The temporary Ron Santo shrine outside Wrigley Field flashed through my mind the moment I laid eyes on this tidy, little scene this morning. It was laid out with such obvious care. Maybe a wake or a shrine for another santo, St. Patrick?
Why shoot it? I don't know. I liked the looks of it and I like remembering those who've passed on. I think that contributed to my fascination with collecting, restoring and organizing vintage photos--an interest that developed over the last ten years as I've thought much more about the place of death in our lives.
I've got over 5,000 images now. In the earlier days of my little hobby, it had been important that I not just preserve the image, but that I do research to identify the subjects in the photos if possible--learn their personal stories, make them real people and in some cases reunite image with living family member. This was, at one time, a borderline obsession, but there are worse symptomatic ways to work out feelings about death.
The found-art dimension of the photo above also represents for me an interplay with loss and death themes.
I also think of the way we used to ask about empty drink glasses and beer bottles when I worked in a bar during my school days. Before we'd pick up the glass or bottle, we'd ask if it was dead.
And then there is "shot" and "shoot it." I'm on a roll.
Anyway, I dumped some recyclables and also noticed that there was plenty of room for more in the barrel. Perhaps the bottle-dumper left a neat pile for the scavenger/recyclers who pass through the alleys every day. The bottles were probably gone within an hour. You could leave a three-legged donkey in the alley and someone would cart it off. Is speculating on recyclers in this case my metaphor for a life-after-death wish?
All of this puts me in mind of a couple of deaths that occurred in recent years. In both cases I've never quite stopped feeling troubled by the thought that the police and the coroners treated the bodies like refuse. I had no objective reason for believing that. Well, okay, if you've ever talked to the Cook County coroner's office, you might feel that's the case. Oh, yeah, and there is a powerful story I read a few years ago in the Virginia Quarterly. It was written by a Chicago Police Officer who had to pick up dead bodies (worth reading).
By the way, I chose the post title before I thought about all this, so I guess there's something to my musings on death, mo[u]rning and remembering associated with this image.
So this is a glimpse of how the mind of a psychoanalytic thinker often works. We're big on the associations flashing through the periphery of the mind. Clues are everywhere, but if you pay attention, you may realize that dumped beer bottles that drew a little extra attention for reasons initially unknown can be about more than just beer bottles.
This is also the stuff that some (not all) of our more brain science-y friends are often oblivious to, even though they understand that there is an associative mental life. They might suggest that this is all a matter of fanciful personal construction. Well, yes, it is. The point is that we construct things in our minds and we can examine what we construct to know more about ourselves, rather than dismissing odd thoughts before we realize that they are telling us something about matters that may be troubling us.
Probably not my last thought on this subject, but last Wednesday I had lunch with a friend and we were discussing family and personal photos and what we wanted to happen with those photos after we're gone. Her mother almost died last week and we also discussed, more generally, passing along items of sentimental value to one's children.
I mentioned that not having children leads me to worry occasionally that lots of photos that once held great sentimental value for me would eventually end up in the trash. There, again, is the worry about the beloved being treated as trash. I said that I want to make sure that my old photos eventually end up with my nieces and nephews, otherwise they probably will end up decaying in a Chicago landfill. I spoke about someone who died a few years ago and was surprised that I started to get choked up almost as soon as I began to speak.
We ended that conversation with me saying I've got to do something soon to make my wishes clear. I haven't. I'm having lunch with my friend again tomorrow. She's analytically trained. She'll enjoy this story.
So I guess the beer bottles reminded me of the Ron Santo shrine I photographed shortly after his death. That the bottles were sitting beside trash containers, perhaps calling out for someone to rescue them from the landfill, triggered a bit of distress about not having done anything to address the future disposition of my photos of people who have died and of people who will die.
And, now, maybe I'll attend to the fate of those photos.
Do that with an MRI.