Thursday, November 17, 2011

In search of lost pictures

A mysterious tech glitch having eaten a quantity of pictures off my memory card, I have tried to reconstruct what it was I saw, what I thought I wanted to remember. Snapping quick photos as a memory aid, it's easy not to look carefully enough; many of the plants are lost to me now, vague sketches of color that I recall wanting to be able to look at again. (Wasn't that Plato's warning about writing--it would make the mind lazy?) But I've salvaged a few frames:

A bright yellow orchid growing on a tree in a dusty paddock, admired just after we'd been horseback riding; we were waiting for our guide to unsaddle the horses. Bright, bright, unvariegated yellow, the flowers shaped like fans, the scalloped curve hanging downward, maybe dots of red at the base of the fan, and the flowers (they're not petals, are they?) jumbled and overlapping. The guide said it grew only on that particular tree, and that people stole chunks of it from time to time. 

In the same paddock, an old red and white Chevrolet tailgate lying in the dust, faded toward pink, placed as a shallow water trough for the horses to drink from. The white quartz gravel of the road and the golden six o'clock light on the hills behind us.

Neat vacation homes on narrow lots flush against garbage heaps (residue of the last strike) and piles of brick- in-progress. Libros Moby Dick, a bookstore in Capilla del Monte; vultures and the more attractive Caranchos with their black caps or crests gathered around a dead cow.

My mother and my two kids high up on a granite boulder in another canyon, one that used to be called El cajón and is now called Paraíso, the river dammed above to make a reservoir initially intended for recreation purposes but now, after a three-year drought, providing crucial water to the area. Box canyon becomes Eden, with a water release at the base of the dam, a metal wheel like a ship's wheel and tall water sprays arcing off like spokes at intervals. Round boulders against sharper edges, common green parrots flying over the trees, a small rodent like a guinea pig across the stream from me, and water plants, deep green and red-veined, just under the surface in a cove of the creek.

But then, too, there are the pictures I never tried to take, because the car was moving fast: kilometer after kilometer of old stone walls crisscrossing the hillsides in the Sierra de Córdoba, supplemented now by barbed wire along the highway, but still standing, keeping cattle in or out of pastures. Up close, those pastures looked to hold enough rocks to rebuild all the walls twice over with material to spare. 

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