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Baja California Information Pages

Stories by Mike Humfreville

Family Photographs    ( Posted June 4, 2006 )

A number of years back we had a house fire. It destroyed everything. Later I came to learn that those items most missed were the photographs of Mary Ann and the boys and me across a lifetime together. A few days after the fire, settling into temporary quarters where we would live for 4 years while our new house was being built, I started writing. I later realized that I was replacing my destroyed photographs with words, the only way I could imagine reconstructing the images of our lives together. Several years later a small portion of my original manuscript found its way into a book that has now been published. My purpose with this (current) writing is not to promote the book, which is only so-so to me when I look back over all the stuff I have written. But it's something I did and it was somewhat creative and I drew great pleasure throwing a few words on paper each day that carried me back over the years.

As part of the process of pulling my stories, our small history that I was writing, the publisher asked me about photographs. My answer was obvious: there were none. But I got to thinking about the issue of pictures and mentioned it to a number of friends that had shared Baja California with us over the decades we\u2019ve been going there, Bahia de Los Angeles more than most other places. Pictures began to surface; family and friends had copies of prints made that went from the present back into the early '60's when we first started exploring Baja's central and southern arid deserts and raw torturous mountains. It was touching that our friends had so many memories that we shared. It's something you don't stop to think about on a normal basis but we did with the sudden destruction and need had arisen from the fire.

I began collecting and organizing the assemblage of photographs we were receiving. I needed one or two for the book and then only for the cover and back panels. I now had hundreds. But I had an idea.

I called a professional photographer and we sat down to discuss the presentation of the images. My concept was to create a large collage and frame it. But that did no justice to the pictures that were most important to me. So I decided to enlarge a number of the prints to 8x10 and frame them as well. By the time I was done and had received the new photographs, bought frames and mattes for each of them not only did I have a substantial investment in my memories but I also needed a wall that was large enough to hang what turned out to be at least a hundred square feet of photographs. After I had finished the last frame I laid the pictures on our king bed and the surrounding nightstands, etc just to see what the assemblage was going to do with itself. It had become an independent entity without my knowing it.

I wrapped them all in newspaper today, this afternoon, and placed them in large plastic boxes to protect them on the drive down Mexico 1 to the bay. Mary Ann and I have been trying to decide where they will fit in our Mexican house - most of the wallspace is already covered with tapestries, Mexican plates each painted with their own story, and other pictures. The location there is not of particular importance to me as long as they are in what is a meaningful location. I'm thinking the bedroom.

The bedroom might seem like a strange place to put a wall full of family pictures.

But when I think of it what better place? With sunup comes a slight breeze that puffs the curtains through open doors into the house. A new day stirs. In the often gentle, occasionally fierce light that penetrates the early mornings in the bay I can lay gently waking in our bed and listen to the movements and rhythms of air and sea, the seabirds - gulls, pelicans, boobies and terns - the whales and dolphins blowing just off shore. With our new photographs mounted on our bedroom walls, I can lay and reflect, just before the tranquil voices of neighbors on an early morning walk along the shore and before the heat of the day has struck, about the times of my family.

All of our hearts are in Baja.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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