Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Photos often take us to surprising places. Whether those places are where we have been, where we would like to go, or  exist only in our mind, is a matter of personal interpretation, which can vary day to day.   For me,  photographs are an opportunity to tell a new story.

It was the last of the day’s sunlight, a Tuesday dusk on Longboat Key, a husk of land along the Gulf coast. Evening sprouts there the same way nearly every day, but this sunset seemed different, longer, as though the sun were propped up on pylons somewhere along the Mexico shoreline. The shadows lingered on the curcuma and plumbago before spreading at the speed of a root and finally blacking into night. That same night we gazed up, from making sand angels, and saw the moon about to touch the ruby heart of Scorpio. The tide was low. For whatever reason, the whole of it made sense.

I was on a path which curved along the line of the New River. It was late day. The final sword of sunlight thrust through the canopy and struck something on the ground. A small key glistened. I collected it, wiped off a smudge of mud.  A treasure lost from a necklace or bracelet or, more likely, part of a charm. Yes, perhaps a key to someone’s heart, and here I found it in the dirt. I hope its loss has done no harm, this key, this find, this golden charm.

I was 35 when I last saw my father. He died two years later, broken, broken down, down and out. The sum of his life in one of those long cardboard boxes, maybe five or six inches deep, that you put sweaters and winter clothing in and slide under the bed. The contents included unopened invitations and letters, a few military papers, some cards and letters that were opened, divorce papers from 1965, photographs, a cigarette lighter, a dime in a slot on a card (refund from a pay phone, dated 1967), a doodle of a wagon wheel on a section of envelope and other odds and ends of a broken, broken down, down and out man.

For the third day in a row I have noticed, through the kitchen window and dense coffee steam, a leaf. Suspended. I thought it was stuck on a spider web. For three mornings this yellow has been a gentle pendulum against the dark greens of summer foliage. The strength of color and seduction of  movement invited me; I could no longer keep distance between us. I walked across the fresh wetness on the grass, then lightly along the top of the rough stone border and found the leaf held aloft by the magical, nearly negligible, pinprick tip of an iris blade. The breeze remained perfect. In my garden, a jeweled Scheherazade leaf swayed to the silence of a morning tune, hypnotizing a newly arrived prince.

If you see me talking while I take photographs, don’t think I am crazy, having a meaningless conversation with myself. I am directing the crew. Step closer and you will hear me, “Okay, sun, move a touch lower, show me about one quarter of you above that line of oaks. A little more. Great! Now pitch me a touch of amber tinted with a drop of blood. That’s it. Yes. That’s it. Cumulus to the north, float a little to your right. Slowly. Keep coming. And…stop! Wonderful! Breeze, a bit lower, like a bird’s breath, if you please. PERFECT! Hold it, hold it (click) let me get a couple more, Ms. Canna may I say that you look fabulous (click, click). Alright everyone, that is a wrap. Excellent work, everybody! What do you say we call it a day? Tomorrow there may be a small shoot down by the river, just south of Alafia Spings. I’ll be in touch.”

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