meet and have such a profound connection.  This.  Place.  

It is kismet, fortune, synergy, that precedes me this trip and I feel the wind push me the  45 miles that separate me from Los Angeles, 45 miles that are as unpredictable as anything I have ever known. Rarely in the years since moving back have I made the trip in under an hour,  but today the fates smile upon me, and soon I am walking up the driveway of the Chateau Marmont to meet Angie for lunch.  I acknowledge that had we tried to schedule this, calendars spread out in front of us, it would have been an impossibility, but today the wind is at my back, and anything is possible.

 Our friendship, now comfortable and familiar, is the kinship of two Californians navigating the foreign land known as Texas.   Our relationship was steeped in sweat and sweet, devastatingly hot morning runs, evenings of ice cold margaritas.  Once, we decided that Tennis was our calling and before our evening margarita we would head to the neighborhood court where we would use all the green real estate as our personal playground, hitting yellow balls regardless of white lines.  There was never anyone with whom I could get my giggle on in quite the same way as with her, and when she would approach the courts all Margot Tenenbaum, I would dissolve into peals of laughter that heralded the end of any serious play.  She and my mother share the same birthday, and I imagine at one point the same wackadoodle sensibilities.  When my mother was in her early 40's, she took tap lessons with a bunch of her girlfriends and would practice her shuffle ball chain in the kitchen while making dinner.  This is the type of thing I  see Angie doing.  Somewhere between Dallas, Santa Barbara, and Philadelphia, they have forgotten their shared birthday, this despite going together to Paris 8 years ago to celebrate them.  A trip where we walked the St. Germain each day deciding on accessories for Angie's impending nuptials, spilling champagne all over Louis Vuitton, lunching in the Eiffel tower and laughing until it hurt.  This was when Angie began calling my mother Mama Shirl, a moniker that has unexpectedly stood the test of time.   We sit in the Chateau lobby, at a small and intimate table, because the beautiful garden I  so treasure is under renovation, and eat shrimp and spinach, catch up on everything husbands, friends, and family before saying our goodbyes and heading in different directions.

I drive along Sunset, turning left on La Cienega and heading down the hill where I once stalled my 5-speed sportscar and rolled back on an unsuspecting and not very happy driver, who no doubt thought that I had more money than brains.  I cannot approach this intersection without remembering this story from my life.  I am driving to the hotel where I will meet Lisa, who works and stays downtown.  She decided an afternoon of shopping and dinner in West Hollywood was appealing enough to leave her office in Vernon, ride 45 minutes in an Uber for a playdate with me.  Shopping in West Hollywood is one of the more sublime experiences of our shared work history, the consumer-facing life I used to live, and she still does.   We have spent, literally, so many years in boutiques that the cadence of walking up to a store is as natural a rhythm as my heartbeat.  It is a  routine developed over 20 plus years.  We approach in lockstep, size up the storefront and the windows, walk the perimeter, discuss the founder, compare styles, try a few things on before decisions are made, and packages are tied up in pinstripe cotton wrappers like they do in Japan.  She is married to Chuck.  I am married to Chuck, albeit a different Chuck, and this has always been something wonderfully quirky between us.  I'll say how is 'your' Chuck, and she will talk about my Chuck and, at some points, we will talk in the plural, our Chucks, the latter being most often used when we are scheming.   And as we walk and look and touch, we catch up on all the things between our last visit that have, in equal parts, inspired and troubled us.  The final store is that of a dear friend, a trusted collaborator and the object of immense admiration and affection with whom we share an uncommon but unique bond.  In the end, we will cajole him to come to dinner where we will plot trips to the El Rey hotel in Santa Fe, the vintage shops along the way, Palm Springs, oh, and yes, Laguna.  If any of these come to fruition, it will be not just a surprise, it will be a miracle, but our hearts are so full by the sheer joy of being together that we cannot fathom the sadness of the evening ending without a plan for next.  Sleep beckons and she is off to New York, and he has wireframes to write, and so we say our goodbyes, and I head up the slight incline to my lovely hotel on Holloway.

