Always it’s Spring)and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves.
– e.e. cummings, American poet, painter, essayist and playwright
It seemed like a few weeks ago that we were celebrating the New Year, and now a quarter of 2014 is almost over and spring has arrived. I have noticed over the last decade how the days, weeks, months, and seasons are flying. The best we can do with time like the wind is to enjoy our days, replenish ourselves in moments of peace and clarity, immerse ourselves in moments of surprise and delight, and be open to moments in which reminders of the past bring gratitude to our present.
In my latest spring cleaning mode, I was decluttering our jammed file cabinets and pulled out a fat hanging folder full of cards and letters and mementos I’ve saved through the years. I came across a letter from my former landlord, Mischa Schwartzman, who had since retired from managing apartments and then passed away in 2003, which greatly saddened me. He was a retired teacher when he was my landlord in the Marina district of San Francisco in the early 1990s. His mother had taken him from his homeland of Russia when he was a baby during political upheaval. He had aspirations of being a writer, recording and bringing to life his childhood and his larger-than-life mother, and in his 80s he began to write, which was such inspiration to me.
He was the one who insisted I had to fight my fear and get to my writing. He was the one who told me to put a jar on my desk next to my computer. When I sat down to write, I was to open the jar, put my fear in it, close the jar, and then I could write freely. Mischa spoke his mind and lived and loved as large as his heart. His voice was powerful and honest. He was a loving father and a loyal friend. He was vibrant and youthful and wise – what I hope to be when I am an octogenarian. He took up photography after I moved out and he moved to Corte Madera, north of San Francisco, and he won numerous awards at shows for his stunning color photography. (My photos are mere shadows of his photographs.)
We remained close as I moved again, on from my life in San Francisco and settled in the East Bay with David. Mischa came to our wedding in Napa. We visited one another when we could. One spring, he came to our home for brunch and took photographs of our tulips. His letter of June 10th, 1999, was a gift then, and a gift reopened and savored again last night:
Dear Patty and David,
At long last. Sorry it took so long. Interruptions and distractions galore. But I persevered, and here is my favorite of all the images I made in your backyard.
I am again reminded, and am astonished at the impact black-and-white photography expresses. It’s powerful and dramatic. For years, I was enamored with color – gee. But your tulips, gorgeous as they are in their own colors, make a statement even more powerful in black and white. I realize that now I am looking at the essence of tulipness without the distraction of color: this is what a tulip is. No wonder it’s such a favorite worldwide.
Anyway, dear hearts, I had a most satisfying morning, breaking bread with you, and wandering the corners of your backyard and firing away. Thanks for the so many kindnesses you have shown me and accepting me as a friend. Consider both of you hugged and then, hugged again. Enjoy the enclosed print.
With love and affection,
(P.S. from me to Mischa: We miss you a bunch.)