It's late summer in Vermont and it's gorgeous. These are some of the most wonderful days of the year if you don't concern yourself with the impending snow and ice. The days are warm, dry, breezy and sunny while the nights are crisp and a full moon seems to hang the night sky every night.
The dahlias mature finally this time of year and I snap too many pictures of them. The bird population, which we watch so carefully during the summer, starts to change. The yellow finches lose their vibrant colors and the squawking red-winged blackbirds are nowhere to be found. There is a chill and a smell in the air that hearkens change.
It’s a change of seasons, something I missed during the four years or so that we lived in Santa Cruz, CA. The weather was blissful but monotone but I missed the transitions very much.
Transitions often cause stress and stress, if properly channeled, can cause growth. As I continue to work through the emotional and practical affects of my Dad’s passing in July, I’m hoping that I’m making some progress as well. Despite the busy days and the distractions of everyday life with an extra couple of helpings of concern and support for my Mom, my Dad is here.
I catch him at quiet moments and at transitions. He is not obtrusive. He’s not telling me what I’m doing right or wrong with my Mom and my siblings. He’s quietly there for me.
Our dahlia is blooming finally. Ours is a taciturn male (I'm convinced) that moves very slowly through the summer taking all of the good weather he can before popping out with several gorgeous flowers this time of year. This year is another banner year with multiple beautiful flowers emerging. I think of Dad taking pictures of flowers - he did a lot of it. Not the behavior that most of us - even family members - think of when you think of my plain talking, plane flying, white water canoeing disciplinarian Dad.
But he did do a lot of it. He also took a lot of bird pictures and a lot of gorgeous landscape pictures. Years ago driving down the Outer Banks of North Carolina searching for an elusive breakfast place, I remember him telling me of a trip he made to the area by himself sometime in the sixties almost exclusively to photograph the local waterfowl. He had a killer of a job, a wonderful wife and three kids at the time and I remember thinking what a departure that must have been for him to leave the family and how much he must have needed that time alone. These days he is visiting me as I struggle to develop my creative side and to work through losing my role model.
I think he’d like these pictures of our dahlia though the kind of digital manipulation that is so common these days would be foreign to him. He was schooled on an Argus C3 that his Mom bought for him for $15 a very long time ago and which he took to Europe during World War II. He dealt in shutter speed, f-stops and the choice of film. At a certain point, and though I asked Dad about this shortly before he passed away without getting a real answer, he moved to some kind of single lens reflex camera and started shooting slide film - maybe it was the Minolta XD11 that my brother just passed on to me. I wish I had more details about that time but we do have about 15,000 slides that resulted from his love affair with these cameras.
So these days when I find myself indulging in frivolously shooting the dahlia or leaves or sunsets, I feel Dad is here with me, urging me to try something new and to indulge my nascent creative side. It's the introspective Dad who ventured out for walks so early in the morning which would weeks or months later result in beautiful Kodachrome landscape shots of the hills around Gilman Pond. It's the supportive Dad who watched me play so many high school baseball games. It's the Dad that got up way before dawn on a layover in San Francisco to shoot the Golden Gate bridge. It's my Dad and I'm so very thankful he is still with me.