Staying home alone means you can do whatever you want to do, all day long, day after day. Even if you find yourself caught up in a show on Apple TV and basically watch all day long it’s okay, because living alone means there is no one there to object, or tell you that you need to do something, anything, else. I may live alone, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hear a voice telling me to go do something else, but it’s the voice in my head, and it can be relentless. Do I listen to it? No, not usually, unless it tells me to go bake something, but then after I’ve baked something it tells me not to eat it, so that’s no fun. Living alone has its perks, especially when that voice in my head tells me I’m okay, good even. But it’s not so free with the compliments, it’s much better at ‘constructive’ criticism.
It’s not about the flowers either. It’s about the dogs. About how living alone, but with dogs, isn’t really living alone alone at all. You talk to them, or I did anyhow. And because of them you go out for a walk and find things like a cactus covered in gorgeous white flowers. And you wonder how it is that you only just noticed them now that you are interested in photography, because you also walked the same route with the dogs for years before that was true. Walking them also led to fun exchanges with people on the street, like the guy in the convertible who stopped to say, “I didn’t think you were allowed to have livestock in Spring Hill.” He was referring to the fact that these dogs weren’t the daintiest of God’s creatures, all 250 pounds of them. And then there’s the breathing. They were out of the house for a month after my husband died, my son having taken them over while Charley was in the hospital. I kept the house dark and quiet during that time. It wasn’t a choice, I needed the solitude. I don’t know how long that would have lasted if not for the dogs. When I did bring them home to my quiet house I found myself listening to them breathe. It was as if the house had come back to life, the house was breathing, and maybe I also took a breath.
I probably wasn’t trying to hold two leashes while I took these pictures with my iPhone 7+. I used to drop the leashes and step on them if I could, but if not I’d let them go because they waited patiently for me to finish. Nope, I wasn’t ever alone when they were part of my life. I miss them.
It was the power of suggestion that got me. When I got here to Fort DeSoto campgrounds I told the ranger that I’d seen pictures of owls and eagles that were taken here in the park. He suggested that my best bet for either bird would be the Arrowhead area. Take the nature trails he said, so I headed there the next day. A self-guiding nature trail, what could possibly go wrong with that, I asked myself. And there were lots of signs, signs announcing what flora you might be seeing, like the long needled pine trees who’s needles were carpeting the trail I was on. Or the Cabbage palms that seemed to be everywhere. I wanted to see the Prickly Pear cactus because I liked the name and the flower, but didn’t notice any cactus anywhere.
Signs saying ‘trail’, and with an arrow, pointed the way. One of the last signs I noticed was one announcing that the fauna lining the trail at that point was mostly Poison Ivy! Not good news. But still I walked, and walked, and then realized that I hadn’t seen any signs for a long while. No signs announcing the wildlife or plants, and most alarming, no signs pointing the way. And it was about then that I realized that my left leg was really itchy. So I scratched, and walked some more, and the trail seemed to be becoming narrower, and narrower still.
I then decided that maybe retracing my steps was probably a good idea. I saw no eagles, or owls, or people, on the walk, and eventually my leg stopped itching. But as I drove away I did finally find the water and stopped for pictures.
On the way back to the campgrounds I decided that I should stop at North Beach. I had stopped there for the sunset on the first night here, and found pounding surf and a fishing pier. But North Beach had been named one of the best beaches in the country more than once, and it got top honors a couple of years ago. So I wanted to see the actual beach that had inspired such rave reviews. But in this cold weather it was empty. Totally empty. I would have loved to have seen rows of colorful umbrellas, and children chasing the waves in and out. If I had seen them I might have wished to see less people, wished to see the scene as nature had created it. I will visit again another time, and maybe the weather will be warmer. Beach weather. That would be nice.
