What Have You Been Doing All This Time?

Yes, I know, I know. It’s been three months since I last posted anything here. The lack of words does not mean I’ve not been occupied with creative projects! Here’s a quick summing up.

I was distracted by baseball all the way from the All-Star break to the dismal ending of the San Francisco Giants postseason, when I wrote in my journal on October 14, 2021:

Tonight I witnessed one of the worst travesties I’ve ever seen in baseball. Once again the state of refereeing was revealed in all its ugliness. This five-game series, a tight and highly wrought matrix of struggle and courage (on the part of both teams) was tarnished on the very last out of Game 5 when Wilmer Flores was called out on strike three on a check swing. A check swing! The most subjective call in baseball. Sounds like an easy call to get right considering everyone can see it. Did the bat go past the plane of the plate? Yes? Then it’s a strike.

As I said to Charles and Julia and JS, I don’t mind being beat by a team, but being beaten by a blind joker in a blue suit is ignoble. Its long past time for balls and strikes and check swings to be monitored by the same processes that are monitoring just about everything else in the game. To have something like that be the final play in a season like this, well that’s spitting in the face of baseball, the players, and the fans. Just terrible. Especially since a check swing call cannot be reviewed.

But in this case the bat did not break the plane of the plate. Gabe Morales, the umpire at first base, who has blown many of the check swing calls I’ve seen this year (no one get it right more than 50% of the time in my view—I saw scores of them missed as I watched more baseball than I have watched in years), yes Gabe Morales blew the call. Big time. Clearly shown on TV there was not a doubt. Right now it’s circulating as a gif all over the Internet.

As my brother wisely points out, every other major sport in the country has more or less corrected their abysmal refereeing, except for baseball. It’s long past due and I’ll think twice about shelling out a monthly subscription to MLB-TV simply to have my hopes ground into the dirt by incompetence.

Needless to say I’m terribly disappointed. I know it doesn’t matter in the larger perspective, but can’t I find one thing that isn’t ruined by idiots?

My regular readers who are San Francisco Giants fans will know exactly what I meant.

At the same time my creative pursuits rolled back to photography, and I started two projects. First, to get the bitter taste of that reckless check swing call out of my mouth I created a gallery of photos that I made at AT&T/Oracle Park from 2008 to 2021. Most of these were games I attended, but some of the images were made back when I worked for Advent Software (when it was a great place to work, before it was ruined and destroyed by…wait…stop, Richard—no point in going on about that—take a deep breath) and the stadium was used for offsite meetings for the entire company. The photos were taken from many viewpoints, behind home plate, up in the corporate boxes, way up in the upper deck from left field, and a few from the bleachers. There’s even one taken from a cruise boat trolling through McCovey Cove.

That gallery can be perused at this link. Leave a comment if you’d like. Eventually I’ll get them over to my SmugMug site which is in urgent need of a refresh, where I’ll put them on sale. If you’re interested in prints in the meantime (fine art made by yours truly) contact me at richard@imagerag.com.

The second project developed (yes the pun is intended, why do I feel I need to point it out?) as a result of my eldest daughter helping me organize hundreds of snapshot prints created during from 1985 to 2006, all of them of family and friends. Back in those days I would run rolls of Kodacolor through my Nikon FE and FM, have them processed at Long’s Pharmacy (remember them?), and shove the prints and negatives back into the envelopes after viewing them for a while. (A small selection made it into albums.) I hadn’t looked at them in many years and decided that it was long past time to scan them into my archives.

I was unimpressed with the results from the print scans, even though I have a high-quality flatbed scanner in my studio, so I switched to scanning negatives with Silverfast, and the results are outstanding. As the artistic passion (or obsession) kicked in I dropped all my writing projects (except for my journal which is a daily practice) and since early October I have scanned over 4000 images. Serendipitously, Adobe released new code in Photoshop and Lightroom that makes creating masks a painless, quick procedure and now all that film is a source for new images. It’s like having a darkroom again, without the chemicals—a hybrid process that combines both the analog experience of film with the digital experience of post processing images in ways I could only imagine thirty years ago.

You can view the color results here. The black and white images are here. The latter galleries date all the way back to 1978. These are not fine art shots. They are pictures of my life on earth, but they are renewed and recovered from my own storage vault. (Well, maybe that’s fine art after all.) They may not resonate with most of my readers, but if you were an old friend of mine way back when you’ll get a kick out of them.

During eight weeks of scanning I knew that I was not posting anything to the blog. But—there is news on that front. I’m working on a little something that was inspired by the Get Back documentary directed by Peter Jackson that began streaming on Disney Plus on Thanksgiving. Actually it may be more than a little something, I’m not sure yet. I can tell you it is in the vein of Winterland Nights, so if you read that memoir and enjoyed it you might want to check back and see what this new project is all about, once I start posting it that is.

If you sign up to receive notifications when I post on this blog you’ll be in the loop for that project. There’s a subscription link at the bottom of every page so have at it. I do appreciate the fact that you take the time to read my work. Enjoy the photos and I’ll be back very soon!


Notes on the post

  • Photographs of AT&T Park copyright 2021 by Richard Gylgayton
  • Beatles record bin photo by Mike on Pexels.com (thank you!)

Myriad Things Awakening

August 12, 2021, late afternoon of a warm day in Oregon. I’m sitting in front of my television watching the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees play nine innings of baseball at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. The sun is setting there—the evening sky opulent. I visited that place nine years ago and sat in the little grandstand with my wife who, true to character, tried to remain unimpressed. My daughter and I walked leisurely around the bases with our arms around each other. As I watch the game unfold those visits seem indistinct—then the present moment merges with beloved past and my memories come into focus.

