I have been deeply moved by so much of Ben Weinberg's writing, especially, of course, his Maine stories. Ben really does "get it." His fishing stories and island narratives ring true and run deep.
We've never met, but I know that when we do, I am going to enjoy spending some island time with him.
Ben's recent "Alpha and Omega," struck quite a chord in me and inspired me to recall an image I once made on his island while visiting friends there.
A few of us were sitting on their deck when I saw these girls skipping their way across the field. I grabbed a telephoto lens and that's really all there was to it. It was icing on a charming cake when one of them started doing cartwheels.
But even as they frolicked their way past us, I was struck by the juxtaposition of youthful exuberance against the aging houses down on the bar...not to mention the old cemetery.
You see, the cemetery was, in a way, my reason for being there in the first place.
One son of the friends I was visiting lies buried in this small island cemetery. I was soon to return, solo, to absorb the feeling of the island and to make photographs to illustrate his mother's forthcoming book about his life, island life, loss, death and renewal.
I felt a huge sense of responsibility, and while honored to be participating in this intensely personal project of her’s, I was daunted by the task of living up to her faith in me. The story she wrote is extraordinarily powerful and I really wanted to do my best.
In the course of those few days I spent quite a bit of time in that cemetery. I needed time with her son and his neighbors. I have always loved cemeteries, but this one became very special to me, as did the family, the small community and the island itself.
But, of keenest recall is the sense I had while there of the fleeting nature of our lives. The life and death of Ben Gillis was, ultimately, what had brought me there, and, once aboard and engaged in my absorption, I became uniquely aware of, and receptive to, the indicators of the passage of time on this beautiful little Maine island. With every step and with every sighting, there was evidence of life and death thrown into sharp contrast.
My characteristically over-active imagination was at work, of course. My days there were remarkable in that way...I can't say that I saw ghosts, yet there was the almost overwhelming presence of those who had gone before. Young Ben Gillis, the old lady who burned to death in her house on the backside edge of the island, generations of the Gott family, the late poet and author Ruth Moore, in whose former home the Gillis family now summers....they were all there, all around me, with me, every minute. The silence there was filled with a great many faint whispers.
Time rolls on, tides come and go, cemeteries slowly fill and children frolic. We all have our final rendezvous ahead...but in the corporeal now, we have each other and we all share the brief sentient miracle of our momentary place in the ages.
I will post a few more images from those few days on the island. Ben can far better tell stories of the island, but I will share with you my own visual take on a very special place.
The nice coda to all this is that the book was published and met with critical success. But, of more immediate note, I have since found another small and lovely island community, Cowbird by name, and lo and behold, have crossed paths with Ben Weinberg (and his sister, fellow Cowbird, Kathy), and we all anticipate meeting out there this summer.
The book, Writing on Stone, by Tina Gillis, is available if you write to me c/o Ralston Gallery. It's a very powerful story.