I’ve been sorting through silk paintings I created over the past few years and came across one I did from a photo I took of my friend, Violet.
I wrote this a couple of years ago about time spent with Violet during her second and final battle with cancer. At the time of our fly fishing “field trip” I was unaware that Violet had only months left before making the transition to the other side.
“I’m just taking my memories of fly fishing with Violet and putting them in notes, organizing them by stages.
After she tied her flies, we headed to her garage to load the gear in her car. I brought only my camera, lenses, film (yes, film) and my doo-rag because she promised to have everything else I would need. She pulled out a practice rod, a real rod, and some boots for me. She smiled when she showed me the boots and told me they wouldn’t be comfortable, but I would like them. Once her car was packed, we headed to Black Earth Creek.
Just past Black Earth, she turned off the highway to a side road and found parking. We got out and she told me that before we did anything, I would need to practice casting. The rod was like a child’s, with some kind of yarn ball-thing knotted at the end. She instructed me and I practiced before she gave me the real rod.
The boots. Violet told me that I would like what the boots offered more than what they didn’t. The didn’t offer comfort, but they did offer a connection to the earth. She knew that I prefer to be barefoot and that I collect rocks from just about everywhere I go. These boots, according to her, would allow me to feel the rocks on the bottom of the creek because they were old and flimsy. This would connect me to the earth, to this creek.
Boots on, pole in hand, camera and bag around my neck and shoulder. I eased myself into the creek, following Violet, who looked like a professional with her gear, vests, rod, and hat. I looked like a kid. She instructed me on walking – slowly and to be aware of the flow of the water.
We stopped for a moment to become one with it, allowing the water to move around us. I realized that she was right – I loved the feeling of the rocks below my feet. I felt as though I was barefoot. We spent time in a slow motion play of just walking in the creek. She probably had some mission related to fly fishing while my mission was to simply be there and enjoy the space I was in.
She stopped. This was a woman fighting the battle of her life, one that she won only in ways not visible to our world, and I knew that when she stopped I needed to pay attention. Silence for moments. I looked down, as she was, and I became mesmerized by the scene below the surface of the water. I could see part of my legs, but not all the way down to my feet.
Standing in the middle of this rushing creek, feeling connected to the bottom, knowing that my feet were on a solid foundation, yet not being able to see most of my legs was incredible. Could I capture this idea, this image, this vision on film? Could I share my thoughts of being in and living in one world while my feet were firmly planted in another? To show that I could see just beyond the surface or veil of this world, into the next?
Violet was right. A woman who collected rocks, slept with rocks under her pillow and between the sheets at the foot of her bed, carried them in her pocket, and had them artfully landscaped around in her world, would love walking in the creek more than fly fishing itself. I was in heaven. Did she know me that well from our conversations or had she begun her transition which allowed her to live on the other side, enough to really see me?”