The vision: baseball at dusk—the light changing subtly, from blue, to violet, to sable, as the field lights cast astigmatic haloes above the grandstand. The wind caresses the emerald cornfields and despite the grating monochromatic voice of Joe Buck clumsily exorcising the enchantment from the scene, I am filled with the inexpressible feeling I always have in my heart at the end of the film Field of Dreams—the camera rising at twilight while Ray plays catch with his father and all the car headlights line up and extend to a forever distant horizon. My heart breaks and heals all over again. Gratitude rises. Grace descends.

The image of that major league game in the cornfields has been in my mind for three days, and it still lingers. Today is cooler in the Pacific Northwest. I can hear the horn of the Amtrak Cascades train as it crosses the intersection of Harmony Road and Railroad Avenue. A tractor orbits the infield in one of the baseball fields here, pulling a sledge and leveling the infield—tufts of dust drift behind it. A dog yaps, far off, barely audible. There are no humans around me except for the pilot of the circulating tractor, its engine whining in a wavering glissando, punctuated by the sputtering exhaust. All these myriad things are appropriate to my introspective mood.

Over the past few years I’ve watched the landscapers lavish attention on these grounds—especially on the ball fields as they are primed for autumn Little League tournaments. Field preparation is as much a part of the ritual of the pastime as the action in the baseball diamond. I always observe closely during the break between innings at a ballpark—the ground crew waltzing concentrically around the infield, dragging rectangular metal rakes behind them, smoothing out the divots and ruts created by the spiked soles of the players’ shoes, wiping away the past to create a clear view of the present.

I reread Shoeless Joe after the White Sox – Yankees game. It’s a beloved book, a classic of magical realism. I read it every few years. The style blurs the edges of reality with a hazy tinge of fantasy. The writing is a bit over the top. Yet the story is spellbinding, and the first-person narrative is impeccable, despite the extravagant prose. The literature of baseball is often full of embellished language—legends are best expressed in hyperbole after all.

Baseball transforms to folklore adroitly. Witness last evening, August 14, in Phoenix, Arizona as a young rookie threw a no-hitter in his first major league start. That hasn’t happened since the year I was born—1953—and has occurred only twice before that.

Tyler Gilbert, pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who recently worked as an electrician in Santa Cruz California, joined Bobo Hollomon (1953), Bumpus Jones (1892), and Theodore Breitenstein (1891) in the record books as an unlikely champion who somehow pulled off a feat that is celebratory and triumphant even though it produced nothing of importance in the daily standings. The D-backs are mired in last place, 38 games back in the National League West, and there were very few folks in the stands at Chase Field. That the result of the game was grander in its consummation than its pragmatic result is of no importance. It adds a gentle tone of irony to the tale.

Tyler’s no-hitter was palpable magical realism in a sorry-sad-sack world. It wasn’t made up by an author and decorated with language. Magic occasionally merges into the common world of reality and reminds us that if we pay close attention to our own day to day story, we’ll discover many mystically credible moments that garnish our lives with spices of surprise and joy, though they are not as public as that no-hitter. All we have to do is be open to seeing them. Then they reveal themselves. 

In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryū Suzuki quotes Dōgen Zenji: “Time goes from present to past.” Suzuki Roshi also comments, “This is absurd, but in our practice sometimes it is true. Instead of time progressing from past to present, it goes backwards from present to past.”

Time progresses in both directions. The past and future are with us here—right now. The trick is to calm the mind in order to see the past as the present rides on top of it like a palimpsest. As I watched the game unfold next to the cornfields of Dyersville under the gradually shifting light of a meditative sky, I was in the present, and my heart was in the past—walking the bases with my daughter and watching the enigmatic face of my wife as she sat in the same grandstand that Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones, Kevin Costner and the rest of the cast of Field of Dreams had graced years before the day she rested there.

If you build it they will come—and we did. Ease his pain—and mine was cleared.

Time moves as we journey within it. Dōgen Zenji also said, “That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.”  Those myriad things are life as it is, the Big Mind that is everything—baseball, twilight, dogs barking, gardeners leveling the infield, train horns calling. It’s all divine, but the holiness is here now, not in some other place that is invisible and unattainable.

These words are not enough to encompass what I’m thinking—now in the present and before in the past, in both directions, when I came forth as a child, a husband, a father, a technical worker, and today, a widower and writer-mystic. When I pay attention, things as they are and Big Mind are God. Occasionally I am wise enough and blessed enough to see them disclosed.

We are all our own legends. In the future we will be in the past. Our times will live in that not-yet-present-future like fables. Casey Stengel said, “You could look it up.” Perhaps in fifty years someone will do so, and these words might then awaken like all the other marvels that continually arise and deliver us from sorrow.

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.

Celia Laighton Thaxter

Photos by Richard Gylgayton

Notes on the text:

No Earned Runs

Second deck, third row
the view down the right field line
like perspective in a renaissance painting.

During batting practice the sun moves
across the field leisurely
then falls behind us as the blue bay
and the cobalt sky merge
into violet twilight.

Fifth inning. The freighters
floating on the water turn on their lights.
The gentle home crowd murmurs
then shouts as the tenth strikeout is recorded.

Eighth inning. Still a no hitter
the fact has slipped by unnoticed
veiled by the sharp rap of wood
the succession of strikeouts
grounders and long
lazy fly balls.

Pesky slap hitter singles up the middle.
An honest hit.
Pitcher takes a bow at the end of the inning.

Three outs, the home team wins.
The sky has blossomed to darkness
the stretch, the finish
the evening engaged.

On June 19. 2006 San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain threw an almost-no-hitter into the eighth inning at AT&T Park against the Los Angeles Angels. I was there that night. Full story here.

Oracle Park – July 24, 2021 – Photo by Richard Gylgayton