Where We Were a Year Ago
Thursday, March 11, 2021
|Rosemary & Casi-Casi|
Today was the one year anniversary of the WHO announcement
of the Covid Pandemic.This date will now be one of perhaps two others where
someone might ask you, “Where were you when you found out?” The other two
incidents might be the assassination of Kennedy and the other the landing on the moon.
I happen to have a precise knowledge of where I was on March
11th. It was 3PM and I was driving with Rosemary to Mandeville
Garden Works. We turned on the radio. We were at Marine Drive and Boundary. We were listening to CBC Radio news and it was then that we knew about
the pandemic as the WHO had declared it to be so.
During that whole remaining year until Rosemary was too sick
to go anywhere we managed to go to a nursery, mid-day, which delighted the both
of us and it divided the day so that the isolation was not too terrible. We
bought many plants including roses and clematis. It was always fun to be accompanied
by Rosemary who enjoyed thoroughly looking at plants and deciding which of them
would be “good garden plants” as our friend Alleyne Cook used to say.
Now in 2021 I have told myself that I do not have the heart
to visit any nursery on my own. The memories would be too tender.
I may have to
change my mind. Our favourite clematis was The Duchess of Edinburgh. Today
while pruning roses I found that she was dead. I will have to go to buy her
replacement at Phoenix Perennials.
The Cat Lady is Me
Tuesday, March 09, 2021
|Niño & my 1957 art piece on a cat.|
A cat lady is a
cultural archetype or stock character, most often depicted as a woman, a
middle-aged or elderly spinster, who has many cats. The term may be pejorative,
or it may be affectionately embraced.
Up until 1975 when me moved to Vancouver Rosemary and I had
dogs. It was here where we first acquired our first cat, Gaticuchi and we have
had cats since.
Our daughter Alexandra has three cats in Lillooet and she is
in charge of catching cats to have them neutered or spayed. Our other daughter
has an aggressive male cat that hisses at strangers in Burnaby.
In our Springer Avenue, Burnaby home we lived next to a cat
lady. We moved so I have no idea if when she died she left all her money to the
|Rosemary & Plata|
Both Rosemary and I loved our cats. For most of the years we
had them we communicated with them in baby-talk Spanish. I often thought that
if Rosemary had ever talked to me the way she did to her cats I would have been
The cat we had, Casi-Casi, before our (mine now that Rosemary
is gone) Niño and Niña died of diabetes. My relatives in Argentine could not
understand why we would spend money trying to treat and save a cat. They would tell me, “Es un gato y nada más.”
|Rosemary's fave cat bag|
My Portland musical friend Curtis Daily (baroque string
bass) has a talent for pointing out stuff that should be
self-evident. He told me that cats have had in their genes for thousands of
years the information that made them be with humans. When I look at Niño I
wonder if he might not have embedded in his memory that lingering caress by one of
the Amenhotep pharaohs.
|Rosemary in Florence|
It was many months later that it suddenly became a thought
in me that we humans having been with cats for thousands of years have an affinity
for them in our own genes.
With the death of my Rosemary on December 8, 2020 I have the
company and the comfort of two clingy cats, Niño and Niña. Are they clingy
because they used to share their lives with two humans and now there is only one
of them? They stare at me and my thought takes me to that lovely poem about
cats by Jorge Luís Borges .
To a cat - Jorge Luís Borges
Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.
Every day at around 3 in the afternoon when weather permits, Niño and I go for a walk around the blog. He is not leashed and sometimes he lingers. I am patient as my Rosemary who taught Niño to walk told me, "Don't shout at him just be patient and he will eventually turn up." While this little walk on nice days is pleasant I cannot but feel melancholic as I miss my Rosemary who is perhaps in our company as a ghost.
|Rosemary & Niña 5 December 2020|
In this century we eliminated waitresses and stewardesses.
The term aviatrix has been forgotten but only a woman can be a dominatrix. I
resent that I cannot be called a cat gent (I am one) and that cat lady is
gender specific. Does this mean that ultimately I might have to become
transgender so I can be a proper cat lady? Taking it further since in a long time
ago I took both my daughters to get their first bra at Sears, will I ask Hilary
to take me to Nordstrom’s for my first?
