Life gets complicated, but I never intended on leaving you hanging here.
In real life, as I type this post, a pandemic named COVID-19 is crashing its way across the globe and causing harm to many people. Everyone’s lives are different today because of precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus that attacks the respiratory system.
Here in New Mexico, our governor is trying to force a flattening of the curve of the infection rate in the population by restricting citizen travel and limiting potential exposures with the virus. Essential workers are able to go to essential jobs, everyone else is being asked to work from home and buckle down at home. In addition to home confinement, we are to avoid public gatherings of greater than 5 persons (aside from family), only leave home for outdoor exercise and essential activities like grocery shopping and medical care. When out and about, we need to keep a social distance of 6 feet or greater between ourselves and others. These actions are meant to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Under such conditions, I could have never have continued with my 100 Strangers photography project. Luckily, however, I completed the project two years ago when life was simpler. Now I’m playing catch up with you to share my final results. Better late than never. What a lovely diversion for us all, yes?
In today’s post, I am introducing you to Ed, aka Eyes That Shine, who is my Stranger 91/100.
We had an encounter in a manner that could not take place today: I was sitting inside a local restaurant eating lunch. It was an alignment of paths when he sat at the table next to me. “Wonderful chance” meetings with people have been a condiment on my life’s sandwich. Right now, there is no in-person dining allowed in eating establishments. People are able to support local eateries by ordering take-out/ pickup-only food.
I met Ed in a local gem of a lunch spot in Downtown Albuquerque. While I was waiting for my ordered food, Ed came into the café and seated himself at the adjacent table. I overheard him asking our waitress for recommendations that would be prepared the fastest manner because he needed to dine and depart straight for the airport. His accent wasn’t New Mexican, but to me it was familiar. It was inflected with vowels from a New England locality merely an hour’s drive from where I attended college. Ed is a Maineiac, which means he is a native-born resident of the State of Maine.
Introducing myself, I shared where I had gone to college and how I had come to live in the Southwest. Ed was familiar with my alma mater. For several minutes he related why undergraduate education was on his mind. Ed spoke of his 18-year-old daughter who had just made her decision about where to enroll for college. Before his trip to New Mexico, Ed had sorted out his daughter’s financial-aid package for her first-choice school. She had secured an institutional promise of a 4-year scholarship. The sum made it feasible for her to attend the private liberal arts college in Connecticut for the equivalent tuition expenses of an in-state Maine University. Ed shared that his daughter’s long-term goal is to develop assistive biomedical technology to aid persons born with missing limbs, or who have limbs amputated. He is in awe of her drive, focus, and purpose. Naturally, he was exceedingly proud of his daughter.
“What will the future be like for her? She’ll help people in ways I can’t even yet imagine,” Ed said. “Technologies, like 3D printers, have the potential to accelerate research developments in medical fields. The changing world has so much hope.”
This led me to ask if Ed had a medical or scientific background.
“Quite the opposite,” Ed told me. “My wife and I own and operate a retail gift, souvenir and jewelry business in York, Maine. We’ve run it for the last 29 years. Originally, the business belonged to my father, who started it in the 1960s. Basically, it’s a seasonal operation.” The high season in York is summertime, that’s when it receives an influx of visitors who enjoy the town’s popular, family-friendly beach.
“Have you been visiting Albuquerque for pleasure?” I asked.
“Yes, and no. This was a buying trip for me. I come out here and handpick every item that I will sell in the shop. We carry a variety of Native-made jewelry, pottery crafts, and artifacts. I have to do this in person. I examine each piece to make sure it’s the superior quality my customers expect,” said Ed. “I make this trip every year. It’s work, but it’s my pleasure.”
When I was writing up my recollection of our encounter, I visited Ed’s website (http://www.thelittlebull.com). I read that Ed had been repairing jewelry and undergoing training in silversmithing for more than 15 years, most recently advanced Native silversmithing techniques. The summer of our meeting he was to debut his own jewelry designs at the shop. From the website I also learned that Ed is a Native American of Wampanoag descent, although he didn’t mention his heritage in our in-person conversation. His tribal name, Eyes That Shine, suits him perfectly.
We reminisced about the now-closed Trading Post that was a longtime shop on Main Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He was well acquainted with the store. When I was very little, my dear grandmother would bring me there to buy small bags of glass seed beads and handmade seed-beaded Kachina dolls on beaded lariat necklaces. They were magical to me.
When the food arrived, we continued to speak in-between bites. Mostly we gravitated to the topic of the race for political party nominees who wished to be the candidates for President of the United States. Somehow, I managed to segue into an explanation of the 100 Strangers project with an invitation extended to include him as one of my subjects.
“Of course!” He agreed. “Let me finish up [this meal] and pay, and then we can do it.”
While Ed was cashing out at the register, I considered our options for his portrait’s background. Outside was detestably sun-bleached because it was the noon hour. The table where he had eaten his meal offered poor lighting for an effective interior portrait. Our best choice was a table-for-two next to a large picture window that was in an area of the dining room presently without other customers. The light fell onto the general direction of the chair leaning against the wall. A curious painting of a hummingbird hung on the wall to the right of where Ed’s chair would need to be positioned for incoming natural light to reach his face. I decided that the painting detracted from his portrait. Since I couldn’t take the artwork off the wall, I cropped in for a tighter shot of him, to eliminate the painting from overtaking his background.
I promised to send the files to him after Mother’s Day, which I did. Upon receiving my correspondence, Ed replied immediately. He began with this, “Hi Rachael, Thanks so much for including me in your project to photograph 100 strangers. You should be careful or you just might make 100 new friends!”