Dinnertime

I tugged at the door again, as the doorman slowly and politely pushed the adjacent side open and the sounds of the dinner rush swallowed me.  Faint music, the rustle of clothes swiping by floor length white table clothes, menus shuffling from one set of hands to another,  paper on paper.  The scene playing out all too familiar to me from the years of being a regular in the location down the street from where we lived in Dallas.  So many dinners from that first introduction by Mark and Steve but I have never been to this one, the first one, the one in New York.  I ask myself, what was it we ate, creatures of habit that we were?  Are!  A warmth comes over me, and I know you would have thought the same thing at precisely the same time.    Was it the chicken paillard?  Or maybe the Branzino?  No, definitely the paillard.  You never really did care for Branzino the way I do.   I used to order it at business dinners back in the day, especially in Italy, but not you.    Even when it was prepared with that thick white crust of salt. Yes, it was definitely the paillard.  How many dinners like this had I been to throughout my career?  Many, too many to count,  and only now, in hindsight, do I wish I had taken the time to somehow record them in some way, the bottles of wine, the main course, the companions.  Funny, that the only one that really stays with me was the one in Sicily at the farm during a factory visit, not remotely one of the world-class restaurants of the star rated kind.  No, this was on a farm, and it was extraordinary, but you weren’t with me, and so it doesn’t resonate with the same nostalgia that this evening does.  You would have loved it though, the mother making everything from scratch and all the ingredients coming from the fields just outside her kitchen door,  that sweltering kitchen, with the wood-fired oven baking fresh bread in the heat of the late spring afternoon while pasta dried on racks placed carefully on every open surface.  My mind is racing with all these thoughts as the lovely young woman walks us to our table.  I am comforted by these remembrances of us, of you, this restaurant and nights of quiet conversation, especially at this dinner of command performance when suddenly reality invades and reminds me that my presence at this moment is required and so I put my memories aside.

Conversation flows smoothly on this, our first, dinner together.   My dining companion and I share frequent near misses through the years, and the happenstance of that becomes the foundation of the evening's dialogue.  Each sentence beginning with questions of 'did you know,' or 'where were you when' as glasses of rosé flow from the bottle in the ice bucket tucked neatly behind the bar, despite my pleas to the Russian waitress to please stop topping my glass.  The pale pink liquid inducing an intimacy in the discussion not borne of trust and time and I am cautious of being too familiar with this person of whom I know so little.  But it is lovely, and this place so comfortable, and I am relaxed and freer than I would be otherwise.  

That's when I see her, sitting across the restaurant, tucked in the corner just to the left of the entrance.  I ask myself rhetorically if she was there when I fumbled my way through the front door acknowledging that she has represented for me fashion and elegance for as long as I can remember.  Her, with the precision haircut that seems to always be the same length, never too short or too long and I wonder how this could possibly be achieved.  Me, with my mess of curls that seem to, in one night, go from perfect to this bush of white, unruly and unkempt.  She wears the dark glasses so characteristic of her, the meme, the iconic look.  I am transfixed losing my place in the conversation between her visage and the bottomless glass of rosé.

I cannot remember a time that she wasn't on my horizon, in my peripheral vision, a consideration.   Anna Wintour became the editor of Vogue Magazine in 1988, just as I was launching my life in NY and a fashion career and here she was on this auspicious night having dinner across the room from me.  Safe from notice, I stared at her small and elegant frame, the perfectly coiffed hair, the impeccable dress with the commanding statement necklace, and those shades, blacker than black.   

I fantasize, as the waitress places the Branzino in front of me, and fills my glass with wine from the second bottle of rosé.  I wonder whether Ms. Wintour would welcome my humble outpouring of respect, acknowledgment of the contributions she has made to my life from her perch in that pristine office.  I think of my anticipation of March and September, especially September when the issues hit the newsstands, and of the time Tom Florio came to visit me in my tiny office to pitch me on advertising and bait me with promises of meeting her.  And here she was, a mere 30 feet from where I was sitting.  

I have never been much of a star chaser.  I remember that lunch years ago when Deb went gaga over Heather Dubrow from the Housewives of Orange County, who was sitting outside on the patio having coffee with her plastic surgeon husband.  I had no problem walking up to her and introducing myself and Deb who barely spoke two words, but Anna Wintour was something altogether different.   I realized I would never approach her, I would just sit there, transfixed, mesmerized,  and stare.  She is so small, demure for the warrior I imagine her to be.  She is swallowed by the bay window and table full of people, almost like being one of the caged animals at the zoo.  Whether by design or otherwise, I am not the only person who has taken notice, when it suddenly dawns on me that her dress is like camouflage, a uniform, maybe an armor of sorts, refined and polished over 30 years to shield her opinions, her judgments.  Those dark glasses protecting eyes that have seen it all,  done it all, and this leads me to thoughts of  Fashion Fatigue, the post-traumatic stress syndrome of the style-obsessed, and I smile at my cleverness.

Not for one moment does it dilute my thrill, for in seeing her across this crowded restaurant, I have been transported to the younger me, green and naive, attempting my bite of the ruby red deliciousness of this city that called me as it was calling her.  Our paths were different, I like to think no more or less extraordinary, just different, and while she was a significant influencer along my journey, the final destination has suited me.  I couldn't live in armor, wouldn't want to, and so I return to my Branzino, and when I am done, she is gone.

