Last weekend at Doug’s Place, I found my lens trained on Travis even more than it usually is — and it usually is a lot. He’s used to it, and doesn’t pay much attention to what I’m shooting anymore, even if its him. He’s much more easygoing about it than I am — I hate being photographed. There is a reason, I tell people, that I stay behind the lens.
I realized at some point, flipping through the images on the LCD monitor, that all the images I was shooting of him were inflected with a sense of savoring something for the last time. They were the collected story of his release of a place of refuge. So I asked his permission to share the pictures, and received it.
“I never quite got what you were saying when you would talk about being so attached to places,” he said Saturday night. “Until now. I get it more now.”
We added up the times we’d moved in our lives once, ticking off addresses and towns with our fingers. He was a minister’s kid, so he had a good head start, but I caught up with my nomadic early adult life. An involuntary move in my childhood only increased my attachments to places. It had a different effect on him. This is, he said, the only place he’s been attached to long enough to see his roots there.
“I always felt like the steward of this place,” he said.
“Like Hagrid,” I replied.
“Yeah, exactly. Like Hagrid.”
“So what do we do now?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, something this big feels like it has to lead to something else. Or maybe that’s just me needing everything to Mean Something,” I said. “Like looking for the door that’s opening as soon as one closes.”
“I don’t know.”
It was Saturday night, and we had our down mattress spread out on the deck he and his dad built. When they first built the platform, it was only a couple of feet off the ground. Then in 1991 or 1992 — no one can quite remember which year it was — the creek flooded and raised the level of the deck several feet. Deciding to do battle with nature, Travis went out the following summer and cemented the posts into the ground. Ten or twelve years later it flooded again, and raised the deck at its current height.
Nature wins again. Doug added taller stairs.
We were lying on the platform as the light waned Saturday evening, listening to the hummingbirds zinging in and out over the water. Fireflies took over from the hummingbirds when dark fell. A bat zoomed in over the deck to check us out. The place wasn’t going to be boring to make us feel better about losing it; it would be potently itself.
We considered sleeping in the open on the deck, but we retired to the tent when I felt like the ground would be softer on my back than the wood slats of the deck. We kept the rain fly off, and I fell asleep to the breeze through the mesh, and the sound of the running creek.
We opened our eyes to the birds when light returned.
Another day. The last day. Here, anyway.