If you look very closely at this photograph, you will see that there is a cat seated on the porch. Look at the very left-hand side of the porch, at the top of the steps. I was not aware of the cat when I took this picture—god—I think ten years ago. I would only find out about the cat after I printed the picture. I had a dark room back then. Once a week at best, I checked my hotmail account at the public library. Was I living on Madison or Fairview? I am not sure. When I look beyond 2007, exact dates detach themselves from my memory, and I remember only the era, the spring when I walked around town and took photographs of my favorite houses. I was unemployed, but I had money in the bank. That was rare. It was a rare spring.
This is the back of my house on Madison street. The dark roof in the foreground is the shed. We kept tools in there, and my roommate would smoke pot in there. I look at the trees in this picture, and I know that the picture was taken in the early spring. The trees had not leafed out yet. To the right of the house (your vantage point) a gravel alleyway sloped uphill from the street and divided our yard from the neighbor's yard. Bloomington Indiana has many such gravel alleyways, unofficial streets that divide the blocks into four roughly equal quadrants, and I would walk those gravel alleyways a lot, admiring the homes and gardens, stirring up dogs, and acknowledging neighbors in their semi-private back yards, a Pentax K1000 slung around my neck. I might not have known it at the time, but those alleyways that abut so many homes give Bloomington so much of its charm.
I should say that I misused those alleys more than once to build my first gardens. Bloomington has a semi-rural feel, and while some people do put their best face forward, toward the street, it is not such a private place that people try to hide every fact of their existence. On my walks I would spot piles of old bricks and plants that had gone to seed, and I would sometimes return later to collect what felt like communal property. In milk crates that I had also considered communal property, I hauled off the bricks I needed to build the border of my first garden. I was poor, or I considered myself poor enough to choose which minor infractions applied to me and which did not. I would like to think that I returned to the community as much as I took from it.
What interests me most about the spring when I took these pictures is that the person who took them and the person who is writing about taking them feel like two completely separate people now. I know I lived there in Indiana and took these pictures, and I know what I did there, who my friends were, and what my life was like; and I am still in touch with some of those friends, but we greet each other through the internet now, whereas before they used to walk unannounced through our open doors. We never locked our doors. In spring and summer our doors were wide open, and friends could come and go as freely as flies and air.