Some things are just meant to go together.
Flowers are great representations of love. Henry De Leon, a life-long friend, and a florist, has always inspired me with the expressive beauty of his floral art. In 1995, I started photographing flowers in a studio setting. When I had a full body of work, I showed the images to my friend, writer/musician Gary Whitford. We started talking about life, women, love, and love lost, which in turn got us talking about combining his poetry and my images for an exhibit.
One day, on assignment to photograph the late Elvira Cisneros and her husband, George Sr. –former Mayor Henry Cisneros’s parents; I mentioned to Doña Elvira that I was working on a flower series about unrequited love. The title for the series was “Fragile, Romance…” . Mrs. Cisneros took me into her garden and showed me her Midnight Blooming Cereus, which only blooms once or twice a year and only at night, reaching full bloom around midnight and starting to wilt at sunrise. We agreed she would call me when her Cereus was ready to bloom so I could come over and capture the magic moment. After photographing the flower, Doña Elvira gave me a cutting from her plant, which grew well in my garden and survived the move from my Mahnke Park home to my current residence on South Alamo.
“Fragile, Romance…” eventually became a series of thirty photographs that were complemented by a prelude and a 29-stanza poem by Gary Whitford. The series was exhibited at the Central Library in 1996.
But that wasn’t the end of the Midnight Blooming Cereus’ influence on my life.
I was a regular patron at Ram Ayala’s Tacoland, a mystical place known for cutting edge music and Ram’s irascible temperament. One night, in May of 2002, I walked in just about midnight to listen to the Infidels play. Just as I was about to get comfortable, an acquaintance came over and proceeded to introduce me to her friend a strikingly beautiful woman with gorgeous, wavy blonde hair cascading all the way down her back and she started talking to me as if we had known each other for a long time. Her name was Liz.
After a two-year courtship Liz agreed to marry me. As it turned out, her father, Lee Leffingwell, also had a Midnight Blooming Cereus that he loved. So Liz decided we would marry the next time our Cereus bloomed.
One Sunday morning in August, with our Blooming Midnight Cereus on the verge of opening, we called up close friends and family and invited them over that night for our special event. It was all at very short notice, but the Cereus bloomed as scheduled and our marriage has become a long, happy, loving life.
Romance may be fragile, but true love endures.
Happy Birthday Liz!