I remember overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop some years ago where a gentleman said something like this:
“I always have people ask me why I’m so serious. I often overhear people telling their friends not to take ‘this’ or ‘that’ too seriously. And I got to thinking about it. If we need to learn how to not take life so damn seriously, we ought also to learn to not take death so seriously.”
I’m not sure, but it stuck with me. A simple exchange, maybe a completely spontaneous thought from a total stranger I was eavesdropping on – but it stuck with me. I think about it often, especially after losing several friends, relatives, and acquaintances over the past several years. It’s unusual to me – at least intellectually – to be so incredibly afraid of something that literally every single living thing in the cosmos will eventually have to do, which is to die.
Different cultures treat death differently, but there are always common themes of loss, sadness, tragedy and redemption, rebirth, or some form of ‘life after death.’ I’ve enjoyed photographing various rituals and discovering some of the nuances of life and death celebrations in the American Southwest and Mexico.
This image is an echo of a photograph I took almost seventeen years ago in Boston. I was still in high school, shooting black and white film, and I photographed an image of a statue – a weeping Native American woman, a memorial for the Trail of Tears. In the image a white, long tear can be seen dripping down the statue’s face – pigeon excrement, yes, but it photographed quite well. In today’s image, if you look close to this Sedona statue’s face, the rain is running down her face in a similar – albeit much more subtle – fashion.
Like yesterday’s photograph, this one was taken on vacation in Sedona. I was in the company of a lovely woman, swirling rain-clouds, and the unique red rocks of the region. Hiking in the rain, watching the clouds smother the red rock peaks, and the smell of the Arizona desert – a perfect start to the new year.
“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”