The Unknown Soldier
by Melvin B. Tolson
The Unknown Soldier
by Melvin B. Tolson
Last week I mentioned that I was retiring my old Nikon camera because it was no longer reliable, and learning to accustom myself to taking digital photos. In the spirit that practice makes perfect (or at least, much improved), I’ve taken to bringing my cell phone with me on my morning walks and taking photos of the various flora and fauna.
May and June are very pleasant months in SoCal: mild and sunny, but without the scorching heat that sets in around July and lasts through September. And the gardens are blooming with a will. When I see the jacarandas starting to put forth their first purple flowers, trumpet-shaped and fragrant, I know that spring is truly here.
California star jasmine is another harbinger of spring. Around here it first begins to flower around late March or early April, putting out a few tiny white blossoms that are easy to overlook. But when May sets in, star jasmine can be seen–and smelled–everywhere: twining around low fences, climbing up arbors, spilling abundantly over walls. The spicy-sweet scent, especially prevalent on cool, slightly cloudy mornings, is irresistible to me.
Of course, spring wouldn’t be spring without roses, and I see some gorgeous ones on my walks, all varying sizes, shapes, and colors. But this bush of blood red roses is so striking I had to stop and capture it. Roses like these must have grown in the Beast’s garden–no wonder Beauty’s father was so tempted!
Spring mornings also bring the fauna out early. Crows hopping territorially over suburban lawns, squirrels running up trees or across telephone lines–just today I saw a crow dive-bombing a squirrel, first on the grass, then up on the roof (the face-off ended in a draw with both participants heading in opposite directions). Alas, this was one occasion on which I didn’t have my cell phone, though crow and squirrel were probably moving too fast for me to have captured them.
But there are always the local cats, who are abroad and stirring much earlier than the local dogs. Or not stirring, in the case of this handsome fellow who was dozing on a lawn chair when I crept up on him.
Other felines, less somnolent, can be found slinking under bushes or sidling along garden paths, like this shy tortoiseshell. She deigned to come a little closer for a brief stroke or two, but preferred to remain aloof. (She had a black-and-white companion who was much less standoffish, but he was too busy stropping against my legs, butting against my hand, and generally making a nuisance of himself to pose for pictures!)
I leave you with a picture of my neighbor’s front garden, an oasis of color and bloom. (It’s also a favorite hangout of several neighborhood cats, although none are in residence in the photo.) Makes me almost wish I could garden too, but my thumb remains resolutely brown!
“I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph, Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away . . . “ –Paul Simon
I received my trusty 35 mm Nikon camera more than 20 years ago–a Christmas or birthday present, I can’t remember which–and we’ve been semi-inseparable ever since. On holidays, on vacations, on other notable occasions, I’d whip it out to capture a moment or an image–or try to, at the very least. People, places, and things, immortalized as 4 x 6 glossies, suitable for framing, passing around, putting in albums (although that last part tends to be indefinitely put off).
Time marches on, though, and digital cameras have taken over to the point where my loyalty to my Nikon has become something of a family joke. I shrugged it off, reasoning that it didn’t matter as long as I was satisfied with the picture quality or my camera’s performance.
Over the years, my old partner in memory-making has become a bit less reliable. At one point the shutter stuck and would not budge. I took it to a camera shop and had it repaired. Then, a few years ago, the counter was off by a few shots. I learned to adjust and work around this issue and still took some damn fine pictures.
Unfortunately, on this last trip, the counter let me down completely, to the point where I was happily taking pictures with film that wasn’t there: the photographic equivalent of shooting blanks! If it weren’t for my newly acquired cell phone, I would have had no photos of our recent Palo Alto trip and the friends we’d come up to visit. And while I’m still learning the ropes of operating the camera in my phone–resulting in several wobbly out-of-focus pictures–I did end up with some nice shots, which is preferable to having nothing at all.
The Birthday Girls (right)
So, regretfully but with a sense of inevitability, I am retiring my Nikon from active service. It’s been a great twenty-something years, old pal–thanks for the memories! I hope whatever (digital) camera succeeds you gives me as much joy as you have.
(All preceding photos, courtesy of my trusty cell phone!)
Do you own a favorite bit of outmoded technology? And are you still together, or have you put it out to pasture?