Many might choose Paris or Istanbul as a runaway destination. Having only a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and an expired passport eliminated those possibilities. Instead, Memorials Park Cemetery was my destination, a road trip of about eight miles.The cemetery is home to the Crystal Grotto and its fantasy shaped structures.I chose my infrared camera because it would accentuate the otherworldly feel . I viewed the cave and tree as imaginary housing, fit for visiting sprites or hobbits.
The faux bois structures suit the park well and it’s hard to believe they are cement.A folk artist from Mexico, Dionicio Rodriguez created the vision from his imagination. Hired by the cemetery’s founder, Clovis Hinds, Rodriguez earned $75.00 per week over a ten year period during the Depression. His creations are dream – like and religiously significant.
Working in steel and copper to form supports, the structures were formed in cement over wire. Using his hands, twigs and dinner utensils for tools, he simulated wood structures that suggest fairies and woodland creatures.Calling his work, “el trabajo rustic”, Rodriguez built Abraham’s Oak that towers 15 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter.
There is the Cave of Machpelah which is named for a burial cave from the Holy Land. The reflecting pool is the Pool of Hebron, and the Grotto appears as a mountain shaped form which houses the crystal cave. All are entirely hand-built. Walking into the cave you are stunned to find formations of limestone, rock quartz crystal and cement forming backgrounds for murals of scenes of the life of Jesus.
The artwork and grotto are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mentally moving into the imaginative structures provided a needed break. I returned home energized and without expense or jet lag.
Colorless. Not a word that most of us would welcome as description.Coral pink flamingoes looked like birthday balloons on stilts.Their color makes them memorable. So why shoot them in infrared? Mostly because I wanted to see the result. Soft shadings and textures surprised me with a stronger appeal than I expected, taking me a step closer to their essence.Certainly their color is part of who they are – but maybe all the color and shine we add to the outside disables others from seeing our innate textures and softness. Something for me to ponder.
When I read a description that included the words old iron gates, columns and foundation remains, I had to visit Wormsloe Plantation near Savannah, Georgia. Arched stonework , hand-forged gates, and a live oak-lined drive didn’t disappoint. Standing over the foundation of the house, I barely heard the interpreter as I shot in lawn-sprinkler mode: turn, shoot pause, turn, shoot, pause….I had the rhythm but not the engagement. So I wandered off down a path toward the river. No tourists, no interrupted thoughts as I stood admiring the river. It had provided for those who had lived on the land for generations and vowed silently to continue.As I took notice of my surroundings I realized the still life in front of me , calm in the afternoon light , would recall the afternoon in a way that none of my automatic shooting could. I accepted the gift and made one shot.
Lately, as I have been reading about contemplative photography, which talks about receiving rather than making photographs, I have the example of that December afternoon to remind me.
If I ever run away, it won’t be hard to find me. Just look in this little shack looking out over the dunes where the murmuring of the waves and screeching of gulls are all the conversation I need.It isn’t a new idea. Many writers and artists have taken refuge in these shacks over the years.Eugene O’Neill and Norman Mailer both worked on the dunes. They were on to something.
I just returned from Cape Cod where the light has delighted artists for generations, the cool breezes made wandering possible and inspiration hovered everywhere . Back in Memphis, it’s raining. After ten or more days of 100 +temperatures and blazing sun, here the rain is more than welcome. It’s a perfect day to think and relax. This photo, taken during winter vacation, when a storm interrupted a day of infrared shooting, shares the softness and beauty of a rainy day. Combined with this quote from Gloria Jones, ” If you’re only happy when the sun is out, you’re missing half your life, ” reminds me that we need to appreciate each day for its gifts.
Roseate petticoats swirl in pleasure
Practicing a familiar ballet of
Pirouettes, jetes,and arabesques.
Pink and pearl blossoms
Spent silken petals
Spread their kimono
Over newly green grass.
Silently , hoping not to awaken summer.