Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
~ Anaïs Nin
Photography is the story I fail to put into words.
~ Destin Sparks
The rule of thirds is notably one of the first rules a photographer puts to active use in their craft to establish well-balanced and appealing images. Aligning a subject at the guidelines and intersecting points, a horizon on a top or bottom line, or allow linear features to free flow from section to section make the photograph artistically captivating. The same can be said about life.
Embarking on my artistic photographic endeavors, I apply the rule in daily practice and experimentation. It has been especially useful in weaving together my affair with the hibiscus flower, photography and the healing process of love and loss. Hubbard has become my muse. Settling in to his new role in his new home, our new home. I step outside, camera in hand and photograph him. We play and practice together. I shoot various stages of his flowering lifecyle — growth through death. I’ve captured his blooms mildly wilted from a drenching rain, eavesdropped on a pair of ants rendezvousing on a firm, unopened bud, and attempted a film noir style visual in black and white incorporating a single color element. Hubbard is the perfect model: stoic, obedient, and never needs a smoking break.
Reviewing images I’d collected with these new skills and new camera a fresh idea was sparked for that trio frame of the Kona, Hawaii hibiscuses now hanging in a guest bathroom. Update the photos. The idea was as clear as Hubbard’s uproot was. The plan: Hubbard will provide all the content; I will provide visual perspective and creative story. Together we will apply the rule of thirds: One plant, three flowers, three varying stages, three different exposures. We’ll create a new story together. A story of rejuvenation in the aftermath of loss and heartbreak. A legacy story, how the gift of love keeps on giving and living happily after. Together, we’ll illustrate how to revitalize the memory of your loved one, their influence on you and how to artistically integrate that memory into the life you now have without them. A reality story, now matter how hard you may try to prevent it, doing your absolute best, life is impermanent and you are simply powerless over that fact.
Shortly after the framing revamp was finished, the rainy season that is Florida summer began earlier than usual. Afternoon showers were long and the downpours intense. Hubbard struggled to keep up with draining the water out of his pot. He couldn’t, and went into saturation shock. I was finding standing water in his pot after every rain. More and more of his bright green leaves were turning yellow, some trimmed in brown. I was doing everything I knew how to do to help him. The leaves kept turning yellow and falling from his branches. It was out of control. Hubbard was drowning, in severe shock and at high risk of dying. Each day, I was taking another preemptive step to nurse him through the trauma. On July 23rd, the 20th anniversary of my first date with Boomer, I was with Hubbard. I got him out of the pot, dumped the remaining sulfur-stenched soil and gave him a deep root cut, losing a branch in the process. My heart raced in urgency to do the next right thing for him. While he basked in the sun, I dug a hole in the ground the very spot where his pot had rested and set him directly into the earth where he began. I blended the natural soil with fresh potting mix, rubbed his now naked branches and asked to him to hang on.
The next day, struck by the number 17 sweeping across my mind, I emotionally fell apart. Boomer died 17 months after we moved. Hubbard had been living in the clay pot for 17 months and was now close to dying too. Without knowing it, a p.t.s.d. fashback had symbolically tripped and was I reliving the end of Boomer’s life. Drowning. Boomer drowned; drowned in his disease, metastasized by his internal bleeding that couldn’t be stopped. For a time, I too was drowning — in love and in helplessness — for Boomer and now Hubbard. Terrified I can’t do anything else to save either one of them. I spent the day working my healing practices to move through these emotions as smoothly, swiftly and lovingly as possible. I was feeling better within a half a day.
Hubbard is holding steady. I am hopeful while still afraid he may die. Hibiscus shrubs thrive best in the ground. He’d been out of the ground too long. I understand and accept the truth that one day Hubbard will go. This is the circle of life. I’m just not ready yet; we’re still enjoying new memories together. It was the same way with Boomer — I wasn’t ready for him to die either. I don’t get a say. I just have to accept it and be, as a friend recently wrote in an email, “…just grateful for another day on the planet.” That I am.
Boomer, Hubbard, and Me: The hibiscus affair. The circle of life, through the rule of thirds.
All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
~ Arthur Schopenhauer
I walk, I look, I see, I stop, I photograph.