Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Big Picture Show

I was fifteen and excitable and sort of nuts. Ammen was patient and a little moody and had a lovely Arkansas drawl. He was my teacher at the Academy at Adventure Quest where I went to high school. It was a boarding school, we lived out of a van, and everyone was around each other 24/7. I thought Ammen was absolutely fantastic in all ways so, with my unusual maturity, even keel, and the compelling yet perfectly metered energy of an adolescent girl,  I latched onto him like a blood starved leach.
Hair cuts in strange places were an AQ tradition. Ammen was our resident hair stylist.
Wow, I must have bugged the crap out of him! I was in a perpetual state of bliss when I was in high school, to the point where I practically gave myself daily seizures. I WAS JUST! SO! EXCITED! TO! BE! THERE! The boys I went to high school with oscillated between funny brothers buckets of laughter gallons of fun, and hideous monsters who made bonfires out of books, covered me with their spit and ate their young. Much more so the latter. So, I decided the thing to do was to elevate myself to grown-up status and follow Ammen and my English teacher Kerry around like a duck on a string.

When I first met Ammen, he was about the age that I am now. He was my photography teacher, our classes would entail long walks around strange places, trying to ration our 24-print film as he explained exposure and aperture and how to correctly meter light. 

And this was me, all five feet at the time:

I was a neat kid, and I threw myself  at everything with manic enthusiasm, and didn't get in trouble. But I needed a LOT of attention.
Love me? Please Love me?
I picture myself during those years as a brightly colored cartoon me: big eyes, big gears whirring audibly in my brain, head swiveling in all directions.

I didn't fully realize just how challenging it was to be a teacher at such a school until I became one myself at age 23. Boy, do I owe a lifetime of gratitude to the staff at AQ, people who cooked and drove endless hours and planned trips through politically unstable, earth-quake prone foreign countries. They took a very talkative, extremely clumsy teenage girl, taught her how to top out on some seriously tall multi pitches, and somehow prevented her from bouncing straight off of the cliff top. 

Oh! And they taught me high school curriculum so I could get into college.

That was ten years ago, I grew up, and Ammen and I are still friends. We live in the same neighborhood of Seattle and we share everything:  food, friends, long weekends, trips, trials, troubles, defeats, triumphs, cars, everything. In our decade of adventures,  Ammen and his wife Steph are my greatest friends. Somehow, in the past decade, we've only had two full on shouting matches.

Even though they have jobs, and I have a job, and they have a house and I have a landlord, and they have a baby on the way and I have sheet-soaking anxiety dreams about my future career (?), we try really hard not to succumb to a land locked life. And for the most part, we do a really really good job.

Which is why last Saturday, we boarded a ferry on a freezing cold February day, and headed across the sound into the a violently strong headwind.

We found ourselves at a remote cabin on the beach of Whidbey Island.

Nine years after we drove through the state of Oklahoma, listening to Earnest Wranglin, hallucinating tornadoes, three years after we emerged from a month inside the grand canyon and we got stuck in Vegas and Ammen threw up next to an Elvis impersonator, there we were: standing the cold, empty, silent beach at Ebey's landing. And once again, I tagged after him as we walked, and peppered him with questions about light and meter and aperture. And he always explains it, again and again. 

What followed was a stretch of perfectly happy days in the company of a dozen friends hand chosen for their mediagenicy just kidding, and I was never, ever not behind my camera. We took some seriously bitching photos.  

(More to come, obvi.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Melina. I had no idea how mature of a stalker you have become... You make me smile.

Melina said...

I sure hope that's you, Ammen Anon!