The Little Girl That Was Rosemary & A New Dublin Ghost
Saturday, March 12, 2022
|Rosemary and Ruth Healey|
Make me a picture
of the sun - Emily Dickinson
Make me a picture
of the sun –
So I can hang it in
And make believe
I’m getting warm
When others call it
Draw me a Robin –
on a stem –
So I am hearing
him, I’ll dream,
And when the
Orchards stop their tune –
Put my pretense –
Say if it’s really
– warm at noon –
Buttercups – that “skim” –
Or Butterflies –
Then – skip – the
frost – upon the lea –
And skip the Russet
– on the tree –
Let’s play those –
When I met my Rosemary sometime at the end of 1967 she
was secretive about her former life and childhood. I did not know then
that some Canadians can be withdrawn. In our 52 years of marriage I never did
visit New Dublin, Ontario where she was raised, to my regret. Our daughters did
a few times and in 2019 Rosemary, Alexandra and Hilary went there again and
met all the other relatives.
I have this possible idea of driving, perhaps in April on
my own, to New Dublin. This could be a bad idea as I would run into ghosts.
But then how can I run into the ghost of a little girl if
I never did know Rosemary as a little girl?
All that changed when I noticed a cardboard box in our Kitsilano
piano room with figurines. My daughter Ale’s handwriting identified what was to
be found inside. Rosemary was called Abi by our eldest granddaughter and the
name stuck. It is sort of short for abuelita, or little grandmother in Spanish.
Rosemary and I often read Ogden Nash’s poems and the one
about the little boy, that inexorably marries a little girl when they grow up,
was one of our favourites.
I never thought of myself as that nasty little boy but
looking at these figurines my heart dissolved into a melancholic grief, a
tender one, as I marvelled at the novel idea that my Rosemary had been a little girl
and I had never seen that in her. I was too blind, and somehow while a bit late,
I am trying to make up for that infantile failure.
Will I go to New Dublin and imagine my Rosemary as a little girl? I wish I could hug that little girl in the photograph.
Song To Be Sung by
the Father of Infant Female Children - By Ogden Nash
My heart leaps up
when I behold
A rainbow in the
blood runs cold
When little boys go
For little boys as
No special hate I
But now and then
they grow to men,
And when they do,
No matter how they
And, swine among
They marry little
somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who
feed and clothe him.
Their lips are
sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to
Yes, I loathe with
This child who to
me is nameless.
This bachelor child
in his carriage
Gives never a
thought to marriage,
But a person can
hardly say knife
Before he will hunt
him a wife.
I never see an
A-sleeping in the
Without I turn a
And think is he the
Oh, first he'll
want to crop his curls,
And then he'll want
And then he'll
think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a
Is he without a
Oh, somewhere he
bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks
His cheeks are
roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are
tucked in his gums.
But alas the teeth
will begin to grow,
And the bubbles
will cease to bubble;
Given a score of
years or so,
The roses will turn
He'll sell a bond,
or he'll write a book,
And his eyes will
get that acquisitive look,
And raging and
ravenous for the kill,
He'll boldly ask
for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose
Is diapered still
Will want to marry
My daughter Jill.
Oh sweet be his
slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear,
A fig for embryo
I'll open all his
I'll pepper his
powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him
readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his
spinach I'll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce
for his teething ring.
And an elegant,
To play with him in
Then perhaps he'll
struggle through fire and water
To marry somebody
La Santa Conchita de Ucrania
Friday, March 11, 2022
The situation in Ukraine, to this man living alone with two
cats in Kitsilano, is one of going to my phone early in the morning from my bed
to check out on CNN the latest in the tragedy.
Being far from that place does not give me all that much
comfort. I remember the days of the late 50s when in our boarding school in
Austin we would listen to an alarm and we were then herded into the basement as
a precautionary test for what was then called the possibility of a mutual
It is no longer a world where we can say, “I will go and
live in the Argentine Patagonia.”
If have felt helpless until I contacted my Ukranian
friend Olena Kuzyk. We discussed a project, and today, March 10, 2022 it came to
fruition in what I would consider a spectacular fashion.
Olena is a master of makeup and with her Ukranian
paraphernalia we had a successful session in my little studio. We were aided by
my visiting musician (baroque bass, piano) Curtis Daily who lives in Portland. He
skilfully converted a fat candle into a monument of wax drippings because Olena
said we needed at least one candle.
What is the story behind the photographs we took?
It began some at least 24 years ago when my Argentine
painter friend, Juan Manuel Sánchez was having coffee with friends in Buenos
Aires. These friendly gatherings (usually of men in that past century) are
called tertulias. The chosen topic of that day’s gathering was to state what
was one’s favourite saint. When it arrived at Sánchez’s turn he said, “La Santa
Conchita.” There must have been a roar of laughter.
Most women called Mary in Spanish speaking countries are not
plane Marys. They may be María
de Guadalupe, María del Perpetuo Socorro or in the case here María de la
Inmaculada Concepción. These latter Marys are called Concepción for
short and affectionately everywhere except Argentina, Conchita. We know that
thanks to Linnaeus, who equated the sexual organs of conch shells to those of
female humans, that there have been connections to private female parts in rude
In Argentina concha is what women have that men lack. It is
a very bad word.
So Sánchez’s choice of saint was a joke but there was no
motive to insult anybody or any women with it.
When Sánchez, his wife Nora Patrich and I started
collaborating at the beginning of this century one of our projects was to depict
ethnic Madonnas. I photographed four, an Argentine, a Chilean, a Vietnamese and
an Egyptian. The exposure of skin in those Santa Conchita’s could never be
When I exhibited them in a joint show in Buenos Aires with
Nora Patrich (by then Sánchez had died) most of my family did not show up saying “sos un blasfemo.”
