I took all these photos years ago, always looking for the way light alters what I see.
A viewer may recognize a foreground flower, and therefore be able to approximate the season in which it appears in my corner of the world. But only I know what makes up the background, and therefore the story of a given moment.
Is that a polished slab of stone in the background, high noon light glinting off mirrored granite particles? A nubbled glass window pane? A fountain, or perhaps a body of water? Is that flower still growing, or part of a bouquet? In my sight or in my hand? Am I zooming in, or can I breathe in its scent when I preserve the image?
All photos are a form of trickery, not least in stilling and preserving a fraction in time. This one brings me back to surrounding flowering beach plum, with this lone exuberant bud phototropically reaching for heaven on a hot summer day. It drew my attention not only because of its elegant extension, but also the glittering silver bokeh provided by Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Mill Pond.
I love a little bit of mystery–some might even call it trickery–in a shot. Ephemeral colors and shapes which were never truly there. Blazing neon fleetingly painting itself upon sand and water and sky. Cotton candy and raspberry cloud berets touching down on bare winter branches at sunset. A stormfront cleaving and seeping through glowing daylight. A traffic light that becomes a perigee moon and transforms a penguin ice sculpture into molten gold.
One of my children has coaxed me to parts of the world I never otherwise would have occupied. Even her father’s spirit of adventure and powers of persuasion had their limits, and I would happily have stayed home in New England if he had lived to be able to visit the countries to which her studies took her.
My new world , thanks to my daughter, has included desert adventures, peeking through stone windows from ancient forts on three continents, a pink city and a blue one, and paired pigeons atop a golden fort.
I spent a nearly sleepless sojourn with her in this planet’s oldest continuously inhabited city. There, I watched the sun rise into sopping August air over the Ganges, which had flooded the ghats–along with the first floor of the building we occupied. With her, I’ve circumnavigated an active volcano and an entire country, and bobbed in a blue lagoon under lime ribbons of northern light.
My early morning adventures have included a stint approximating a wedding photographer at the aptly named Peacock fountain in Jodhpur. At the Bal Samand Lake Palace, I snapped photos of a dazzling peacock and pea-hen. I have no doubt they would have answered to Romeo and Juliet, had I spoken their language.
I had never seen some of the glorious color combinations we found everywhere we looked. Silky brandied ruby water buffaloes against pure purple. Marigold and neon pink seeming to leap above neighboring baby blue. Vivid scarlet-beaked lemon-lime canaries glancing down from the world’s tallest minarets at Qutb Minar in Delhi.
I often have thought about parents’ roles in sheperding young children. But it is my children who have taught me, and taken me out into the greater world, time and time again.
“You understand, I shall not/ If I survive you care/ To raise a headstone for/ You I have carved on air.” ~Donald Davie
Twelve years today.
There is no stone marker for my husband, who is present in every lovely seen thing. Nor is there any such marker for my father, whose ashes touched down by the academic building where he truly lived, but whose energy inhabits the subatomic universe.
Growing green and light, as a perished child gently exhorted her deeply grieving mother in The Poisonwood Bible, is the only marker my husband needs.
For a college centenary celebration, Veronica Forrest-Thompson wrote “The Hypen,” an ode to a shorthand notation that reflects both the infinite and constricted space of human time. The poem itself has now been with us mortals longer than my husband was.
Forrest-Thompson observed that hyphens’ wee lightly floating dash is used both to link and “to divide/ for etymological or other purpose.”
My husband entered this world on a December day in Maryland, and left it on March 22, in New Hampshire, but you will find neither date bracketing a carved hyphen.
His physical memorial is something that would delight him: a high school bench dedicated “In Musical Memory of Dr. Jim Glennon.” No dates need be applied. Music, after all, boundlessly reanimates and rejuvenates whatever surrounds it. Once released into our world, it never leaves us, and we are incapable of letting it go.