Julie and I met each other on one of the first days of our freshman year in college at Ohio State. Were it not for the fact that my roommate and one of her roommates were maintaining a relationship that had started in high school, we might never have met. As it was, I gamely ambled along with Ken from the Stadium Dorm to North Campus so that he could have lunch at Raney Commons with his girlfriend, Christi. We stopped at Taylor Tower to pick her up, and Julie decided to come along.
The earliest memory I have of the young woman whom I would marry just four years later is sitting across from her in the dining hall and wistfully observing how pretty she was. So pretty, in fact, that I immediately put all thoughts of courtship to rest, as I was certain that anyone that attractive had to have a boyfriend. And if that were not the case, I reasoned that there had to be a million guys after her. Why beat my head against the wall? I didn't stand a chance.
Don Ward and I were utterly out of sync, from the day we met until the hour we last parted. We were baffled by each other, somehow forever falling short of achieving pleasant and productive conversation. Under any other circumstances, we never would have interacted at all. Fate had intervened, however, and he was as stuck with me as I was with him. For four inscrutable years, Don Ward was my appointed college adviser.
That was not the original plan, at least according to an initial schedule. Having declared my major in Photography and Cinema midway through my freshman year at Ohio State, I was assigned to receive academic counseling from an associate professor who had been with the department for over a decade. I had heard good things about him, and he had the bearing of a wise and approachable mentor. But when I tried to make my first appointment, I learned that I had been inexplicably reassigned to one of the newer faculty members.
The photograph was a surreal, black and white portrait, just the sort of clumsy stab at art that one might expect from a college student in an introductory photography course. Its subject was a young woman whose eyes were obscured by the pair of oranges she held before her face. Perhaps it was its humor that earned it a spot on the wall of Haskett Hall, where I stopped to regard my handiwork each day after class. Passers-by might have mistaken my look of concentration for the solemn focus of critique, but my motivation was shallow. The truth was that I had something of a crush for the model, and standing for a moment in front of her portrait allowed me stare at her captivating image and daydream of impossibly good things.
Making films and videos interested me far more than capturing stills, but having declared my major as Photography and Cinema, I was obligated to learn the rudiments of picture taking and photochemistry. The lecture section of my introductory class was taught by Tony Mendoza, who was known at the time for a whimsical series of black-and-white photographs featuring his cat, Ernie. His artistry was inspiring, but as I was to discover, creativity was only a fraction of what was required to produce good photographs. The technical side of it - everything from light meter readings to focal lengths to maintaining the proper temperature for photochemical solutions - was daunting. I was long on ideas but short on technique.
Mom and me, 1971
I don't remember taking a walk along a lake with my mother on a chilly fall day, but the gentle moment is documented in a faded color photograph. I was no more than a toddler at the time. Looking at it now, I can imagine how fresh and exhilarating the sensation must have been for me, a novice to the cyclical changes of turning seasons. The sharpness of the cool air, the windblown rustle of decaying foliage, and cascading waves of pinwheeling leaves would have captivated me. Autumn must have been a wondrous and beautiful contrast to the vibrant skies and sweltering sun of summer.
Whatever wonder I associated with the season would dissipate within several years, however. My annual return to school became the most memorable event in autumn, and I soon developed a distaste for what I gradually perceived to be a depressing time of year. Summer was a joyous freedom from responsibility, a chance to impulsively indulge every whim, an endless vacation with so many hours of daylight that you could wake up late and still have more time than you ever wanted to ride your bike for blocks with no agenda whatsoever. Fall came to represent the absence of these cherished things, and so it held little charm for me. Deciduous trees aflame with color and crisp strolls through the apple orchard? Who cares? Summer's over.