An Hour and a quarter

The days are getting shorter as we all too swiftly pass to the equinox.  It has been two months since the sun hung highest in the sky and the days were their longest.  The swells of summer, tides, and tourists have left their indelible marks on this small village of ours, and I am considering what has changed in the hour and a quarter of brilliant sunshine I have lost in the passing of these sixty days.  

It isn't my favorite time of the year,  instead preferring the time just after Labor Day to when the cycle begins anew, sometime around July 4th.   I respect and empathize with the emotions this town of mine engenders and remember well the days I used to visit and dream of making a life here.  My first visit was very long ago, and I was different then.  

The man I had married had deep ties to this place of sun and sand.  He grew up here back when a spring drive through the canyon meant passing fields of strawberries, before the hillside of Newport Coast had been tamed with row after row of houses, and there was a gay bohemian culture that erupted on weekends in amusingly unique ways. His family pioneered this western coast and populated it with grocery stores in a gold rush of their own making and made a life here that included a beach house on a private cove just south of here.

I remember the first time I met him in one of those eastern neighborhood barbeques just after he had moved east with his family.  He wore Van tennis shoes and OP corduroy shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt, and I thought I had encountered the surfer from the mystery date game that was so popular when I was a girl.  Open the door, and you could have either the handsome man dressed nattily in a white dinner jacket or the image that stood before me.  Funny how so many things have changed and yet, so little has.  The Mystery Date and Dating Games evolved to the Bachelor and with it went the small cottages that used to fill the space inside the green belt that encircles our village,  replaced by big homes and people that don't make their life here all year, the nattily dressed types in white dinner jackets. 

I met him at the end of summer when he was soon off to college, and I was off to finish my last year of high school, and that was supposed to be that.  But it wasn't, and years of making up and breaking up ensued.  When the finality of our time together came, it was the rhythm and cadence of a west coast life that stayed with me, and I became part of the waves of people who wanted a piece of this idyl.  It would be years and lives before I would move here with a different husband and find the rhythms of the sea and the cadence of our life together in this place.  

The hour and a quarter of lost daylight have brought a chill in the air that annually catches us by surprise.  Each night we sleep under covers so casually kicked aside during the long evenings of high summer when the heartbeat of our life is more in sync with the sun than any other part of the year.  We fill the hours with long hikes up the hillside behind our house, or along the beach, followed by lunches of fish tacos and cold draft beers, long afternoons of reading and writing and golden hours of photographing.  We plan our daily excursions to accommodate seaside pilgrims and are out early and first returning to the safety of our home while they still sleep in the earned pause of vacation.  If we dare to venture out in the evening, we rely on the kindness of friends,  the reward of a winter's worth of patronage to ease the strain of long queues and crowded venues, but mostly, we unapologetically stay put in this place we have called home for so long.

The hour and a quarter loss of bright sunshine have resulted in the long shadows so appealing to the photographer in me and with them the seamless horizons of the descending sun that stir in me the recognition of summer's end and the seasonal transition to fall.  I think of the word transition, of movements and passages, and modulation and of those of this year as we move from the long days of summer into the fall, and later the winter.

Once, a few years back, I happened upon a night of passage as the graduating seniors of this and neighboring towns gathered seaside for one last night of summer revelry in this first transition of a lifetime of them.  Excitedly they gathered by the fire facing in equal parts fear and anticipation for the lives on which they were embarking. Met with the same, at that juncture in my life, I am not sure I could have left this place of endless summer.

And I am not sure I could leave even now in this life transition from fall to winter. My hair,  now the color of snow, belies the warmth in my heart and the chill in the air reminds me that fewer summers are in front of me than behind.  So it is that I take my hour and a quarter gain in light and spirit and enjoy the waning days of summer fearless of the transition and the cold, filled with gratitude for all the days that have come before.

Perfect Days

There are all sorts of perfect days.  At times in my life, sleeping in past 8 a.m. was all it took for the day to qualify.  Now, as my life has evolved and that luxury is available to me whenever I wish,  a perfect day requires more than merely languishing between the sheets of my all too comfortable bed.  It most always involves Chuck who, after all these years, is still the person with whom I want to spend most of my time, an important distinction from the person with whom I spend the most time.  Our quiet life together has suited me now for nearly half of my years, and after my father died, it became untenable for me to consider living another minute under some other roof and so I quit my job and moved home, a decision from which I have never faltered.

