A friend of my recently lost thousands of photographs through an unfortunate error when re-formatting her hard drive. She thought she had them backed up, but alas, it was only the short-cut that had been saved. A short cut to nowhere... to files that had been erased. What a crushing disappointment. She has since rallied her friends to send along their photographs during 'the time of the gap,' and has reconstructed that time, albeit, from a different point of view.
It's interesting how photographs inform our memories. Create them, really, in a way. I think of high school, and I see the photographs, slides and movies that I've carried with me over the years: that picture of me in those ridiculous white golf shoes I wore to the prom. Standing on my head in the backyard with our dog, Alfie. Canoeing down the Kickapoo in a snowstorm with Campanile. Those images tell me who I was as I was on the way to becoming who I am. But was I really the kind of guy who wore those shoes? I think a lot of those photographs were the exception, not the rule. Memories are sometimes skewed. What did we do before photographs? How did we know who we were? How did we tell the stories?
We've just produced a small print, a birthday gift for someone who remembers seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. The friend who ordered the print didn't know exactly when he first saw it, on a trip to Florida, but knows of it as a strong mark in his life... something he refers to with affection, and more than rarely. She guesses sometime in the early 70s. This pre-dates the Crosby, Still & Nash lyric she went with as a message – that song was released in the early 80s – but it sure was a good fit.
So now he'll have that image. I wonder, will his memory of it somehow change?
The Southern Cross – 'Crux' is the actual name of the constellation – is visible south of 28° N, approximately: mid Florida and points south. It is highest in the sky in mid May. It is a beautiful constellation, but not majestic on the order of Orion or Scorpius. Crux lies in the Milky Way, in the narrows of that river of light, about 4 or 5 degrees wide. The beautiful arc of light, reaching out toward Scorpius, on one side, and to the great ship Argo on the other, is probably part of that memory, too.