Down to the wire and a Five Year Plan…

Polly Jo McCulloch Masters, circa 2012

The term winds down, a spring relaxing, but ironically the ticktock increases for the final push.  The student exhibition is this weekend, preceded by readings and vocal performances.  I am too tired to go into the details, but it is an exhilarating time for many and stressful for the rest.  I have all but finished matting my photographs and only have to wait the final call for how many I need to matte for hanging.  The 11 pieces I worked on today will be in the ‘flip file’.  They are simply matted and wrapped in protective plastic to keep the fingerprints of my adoring fans on the exterior instead of marring the precious silver emulsion inside.

On a more personal note..I returned back to my flat Thursday evening to the sound of my mobile phone chirping, meaning I had missed a call.  When I checked, it had been my sister in Maine.  This unrolled a laundry list of stressful thoughts about my mother.  Was this ‘the call’?   As I called her back the thought came into my head “Mom has had a stroke…” and I wasn’t far off.  It was either a stroke or a TIA, but the good news was that she was well, in the hospital and had almost completely recovered in the short time since the event.  I was told to not worry, go about my day/night and check the next morning.  The caregivers had acted quickly and efficiently, probably saving her life.  So I went back to the darkroom and worked on some final proofs.  As I was slowly agitating my work in the soup I thought back to the summer of 2009 when I first applied to the Aegean Center.  I wrote and submitted an essay about photography, developing film and living as a primary caregiver for an elderly parent.  Here is an excerpt:

“I have tried to hold on to dreams as I wake and am dumbfounded when they disappear in the daylight. But hers are different. They come and go like shadows thrown by the leaves of trees as the sun arcs through the sky and clouds rolls past. But hers are not dreams. They are misfiring synapses and broken electrical connections in her brain that make no sense to me or others, but, to her, are as real as a photographic proof on high-contrast paper.  When her process is done what will the results be?   Once there was a writer, a theater owner, a lover of mysteries, a friend to the down-trodden and a mother who cradled her son on the edge of the pond lest he fall in the water and drown. The woman who gave birth to me, who saved my life, who visited me in the worst of places, is a shade of the agitated image now asleep in the wide bed. The picture is soft but the overall image is even, like there is something wrong with the inner workings of the camera. No amount of re-focusing can fix this and no expert can offer any kind words that will make it right. The light is lovely and soft; it is always magic time. The reality the camera catches is not what I expect. It is more and less at the same time, urging me to follow, yet losing me in the bright haze of a summer afternoon.”

As I stood in the darkroom and gently swirled the Microphen across the silver emulsion I weighed the passage of time and what has transpired since that summer.  Nothing stressful or too alarming for her, thankfully, and looking back I can see that she has wandered a steady but declining plateau while I have progressed in a more upward fashion.  Yes, there have been pitfalls I have avoided and the occasional mess I have stepped in but on the whole it has been a positive 3 1/2 years.  What is to come?  That was a question put forth the other day in class and, truthfully, I have no answer for the Big Question.  I have some goals for the next year, but five years is still too far off to tell…



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