On this perfect day, we arose as we always do, early and quietly.  He made his unique morning concoction, an irreplicable blend of coffee and ghee and other essential ingredients that invariably smooth the transition from laying to standing.  The sounds and smells emanating from the kitchen stir me from the bedroom and I rise to address the day.  Once released from the hold of that profoundly comfortable bed, I start attacking all the things that are stationed in piles on my studio desk or go for a long walk, or look at photographs, or read, or, as is often the case, count my blessings of which there are many, varied and true.

This day starts with promise, new and bright with fanfare and validation scheduled towards the early hours of the evening.  Today, we will leave our idyllic seaside home and travel north to Los Angeles to celebrate the opening of a new show featuring one of my photographs.  It is another from the collection of underwater shots I made while visiting my friend Mark.  He is a dolphin, agile and lean, as happy, if not more so, in a pool as on land and generously gave me access to his fluid and slippery wet world.

These trips are always fun for me.   Of course, they are.  Why wouldn't they be?   I have worked hard to achieve these moments of validation, these instants of seeing my work on another wall in someone's gallery.  For me, it is much less about the competition and more about the measurement of progress on a continuum of my own making, the one that takes me from the life I used to have, and forward into this new photographic one of my own making.  It is a different type of work from that to which I am accustomed \working as I did for all those years in corporate offices and meeting rooms.  This work is inspiration and perspiration in various measures, different than the prescribed-by-others recipe of my past life.  This one is centered in what I see, what I know, and the measurement of progress is the recognition of others, teachers, mentors, and gallerists to affirm I am on solid footing, a righteous path, a photographic life.

Initially, we had planned to make a weekend of it, but instead, we chose to make the trip in a day, return and sleep in our bed.  The idea suited me fine having returned recently from a great adventure to Utah with two of my dearest friends.  Instead, we would make the drive, revel in a perfect late lunch somewhere and attend the opening at an early enough hour that we could be home before the sun dipped below the horizon.  Having changed course, we had no firm plans, no reservations, no time commitments or constraints, just the point of embarkation, destination and return.

As luck would have it, last minute searching resulted in little choice for lunch other than my long time go to of the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood.  I love their garden restaurant and have so many memories fixed within its lush greenery I could fill a book.  There was the deck from which I hung, only to get caught, on the eve of the purchase of my monochrom, the table where I had lunch with Sam in the rain, the afternoon we ate there with Arnie and Virginia after the workshop and saw Usher yet again.  

As we were seated in the central core of the outdoor space, I on my amorphous settee and you solidly placed in the nearby wicker chair, I noticed that the place was surprisingly empty.  The day was a glorious one, bright sunshine with cooler than expected temperatures.   Any other Saturday would find this inner sanctum filled with anxious tourists hoping to catch a view of some Hollywood starlet.  I remember once, years ago, choosing to have lunch in this place with dear Sam for the romance of it, and the fact that the establishment forbade photos and I would, therefore, have his undivided attention.  I sheepishly asked our waiter if it would be permissible for me to take a few photographs.  I wished to immortalize the balcony from which I received that severe reprimand from the manager, or the corner where I lunched with Sam on that rainy afternoon, or the places where Chuck and I had so often sat over glasses of champagne or cool rosé, as we did this day.  Without missing a beat, I received assurances from the waiter that on this empty afternoon it would be okay to pull my monochrom from its place in my bird's nest of a bag and take a few shots.  And so I did.

The conversation and wine flowed in equal measure and in our relaxation we talked about all the things that couple's need to discuss but find hard to do within the daily rhythms of their lives. As it was this afternoon and has always been, your calm and clear view removed roadblocks, relieved pressures, and detailed more suitable alternatives for our life together.  I smiled knowing this to be the gift you bring to our relationship, and as the afternoon slid into early evening, I marveled once again at how lucky I was to find you at the bottom of that escalator, in the roundabout, in Seattle, all those years ago.

Before long we were headed to the gallery and the opening.  What struck me on this night of honors and substantiation was how vital it is to have witnesses that believe in and share the joy with you.  I noticed it first with the man sitting on the steps head in hand and wondered what he might be feeling amidst all these creative people trying to make their way to an artist's life.  Was he there to celebrate someone?   I noticed the father and daughters who were so proud of their mother's work, work featured in the window of the gallery,  that they stood in the blinding evening sun to take her photograph. In his hands iPhones and Barbie dolls, his daughter touching the glass barrier between her mother and her, the mother wearing the simple name badge that confirmed her as a contributor to the show.  This scene I take in and digest while considering the profundity by which you have supported me through my photographic life.  Afterall, it was you who put the first camera in my hand, patiently looked at photo after photo, and encouraged me on those rainy mornings to get out of bed and go out with my camera.

On this night, all come together in a cocktail of accolades and appreciation for which I am humbled by the deep understanding that none of this would have happened without you as my life partner.