Curtains From ThanatosMonday, May 20, 2013
HERSEE, Philip - (Age 68)
Passed on March 20, 2013. He is survived by his wife Hilda, son Dustin, sister Monica, brothers Stephen (Kirsty), Ian and relatives in Canada and the UK. Service will be held Monday, April 1, 2013 from 11 am to 2 pm at St. George's School Chapel (3851 West 29th Avenue, Van., V6S 1T6). In lieu of flowers, donations to BC Cancer Foundation.
Published in the Vancouver Sun on March 29, 2013
|Our living room window to the front garden|
When I arrived to Vancouver in 1975 it took me a while before I could become a photographer. I began to struggle as one around 1977 and Phil Hersee was well established with a nice studio in Gastown. He soon was a pioneer in the new business of shooting stills for the growing film industry of Vancouver.
Because we were in different fields, I was shooting for magazines, I never dealt with Hersee nor did I ever get to know him. I remember him as a handsome man with a neat moustache and a clipped British accent. More often than not he had a smile on his face. About 18 years ago he self-published a book about Vancouver with his beautiful colour takes.
Rosemary, our daughters Ale and Hilary moved to our present location on Athlone Street in 1986. The living room has two huge windows on either end and windows on the side. The dining room also has a very large window overlooking the front garden. Next to the living room is our den which has a window that faces our back garden. At certain times in the afternoon watching TV in the den or sitting to type at my computer in the living room becomes impossible. The sun glares.
The reason is that we never bothered to get curtains. We toyed with Venetian blinds, roller blinds and conventional drapes but we never got to it. The views into our living room and dining room are somewhat partially obscured by the dense vegetation of our garden. Perhaps some of my neighbours while walking their dogs might have spied me sitting at this monitor in the evenings while not wearing a stitch.
During the early spring and throughout the hot summer days Rosemary places old sheets on the wooden floors of the living room and dining room. She indicates that our carpets have faded.
At age 70 if I work all day in the garden, I regret it the next day and I can not move without feeling arthritic pain. It is obvious that our big garden with its two full-time gardeners (Rosemary and her husband) is a job that soon will be an impossible one. Finances make it tough to paint the house, repair the bathrooms and do the other pressing things that any old house needs.
It is obvious, and everybody tells us to (damn that word!) downsize into a condo to free ourselves from the stress of our big house and garden.
Thinking of downgrading (a much nastier version of downsizing) can be, in itself, most stressful. There are all those books, all the Mexican memorabilia, the antique furniture, the 14, four-drawer metal cabinets with slides and negatives, the pictures on the wall, the 85 roses, the over 400 hostas, the records, the tapes the CDs and the list continues. Our two cats?
In the past I have seen buildings that are to be torn down in a near future. Nobody sees to repairs. Having had many cars with a slipping clutch, I have shelled out thousands in repairs even after my repairman would tell me, “Your clutch might go next week, or it might last for another month or, who knows, even a year. I have nursed these clutches by not gunning the accelerator and I have discovered that indeed the clutch will last up to a year and gas savings are another positive factor of lessening the pressure on the gas pedal.
The slipping clutch has taught me that life in general is driving to a destination where if one is extra careful the car will become inoperable only when one reaches it. In a model for efficiency one has arrived with no clutch to spare.
For some years the clutch (a slipping one) has been my mantra for my life.
I began to have doubts three years ago before my friend Abraham Rogatnick died of untreated (he decided to let go a year before) prostate cancer. A month before his death he was pretty well in a wheelchair. Access to his house, and exit, was impossible. He had a carpenter build him an elaborate winding ramp from his kitchen to the back garden and his garage. His friend, wheelchair bound Mayor Sam Sullivan was going to retrofit Rogatnick's car so that he could enter his car and drive it.
The ramp was a sight to behold. It was beautiful, simply because the designer, Rogatnick was a graduate of Harvard Architecture School.
When Rogatnick died, his house was sold and eventually torn down I thought of the waste of talent and money to build that elaborate ramp that was never used.
Sometime last November my friend and camera repairman, Horst Wenzel told me, “Alex, your colleague Phil Hersee was here the other day to have some cameras repaired. He is looking pretty good even though he is not well.” I inquired about Hersee’s health at Beau Photo and I was told he had a serious and terminal case of colon cancer, but that it did not prevent him from visiting Beau to purchase or rent camera supplies. It seemed that for Hersee, business was as usual.
I have been giving Hersee’s approach to life (and death) some thought. I watch Rosemary buy plants for our garden. Aren’t we going to sell our house with garden soon? Who cares if the floors fade? The house will become a teardown as soon as we sell it, besides the floors are already faded after 27 years of uncurtained windows.
I have seen the light. One cannot live thinking that one must protract one’s activities because death is just around the corner. Hersee knew this and from that other side I can almost imagine him smiling with that neat moustache of his in approval that I have seen the light, before it is too late.
The better part about all this is that my wife Rosemary has known all along. I have ordered a roller blind for the den and if Rosemary likes it I will order some for the rest of the windows. Rogatnick would have approved.