We are perched on bedrock - strong and solid with a view to the Pacific. There is a fluid strength in our surroundings that has been the foundation of our life for nearly 20 years. It reflects us and we reflect it.
Analog photography is a slow and mindful process, each step a deliberate choice that begins with the selection of the film. Long before my walk had started, I stood in my kitchen before the open door of my cool and bright refrigerator, reaching for a box of Ilford HP5 blanc et noir 35 mm 36 exposure film. I turned to face the kitchen counter where I would open its tiny canister and place the film gently in the camera I have selected for today. Today, I will walk with my dad's old camera, and as I reach for the app where I log the date and time of each roll in each camera, I think of him and the photos he made with it. It will be nice to walk with him, to think of him, to remember. Today, I want my photographs to look like charcoal pencil drawings of the nature that surrounds me, and as I slide into the front seat of my car, I choose to head towards the hills. My measured pace walking them will slow this day and add to the thoughtfulness of the morning. I begin with the explorer's spirit rushing towards the starting line only to have my rapid breath fall out of sync with my plodding feet as I ascend. About midway up the incline, I first notice the white rock, whose surface catches the tiniest bit of morning light and the small glistening leaves that face east and frame the path that leads into a dark unknown.
I step back to see, really see, what has caught my eye. By choosing black and white, I have limited my response to the spectrum of available colors and selected to measure the intensity of light, in essence, simplifying my choices to subject and luminance only. I remember thinking the decision as a good one as we soon would head out for a few days of reconnection and the idea of being present in the pure essence of our time together appeals to me, to narrow the wavelengths that I explore to focus better on the spectrum of you.
I pull the camera to my eye and begin to frame the wooded path, the rock, and the bits of light that will last only a bit longer. I set the speed and focus point, and then, I inhaled deeply and still each part of my body while I press the shutter. I love this moment, the still concentration just before catching the light. And, then, the moment is forever gone, and I turn to continue the trek up the hill.
I fill this day with moments such as this, intervals of movement and stillness interspersed with profoundly deep breaths and concentration. Walking to the car, I review the morning's photo count. As I drive back into town and home, I consider the rhythms of this day, slow and methodical, intensely aware, and engage with my surroundings. There are no headphones, no noise, just the quiet cadence of feet on the path.
It will be another week before I finish this roll of film, and I will be miles from home on a cliff at Los Osos State Beach in the Central Valley before I unload it. And it will be another month before the negatives and the scans return from the lab. It will be like a Christmas morning as I look at each of the precisely made photographs as the scans download and consider that I made one morning last five weeks, effectively slowing time.
Slowly I made my way east through the town. I hadn't been this far but once this week. This journey a fitting tribute to the beautiful summer's evening, my last of the trip. This year I most frequently biked everywhere with sights rolling by faster and a focus placed more on staying upright than on taking in the beauty of the Cape. The evening's walkabout up and down little side streets and alleys inspired a commitment to find a more pleasing mix of walking and riding on any future visit. The sun had finished it's decent and was about to dip below the horizon, and the deep blue of dusk skies made easy work for this curious voyeur. That was when I found the little orange door of the cottage. Nestled in the deep greens of the manicured plot set back from the busy road sat this tiny house, another tiny house in a town full of them. Adjacent to the entrance the deep plum of the Japanese Maple welcomed any visiting guest. The lush surroundings made me want to take off my shoes, walk the green grass path to the door, raise the doorknocker and be invited in to talk about art, and books, and the goings of the town. Slowly as the light slipped further away, a small group gathered as if reading my thoughts as they too pulled their cameras from deep pockets to record this charming spot.
Riding along on my cruiser, my head pivots left and right scanning the charm of this small seaside community lush with shop windows filled with vacation trinkets that could as easily be from 1970 as today. Nostalgia sets in, and I remember my summer holidays with family…
"I believe nothing makes one appreciate the ocean like the long, languorous summer days of Texas. As our friendship matured, we learned that our love of Laguna was mirrored by their love of Ptown and so the thrill of seeing it through their eyes was palpable. To see it through his eyes. Those eyes, the ones that see my work so differently than I do myself. "
It is the earliest hour. The beach is empty, resting, I believe, from the crush of this holiday week. Soon, the table will be swallowed by the swarm of pilgrims reveling in the joy of summer season. But for now, it is the triumvirate of stillness, calm and me quietly carousing drunk in the beauty of this morning seaside.