Cats at the Recoleta
El gato feral de Homero Aridjis
|Rebecca in the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden|
|Yuki and friend at La Recoleta in Buenos Aires|
Behind This Strong & Successful Woman...
Monday, March 08, 2021
|Rosemary, Mexico City 1968 (I am lurking behind) Photograph Andrew Taylor|
Three strong women in my life
"Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his
wife." Groucho Marx.
The above is a variation of the more common: "Behind
every successful man there is a woman."
My version would be that behind any bumbling husband is a
strong, successful and very intelligent woman.
That woman was my Rosemary Elizabeth Healey who I met 52
years ago. As for Groucho Marx’s version he may have been half right. If there
is any way of determining anything about my character and education before I
met my Rosemary that woman in my life was twice. One was my grandmother Dolores
Reyes de Irureta Goyena and the other was my mother Filomena de Irureta Goyena.
Because she married a divorced man, my father George, they had to have the
legal ceremony in Uruguay as divorce was not allowed in Argentina. So she kept
her unmarried name for most of her life.
Those three women made possible whatever modicum of success I can now
boast about. If I live in a stress free financial situation with money in the
bank it is all about my Rosemary who quietly took over our finances when we
During those 52 years she made all the correct (and even
daring) decisions that finally brought us and our two daughters to a Canada in 1975, which in this 21st
century I like to define as a country that has air, space and water.
It is impossible for me to consider International Women’s
Day without thinking of a strong-willed woman who quietly (she never ever
shouted) persuaded me to act in the correct manner to the point that this, heretofore
Latin macho, just let her have her own will because I knew she knew better.
From early on she was a proto-feminist telling me to sew my
own buttons and hem my jeans. It was only when large plants had to be moved that
she knew that I could be of help as I was a tad stronger (physically) than she
I have no idea how in a recent past when she would visit her
mother in Brockville (via the Ottawa airport) she would drive a rented car in a
snowstorm safely. I am sure that is ample proof that some guardian angels may be
women and that she surely had one.
Often she pointed out (quietly) of my expenses in matting
and framing my photographs for the many shows I had in the late 90s and the
beginning of this century. She knew that she had to allow for some expenses
that were making her then stressful financial planning a problem that kept her
from sleeping nights. But no I thought I was an artist!
So for many years I was the artist and she was the straight
woman who knew about money and how to help our granddaughters with their math.
Then I discovered her talent for gardening and for the picking of good garden
plants before anybody knew about it. I thought she was a snob (but then I love
snobs and that is why I particularly loved her).
How was I to know that when we visited New York City in the beginning
of 2018 that my wife was an avid art fiend? We showed up at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art at 10am and left when it closed at 5:30. She was keen on seeing everything
even when I suggested, “Would you want to see the medieval armour collection?”
She spent lots of time taking photographs with her phone of the horse armour.
Then on other days we went to MOMA and the Frick. There was little time left to
go to other museums. How could I have not known this?
Rosemary knew how to dress elegantly. I may have inherited
something from my mother in this in that I was the one who would go with Rosemary
to buy shoes and she would end up liking and buying the shoes I suggested.
As a little boy I was not allowed to play with dolls. I
believe that little boys should be allowed. In my photographic career which
involved many women of note and some not so well known, my desire to dress up
dolls became a reality. My photographs of women for magazine involved good
styling and elegant posture with graceful placement of hands. My Rosemary was
the one who taught me this and she would sometime brutally tell me why a
photograph was all wrong. I learned quickly.
For years I had the fantasy of being asked to arrange for
the guest list for a reception for the visiting Queen Elizabeth. I had three shoo-ins:
they were Arthur Erickson, Carole Taylor and my Rosemary.
Rosemary never spoke much. With her in any room everybody noticed
her strong presence.
