color bursts and the melancholic countenance of a man

Spring in the Pacific Northwest does not arrive with thrust but in fits and starts.

And on that single day after months of gloomy gray the sun shines and the heavy somber veil draws back to reveal blue skies and colors appear in nature, life is celebrated with vigor – and in my case a camera (an old film camera from my sister; my first digital is gone for good, courtesy of the U.S. postal services).

Come on a stroll at the park a stone’s throw from my abode, the place you read about where I feed the gulls and crows.

No spring photo essay is complete without pink blossoms.

And no visit to Wright Park is complete without a hello to the Lady of the Lake.

Even ducks dance with the spring.

I continue to the perimeter of the park and come upon a man, seated on the granite bench. I don’t want to invade his space and this is when the telephoto lens (my only lens) comes in handy.

I move in gingerly.

He tugs at his white tresses about every minute consistently. I don’t like the crap background so I’ll move to his other side. Additionally, I’m drawn in toward contact, connecting, helping. I reach into my pocket for my only money, a pair of dollar bills.

I approach him. He has not seen and does not see me until I’m standing before him. From his hands hangs a white plastic bag of seemingly a small amount of groceries.

He lifts his bowed head at my presence and as I extend my hand with the bills. He refuses firmly with a soft-spoken “no.” “Here, please take it,” I insist. He accepts. In that brief moment I take in his entire face. Milky pale and lines worn deep and the most striking big round blue eyes, weary and unclear.

I seat myself at a distant spot on the grass on his other side for a long while. He continues to pull on his hair with regularity, then seems to examine the contents within his fingers before releasing them.
Finally he turns. I don’t know whether he sees me in his peripheral vision or cares that a camera is rested on him.  I remain in his presence as long as he allows.

I don’t have photo software, only a very primitive and fairly useless photo program that does allow a blow-up of his face.

I want to see his shoes. Worn shoes hold history and tales and power and meaning and for me a fascination. Just as I’m focusing in thought on his shoes, a miracle occurs: He stretches out his legs, only briefly

Then, perhaps because he’s aware of my presence, or has had his fill of the park or must be somewhere, he stands and leaves.

The bench feels empty without his presence.

I watch him as he follows the park's path, his back and shoulders hunched and the heavy blanket resting there on this extremely sunny warm afternoon.

He crosses the trafficked street, without signals, safely. I’ve jumped to my feet to trail at a distance. I stand on the corner, not moving, and watch him disappear down a residential street, the blanket over his back neither lifted nor shed and hanging in his hand his white bag.

Where does he go? Who is there? Is anyone? I watch till he can barely be seen and a woman pushing a stroller approaches.

That is how life goes and flows: departing and arriving.

Dedicated to a man possibly unknown in the world and known now here.

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