Monday, December 30, 2013

Chances are...

Christmas Eve morning at Electric Works — the crew is already on vacation. It’s quiet except for our bustling about finishing up the year-end inventory, sweeping, clearing out, getting ready for 2014. We’re scurrying to be done with it, when we get a call from a good client. He’s got a neighbor with a last minute request. Can we do just one print on a rush basis? Have it by afternoon?

Alright, but we need the file and it needs to be big enough to warrant high level printing. Sending over the Internet there is the usual back and forth—no, not a NEF file, needs to be a Tiff file, needs to be RGB, yes on watercolor-y kind of paper, 3″ borders all ’round. Parameters settled. It’s an aggravation, especially since we’re eager to get on with our holidays, but OK, OK, we’ll do it.

We print it, but by mistake make 1″ borders. Oh! crapsticks so it has to be printed again. YIKES!  Don’s coming around 3 PM and so much cleaning yet to do.

Don comes in in a rush — but very chatty and jovial. This is really last, last minute shopping. His ride is waiting outside. He’s on his way to the airport. It turns out Don is Don Johanson, the Don Johanson, discoverer of Lucy—the ur-mother of hominids, found in Hadar, Ethiopia, the searing badlands of escarpments, alluvial fans and arroyos; the perfect place for fossils.

“How did you ever find her?” we ask.

“First of all, I was looking for it, looking for hominid fossils. Over my right shoulder my eye was caught by a thin slip of bone. An elbow. A hominid. If I’d been looking to my left I would have missed it. All around it there were footprints made by a geologist who skipped right over it looking for rocks.”

Wow, what a story! Don is a big personality, open-hearted so we’re encouraged to share the quasi-anthropology story about our beach plastic project. We pull out a drawer with one of our prints—a potpourri of aligned and photographed toys found on Kehoe Beach. The items carefully arranged like a specimens in a drawer in a natural history museum. He instantly gets what we’re about so the three of us end up spinning yarns about the human love and serendipity of “seek and find.” His ride texted his cell twice, “Where are you?”

Although he was in a rush, in our sudden found conviviality, Don regaled us with other stories including one about the photograph we’ve just printed of the looming Easter Island statues. The famous Moai at night, stern, lined up to confront the mystery. It’s a photomontage with a starry night sky placed as the backdrop, the region of the Southern Cross and the south polar star Hadar. Line up the two horizontal stars making arms of the Cross and they point to Hadar, the equivalent to lining up the Big Dipper to find our northern pointer Polaris. Don didn’t know Hadar the star was in his picture until after it was published in National Geographic. Hadar, site for his great find, his pole star to anthropological rock stardom. (Ha!) Hadar is the Arabic word for ground.

After much banter Don’s happily on his way, his print in hand, a book from the bookstore, and he even bought the mistake print with the 1″ border. A fortuitous happenstance of a meeting—we’ll get together when he returns in February.

Next day, it’s Christmas, unseasonably warm, we head for the beach. The collecting this year has been skimpy, drought conditions affecting both sea currents bringing plastic in and the gutter washing rains, taking plastic out to sea. The heat drives us into a little swale to sit and shed our jackets and de-shoe. As experienced searchers for plastic we know this a likely spot for debris to accumulate. Our Hadar. Right away, Judith eyes the thin edge of plastic poking out of the sand. Mostly buried, the little tell of color she sees, turns out to be some kind of primate, a tiny plastic monkey dressed in a spacesuit, definitely a simian creature. Not quite Lucy, but for us, praise-worthy in the context of meeting Don. There must be a prayer in the Daily Prayer Book, The Siddur, to be said when finding something precious: like finding a jolly cohort like Don and like finding our little space monkey. Too good to be true? What are the chances? Space monkey? After all, Lucy was named for the one “in the sky with diamonds.”