When I whine about the weather here on the Oregon coast, when I whine about being lonely or feeling hopeless or never having any fun, remind me about yesterday.
It was an honest-to-goodness day off when I did not feel obligated to work on my to-do list of writing, music and household chores. I slept late, luxuriating in the warmth of the electric blanket and the baseboard heater, waking to sunlight and blue sky. We have actually had a lot of that lately, but it has been coupled with bone-aching cold. Not yesterday. I wouldn’t call it hot, but it was warm enough to sit in the sun and wonder where I hid my sunglasses. It was a day when I read in the sun, played guitar in the sun, and walked the dog in the sun before that same sun set in a sky washed with blue and orange that made the water shine like liquid gold.
In the morning, as the sun blasted through the windows, I grabbed one of the big boxes piled up in the garage and started sorting through it. This was my darkroom box, and most of the contents dated back to the mid-1980s when I was processing film and developing photos at work and at home in the bathroom. I found photo paper and chemicals purchased in 1978. Are they still good? Probably not. I threw them away. Who uses film anymore anyway? I found my timer, my dodging tools (anybody know what those are?), colored filters, red light bulbs, and the black bag in which I moved film from the canister to the developing tank. White light would spoil the pictures. Not a problem in these digital days. It was fun to find these old friends and remember those happy hours I spent in the darkroom at various newspaper jobs and at home with the radio blasting, watching pictures magically appear in the tray of developing fluid. I can still smell the ammonia stench of the fixer bath that kept the images from disappearing.
But even more fun was finding the many photos and proof sheets from that era that were also tucked in the box. There’s Fred looking young and handsome, me looking slim and young with tiny Michael at my side. There are Fred’s grandchildren Stephanie and Brandon as babies, their mother Gretchen looking so very young. There’s my mom looking pretty with black hair. Uncle Bob. Cousin Tracy. Oh my gosh, even my first husband Jim and his family. Beloved co-workers from a newspaper in San Jose. A Veteran’s Day parade downtown. Vasona Park. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk. A tree that caught my eye 30 years ago. A flower. A dog. Our first trip to the Oregon coast, back when we had no idea we’d be living here a few years later. Newspaper photos that mean absolutely nothing to me now.
I filled a big trash bag with things not worth keeping, but I saved the family pictures, even the ones where I was clearly still learning my craft. Why bother with anything that has sat in a box untouched for most of 30 years? So that on a lazy day in 2013 I can find old treasures and relive happy times of long ago with people who are no longer around. So that I can know they were real and still mine to keep.
It was a good day. Just the day before, on Saturday, clouds and fog kept us in twilight all day, and I longed to see the sun. God answered my prayers. Next time I whine, remind me of Sunday, Jan. 20. I have no photographs of that day, except for the pictures in my mind, but like the ones in that box, I hope they never fade.