email sent July 16, 2016

Subject: What a Beautiful World This Is

… or, What Can the Matter Be?

It’s Saturday. A week since arriving home from the photography workshop. I’m finally able to think and write coherently. But more on that in a bit.

The workshop was beyond excellent and beyond photography. Keith Carter is one of those guys you always love to meet. He is kind, funny, emotive, quirky in a great way (he often pulled out his guitar and serenaded us with the blues and old country music), generous and compassionate. And way experienced and smart. He critiqued our work in a way that we accepted and learned. And he seduced us with his smooth, cheery Texas draw. Some of his primary lessons were:

  • Start with photographing what you know. Then photograph your dreams.
  • Become comfortable with uncertainty.
  • Present surprises. There aren’t many surprises in perfection.
  • Break rules.
  • Don’t dwell. You have the rest of your life to figure it out.

He gave us three assignments. Each involved interpreting a. poem very rich in imagery. The task seemed daunting at first, but it turned out to be quite easy with an open mind.

Keith suggested that I photograph my autobiography. No one else can do it. I’m going to give it a try.

The workshop was about photography and life.

I had arrived in Santa Fe having marked my trail quite well. The need for frequent marking, thanks to Prednisone, persisted throughout the week, resulting in at most one-hour sleep cycles. To relieve my super dry, leathery mouth I steadily drank carbonated soda. I couldn’t have been more stupid. I became increasingly hyperglycemic, which led to a very demanding 390-mile drive home on Saturday that took 8 hours, instead of the usual 5½ hours. So, as I once again was the stupid one, Vicki was the savior. She insisted that I go to the ER, which we did on Monday. I learned that my glucose level was 720, which is in coma territory and beyond, compared to high normal of 120. No wonder I felt dizzy, wobbly, had blurry vision, felt extremely weak, short of breath, couldn’t think straight at times, and experienced mild hallucinations. I spent three days in the critical (not intensive) care unit, and learned that I can add diabetes to my, our, list of challenges. Sheesh! I’m down twenty pounds since these cascading episodes began, but not by following a rational regimen, for sure. (So much for my pants staying up.) I’m still a tired, loopy mess. I am now home, steadily improving. Once again, Vicki literally saved my life.

I’m pleased to acknowledge the extreme kindness and assistance of Keith plus all of the participants of the workshop. Their acts of compassion were astonishing and far beyond any reasonable expectation. They chauffeured me, accommodated me, inspired me, and repeatedly touched my heart. And since the workshop they have reached out to continue to do so.

On the first day, Keith shared a personal experience that set the tone for the entire week. His wife was receiving hospice care, sleeping late in their bedroom. He was reading the newspaper in a chair near her. When she finally awakened she looked out their window, with a view of their yard and its 200-year-old oak tree and said, “What a beautiful world this is.” She closed her eyes and never reopened them.

With love, gratitude, beauty, and lots of needle holes,

Jim

p.s. I wish I could find the words to give more praise and appreciation to Vicki. I can say that a nurse even commented a few times that she was touched by how we spoke on the phone together.

p.p.s. it is way cool that no matter what I am or am not wearing, I always feel my wedding band, even when it’s off. Nothing else gives that sensation. I like!

 

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