Penny Wilkes gives us a glimpse of how she was started on her romance with nature & photography by her father, almost a decade after the end of World War II
My father left earth 44 years ago on November 22. I shared his love, creativity, and friendship for 31 years. He continues to inspire each day. I hear his laugh, his lyrical call, “Oooh Hoo,” when he wanted my attention or entered a room to find me. When I turn a corner, often a phantom whiff of Old Spice brings me joy.
When I search in a mirror, his features beam.
My father loved to take photographs. I watched, eager to learn how to capture moments as we traveled around the world.
Before my eighth birthday, I asked for a Brownie camera. I had seen the square, brown one that would fit in my hand. Also, it could hang around my neck on a braided string. I showed my father photos from American Girl magazine.
The S.S. President Monroe* became our home on my birthday that year. My father gave me a square package. When I opened my gift, I discovered a Leica camera.
A pout revealed my disappointment as I set it aside.
“Come on Petsy, get your camera and let’s go on deck,” my father sighed and grabbed his camera and mine.
Once we reached the top deck, he positioned the camera in my hands. He moved it to my eyes so the viewfinder would reveal a capture of the sea rough with white caps and animated clouds above. Then he left it to me.
I clicked on and on. Flying fish presented their show to my delight. Then it seemed the photo roll had ended.
“What happened?” I asked.
As my father examined the camera, he discovered the cap still on the lens.
“Really?” His anger flared as he removed the cap.
I cried as we descended to our room. He showed stern frustration I’d not experienced from him before.
Later, as the sky dimmed, he suggested we return to the top deck. He installed more film, storing the cap in his pocket.
Click. Click. Click our cameras sung. He spoke of the sun as the “great ball of fire.” As the clouds danced in red and orange hues, he pointed out sky dragons at play.
We moved around to take in the clouds and colors and our bonding moments began.
He shared more stories of creatures in the sky and encouraged me to find shapes to turn into stories.
Once I worried when he needed to stay in bed with the flu. He encouraged me, “No worries. I can’t leave till my work on earth is done.”
I believe he had much more work left to do. Today, the world would benefit from his exuberance.
We continue to share sunsets and I create stories.
Tie the Memories
I let go of a yellow balloon
my father puffed to life
He tied it to my wrist
I untied it
and my fingers clutched
beyond limbs of sycamores
to circus animal clouds
He smiled when I asked, “Why?”
We’d talked about that before.
We found merry-go-rounds
in Paris and Kyoto.
Laughed atop a Ferris wheel
stuck in Brighton beach
I burned the lamb chops
in adolescent heart break
He put on more mint jelly
No answers in corridors
gray as shrouds
when his twilight spread
on raven wings
I let go the string
this tug more desperate
than his breath.
* The author travelled on the ship President Monroe after it was decommissioned in 1954.
Penny Wilkes, served as a science editor, travel and nature writer and columnist. An award-winning writer and poet, she has published a collection of short stories, Seven Smooth Stones. Her published poetry collections include: Whispers from the Land, In Spite of War, and Flying Lessons. Her Blog on The Write Life features life skills, creativity, and writing: http://penjaminswriteway.blogspot.com/ . Her photoblog is @: http://feathersandfigments.blogspot.com/
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