23,229 times over.
It’s not always easy to identify the dog that did not bark–or, in this case, which digital pictures among a cast of tens of thousands have disappeared and cannot be put together again.
I realized my little yellow bird was gone. He had flown away into the ether. All that remains is one long-range shot of him warbling into a late spring wind from atop a dogwood dotted with hints of budding lime leaves.
I managed to accidentally erase from my computer every single JPG photo file, including thousands I foolishly–not having adequately absorbed my lesson–had not yet siphoned onto an external hard drive.
Apparently I have an internal “shadow drive,” which was the first attempted excavation site. Nothing. Zip.
Three increasingly desperate and expensive attempts to reconstruct pictures from my camera’s memory card ensued. To find my little bird friend I ultimately clicked one-by-one through 28,040 files. But he was among those which have gone, gone away. Not a single brilliant yellow feather.
The bird’s portraits were among the lost.
But I found in my camera’s jumbled memories some glorious vistas I had never beheld, and which would not exist now but for my egregious mistakes.
Like the orange light in between a red “stop” and a green “go,” apparently there is an interim world between a successfully reconstructed image and an irrevocable “no picture available.”
Evidently abhorring a vacuum, shards of partially reconstructed pictures were switched around like puzzle pieces. It is as if my computer were trying desperately to please me, to assemble fractured images into a whole–an unexpected and bright new reality supplanting the one I hazily remember. Perhaps it is merely a technological artifact that the breakdowns are more common and surreal as I go back in time through those files.
A tree’s roots split off into equal portions of two blazing red sunsets. Bricks slough off from their landscapes and gather together in walls of intense violet-blue or orange. Slivers of sea and sky from different seasons are sorted and stacked into a Mondrian… and several Rothkos. Portions of structures are transformed into neon matte colors, like a Warhol screen print.
Would a sane person have done any of this? Could I perhaps just have gone back to the grassy marsh and hoped to find another little yellow friend?
This jaunty bird was special. Sometimes I am called–most often by birds–to make detours. Last weekend my subconscious spun me considerably out of my way, towards a stretch of the Atlantic where I’d never set foot. The weekend before Memorial Day no on else was in sight. And there he was: a single plump fellow singing out to the rising sun, calling out to his tribe, a lone bright dab of yellow in a tea-dyed marsh.
He’ll remain a sunny blur in my own shadowed memory.