But in remembrance of my mentor and friend Juan Manuel
Sánchez, Olena and I decided that we had to keep the name of Santa Conchita
when we added “de Ucrania”.
We feel that our collaboration has produced a strong image
that represents our protest for what is happening in that country that may be
far away, but has hit us home.
An Iconic Family Contact Sheet - 1968 -1969
Thursday, March 10, 2022
|Rosemary & Alexandra - Mocambo, Veracruz, 1969|
Having lived in Argentina twice (1942 to 1954 and 1965 to 1967), in Mexico (1954 to 1964 and 1964 to 1975) with four years in a Texas boarding
school (from 1958 to 1961) I am pleasantly confused as to where I am from or
what I am. When I feel bored I use my memory to return to all those places in
place and in time.
As an obsolete, redundant, retired & inconsequential
photographer at my age of 79 I think about what is left of my life and what I
want to remain of me once I am gone. I think of legacy. Luckily I also
understand how important stuff (as in treasured objects) in one’s life becomes
less so as one ages. Not believing in a hereafter, this legacy becomes even
less significant. When Rosemary was alive I often told her that if I were to
precede her into oblivion that she was not to place a park bench in my memory
either in Kerrisdale or in some park.
Now since I am the one that is alive I think of her legacy
and what she has left behind for me and our daughters and granddaughter. In
this modern 21st
century young people are usually not interested in
the belongings of grandparents unless it is cold cash.
I cannot put myself in my daughters’ or granddaughters’ head
so I plod along sifting through stuff and keeping what I think they might
Yesterday I went at the large box that contained all my
corporate work. These are brochures and annual reports. I even have two for the
now defunct Vancouver Stock Exchange. I would calculate that the box contained
100 of them. Some were in duplicates. At one time these brochures were part of
that all-important portfolio that one used to get more work. Since for some of
those logging company brochures I got to charge a $3000 daily fee I must
ascertain that I made good money and that Rosemary skilfully combined it with
her salary so that now I can live comfortably without any financial worries.
|My mother - Filomena de Irureta Goyena and Alexandra|
That means I have a lot of time. So I think not of my
photographic legacy of the corporate kind but that of my family legacy. I have
now for many months been going through all the negatives and slides of the
family (I have very good family albums that preceded my marriage to Rosemary)
that began in 1967. There are hundreds of potographs of our daughters and
granddaughters. It is difficult for me to decide what goes and what stays. This
means that most stays.
But this blog is about a contact sheet of colour negatives
that were taken in 1968 and 1969. Some were shot by my friend Andrew Taylor who is my
eldest daughter Alexandra’s godfather. Most of the photographs were from
Rosemary and my (with Alexandra as a baby) visits to Veracruz to visit my
mother. Andrew’s photos were taken inside the crater of the volcano El Nevado
de Toluca and the very nice portraits of Rosemary and me Andrew took at the
University of Mexico Botanical Garden. The blue VW was my first car. After that
one we had a light brown one and our third was arctic white in which we drove
|Photo by Andrew Taylor, University of Mexico Botanical Garden|
What I find amazing is that many of these photos are what I
call iconic (and that word will somehow be in the title of this blog) and it so wonderful that they are still around. Some of the
photographs I have had in my blogs but these were all colour prints from our
family album. These colour negative have deteriorated and I did my best to make
them look good.
I keep repeating
in these recent blogs how enlarging the photographs of Rosemary and looking at them
on my monitor is an exercise of grief that alternates with the pleasure of
seeing a photograph that I took that I never ever printed before. And so I do
repeat myself in stating that I see in some of these photographs, my Rosemary
for the first time. I fall in love with her all over again and I I have a
little of an issue realizing what she might have seen in this man without a
country but at the same time I have been lucky to have had this woman with me
for 52 years
|Nevado de Toluca , Estado de México|
The Spark of Life
Wednesday, March 09, 2022
What would make me get out of bed, past midnight with
Niño and Niña comfortably nestled beside me?
It was the thought of the idea of a body and soul. What is
it that is embedded in a human body that gives it that spark that we call life? How could it be that my Rosemary was alive and then not?
From spark I navigated to fire, and the image of scanning my
hand while holding a lit match became a strong urge I had to satisfy. That the match flame quickly lost its size felt appropriate and seemed to predict gloom and coldness.
We all know that oxidation is all about decay. Cars rust and
fires go out when they run out of material to keep burning.
Do we humans oxidize? Do we rust?
A picture that I cannot strike out of my mind is sitting on
my living room egg chair with my two daughters and granddaughter Rebecca and
watching the funeral people remove the lifeless body of my Rosemary. It was
covered with a shroud but I could still feel that vacant presence of a body
without life. This is an image that I cannot obliterate from my memory
because the concept of a person being alive one moment and then dead a small
second later is one that I cannot grasp.
I cannot remember how we answered (or if we did) when Rosemary asked us, "Am I dying?"
Before the funeral people came I went up to our bedroom.
Rosemary looked asleep. I knew this was not true. What broke my
heart but also gave me a little comfort was that our female cat
Niña was on her stomach asleep. And Niña indeed was asleep. I took the photograph
that I had to take. I will never show it to my daughters but I have filed it
into my Family File on my exterior hard drive. When I am gone perhaps the girls
might spot the picture.
Do cats understand death better than we humans?
Every day I feel that vacant presence and I wonder if am not
another fire running out of fuel.