I remember well the first day of the workshop, Anne’s first pieces, and her words, the desire to illustrate them, lyrically spoken from her place at the end of the semi-circle, ambitious writing journal in her lap. I recall Chris’ pieces that reflected transcendent experiences and his gift for capturing the soul of a person. I think of Arnie and Virginia’s gardens and the beauty that enfolds there daily and their love for each other. The people in that room contributed significantly to my growth as a photographer and my idea of who I am in this, my photographic life.
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.
Curious, the room fell quiet as he, in his seductive Cuban accent, explained that hearing was the only sense not experienced when drinking a fine wine. One saw the beautiful claret color or the sparkling white. One inhaled the fine bouquet in preparation for that first taste, feeling the liquid as it passed over the lips and into the mouth, down the throat and into your soul. But, he added, it was never heard.
It's arguably the night I love most in our little village, the one where all the town comes out to celebrate Santa's arrival, to listen to the music of our people, choirs of kids, a chatter of friends, carols of the season. As the approach to the holiday season begins, so does my enthusiasm for this night, little changed in all the years we have lived in this place of endless summer.
The long ride has taken us far outside San Miguel, into the hills, to the farm flush with chickens and horses, bright yellow tomatoes and morning light diffused by the valley where the colors of Mexico lay hidden behind mesh tarps undiscovered.
Just a little walk down Peppertree Lane, past the park benches weighted by tourists licking cones of sweet confections having followed the wafting smells of vanilla and sugar. The line snakes down the brick walkway ending just beyond the door to the sweets shop, the place of toasties, coconut flakes doused in rich chocolatey goodness. Tonight I head up the alley, the path less taken, to avoid the vestiges of summer only to find the steps to the parking lot lumbering under another pack of sweet searchers. And I turn to look into the shop, flush with faces anticipating their treats, the little boy in the corner whose nose is pressed to the glass, the pink plastic tasting spoon of consideration held aloft, and everyone illuminated by the light from the cold vetrina holding the vats of creamy gelato goodness.
I have traveled far enough to reach the quiet street beyond the town, the restaurants, and nightlife. It is dark here, a blackness that hangs over me like the chill of the cape on this, my last night in this place I have come to love. As I round the corner I see the reflection of the porch light in the Volkswagen abyss, and I think of my first car, same year and model, only sky blue like the color of the afternoon in this part of the world, and the expansion and freedom it gave me, and I smile at the memory.
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.
I have been to this sunken corner before. I have sat on this tufted couch and watched the elevated world outside the window walk by as if on stage, faceless bodies walking this West Hollywood sidewalk. This trip there will be no time to relax. Instead, there will be a visit to comfort a sick friend, a lunch with a photographic co-conspirator, and a meeting where I will don the clothes of my old life and speak the language of those days. No, there won't be the time like before.
In the crowd of people, I see you, a kindred spirit, searching the quiet spaces to craft your view of the surroundings and stamp time with an image.