While traveling through the South of France with a photography group, I made a most unlikely friend. Mike was in his late 60’s; almost deaf and nearly crippled with legs ailing with age. He also traveled in a much more powerful and wealthier crowd than mine. His friends made world decisions. My friends had to comply with the results of these decisions. Still, in the back of a car as we drove from one beautiful photography site to another we bonded. Lavender was in full bloom as were fields of sunflowers. Amidst the visual and scented beauty we discovered our similarities. We loved stories, photography, food and our pets. At the time, I had a parakeet named Vivian. I’ve spared you parakeet stories so far but sternly warn you, one day you will read one. On that day, you will laugh heartily.
Mike laughed like a loon as I recounted tales of Vivian’s antics. She had the ability to make me seem the fool. Once the vacation was ended, we exchanged email addresses. I can’t remember the year. It may have been 2000 or the late 1900’s. Hmm, that sounds like a very long time ago!
Mike was my first “virtual” pen pal and as he and his wife traveled the globe emails were sent back and forth. With 30 something years between us, his messages were laced with wisdom. I don’t have the emails I sent him but I remember the problem I had that he replied to in the one I posted below. My friend Harry gave me all of his photography equipment for the darkroom and it was shipped to me. As I sat with it in my living room I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t ready for this incredible gift and lamented my predicament. Mike’s answer is one that I still read to this day. It has aged well and continues to remind me there is a life beyond what I see or can even comprehend. He has long since passed but his words remain true. Here is part of his letter:
Some of the wording in your last message rang sharp chimes in the labyrinth of memory, “I don’t make changes easily and it is funny to have the future arrive only to find that it doesn’t fit in the present, A change must occur . . . . “
Many years ago, during one of my many workshops at the Santa Fe Photography workshops, while tromping in the boonies of northern New Mexico in a rather back of the moon barren area outside of Greer Garson’s “Ghost Ranch”, and a bit huffing and puffing tired from carrying an extra camera plus extra lenses, plus, of course, my tripod, I sat down on a large rock quite close to an unexpected patch of long-bladed green grass quite a contrast to its arid surroundings. I noted a largish spider web high in the long grass with Mama Spider serenely occupying the very center of her creation. I reached over and touched a strand of the web with a pencil; the spider tended her guy-lines and tried to read the movement of the web, but the message was incomprehensible. The spider was circumscribed by “spider ideas”; its universe was “spider universe”, everything outside it was extraneous, and I realized that in the world of the spider I did not exist. And I thought of myself tenuously (word invented to fit!) holding on to the center of my own web, with nothing but vast darkness beyond it.
I’ll spare you the usual trite blah-blah-blah of change being good, since this is not necessarily true, but change should invoke introspection since dealing successfully with change is not possible beyond our inner universe, and this is good as it confirms that our “inner universe” is truly all we have. Once we’ve come this far we know how to re-arrange our present if we wish to embrace whatever is jangling our guy-lines, and uncertainty begins to pale.
That is the thought I will leave you with for the weekend. May all of your guy-lines lead to something wonderful!