A month ago yesterday I flew to Florida for a week-long break. I’ve done this for the last few years as a treat, after finishing a long year’s worth of trade shows. This year I had attended 11 of them and was exhausted.
Florida is normally a soothing balm for me but this year it was not. My 19 1/2 year old kitty Sophie became very ill just before I was supposed to fly to Miami. She was already suffering from thyroid issues, kidney disease, arthritis, a heart murmur, dental disease that we couldn’t fix because of her heart issue, and she’d gone deaf years before. Now she’d stopped eating and was obviously suffering. At the end of the second day of her illness, she vomitted black bile. The next morning at the vet, when he reeled off a long list of possible tests and treatments, and I could only mumble the words palliative care in reply, he confirmed my tough decision for me. We gave my beloved Sophie fluids and anti-nausea meds so that I could take her home for one last evening. When I called my parents, who were already in Florida, to tell them the news, my mom told me that they were on the way to the hospital. My dad wasn’t well.
Florida was unseasonably warm, cloudy, grey, rainy and bursting with No See Um bugs. Those little effers bit me and bit me and bit me some more. My dad was already on the mend when I arrived but I was grieving Sophie, and worried about Celia, my 19 year old calico who had never been without Sophie, and was now on her own for a week. Add all that to the weather and the agony of hundreds of bug bites and I was just a hair above miserable. First World misery surely but none the less agonizing that week. Grief is grief.
When I arrived at the Hilton Bentley South Beach, I stripped off my travel clothes, shrugged on the hotel robe and slippers and was intent on raiding the mini bar, except there wasn’t any tonic to go with the vodka. I stood out out my 10th floor balcony, which I’d booked for its view of the city, then went back into my suite and unpacked my tripod and camera. Drinking myself to sleep had probably been the unwise choice anyway.
I sank myself into picture-taking, and it helped. Making art does that, I think. I can take my mind away from grief and sadness when I make images. Now a month later, I realize I’ve barely processed any of these images and shared none but I think the time has come. My dad is well again and my grief over Sophie is softening. I plan to adopt a rescue cat in the next week too, so that Celia won’t be so lonely, and I can stop worrying so much about her.
I can’t say that any of my Florida images are life-changing. There are subtle glimmers of magic in my images from Dry Tortugas National Park and hope shimmers in my images of iguanas and key deer. The grief really only shows around the edges in a few of them. Amazing or not, picture-making is what I do and sharing my images is part of the process. I’ll post more in the coming weeks.