Monday, September 17, 2012

Remembering Pamela

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for my long time friend, Pamela Massey. I was honored to be able to help by bringing Andrew Gordon (pianist) with his harp and mandolin to the Tula Baptist Church. Teri, Pamela's sister was worried I would be late. "You're always, late, Mil," she said, sounding exactly like her sister!

At the church, the programs were placed in a basket by the door. On the cover of the program is a photo of a golden brown cotton field spotted with white blossoms. The field stretches about a hundred yards toward at line of dark green oak trees. The image covers the entire frame and is lovely and enticing. I looked for the credit, but there is none. The image was just there on Pamela's computer and since they knew she loved it, the family decided to put it on the program.

By 2:00, all the seats were taken and we were squeezed together as others made their way in the church. Judging by the crowd is one thing, by our friends is quite another. Artists, playwrights, musicians, publishers, actors were there, not to mention all the wonderful neighbors and relatives, friends with seemingly less glamorous careers, yet whose lives were also made fuller because of Pam. From California to the slow roads of Tula, people knew her as a Southerner. Her friend Julie said she would be talking to her on the phone from Los Angeles while Pam was sitting on the porch in Tula, sometimes counting cars going by, just three or four an hour sometimes.

It's the South, the beautiful, rural, quiet, loving, sleepy South, not awake to so much of what the world knows, but knowing more of what the world needs to know...Live simply. Live with less, and enjoy life with friends.

Standing room only, talk about her giving, her charmed life, despite her illness in the end, her friends and family, her calmness in getting things done, and no tears. Lee Bowie, Pam's brother in law said the one word that would describe Pam is Giver. Yes, she was generous, even though she never had much money. It was never about money with her.

None of us felt like wearing black and very few did. She would have wanted us to be as full of life as we could be, and to be ourselves, especially as we were there in honor of her, the person who respected everyone for who they were, not for trying to fit in or be unnecessarily traditional. When I saw Massey, her beloved niece wearing an orange dress, denim jacket, and boots, I had to smile. The same with Alice Walker who wore a beautiful blue dress with purple high heels, knowing Pamela would have approved.

Pamela supported me in my work as a photographer. She always loved one particular photo which I only gave her a copy of on her last birthday in August. This photo was taken in Idaho Falls about 20 years ago. She kept encouraging me to "blow it up." At one point I did, but can't even find that image, though I am sure that in one box here at home with all my vintage prints, I will find it...just as I will find the negative. Luckily, for her birthday I did find the original 4x6. That and a poem was all I gave her.  She was truly grateful.

                                          Shoeshine Chairs, Idaho Falls, Idaho            by Milly West

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Last Thursday I went to watch a band (The Real Nasty) from Berkeley play at Rooster's Blues House, here in Oxford. The band was great. The bass player/song-writer Ryan, the drummer, Huston, and the amazing guitarist Jacob, played their hearts out.

All around me though were drunk people or people determined to get drunk. They mostly succeeded. The young girls were mostly dressed in revealing clothes and very high heels. Some of them were more casual, and two in particular literally threw themselves at the men (boys) who came anywhere near them.

I'm posting this photo here with this story because soon I will be back in Cuba, to my realization that we don't have to live dramatic and excessive lives to live full lives. There is a certain dignity of life there, perhaps due to economic conditions (what can one do but read and create art if one has no money?), more likely due to the quality of education provided in all schools, at all levels of learning.

In Cuba, I become a student of all the teachers of a dignified and meaningful life. I find my art collecting and photography take me to new adventures, to homes and towns, down roads to new experiences that gradually change my mind about what to value.

I am lucky that these values are already here with me, but it is easy to forget when one is away. This morning, I looked out the bedroom window, a small and high window to the back yard. There I saw a tree, a clothesline, our yet to be turned over garden, all lit by the sun. I was grateful and joyful. Perhaps that memory of Cuba and the simple appreciation of quiet conversations and art and the appreciation of other people no matter what their circumstance is residing and thriving. I hope that is the case. Whether it is that or the knowledge that I will be back there soon, it doesn't matter, the thing that matters is that we all realize that the destructive nature of large and drunk living can also be a lesson on how to live as well as how not to live.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This morning I reached for a glass of water and noticed (again) that my hands looked just like my mother's hands used to. I am becoming her. I think of photographing this, my hand reaching for the glass, and then thought that this awareness has no significance to anyone but me. Or so I thought. My friend Beverly was visiting from Atlanta and I told her about this reaching and what I noticed, not for the first time, and she said "Oh, yeah, I know." Then she looked at her own hands for a moment and looked at me with the look that aging women give each other. We are friends because we got to know and love each other as teenagers and now our friendship is a given. In the years between then and now, just like our mothers, we had families, good times, bad times, travel and hard work, and like our mothers, we spend a lot of our time now wondering how to be (and look) younger than we are. We both wish for a closer relationship with our children.
My hands are wrinkled and the veins are prominent even as I type this post. I am so grateful for them though, no matter how they look. I read Charles Bukowski this morning and realized that he says what we what we all understand to be truth as well as any poet I know. in the bottom of the hour lurks the mad writer in a cork room, the falseness of the Senior Prom, the submarine with purple the bottom of the hour lurks the tree that cries in the night, the place that nobody found, being so young you thought you could change it, being middle-aged and thinking you could survive it, being old and thinking you could hide from it.
This is the book The Last Night of the Earth Poems that I picked up after waving good-bye to Beverly. Be safe I said.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

First Portraits, Studio West, Oxford

The felt is on the wall, the tripod sits in the middle of the room. Here are the first of the photos in my trial run. Studio West Portraits. We met Thursday night before the radio show.

Pictured here are the first photos that Rest and I took of each other. Then only two of the Thursday night group. More to follow.

Keep November 26th on you calendar for the Cuba Night Art Show at the Portugese Bakery. 4-9 p.m.

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