Archive for the ‘future’ Category
As I have written more than once or twice in the past, photographs work like time machines for me. A moment’s glance and a whole scene, conversation, or even an entire day or week can be recreated. Today’s post involves some jumping around through time. If you will bear with me, I’ll explain where I’ve been and where I am now – body and mind – which as you might guess, don’t always inhabit the same sphere.
As you may recall, my last post contained an update on my travels. I have been in the southwest for a few weeks. My random wanderings are now ended and I am somewhat settled in Bisbee – about as settled as I ever am these days, which isn’t saying much.
Today is my birthday. It’s an event I no longer celebrate and acknowledge only as the anniversary of the definitive diagnosis of Don’s cancer. I was going to write something about that today, but then I went back and read the post that I wrote three years ago and thought, “Wow, this says it all and I can’t do any better.” By the way, the above image is of the birthday card which Don gave me during his stay at the hospital – as described in the above-linked post. I keep the original card safely stored in a filing cabinet at my home up north, but always carry a photocopy among my personal effects in the van during my travels.
There are a few things that I would like to write about today as I think they are worth saying. The first has to do with time. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that I have something of a fascination with time. To me, it is a fluid medium that flows first one way and then another. In my mind’s eye, it’s like one vast ocean that laps upon one continent’s shore while simultaneously lapping upon another. Events and memories float within its swell, occasionally pushing up in one place and then some place else. As I have discovered over the years, there is no means to predict or control such appearances. They just happen. When they do, they can awaken powerful responses – some pleasant, while others might best be regarded as malevolent demons.
Back in September, I wrote about an annual hiking trip that Don and I made on our anniversary. While back home, I planned to do that hike. However, in spite of my best intentions, some poor weather and other obstacles prevented my hike. Although I am not much for omens, I decided that perhaps this wasn’t the year to repeat our hike alone. Instead, I returned to one of our other favourite places – one that always seemed magical in many ways. In the above photo, my van is parked in the meadow above a spot where we often launched our canoe. For those who remember my old Burning Silo nature blog, this is the site of the boiling rain which I wrote about and linked to a video clip back in this post. One thing that was not mentioned back in that post was that our visit was about the last of the good days before Don became too ill to leave the farm.
So, a day or two after our anniversary, Sage and I set out on a favourite old trail. It felt strange to be there alone without Don or Sabrina. As I watched Sage inspecting each object along the trail, I had to keep reminding myself that she had never been to this place and knew nothing of its history or importance to me. It’s a sensation that is with me almost constantly – this confusion over who was or wasn’t with me when I was here or there. Many times, I feel Don or Sabrina moving about on the periphery of my senses. In the past, I struggled to keep it all sorted out. Nowadays, I just let everyone come and go as I realize that it doesn’t much matter to anyone other than me.
Of course, I encountered many familiar sights during our circuit of the lake’s edge. I stopped to rest awhile at a spot where Don and I would sit and talk any time there was something troubling in our lives. It is a place where we could gaze across a peaceful bay to a little treed island with a large osprey’s nest atop a tall, slender snag. It still stands there, so I took this photo from about the usual place where we would have sat watching osprey come and go as they fed their young. On this day, the nest was abandoned for the season.
I also stopped to lay my hand upon the skin of one of the great Beech trees along the path. Unfortunately, much as the cool, smooth bark felt good beneath my palm, I looked about at the many fallen Beech now decaying on the forest floor – struck down by a disease specific to these trees. I recognized one beautiful giant that I last saw standing during my final hike on that trail a little over four years ago.
The sight of the dead Beech made me feel quite sad for all the losses – both personal and more universal – that have marked the past five years. Over time, I have come to understand what an impact such losses have had on my thoughts and outlook. I no longer regard anything as permanent or enduring. To me, life resembles something slippery and elusive – a thing that appears solid and tangible, but that glides quickly and easily through your fingers like a fish wriggling to return to the water. You may believe that it is yours for keeps, but that is only an illusion.
And so I ended my hike about the lake. I had brought a lunch and the fiddle along, so found a shady spot to sit beneath a gnarled apple tree that was probably part of an old orchard on the farm that is now returning to nature. I ate and played a few tunes in this place away from the ears of anyone other than Sage and the birds and insects that rustled and chirped about me. Five years on, I am still here – vastly changed, greatly worn, but at least marginally recognizable.
And so another year comes to a close as the next begins. This evening, it will be three years since Don died. I’ve just spent the past few hours, choosing some photos for this post. A few are older, taken in the years before Don became ill. Some, such as the above image, were taken in the months between his diagnosis and death. I have not looked at the later photos too much since taking them as it has just been too painful. However, to avoid them is to avoid acknowledging that difficult part of our lives.
The above photo is how I like to remember Don – healthy and strong – busy taking GPS readings and recording field notes. It’s a scene that was repeated many times during our hikes year-round every weekend. Don and I hiked and canoed just about every trail we knew of in eastern Ontario. I took photos while he recorded our sightings.
Above is Don with a young Sabrina. She is about two or so years old in this photo – not really too much different in age from Sage. Now, Sabrina is in the twilight of her life. I hope to take her to Arizona with me in October, but am sure this will be her final trip – a fact that makes me quite sad as it seems like she is one of the last tangible connections to Don.
This photo was taken on the trail along the Illinois River in the Siskiyou region of southeast Oregon. In 2006, Don flew out to join me part way through my photography travels of the Pacific Northwest. I am so glad that he decided to come west so that I could take him to so many of my favourite places in Oregon and northern California. He loved it there and talked of returning to explore more of the coast – but of course, that did not come to pass.
A couple of years ago, I posted a different view of this little scene. I decided to put this one up as it has such a familiar feel to it. Evenings were often spent sitting reading in the living room. This was our family time – Don, Sabrina and me.
This photo was taken at the farm shorty after Don’s diagnosis. At this point, we were spending most of our time at the farm as Don was dealing with the effects of chemo and radiation treatments. Regardless of his illness, he made a point of getting out for walks each day in order to stay strong and to keep our lives as normal as possible throughout that time.
The above photo was taken moments after the top photo in this post. I debated whether to include it, but decided that it was good to share. That day, we had returned from a meeting with the doctors, picked up Sabrina, and went for a walk at Baxter Conservation area. We talked a bit, but mostly tried to relax and adjust to latest bombshells. Don was always pretty at ease with the whole thing. In fact, so was I. It was difficult for both of us, but we both felt that the best way to deal with things was to get out and spend time in those places we most loved. In the months to come, we would find our greatest peace resting in the sunlight in those places we knew so well.
This is among the last photos that I have of the two of us together. It makes me both happy and sad. I have not looked at it more than a couple of times in the past three years. Don was not well, but as always, he was smiling.
This last photo was taken in autumn 2006, on a beach near the town of Trinidad in northern California. It is how I beslt like to remember Don. Although my life has changed considerably over these past three years, these photos bring me close to certain moments. To me, it is as though they happened yesterday. I still feel the same toward Don now as I did then.
To Don. I miss you -I love you – and that will never change.