I hope this finds you well. I don’t know when you’ll receive it. Sometime after I’m gone.
I’m sixty-five now, and it’s been thirteen years ago today that we met when I came up your lane looking for directions.
I’m gambling that this package won’t upset your life in any way. I just couldn’t bear to think of the cameras sitting in a secondhand case in a camera store, or in some stranger’s hands.
They’ll be in pretty rough shape by the time you get them. But, I have no one else to leave them to， and I apologize for putting you at risk by sending them to you.
I was on the road almost constantly from 1965 to 1975 just to remove some of the temptation to call you or come for you, a temptation I have virtually every waking moment of my life. I took all of the overseas assignments I couldfind.There have been times, many of them, when I’ve said,”The hell with it， I’m going to Winterset, lowa, and, whatever the cost, take Francesca away with me.”
But I remember your words, and I respect your feelings. Maybe you were right, I just don’t know. I do know that driving out of your lane that hot Friday morning was the hardest thing I’ve ever done or will ever do. In fact, I doubt if few men have ever done anything more difficult than that.
I left National Geographic in 1975 and have been devoting the remainder of my shooting years mostly to things of my own choosing, picking up a little work where I can get it, local or regional stuff， that keeps me away only a few days at a time. It’s been tough financially, but I get along. I always do.
Much of my work is around Puget Sound. I like it that way. It seems as men get older they turn toward the water. Oh, yes, I have a dog now, a golden retriever，I call him “Highway,” and he travels with me most of the time, head hanging out the window, looking for good shots.
In 1972, I fell down a cliff in Maine, in Acadia National Park, and broke my ankle. The chain and medallion got torn off in the fall. Fortunately they landed close by. I found them again, and a jeweler mended the chain.
I live with dust on my heart. That’s about as well as I can put it. There were women before you, a few, but none after. I made no conscious pledge to celibacy; I’m just not interested.
I once watched a Canada goosewhose mate had been shot by hunters. They mate for life, you know. The gander circled the pond for days, and more days after that. When I last saw him, he was swimming alone through the wild rice, still looking. I suppose that analogy is a little too obvious, for literary tastes, but it’s pretty much the way I feel.
In my imagination, on foggy mornings or afternoons, with the sun bouncing off northwest water. I try to think of where you might be and what you might be doing as I’m thinking of you. Nothing complicated，going out to your garden, sitting on your front porch swing， standing at the sink in your kitchen,— Things like that.
I remember everything. How you smelled, how you tasted like the summer. The feel of your skin against mine，and the sound of your whispers as I loved you.
Robert Penn Warren once used the phrase.”a world that seems to be God-abandoned.”
Not bad, pretty close to how I feel some of the time. But I cannot live that way always.
When those feelings become too strong， I load Harry and go down the road with Highway for a few days. I don’t like feeling sorry for myself. That’s not who I am. And most of the time I don’t feel that way. Instead, I am grateful for having at least found you. We could have flashed by one another like two pieces of cosmic dust.
God or the universe or whatever one chooses to label the great systems of balance and order does not recognize Earth-time.To the universe, four days is no different than four billion light years.I try to keep that in mind. But, I am, after all, a man. And all the philosophic rationalizations I can conjure up do not keep me from wanting you, every day, every moment, the merciless wail of time
I can never spend with you, deep within my head.
I love you, profoundly and completely. And I always will.
The last cowboy,Robert