MARCH 30, 2019

Tulips in Bloom


So anyway. The Editor sat with a box on the floor and his bottle of Glenfiddich on the table with a glass and a pitcher of ice. The box contained the culled photographs, proofs, negatives and slides from Chad's lifetime of photography. The Editor had driven the ancient Volvo down to the Island to sort through the last effects of his website designer who had suffered a massive heart attack three weeks ago, while his widow moved through the scene that the Editor had seen many times before. The Editor was an old soldier and death was a familiar acquaintance.

The Widow moved aimlessly among the scattered detritus of a man's life, each movement generating a different sort of new pain. The ornate urn of ashes there next to the wooden Buddha. Useless wires, bookshelves, lamps, end-tables, objets de arts, books, paintings, and loads upon loads of photographs done by a man who had practiced art photography for years with his own b/w darkroom. There were thousands upon thousands of images taken from 1962 onwards.

Here a photo of a painting, but without attribution. There, a picture of a wharf in Boston or Philadelphia. Trees and foliage from anywhere - the man had travelled across the country and to Scotland and Tahiti where apparantly he had done scuba diving. There were pictures of that, too.

All the slides and negatives were unmarked and without dates save for a series of negatives and proofs of art nudes marked Roberta, 1982.

Where was Roberta now and what did she look like now when those images had captured her in the bloom of twenty-something youth more than thirty years ago? What was the meaning of her standing on a table in a cluttered room, naked and holding a wind chime?

Outside the windows of the new Island-Life newsroom that had yet to dry from wood preservative and rehab, the air had turned soft with the suggestion of Spring. The Japanese plum trees were blooming as were the cherry blossoms. Tulips, irises and lilacs had announced that life would return to this earth so savaged by indifferent drones seeking money.

You can thrust Nature out with a pitchfork, but it always come roaring back.

Pictures of people of people, old and young, babies and elderly. Pictures of people at street faires and happenings, concerts and festivals. All of whom by now had led entire lifetimes of their own. In some rare cases he had composed indices, which were as densely useless as hierogrphics composed in long forgotten languages. Ken and Esther/ kitchen (harsh sun) 1982. Bill Bodie. smiling dog / coffee house/ - 1982. Gene Oldfield w/ renegade robots 1981. hippotomous / . girrafe. cassovaries/ Sacto City zoo 1982.

It was an entire life, but the key which had provided reference meaning had left the stage and was not going to return. The Editor found it impossible to infuse any of this with a sense of order or meaning. Each image now belonged to the world of public knowledge, without reference as if presented to an alzheimer's patient without an attached memory. That memory was now gone.

The Editor took the box out to the dumpster and dropped it in, inhaling the combined scent of refuse and of new lilacs. He then went back inside along the row of tulips newly erupted from the cold earth to have a drink and deal with his grief. There would be other ways to preserve memory.

But for now, the tulips were in bloom again.

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and wended its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slid over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais following the old, forgotten railbeds that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White's Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with faint gray shapes along the ridgetops through the drifts of fog to an unknown destination.