The waves enticingly lap at the shore this early morning where the mist obscures the break between sky and sand. There are only ripples of water in this presunrise instant of emptiness. Soon the shoreline, now absent the accouterments of summer, will burst with brightly colored pails and short-handled shovels. Colored plastic utensils will litter the horizon and provide hours of silly sandcastles, backbreaking bottomless holes, and relatives buried neck deep in beach. Now, though, it is just the gulls and me enjoying the rhythms of this life of earned pause.
You wake before me and walk to the sliders on your side of our bedroom and quietly close them against the misty May gray morning that will shortly tumble into June gloom. Spirits dampen as each day upon day delivers sunless skies while the ocean and the air harmonize. As my eyes flutter and I slowly come to consciousness, you announce, without provocation, that the mist hangs heavy on the hillside. It, as you know all too well, is a pronouncement that speeds my arousal. Thus it is living with a photographer who loves nothing more than rainy mornings and, as you turn to leave the room for the kitchen to make coffee, I throw back the covers and ready myself for the elements.
I pull on the heavy socks that fit snugly inside my wellies, and, as I walk down the stairs, my hair begins to peak through the neck of the sweater I am pulling over my head. I place the empty coffee cup in the dishwasher and move towards the office to select the morning's equipment. I retrieve my waterproof camera from the cabinet and attach it to one of the many tripods that lean against the back of the closet where I store my gear. I slide my feet into my boots while simultaneously pushing my arms through the sleeves of the massive black slicker I wear to protect both me and my gear in the downpours, and I slip into the car.
The rain is fine now, not the steady one of 30 minutes ago, but the sky is heavy and the ceiling low, and I believe it will pour again soon. No matter, this is enough, this morning filled with weather and purpose, and the hope that I will catch the one photograph that will make leaving the comfort of my blankets, those silver pitchers of hot coffee and him worthwhile.
As I round the corner onto PCH, I consider that not everyone rallies to this early rainy morning ritual of mine preferring the inertia borne of overcast skies. The streets, devoid of all the bustle of the previous holiday weekend, are quiet now. I am acutely aware that this peace will not last long. June gloom rapidly transitions to July when the call of the beach resonates beyond the accessible neighboring towns and our village, so unassuming most of the year, belongs to those that don't live here.
In short order, I arrive at the parking lot of the beach where I will set up shop for the next hour or so. In the drizzling mist, I survey the coastline considering layers and locations for this morning's outing. It is all but empty with only the occasional seagull or pelican to keep me company. I attach the camera to my tripod and adjust the legs so it can lay supine on the sand, and carry it towards the break. Click after click catches swollen clouds, foamy seas, and the desaturated color palette of an early stormy morning as the waves crash against my camera and drench me. I decide the boots are useless against this assault and slowly pull them and my socks from my legs and return barefooted to the focus and flow of the morning's work. The frigid water barely a distraction as I lose myself in the rhythmic sounds of waves rolling in triplicate against the shore in a thunderous primal pounding.
Wet, and tired I turn to head home dreaming of a steaming cup of hot tea sweetened with local honey to warm me while I download photos, catch up on correspondence and begin the day in earnest satisfied by having spent the earliest hours mindfully making. The glow of a morning in the bountiful beauty of the coast, connected to the earth's energy by the power of the sea flowing around me, the ocean encouraging me to expand and fill the empty spaces I know wait for inspiration. I inhale, profoundly calming emotions swirling within me just as the sea had swirled around me. It was not to be my morning if measured in output but the elements of the earth rescued my spirit with their sirens early morning call to the sea and to wake up.
The shaker shingled buildings weathered by wind and storm melt into the background of sand and sea with only the path to the shoreline breaking their camouflage. I choose the path away to where you sit together on the driftwood passing time.
"Time is the longest distance between two places." Tennessee Williams
The expanse of beach empty of sunscreen washed worshippers is just as I had imagined it would be. To the North, a lone black figure plays in this place of mist and fog with only the dark volcanic plug to break infinity. For a moment, I consider traveling to see for myself this man and his dog but decide that the distance placed between us would be too great and I don't want to waste one moment of our time.