A Less Softer World
“Hi again. So our garage burned and I’ve been walking through the garage in my head trying to remember everything in there. The “Softer World” homage photo you did was in there. (The series of three photos with typewriter text on it.) Any chance you have that digitally somewhere?”
This text came from my old friend Rebecca on August 24, 2020. The CZU Lightning Complex fire—one of the most awkwardly named fires in California history—had just ravaged the small redwood communities near Big Basin, including the little town of Bonny Doon. I knew Rebecca had moved to “Santa Cruz,” a general location you’d give to someone who doesn’t know the area. It wasn’t until the fire that I pinpointed her spot: Bonny Doon, a place I’d spent a lot of time as a stoned teenager. I’d had many a cruise through those now burned redwoods in my 1959 Volkswagen convertible, top down, bundled up against the foggy, drippy redwood forest. I guess that chapter of my life had never come up in our many road trips and adventures.
Rebecca was currently evacuated from the fire—during COVID—with a toddler and a 6-month old. Alone. They were on their way to her mother’s house in Florida. They’d missed their connecting flight and had to spend a night in Phoenix.
“Oh wow I forgot all about that,” I texted back. “I’m sure it’s on my old Mac Pro cheese grater. Like 2008?”
“Man, I have no idea what year.”
Have you ever come across something you’ve made that you have no memory of making? This is one of those pieces for me. I remember the photo shoot, out in the Antelope Valley somewhere. I remember the coat, which now belongs to my friend Claire’s cat. But I’d forgotten all about A Softer World, an internet project that Rebecca was obsessed with. At that time, in the early aughts (we always knew that would sound weird), the internet was full of fun websites like Is It Tuesday or Look at This Fucking Hipster; before it became One Big Site. Well, three, maybe.
The text for this piece came from a Tweet Rebecca made one night, while possibly (probably) inebriated. In case you’re reading this on a phone, it says:
I WILL fall in love with a boy who can keep up.
It WILL happen. Someday.
Even if it’s 10 years…
Well, she did fall in love with such a boy and the wait was only three years. Turns out, a boy with enough energy to keep up with a powerhouse like Rebecca is himself a lot to keep up with. Increasingly, her life became his life—their life, I guess. But, as sometimes happens, I soon found myself with no place in it.
We texted again tonight so I could get her permission to write this piece and use these photos of her in her fancy bra. She said she’s getting ready for Christmas, but feeling a little over it. “All of our Christmas stuff burned and it’s been sad to do the tree. I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it does.”
Rebecca was one of the most pro-Christmas people I’ve ever known; she absolutely loved the holidays. The fact that I always found the season sad and hard made no sense to her.
“It’s a little bit nice to start over,” she texted. “But also sad.”
“Life baby,” I texted back. “It’s not linear, it’s circles. Or oblong Mister Bubble shapes.”
Living in a place where I have unobstructed views of the sky, I see the truth of this more and more. I watch the sunrise move from north to south then back again, with the seasons. I see Venus and Saturn go from their summer positions to their winter positions. Then back again. The cycles, the repeated patterns are everywhere.
Maybe life is really an endless Venn diagram, one circle building onto the next, realities overlapping then changing into something else.
Anyway, I came across this photo project again today as I dug through the archives— part of the cycle of this time of year. I must say, I quite like it, though I still don’t remember making it.