The world lost a beautiful soul on July 18, 2019. Although I didn’t know Raul Villarreal for long, the way he impacted my life was considerably life changing. He was a supportive, kind, gentle, talented, and lively person. It was because of him and his belief in my work that I was invited to be the poster artist for the 50th Annual Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival. His untimely passing has rippled throughout the world.
It was a strange time to be considering death as I attempted to celebrate my 32nd year around the sun. Admittedly, there was a bit of somberness surrounding it. When someone leaves us unexpectedly it’s easy to wonder why them over me? Who am I to stand here breathing while this person, who still had so much to give, was quietly cut short in life?
In the midst of existential wondering I was hit with a memory. In the fall of 2015 I was preparing a series of photographs that centered around flowers in varying stages of decay. The theme was impermanence. The Buddhists call it anicca. The undeniable truth that nothing is permanent. Everything is always changing, beginning and ending. It is an inevitability of life. To accept impermanence in life is to reduce or eliminate suffering, at least in the Buddhist tradition.
Death has always moved in swiftly and unexpectedly on people I have been close to in life, like a silent assassin. It has always been a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching move that has left me undeniably raw and questioning. Yet on the other side of grief lies a gift. A reminder to live life, to carry out hopes and dreams, to love passionately and deeply, in the now, for tomorrow is never guaranteed.
As Peter and I made our way to St. Augustine for a birthday getaway, in light of Raul’s untimely passing, I knew I must revive the Impermanence series. Luck was on my side this trip because St. Augustine was a lush, tropical paradise of flowers and foliage. What I was seeking in downtown St. Augustine were flowers and foliage that exemplify all stages of life. The bright, colorful flowers crumpling into brown, shriveled softness. The foliage transitioning from bright green, to sickly yellows, ultimately settling on dried out grays and browns.
It was a joy to get lost in random bundles of foliage with my camera, and in the process, mourn the loss of Raul. To celebrate the beauty of this strange existence we find ourselves in. To feel deep sadness at the loss of a sort of mentor, loss of the potential for future collaboration and instruction, loss for the many who were touched by his light. To feel great joy and excitement that our lives intersected at all, and not just intersected, but interacted, significantly impacted, and inspired. What a beautiful life he lived.
There’s more to the story here. More to wrap up. More to say and express. For now I leave you with some images from the original Impermanence series started in 2015, along with some images from my latest exploration of Impermanence.
As always, I welcome your feedback, insights, or stories in the comments below. Thank you for following my photographic journey. Join me next week for part II of this exploration of Impermanence.