That Image On My MonitorFriday, February 18, 2011
Two seemingly unrelated events, one a thought, the other a double dose of snapdragons (one in the film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the other in the Arts Club presentation of the Blackbird Theatre production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) made me think of the ramifications of my parent’s garden in Buenos Aires back in the late 40s. It was a garden I got to know well.
Both Richard Burton and Kevin McNulty ring the bell and show up with snapdragons which each one presents to Martha in a mock embarrassed gee-shucks here-are-some-flowers-for-you.
My mother loved to garden and she particularly loved perennials. But in her garden she planted snapdragons for me. The shady corridor by the brick wall (note the wall in the photograph here) had irises and hydrangeas. In a semi sunny corner where the brick wall ended and the wall of our bathroom (strangely adjacent to the kitchen) began there was a glorious light blue glicina. It took me a while, and only when I arrived in Vancouver to find out that the glicina was a wisteria. The rest of the garden had many plum trees. There was one that we called the ciruela remolacha because it was beet red inside. Another plum was green outside and yellow inside. Yet another was yellow outside and green inside as was the other that was red outside and yellow inside. My favourite was a tree that must have been a cross between a cherry and a plum tree. We had cedrones or lemon verbenas and many beautiful but poisonous (my mother had warned me about it) oleanders. In the front we had two stately and large palm trees and a persimmon tree my father always called the khaki. I would patiently wait for its fruit to mature to a nice deep orange but whenever I would bit on it I was repulsed by its astringency and my lips would pucker.
All of the trees were trees I could climb. And I did climb them a lot. This was not the case with the large slippery fig tree in the back and the frail níspero or medlar whose fruit if I waited with patience to ripen did not repulse me as my father’s khaki.
|Tía Sarita and the khaki|
Besides the fragrant glicina my mother had planted vanilla smelling heliotropes. I remember her telling our gardener (he may have been a Galician),”Plante los heliotropos aquí.” Shortly after I remember the man turning over the lawn with a spade and the place where I used to run was now a mess. I did not understand then the purpose of the exercise.
The thought I write about in the first paragraph has to do with last night's insomnia and my thinking about working with two photo programs. I have both Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop in my computer. I like elements of both. Sometimes by accident or on purpose I may open a photograph in Photoshop and then go to Paint Shop and open the image there. I will sometimes change my mind about the image in Corel and delete it. When I go back to Photoshop the image will still be up on my screen. If I try to do anything to it I get a warning that there is no file for that image. Any further tampering and the image will disappear in an audible poof (only in my mind).
The actual and real negative or slide might be on the scanner by the side of my computer. The scan, which was in my computer’s photo programs, has been deleted. There might be a file left in my computer’s trash. If I purge the trash (strangely called the re-cycle bin!) all of my actual and real negative or slide that is left is its physical presence.
I mourn for those who use digital cameras. When they purge an image (one that they can never ever touch or bite or burn or bend or fold as it lies as a combinations of ones and zeros in some esoteric and alien device called a sensor) they have nothing except a memory of the picture. This memory may have been a brief glance on the back of their DSLR. Something about the image did not please, the delete button was pressed. There will be no going back after that if remorse sets in.
As I look at the family photo above I think of a similarity. In the photo (I am between my mother on the left and my grandmother on the right, then it’s my tía Sarita, my Uncle Tony and my cousin Wency.) There is a similarity to that photon thick image that remains on my monitor after I have deleted it. It is very much like the memory of my mother’s garden. Wency might remember it. The others cannot, they are dead.
Perhaps my friends Miguelito and Mario might remember. They climbed the garden’s trees with me. Or the Sullivan boys, John, Joe and Tom. One night we had a massive fireworks fight (we through firecrackers and the ones that zoomed in the air on little bamboo splinters). I cannot imagine why Mr. Sullivan, my father and mother beningly allowed us! Perhaps the boys and girls my mother invited for the five birthdays I celebrated in the garden on August 31s or thereabouts. If Mónica is still alive she might remember the garden. I believe she won consecutively all the donkey’s pin the tails and broke every piñata my father tied from his khaki. I doubt anybody else might remember the snapdragons and the heliotropes, the irises and the (yes) callas.
I am captivated with the thought that the memory of my garden, so vivid and seemingly unfading now, will delete itself, poof! like the image on my monitor.
What is the image on my monitor? It is my class picture from my 1958 St. Edward’s High School yearbook. I have no memory of having my picture taken but I do admire my mother's taste who surely must have purchased the tie. Surely, the negative of that picture is long gone. Surely, in a class of about 55 students that picture and that yearbook must exist in numerical minority. And surely, the young boy with glasses (exactly that young boy with glasses) that existed for a fleeting 1/50 of a second when he faced that camera is long gone, too, poof!
Like the image on my monitor.