01 May 2008

May 1st. Remembering Bennett

FRESH BREAD BAKED DAILY: a story of signs

Saint Francis was in the forest, fasting and meditating on the state of the world. After a time he came through the woods when he spotted a small humble abode in a valley. In the distance he could make out a sign that
read, "FRESH BREAD BAKED DAILY". "Ah," he said to himself, " I am hungry after my stay in the forest." He walked
down the grassy path and went to go knock at the door. "Hello? Hello?" he called out. A woman came out wiping her
hands down her apron looking at him quizzically. "I am here for some fresh bread," he said hungrily. "I"m sorry sir,
but we have none." she replied to his questioning glance. He implored, "But there's a sign that says FRESH BREAD BAKED DAILY
right in front." Saint Francis said. She looked at the sign and tilted her head nodding she understood his inquiry. " Yes there is a sign but I'm sorry sir there is no bread here, you see my husband is a sign maker."
The lesson is we have to look beyond the signs.

Bennett was a sign maker. As artists, photographers, visual communicators that is our job. To make signs and leave
much of the interpretation up to our viewers. This little story was told at her funeral. It is a little story that I still
share as it meant so much to us who were there as we contemplated her death and her life. We looked through
boxes of her beautiful prints yesterday sharing memories and contemplating the hours she spent printing these
gorgeous black and white fiber prints. The darkness, the smell of the darkroom also has gone, the alchemy of what
was once a vital process to our work as photographers. Still her "signs' inspire us to look beyond and to engage
in this art of discovery and preservation of these little precious moments we have.

I remember the day she died so vividly as it changed all of our lives so drastically. This morning five years ago Bennett, my dad's partner of 25 years, my sister mama, a photographer, a merry prankster, lover of good scotch and fart machines, a woman whose 5'2' stature was overshadowed by largeness of heart and "presence" said with a french accent, flew off the road on her way to Palm Springs and left this sweet ol' world. I wish I could hear her laughter, or sit on a milk crate outside of her studio drink a coffee and share a cigarette with her. She taught me about love and death. She stood with me holding my
hand and soothing my head through some of the most difficult times of my life. She has helped to teach me to see. I love her and miss her in so many ways and yet still there are signs of her in the spring gold of the desert, in roadside shrines in Mexico,
in the poetic grace and strength of the portraits she made. She is still a shining and beautiful light.

We continue to share her work and legacy and love of photography through the Flagstaff Photo Center.

Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me
she took me back so tenderly
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I selpt as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

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