don’t help me, I want to fall

Christmas 1972

True creatives relax the fierce grips most of us place on sanity, societal norms, orthopraxy, trends, and well-meaning advice from friends and acquaintances, even relaxing the grip on having acquaintances. Foremost among these, the creative accepts insanity, allows it to dwell inside: allows the voices to speak, to be heard, to take over, voices which suggest new and totally different ways to think, to do, to sing, to view life, to write, to design that building.

I may learn a set of rules which seek to bind me to the doctrine of electrical engineering, biochemistry, pedagogy, painting, poetry, investment banking, mapmaking, archiving, heavy construction, medicine, the law, or managing a grocery store, but as a creative I use this knowledge as a springboard to think, to act out, to say, “well that’s all well and good, but what about this?”

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pablo Picasso

blind pig finds acorn

Part of the Spokane Falls on the Spokane River, Spokane, WA. March 1993?

My father was notorious for finding a way to muck up a photograph. Favored methods:

  • Using a wide angle Instamatic (pause while he shudders), take a photo of an animal or bird you see in the mid-distance. Photo has a brownish dot in the center (maybe) that can be anything.
  • Shoot a portrait-type shot of people looking directly into the sun, squinting. Cut off only their feet. Alternately, shoot from too far away and make sure photographer’s shadow is prominently displayed in foreground.
  • Line up your group shot in front of a window, glass-fronted artwork, or better yet, a mirror. Shoot with a flash.

That’s just a minor list. I’ve tackled sorting through the photos I brought home in mid-2020 when we cleared out my parents’ house in late July. I’m primarily interested in photographic proof of them, their sons (me and my brother), and the relatives and friends who they encountered during their lives. Every once in a while, though, I come across a photo which makes me wonder how it ever happened, such as the one above.

The photo above is unretouched except I blurred out a few white spots in the dark sky where the cheap photo developer couldn’t be bothered with blowing off dust on the negative. This is a natural light photo and the falls are not lit. It appears to have been shot from a restaurant currently called Anthony’s at Spokane Falls. The shot is looking due east to the kind of clouds which Spokane seldom sees as the sun sets. That’s Canada Island on the left which splits the Spokane River. The cataracts on the north side of the island are approximately the same. I unfortunately mislabeled the photo, so I’m not entirely sure of the date, but I recall it was in March, and it sits between a photo from June 1992 and one from July 1993.

Some day I may try to retouch it and see if I can make it look better, but there’s not a lot you can do with the photos taken back then. I don’t have the negatives; I had to scan this from the print. I’ll likely just leave it and remember that my father could take a good photo now and then. And I can tell you for certain that he never stopped trying! I’ve four or five storage boxes full of prints to attest to that!

Washington (for B.)

One of the few blogs I follow recently commented in passing about Washington State in the USA and said, “I hear it’s breathtaking.” (You know who you are.) Although Oregon and California give it a run for the money, those states are not as geographically diverse. I moved from the state where I grew up in 1992, prior to digital photography, returned when crude digitals were just being introduced, left again in 2001, and visited selectively from that point forward. Most of these photos, therefore, are from an Introduction to Washington trip we did with our NC friends in 2017 when forest fire smoke hazed the atmosphere. Forthwith:

Smack dab in the middle of Spokane (my hometown). August 2017.
The wheat fields of the Palouse. Southeastern Washington. August 2017.
The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington. March 1998. [low-res digital camera]
Beach at Kalaloch, Olympic National Park, Washington. August 2017.
Columbia River Gorge and I-90. Near Vantage, WA. August 2017.
Diablo Lake from the North Cascades Highway. North Cascades National Park. August 2017.

I could continue: the North Cascade Mountains (or the Olympics! or the volcanoes of Mounts St. Helens/Rainier/Adams/Baker); the ‘true’ Columbia Gorge from Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA east for 60-100 miles; the scablands shown here by inference in the Vantage photo; the Puget Sound inland waterway which with the Salish Sea offer a worthy challenger to Chesapeake Bay on the east coast; and…but let’s stop there. I think I need to plan another trip to Washington!

Golden times

Oregon Coast. October 2011.

In October 2011 my wife and I rented a house just outside Newport, OR, where we vacationed with my brother, his daughter, and our parents. Our last night there an amazing set of conditions created one different sunset after another. (I’ve posted other photos of it here and here.) For more than twenty minutes I stood on the bluff outside the house snapping photos as the rest of my family waited to go to dinner. We might have had reservations, I don’t remember. I ignored their growing impatience to capture these photos. Thus, the photos have an undercurrent of discontent, though I don’t regret taking them. It represented the self-centeredness they would say I’ve had all my life. I’ll have to explore this later.

A follow-on about clothes

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Still there in November 2007.

A little bit ago I wrote about the longevity of clothes in my closet and how they mark the march of time in reverse. I’ve realized lately that they have staked out the future too. Today I wore a fleece top purchased when we took a Thanksgiving getaway to Ocean Isle Beach, NC, in 2007. It’s none the worse for wear (the fleece top, not Ocean Isle Beach which might very well be the worse for wear). It dawned on me today that a heavy flannel shirt/jacket, the aforementioned fleece top, the sweatshirt I wore last week which was given to me by my employer in 2003 or 2004, etcetera, etcetera, will possibly be in my closet when I die.

Recently I’ve tried to lengthen my time between Now and Death. “It’s likely twenty-plus years, you fool,” I tell myself. Retirement planning forces one to focus on ‘how long do I have’ and then hope the money lasts that long. It fosters looking toward the end instead of the path toward the end–instead of focusing on where you are right now. And lately, I’ve been successful in realizing where I am relative to my likely End. I accomplished this by looking backward the same amount of time I can expect to live. Today it means focusing on where I was twenty years ago. “Goodness, I thought things were grand back in 2003!” he thinks. It feels many years ago when looking backward. Then why not many years ahead when looking forward?

These darn clothes tell a different tale, or at least they have their own tale to tell. “We’ll still be there in your closet. This is your wardrobe for the rest of your life.” It’s weirdly depressing and freeing at the same time.

Missing from the brochures

Lurking everywhere in Florida–black vultures. March 2010.

One thing the Florida travel brochures seem to forget to mention? How you and your car will be inundated by flocks of vultures. Everglades National Park in particular has signs warning about damage to your car. (I think part of it is their fondness for the rubber on the car wipe blades.) My wife’s in Florida right now. Maybe they’re leaving her and her group alone? (And in actuality, they’re getting to be more of nuisance throughout the southeast part of the US.)