The return of our Gypsy Bonfire is celebrated by the "appearance" of one Seth Apter from The Altered Page. If you are a Blogger or Blog reader, you've been on his interesting site and probably have it bookmarked. If not?...you're in for a treat. Seth's Blog is a wonderful meeting place for anyone interested in the arts or just interesting stuff in general. Seth steps right out on the diving board and allows the World to see his art, finished and in progress. He treats his readers to delicious photos, grabbing our shirt sleeves and running along beside us as we accompany him on his travels. If you happen to be anywhere near New York City, you're set. He'll hook you UP. If, like me, you only WISH that you were, he'll allow you to feel like he's slipped you into his pocket and taken you to "The Cool Places". Seth's Bonfire story is a slight departure from the usual travelogue. It left me feeling hopeful and infused with the kind of magic that springs from Reality...I'll stop now. You go and get a cup of tea or something, then sit, relax and enjoy....here's Seth:
I believe in synchronicity. Moments of coincidence that almost seem too unbelievable to be happening. Moments which suggest that something greater is playing a role in our lives. In my mind, coincidences are not just random events. So much more than accidental occurrences. I continue to experience this over and over, with one of the most memorable times taking place, perhaps not surprisingly, in Sedona. It is said that “spiritual vortices” are concentrated in several areas throughout Sedona and anybody who has been there knows about the “new age” community that exists. I am convinced that the way the following events unfolded in Sedona was a true instance of synchronicity and just meant to be.
This story goes back to the late 1990s. A group of friends and I took a week-long trip to Sedona. Red rocks, jeep tours, hot air ballooning, glass-bottom helicopter flights, and hiking. And, of course, photography. That plays a big part in all my trips but, as you will see, especially during this one.
We had a hot air balloon ride scheduled early in the trip. Just after sunrise we drove to the launch site. It was quite exciting seeing the balloons swaying in the air in the distance as we approached. When we arrived we were informed that we needed to wait to take off due to wind gusts. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Until they finally were forced to cancel the trip out of safety concerns.
Having a free day, with no other activities planned we decided to spend the day outside of Sedona and drive to the rim of the Grand Canyon. I remember that day so clearly. The wind blew the clouds out of the sky, which was a brilliant blue. The air was crisp and the sun was bright. And, of course, there were red rocks everywhere. The hue comes from a thick layer of red and orange-colored sandstone, found only in and near Sedona.
We drove off with no specific plan in mind. Our only goal was to peer into the vastness of the canyon. Along the way we passed this unusual building that looked like it might be a church. Like no other church that I had ever seen before. It was tiny, almost triangular structure that was all roof. A fortress of shingles. There was one large cross soaring above the apex of the peaked roof. We all looked at each other and, without a word, pulled over about 30 yards after the structure.
I was in the front passenger seat and when I stepped out of the car, I saw a black film canister on the ground. Something possessed me to pick it up and open it. Inside was a roll of film. A roll of undeveloped film. In that instant I decided that I was going to have the film developed when we returned to Sedona. Then I thought how frustrated I would feel if I lost a roll of film, especially one I shot on vacation. And I had the fleeting thought that I wished there was a way to return it to the photographer.
Upon entering the church, I soon forgot all about the film. It was as if out of a dream. We could barely fit into this little space. Hanging from every single wall, every beam, and every nook and cranny were papers. With writing. Notes that had been left by hundreds of people asking for help and guidance. Most related to illness. At the back of the church was a window which looked out into the snow-capped mountains in the distance. It was an incredibly moving experience. We all added our own notes and quietly drove on the Grand Canyon.
As anybody who has been there knows, the canyon is truly an awe inspiring place. I found it hard to grasp the immensity of it all. It almost did not look real. Interestingly, my trusty Nikon SLR completely imploded on the rim of the canyon. As if it too could not take it all in. But that is a story unto itself!
Fast forward to early the next day. I dropped the found film off to be developed and later in the afternoon I picked it up. I excitedly looked through each picture. What I saw were shots of two different events. First, what looked like a birthday party and second, a group of women, probably in their 50s and 60s, quilting. I figured that one of the women in the pictures must have been the one to lose the film. The canister must have fallen out of her purse or the car when she pulled over to see the little church. In that moment, I knew that the reason I found the film was so that I could return it to her.
There was no identifying information in any of the photos, which were all taken inside somebody’s home. So I had no idea how to find her. I did not know if she even lived in Sedona or had traveled here from somewhere else. My sense was that she was a local because the photos weren’t typical tourist shots. It occurred to me to see if there were any quilting or fabric stores in town. Maybe they would recognize somebody from the photos. The next day, I went into a shop that I thought would be a good candidate. I explained to the owner what had happened, how I found the film and was now looking for the photographer. She was more than happy to join me on this quest. As she sorted through the pictures, she kept shaking her head. Nobody was familiar. Unbelievably, when she reached the last photo, she let out a little gasp. She knew one of the women. She was a customer. The owner of the shop did not know her name or where she lived but we both sense that the roll of film belonged to her. I left the stack of pictures along with my name and address. The shop owner said she would hold on to the photos and return them when and if the owner came in.
Fast forward to the end of the vacation. We stopped in to the shop but the photos had not been claimed. Fast forward again, back to real life. One week. Two weeks. One month. Two months. Time was passing and there was no word. I had pretty much given up on reuniting film with photographer when one day a letter arrived in my mailbox. A letter from Sedona. Inside was a card and a note, thanking me for finding the film and taking the time to try to return it. The letter was from the photographer. The woman in the picture. She had returned to the shop and had been greeted by the owner and her lost roll of film. She was effusive in her praise. But for me, I had not done anything special. It was just one more confirmation of the power of synchronicity. This was just meant to be.
Story and photos by Seth Apter.