Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Last Houston Trip for 2014

The view on takeoff to Houston

a few over Colorado Springs:

and, a week later, the not quite so picturesque view on takeoff to Denver

But the week in between? Not much else, photography-wise.

I took a couple of pictures on the first day, when I was at the downtown library:

the orders from negatives from 1969 and 1976 Post assignments

and an example of one (of many) drawers cataloging old microfiche topics.
The blue (topic) are following by the red (people), etc.

I'd pulled a number of files and scanned more than a dozen things when I tried to save them. After calling over Tim, the reference librarian, and we tried everything, different flash drives, a CD, no luck. The USB ports were simply not working. I needed to get over to the big building to check out the microfilm I'd ordered on my way in before I ran out of time. While I was on the next to last film roll, and remembering why old library storage technology is terrible for trying to look at photographs, Tim appeared with my fiche scans on a flash drive. He'd called the IT guy who came down and worked some magic. What service! Steph picked me up from the library, we met her folks for dinner, and then I cleared out work. 

End of day 1 -- 3 photos.

And there wouldn't be another one taken until I was back at the airport in Houston. 

I did, however, manage to get more than 1800 scans, the vast majority from The Leader.

Thursday I started out at Dobie, and walked out at lunch with 136 scans from choir and 56 from band. Sadly, only two books were in the bandhall, from 1987 and 1988. No one seems to know where on earth the rest of them might be. That afternoon I was at the Leader and used all of Friday, Monday, and Tuesday to keep going. Over the weekend I was able to visit with Marcy on Saturday (and get a few photos from her) and Sunday evening Michelle and I hung out and went through her family's books. There were some great ones there -- Pipe Organ Pizza, Putt-Putt birthdays, Skate Ranch, lots of fellowship hall photos from Sagemont Baptist. Good stuff.

Saturday night we were in the Woodlands to visit with another friend, starting out at dinner, then ending up at Denny's at 1:00 in the morning, still talking and laughing. That was really nice. I wish I'd taken at least one photo of us. 

So, as I am getting out of the car at Intercontinental . . . 

our ONE photo

I'd bought a book I'd really been wanting to read for the trip. Read a little over half of it on the way down and saved the rest for the flight back. 

The first hour of the trip home last night was spent reading the last chapters and looking out the window. 

The second hour, I jotted down thoughts about the book, intertwined with thoughts about the trip, and sent them to myself once I had internet connectivity again.

It's a bit rambling, but it still holds in the light of day.

I am looking out the window of 19A (my superstitious seat #) at the last vestiges of the sunset, another hour left on the flight that is winging me home to Denver. The kid behind me has not stopping kicking the back of my seat, almost comically- sitcom style, but he's small enough that my kidneys can tolerate it. 

I've just finished Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty, which is a book I've been anticipating since I started following her Order of the Good Death online. 

Like Caitlin, I've always been that strange girl who has been fascinated at what happens behind the scenes at a mortuary. The behind-closed-doors mystery of it is both fascinating and a bit scary. In fact, one of few my Navasota-years regrets is not asking for a behind the scenes look at the mortuary owned by my husband's ... um... relative of some cousin-removed factor.

Anyway, that morbidly curious girl who brought dead birds into the house to mourn them, much to her grandmother's consternation and shrieks of horror, still is obsessed, in the very best way, with both the dead, and, to borrow from Sarah Bareilles, chasing the sun. 

So for that girl? This book was perfect.

While I was finishing the book I've leaned forward and taken pictures out the window of the sunset, so much that my center seatmate had to lean over to appreciate it , too. He's a business casual dressed white guy who is around my age, maybe a bit younger, reading what appears from my peripheral vision to be a sort of self-help positive thinking chapter, perhaps from a business psychology course. In other words, not the kind of guy who usually leans over to look at orange clouds.

I influenced that. That makes me smile.

And this seems to feel right, having just finished a book whose thesis, among others, is "media vita in morte sumus" (and every word had to be defiantly refused autocorrection) 

I highlighted a passage that gets to the heart of the book, and underscores everything I've been thinking about in terms of bugging my family about a green burial for me, if at all possible, as well as preserving history and telling stories as often as possible before they're forgotten. 

It's this:

Death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact, it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said, "the meaning of life is that it ends." Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, live, and create.

This echoed to me from the past week's trip. I am racing against time to preserve photos and history of a tiny, insignificant blip on the map of the world, mainly because, as small is it is in the infinite cosmos, it was everything that shaped and made me who I am today, and its history is my history. I am trying to save the story of a place that has slipped away into memory in a lot of ways, and yet remains alive and vibrant and dynamic in others. The shards of digital artifacts will never tell my individual story of childhood wonders and traumas, of teenage angst and love, of leaving home without understanding what that entailed, and the strange meandering journey that has brought me back to research my native earth.  I'm not sure I would want to share things that intimate publicly.

But in going home again, I find comfort in telling the small stories of place and time that might be lost otherwise. And it even gives me comfort that all of this preservation is on its own limited lifespan. A century from now everyone who reads and remembers and shares a connection to these events will be dust. No matter. I am doing what I love for a place I love right now, while I can. That makes me incredibly happy and grateful.

Also from the book, this little tidbit stuck out to me: the Portuguese have a word with no equivalent in English, saudade, which indicates a longing, tinged with nostalgia, madness, and sickness over something you have lost.

Wen I started this project a year ago, I think I was motivated precisely by that kind of emotion. But strangely, each subsequent trip has found me a little bit less mad or sick over feelings of loss. It's as if this move into amateur historian has given that undercurrent a more powerful outlet to actually create something, new and old, at the same time. Something I'm proud of, as it grows and takes shape. 

With surgery and long rehab looming in the new year, these frequent trips of 2014 may have been just a momentary option that doesn't reappear, but coming home with over 1800 scans means I can fuel the blog for a good while without needing to revisit the well. 

It's been an honor and a privilege to have been granted access to the Leader's files. But more than that, to have gotten to know and love Marie as a friend. I hope I can get back for more stories across her desk over black and white photos. She's planning to use a lot from the blog in the coming year as they celebrate their 40th anniversary. It does my heart good. 

Do you know, as I am pecking out my thoughts next to a now completely dark sky and the lights of Denver below on our final descent, I am hearing "When She Loved Me", the song I sang to Samantha at bedtimes long ago, the one that Bob couldn't stand because it's so sad, even though it makes me smile. I don't know where its coming from, maybe the row behind on an iPad? But it is as clear as day and so, so appropriate in this moment. 

It's sung by a toy who's been left behind when her owner grew up and moved away. But she finds her again, years later. 

When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart
And when she was sad, I was there to dry her tears
And when she was happy, so was I, when she loved me.

Through the summer and the fall, we had each other, that was all
Just she and I together, like it was meant to be
And when she was lonely, I was there to comfort her
And I knew that she loved me.

So the years went by, I stayed the same
And she began to drift away, I was left alone
Still I waited for the day, when she’d say "I will always love you."

Lonely and forgotten, never thought she’d look my way,
She smiled at me and held me, just like she used to do,
Like she loved me, when she loved me

When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful,
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart
When she loved me.


Post a Comment