The first thing Charley and I bought together was a ridiculously expensive stained glass window. It was in an antique shop in Old Ellicott City, MD, and the blue pieces of glass were/are original to the window. Maybe the rest of the pieces were missing or broken. But at any we loved it, and it signaled that we were going forward together. That was close to 40 years ago now, and it’s moved with us since then, so it has hung in various spots over the years. But mostly it was in the upstairs window of the den of the house we lived in for over 30 years. Many more years in that one house than I lived in my hometown, which was a stunning realization when it hit me. Yet I left that house behind without looking back, but I’ve never been able to leave my hometown behind. I’ve lived a lot of places in my life, but none of them have been ‘home’ to me, despite my penchant for fixing them up. I had considered selling it, the stained glass window I mean, but I knew that I’d never get the crazy price we paid for it. And during the time it hung in that upstairs window, the one with a window seat below it, our cat, Hobo, used to reach up and dig his claws into the window frame for a nice stretch. And so they remain there, his claw marks forever part of our history. So I fix up my place and make it all cozy for myself. This is the equivalent of my first apartment, the first place I’ve ever made for myself alone. In a place I never expected to be. You don’t usually furnish your first place with a lifetime’s worth of treasures. Treasures that hold memories, and bring them to life when you look at them. My ‘first’ place may be my last place, and it may just be home…
Just so you know, no forensic dummies were harmed in the making of these photos. But there is a new, to me at least, photo group in my area, and it’s led by a forensic photographer. This makes for interesting conversations because as she describes setting your camera a certain way she talks about how that setting would apply to her work; photographing blood spatter, or bullet wounds, or, gulp, the body. So when we went to a cemetery to shoot pictures and she asked if we wanted to recreate a crime scene I couldn’t help myself, I asked which one of us was going to be ‘the body’. But she said, “No, I have a head.”, and we all looked around at each other. LOL. My new van hasn’t been completely empty since I loaded it up and headed north, but what she carries around in her car is a heck of a lot more interesting, or possibly alarming, than what I carry with me It was a very interesting lesson, but my reaction was that it would be a tedious process to take the zillion photos and do it in such a manner that you haven’t distorted anything. If taken properly the photographs should allow investigators to recreate a crime scene very accurately. This gal created a specialty of forensic photography at Syracuse University because she saw a need, after realizing that in the past most of these forensic specialists were handed a camera and expected to take the pictures with no training at all. On the job training, I guess.
At any rate, these photos have nothing at all to do with me. It was just a setting with lots of light and shadows, and friends to spend time with. A great opportunity to take the HDR photos that I love with the new camera and lens that I opted for the other day. It was only a matter of time. These particular friends are a bad influence on me…Just a little bird in a far off tree, checking out the new lens. I’m a happy camper!
This post came up on my Facebook memories from June 2nd 2 years ago. I was surprised to read it and realize that I was getting the urge to get out of my comfort zone that long ago. June 1, 2019 is the day I hitched up the trailer for the first time and headed to New Hampshire to learn the ropes of camping. I’m feeling paralyzed this year, afraid of being on the road and finding no spaces in campgrounds, or campgrounds not open. It would be so much easier to stay home…
Duxbury Beach in Massachusetts features prominently in my fond memories of home. Maybe it was that we used to stay at my uncle’s cottage, the last one on the seawall that defined the private beach from the public beach. That it was rocky, especially after a storm, was a plus. You could put your blanket out on the sand and scout out a few rocks to anchor down the corners. My husband had heard me rave about it long before he ever saw it, and when I took him there it was after a storm and it was particularly rocky, and from the look in his eye I’m pretty sure he doubted my sanity after that. Since then I have been to lovely beaches with expanses of sugar sand as far as the eye can see, but I will never feel about them the way I feel about Duxbury. Which is why I told Charley that I wanted my ashes scattered at Duxbury when the time came. My daughter heard that and said that I should be informing her of my wishes, and, as usual, she was right. If I was ever going to change my mind about that then visiting a cemetery like this one is why I’ll let the decision stand. Stones sinking into the ground, names and dates barely readable, and no one to care or remember. Sadly, there was more than one ‘unknown’ marker. A person, a life. Someone’s child, possibly someone’s parent, gone except for that sad marker. After being home alone for so long I’m finding that part of me now wants to get out, hit the road, go everywhere, see everything. But I tell myself I’m too old, I can’t do it alone. Maybe so, maybe not. But I like the idea that one day my ashes might ride the wind and the water, and travel farther than my dreams can take me now. I’ll return to Duxbury one day…