Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Everything looked sinister through my camera lens this weekend. Except for the fox :)

Here it is: Halloween in pictures (no costumes allowed).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gail Caldwell's Book

Last weekend I read three books. Today I want to talk about the book, Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. It is the story of Gail's friendship with Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story. The book follows Caroline's battle with cancer and Caldwell's care for her and subsequent sense of loss at her death.

At the beginning of the book, I felt that Caldwell was being self-absorbed, but as I read on and looked closer at their burgeoning relationship, I fell in love with the book. Toward the end I was underlining passages and turning down pages.

This in particular sticks in my mind:

"Suffering is what changes the endgame, changes death's mantle from black to white. It is a badly lit corridor outside of time, a place of crushing weariness, the only thing large enough to bully you into holding the door for death."

I've read this at least twenty times, and its profundity is never diminished. Because I, sitting in the hospital with my dad one of the nights after his first brain surgery, wished for his death. I couldn't bear to see his pain and defeat and depression. And I watched the heart monitor rise and fall and thought, "Please flat-line. Please let's end this right now."

I haven't felt exactly guilty for thinking this, but I did feel uneasy about wishing for my dad's death. Suffering changed the endgame, though, just like Caldwell says, and I welcomed death into the room.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lake Bonaparte

This past weekend, my daughter and I went to Lake Bonaparte in upstate New York to do a photography workshop with Jan Phillips (that's Jan in the photograph). This area of New York is bucolic and peaceful this time of year and it was good to get my mind off my troubles.

There were four other women there, from as far away as Alaska and as close a a couple of hours away by car. Hazel graduated first in her class of 100,000 at the University of Bombay. Lisa is the mother of adopted daughters from China. Sandy is a chaplain with an artist's eye and a tale-teller's voice. Lura, quiet and calm, has lived in some very exotic places and came from Alaska via San Diego for the weekend. We spent the days out and about shooting scenery, each other, and in some cases being very paparazzi-like! My daughter was a photographer's dream, lying in the freezing water, hiding in the cornstalks.

One of our goals for the weekend was to get a photograph of ourselves that we could use for promotional purposes. The first full day, we paired up and set out in the rain and wind. My partner was Lura. She was methodical and careful about her shots. I was more haphazard. When we got back to the house and looked at what we'd gotten that day, I hated how I looked in every shot. Nothing wrong with Lura's eyes; it was all in my vision of myself.

The next day, I decided to do something different. I asked Lura if she would photograph me talking about what has been going on lately in my life. The breast cancer and my dad's death. And so I sat, wrapped in a beautiful shawl, cried my eyes out, and Lura shot photo after photo.

As we looked at the photographs that night, I was proud of myself for letting her shoot my sadness. And the others were moved too, I think.

At one of our ceremonies, I released my fear of radiation. I've felt calmer since then. And by stilling my grief and fears in front of the camera, I feel better able to move on. I want my sadness and my breast cancer behind me. I'm tired of saying, "As soon as this is over...."

I'm so grateful to Lura for being present and a witness for me that day. I'm grateful that I got to know the other amazing women. I'm grateful that I was with my daughter for the weekend.

Thanks to all of you - Jan, Jean, Lura, Lisa, Sandy, and Hazel - for everything.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reunion Weekend

This weekend I went to my 40th high school reunion. And for all the pictures I've taken over the past few years, I didn't not take one photograph the whole time I was with my friends. Thanks to all those who did, and I look forward to seeing them on Facebook.

I love, love, love my reunions, getting lots of hugs and kisses being one of my favorite things! I can understand though, those who shy away from them. It takes guts to go to one. First of all, we all look just enough the same that the face is familiar, but I have to glance at the name tags to be sure that I have the right person sometimes. You cannot be a wallflower at a reunion - you have to put yourself out there time and time again.

For the first time, I didn't agonize about what to wear or what to say about my life. I feel great about me, even if I don't weight 120 pounds anymore, and I've pretty much reached my peak professionally. I have interesting hobbies, talented and beautiful kids, and a husband who looks good standing by my side. And for the first time in forty years, I only put my foot in my mouth once, thanks to the fact that I wasn't drinking!

One of the most moving moments of the weekend was my visit to the memorial table. The organizers had taken some time and given some thought to this presentation, and there was a candelabra and small white place cards with each deceased class member's name. Some people I knew had died, but others were a shock. I knew the first person in our class who died, Ricky, and the most recent, Steve, since the second grade.

Seeing everyone made me greedy to see them more. We have moved beyond the facts - where we live, how many children/grandchildren we have, the lives and deaths of our parents, whether we're retired or still plugging away. We could get into some depth now, if there was only more time.

Yesterday my husband and I did a little cleaning at my dad's. It was very hard to walk into his house on Friday; his absence was palpable ("Dad? DAD?" "Hey!"). But as the weekend progressed, I distracted myself with family and friends and found it easier to be there. One excellent moment (you know how I am about numbers!) was when I noticed this clock on the yard sale pile:

It was a weekend of friends, nostalgia, sadness, longing for our youth and reveling in our present age. Thank you, friends.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How I've Changed

We all have them: friends who think their opinion is the only one that matters. Let's take my husband for example, mainly because he never reads my blog. I say, "I love love love disco music!" He lowers his head and raises his eyebrows. "You love disco music?" And he means how could anybody in their right mind, with any taste at all in music, love disco?

I have another friend, who may or may not read my blog, who does this about books. "I read that book you suggested," she said the other day, and her tone implied total disappointment in my choice of reading material.

When I was younger, and less sure of myself, I would think, "Gosh, if this person, who knows music/books doesn't like it, I am probably stupid for liking it." And the next time someone said they loved disco music, I lowered my head, raised my eyebrows, and snorted.

Now? "Screw you and your lack of versatility/taste/acceptance of diversity! I still love disco music. Think I'll turn on Donna Summer right this very minute," or "That book was awesome! And I know an awesome book when I read one."

See, I know I make good choices now, whether it's about books or music or life. They may not be the things everyone else likes, but I choose on the basis of what makes me feel good. And that's all that matters.