“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”
— Ralph Hattersley
i wake in the dead of the night thinking of my dad.
memories gently float to the surface and i recall suddenly
how he would make a bed of ferns or moss beside
the curve of the river bank or shimmering lake
and there, he would line up the fish he had caught that day.
the color of their scales would sparkling in the sun
as he placed his rod or maybe his creel beside them.
when the scene was to his liking, he would step back and take a photo. . .
i recall days when he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's,
and how i would set up the slide projector and unroll the cracked screen,
pull the curtains tightly closed against the afternoon sun,
and how the two of us would sit for hours and look at slides.
there would be photos of me as a child, on camping trips or in snow so deep
i could barely walk. there were photos of my mother, hiking among
Indian paintbrush so vivid and alive, or wrapped up tightly against the wind
coming off the ocean. he would ask questions about the woman
and it would agitate him some, because he was sure he should know her.
he would ask about the little girl and i would gently tell him,
being somewhat evasive because i could see how hard he was trying to remember.
but those fish. . . he would know where he caught those fish.
he would remember who he was with and sometimes even the year.
in the dead of the night it is all i can do to not get up and look
for the mishmash of the box full of slides, i was handed at his death.
i mentally go though every closest and the shelves in the garage,
trying to recall when i saw the box last. . .
finally sleep returns and at dawn i am heartbroken. . .
because i cannot put my hands on them.
so today i will hunt and i will find them, one way or another
because somehow it seems so very important
to get one of those fish photos in my hands and printed and up on my wall
for so many reasons. . .
"Somehow it's hard to quit with an odd number of fish, so I wanted one more for four,"
— Norman Maclean (A River Runs Through It and Other Stories)