As I was walking on the Upper East Side (UES) of Manhattan yesterday, snapping pictures with my cell phone, I very palpably felt my friend Peter’s presence about me, nodding approvingly (I like to think) at my efforts.
I met Peter just about 25 years ago, when he needed someone to type his manuscript and I needed to bring my infant daughter to work. He was a veritable mountain of a man, both in girth and presence. He assured me he was not intimidated by nursing mothers, and I assured myself I would not be intimidated by Peter! We found common ground in pragmatism and a beautiful relationship developed over the next decade.
Through the years, I came to know Peter as the opinionated force of nature that he appeared to be, as well as the compassionate, tender man lurking inside. It grieved him that my young daughter was always a little intimidated by him in spite of his effort to be gentle…what she wasn’t able to communicate to him was that she really liked him in spite of feeling intimidated! We worked on a number of his projects, my assistance progressing from typing his writing, to taking it down in shorthand and transcribing, to entering it directly into a word-processing laptop, to becoming friends and sharing opinions – not always the same ones, but sharing nonetheless!
Our most intense collaboration took place when Peter was creating his book on eagles, an amazing photographic record of bald eagles in flight and in their habitat in British Columbia. Through the sifting and selection of the hundreds of photographs, I came to appreciate Peter’s vision, philosophy, and ethos in ways I had not perceived before. Alongside the eye-popping fearlessness and boldness of his personality, there was a subtlety, thoughtfulness, and caring in his attention to his work and to my feedback. For the first time in my life, going to work was a true labor of joy and love…and I got paid for it, too!
Peter left this world in 1997. In the intervening years, I’ve had the pleasure of continuing to work in his home and be surrounded by the many images he created. And all those seeds of creativity and inspiration planted through the years are now bearing fruit in the pictures and feeling of this blog.
So, to Peter: for being larger than life and for continuing to inspire and encourage me…. Thank you!