February 26 – Hilltop

02-26 Xavier Hilltop post“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”

~Marcus Aurelius

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This is my meditation spot, and this is certainly not the only photograph I’ve made of it. Up on the hill overlooking the San Xavier Mission outside of Tucson is a shrine to the Guadalupe Virgin and a large white cross. You can hear the faint whisper of the highway off in the distance, and you can see a cluster of Downtown Tucson buildings on the horizon.

This is the place to watch the sunset. This is the place to find one’s center. Just thinking about it, looking on the pictures I’ve made there with my Yashica TLR camera, I feel a calm washing over me. I look forward to going out there again. Soon.

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February 10 – Virgin And Child

02-10 Virgin And Child post“Men do not fear a powerful hostile army as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.”

~St. Bonaventure

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A stroll through the graveyard can do wonders.

Ever since I was in high school, I would go out of my way to walk the rows and read the headstones. I’m not sure why, but the company of the dead can be delightful and soothing. Rapscallions, ruffians, and other forms of ne’er–do–well manage to cobble together some civility in the graveyard; I have yet to see an individual act the fool in such a place. The grounds feel calm and safe.

I made this image on a camera I haven’t yet mentioned during Film February – the Yashica Twin Lens Reflex (TLR). It’s a wonderful two-lens camera (obviously) with a few fine-tune controls that allow for selective focus and a variety of shutter speeds in order to capture dynamic scenes with an accurate, properly-exposed shot.

To read more about the Yashica series, check it out here.

I certainly don’t celebrate the decapitated head of a child-savior, but it caught my eye. It seemed poetically appropriate, as the statue seemed to represent, on a smaller scale, what a cemetery represents on a larger scale – everything falls apart, and nothing lasts forever. We also might want to remind ourselves that Mary The Blessed Virgin outlived her extremist rabble-rouser of a son, which also makes this image ironically apropos.

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January 15 – On A Hill In Bisbee

01-15 Hilltop Bisbee post

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
~Aristotle

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I decided to dig through the archives for today’s photograph. I have a mountain of pictures that not only haven’t been published, but have almost been forgotten. I like to sift through old files, look back on all the faces and scenery I’ve been blessed enough to photograph. When my motivation is languishing – when I’m feeling the impulse to create something but don’t know where to begin – going through old photographs always helps.

One of my favorite places in the whole world is the hilltop that overlooks Brewery Gulch and all of Old Bisbee. That old Arizona town is unspeakably picturesque. Years ago, I’ve been told, a local man – I wish I could recall his name – could be seen hauling materials, an armload at a time, up and down the rocky path that winds up the hill. And anybody who visits Bisbee eventually sees the big white cross on the hill. Most folks aren’t able to find the trail without being shown the way.

Local folks have added their own candles, keepsakes, statues, prayer flags and vials of water. A local woman placed her husband’s ashes up there. A small red dollhouse-sized memorial was fixed onto the hilltop when Derrick and Amy Ross – our Nowhere Man and Whiskey Girl – passed away a couple years ago. On the backside of the hill is a makeshift shrine for those who braved the desert heat in an attempt to cross into America. Toothbrushes, children’s shoes, baby bottles, rosaries, backpacks, sunglasses, and clothing have been collected and hung atop the rocks beneath the visage of the Guadalupe Virgin.

I hiked up there several times a week, not often running into other people. I never grew tired of the view. Just thinking about it, I can almost feel the sense of calm in the wind in the summertime, watching monsoon storms roll in from the distance. It is a very special place. I look forward to being there again soon.

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