Whales breaching in
stormy seas off Kiama
– southerly blows
Photo taken with a Chamonix 045F1 View Camera, using a Nikkor-SW 90mm f/8 lens, on Shanghai 100 film, and developed in a mix of Xtol and Rodinal.
Everywhere there are reminders of time. The sun rises and sets, tides come in and out at all hours of the day and night, the moon passes through its phases, seasons are marked by solstices and equinoxes, and the movement of constellations across the sky witnesses the passing of seconds and minutes, into days and years. Flowers bloom, leaves fall, life comes and go.
It might have been halfway to low tide that it was abandoned, but when I arrived the flood tide was reaching its peak. Not far from the water’s edge I looked down and espied a wrist watch, neatly fold on its band with mother of pearl face reflecting the sky.
The place was deserted, and the next large wave might cast it into a crevice to be lost forever. I looked out to sea macabrely half expecting that a body might be floating or a person might be swimming distantly to a futile future. Gratified that the sea was empty as the rocks of people, I determined that finder’s law must apply and saved the timepiece.
Temporality and its markers hasten the prescience that mortality means becoming a memory lost to time, like a missing watch suspends our capacity to observe moments drifting past. The possibility of death after learning I had cancer, did not make me believe that life was vanishing before my eyes, but rather that I would wash with each passing year from the memories of others.
Death and its shadow never seems far away. I have been always rushing to do things, or defend things, and have been fearful of passing. Phrases such as “walking on” or “swimming beyond” are more appealing euphemisms to me. I am less worried about eternity’s breath now, although some things make me anxious. It is good to slow and take a breath. The world isn’t going away. Kilimanjaro and the Himalayas will still be there. I might never see them, but this feeling I was fading out of history and would soon become a lost memory troubles me less. I feel a lot more assured that I might be forgotten, but perhaps a little less slowly than I anticipated. Time to let go.
A friend recently wrote to me: “What you will take away from your time at work [and life] will be the satisfaction that you made a difference in a great many lives. There are people who will remember that you once helped them when it counted, and that made their lives possible.”
Recently our son graduated, and daughter earlier this year. He will be 25 in February and she 24 in the middle of the year. I am feeling a lot older and that life passes, moves forward and eclipses us. I am enjoying watching my wisdom seem to grow or acceptance of ageing a bit more at times.
It is time to make some more photos.
All photos taken at Bass Point with a Chamonix 045F1 View Camera, Nikkor-SW 90mm f/8 and Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S 150mm lenses, and Shanghai 100 film and developed in PMK.
Early light from behind the cracks in the curtains woke me in our motel room. I jumped out of bed to see clear skies beckoning. Not a precious moment could be wasted. The forecast was good, and storms were not expected until late afternoon. We could leave Mt Shasta and reach Crater Lake before lunch.
We drove northward into Oregon on roads that were mostly deserted. The valley around Fort Klamath was silent. Here and there were empty old barns. Houses and cabins seemed to be closed for winter with driveways deep in snow. The only life I saw was a pair of fish swimming in a crystal clear stream in a world of their own.
It was not until we reached Crater Lake that we saw a few other people. I took a photo and then moved around the rim to where the views were steeper and clearer. Clouds were starting to move in from the west bringing a change. Suddenly what portended an ill wind to me hit. It was freezing cold, carrying ice particles that were hurled like many thousands of tiny spears. Melody sheltered while I finished my photo stepping gingerly not to lose my footing in the ice covered snow.
Hastening off the mountain, we soon turned east taking back roads across high desert country to Christmas Valley hoping to outrun the weather. We were glad when we got there to see the only gas station for many miles, refueled, and stocked up on a few drinks and snacks.
Nightfall came when we reached Burns. The streets were mostly devoid of traffic and people. We checked into the Silver Spur Motel on the far side of town at the end of main street. Only $44 dollars a night, free wifi, queen sized beds and most importantly, heating. The surrounding country was still covered in snow, but patches looked swampy where it had begun to melt.
We had dinner at the Mexican bar and dinner back down Nth Broadway Ave. It had a only few customers. In spite of the recent siege at Malheur, there was no evidence of law enforcement or media remaining present in the town. Most motels and restaurants were empty. The circus had left this distant place to follow other stories. It was encouraging to hear the locals checking in with each other, asking whether they were doing okay. Back at the motel I received an unwelcome email from a former employer and would spend several sleepless night worrying. I started to feel breathless and unwell.
The next morning grey clouds hung low in the sky, the light was soft with a tinge of orange on the mountains to the east. In the distance Steens Mountain stood white and resolute. Reaching the pass and vales near Stinkingwater Creek the emptiness spread out before us. We stopped briefly to admire its beauty and momentarily feel the solitude. It would be a long way to Vale with its streetscapes of murals celebrating the Oregon trail and the path taken by pioneers to distant places.
We had last crossed the Oregon trail several years ago at Montpellier in Idaho from where it is a long way down the Snake River Valley and then beside the Malheur River to Vale, and even further to Burns or Christmas Valley. On the wall outside the Vale Public Library is a mural depicting pioneers enjoying the nearby Malheur River, resting and breaking their long journey with water and pastures for their beasts. The route most certainly was tough heading west from Vale along the Malheur into the high desert. Above the library entrance there is a quote from a pioneer woman which for me captures the essence of enduring such a long lonely trail into desolation:
“I must keep writing to remember who I am.”
All photos taken with Chamonix 045F1, Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S 150mm and Goerz Dagor 10 3/4″ lenses, on Delta 100 film and developed in a mix of Xtol and RO9.
Pounded by wild seas, cast upon rocks, and pushed high by storms, coves around Bass Point fill with shells. Some are whole, but most are fragments. Pieces are broken, and eroded by successive tides, revealing the patterns and structures of different species living by the sea.
An arabesque swirl catches my eye, as does the disk with a spiral, that differs from circles shining, unbreakable structures inside a barnacle, or wings remaining, and the surprise of a branch with leaves attached dried in the sun.
Every fragment, a memory of a past life or being. Each piece and pattern reminds me of my own existence, and the structures that shape my mind and spirit.
All photos taken using a Chamonix 045F1, with Rodenstock Ysaron 75mm lens, on Fomapan 100 film, and developed in a mix of Xtol(1.3)+paRodinal(1.160).