Perhaps it was my imagination, but these folks would then
look at me and think: “How did you manage to land this strong and successful
For the First Time Twice
Beyond the Grave
The Significance of a Garden
That Crisp 100 Dollar Bill
A Kitsilano Valentine's Day
Without her on our 52nd Anniversary
We Dreamt Together
For the First Time Twice
Sunday, March 07, 2021
When I started this blog in January 2006 I had no sense of what
a blog was. It took me some years to finally settle on the idea that it was a bitácora (a lovely Spanish word that
means a ship’s log or daily log). The point of writing a “Dear Diary” in the 21st
century was anathema to me if I included the fact that I can barely read my own
handwriting minutes after I have written anything.
Of late, in this 2021, I am unable to live the life of a
widower without falling into terrible moments of melancholy.
Some people I know have hinted at the fact that I should not
be so intimate about my thoughts. They
may be half right. I link my blog to social media so my friends, relatives and
unknowns have access to it. But if I wrote this blog, and only left it as an
ancillary to my web page, then few would know of my thoughts these days.
I have come to discover that when I delve into my personal feeling I am learning not only to cope with the time that
remains for me but also to learn new insights into my life as it progresses
into an eventual oblivion.
Some years ago, for a show at a local gallery, I had a huge file
of my granddaughter Rebecca which I worked on my monitor to remove dust and
little flaws. I discovered that few of us ever get that close to anybody. I
felt a degree of intimacy and I got to know Rebecca’s face in a detail that
far surpassed the spotting of conventional 8x10 photographic prints.
In this 21st century we take photography for
granted but today I have found something of that wonder that the first
photographers of the 19th century might have discovered when looking
at the first image they took of a human being. Such was the degree of
wonder that a few of these photographers would, when allowed, placed their
camera beside a dying person with the idea that they might capture (in a true
19th century usage and not the one used by digital photographers
now) the precise second when the soul, that spark of life, left the person. We
know that this failed.
In my first look at photographs taken by Timothy O’Sullivan
during the American Civil War, at the Lincoln Library in Buenos Aires, when I
was 8 or 9, I was in a state of shock/wonder that I was looking at individuals
who had been alive when the photographs had been taken and now had been dead
for 85 years. And amazingly these men, looked not much different from those
that were walking outside on Calle Florida.
Perhaps that was the reason why I ultimately became a
portrait photographer and why I have never been able to take a portrait for granted.
Every portrait I take, even the bad ones, conveys the life of the person even if
that spark is not seen to be leaving as those photographers of the 19th
century failed to find.
Today is Sunday, March 7 and I have scanned 8 colour
negatives of my Rosemary that I took early 1968 when we had been married for a
couple of months. Until I took these photographs, my early pictures of her were in
black and white. These negatives have deteriorated because colour negative is
inherently unstable. There are colour shifts that I am unable to correct and
the embedded dust particles (52 years!) means I have spent some long hours “fixing”
them. I have saved them into my Family file as Rosemary
1968 sad 01, 02 and so on.
Nobody has ever seen these photographs. We were too poor in
1968 to order many prints. I took the photographs and had them commercially processed
and then I filed them. Only now was I able to look at the digital contacts (I
used my scanner) on my monitor.
I have been overwhelmed by thoughts of discovering Rosemary,
to whom I was married for 52 years as if I had just met her the moment I have
looked at these scans in the detail of a highly magnified monitor image. She
looks familiar and yet not so. There is sadness, a wonderful sadness in these
photographs that have made my eyes droop and water.
There is but one idea going through my head as I have looked
at them. The first time I saw Rosemary it was from the back. I saw
her walking out of the language school we were both working at (I did not know
this as this rear view was my first glimpse of Rosemary). I noticed her lovely
legs, particularly, as she was wearing an extra short mini-skirt. Her blonde hair
was straight and long. I have no memory of my first glimpse of her face. I have
no memory of what I said to her, if indeed I stopped her.
These photographs must then be a peek of what I must have
experienced when she faced me.
Looking at these photographs is no different from those of
the Civil War soldiers. They were alive. Rosemary was alive. She is no longer
But the experience of looking at them now, after hours of
fixing them, has its reward.
I have had the luck of meeting her for the first