No matter how many weekends I spend walking the alleyways of Locke, I always feel like a little bit of an outsider when I’m here. Like the full clotheslines and peeling paint and orange trees whisper “shh” as I turn a corner. There are secrets here, I know. Stories I wish people were still alive to tell. All of this only makes me want to stay longer.
Along with the wall carvings, cacti and cats that catch my eye, there are new things, though they are probably not new at all. Behind the buildings lining Main Street, I stop to take a picture of a top-hat wearing babydoll sitting between branches of plants in a rusted coffee can. It’s a new addition to a tabletop I’ve never seen. I wonder who set the plant there, who waters it, why is it set in a corner by itself? A few steps away, I find rags tied in knots lining the wall and windows covered from the inside. A storeroom with five cat dishes in a row on the cement floor, a framed portrait of Jesus with his sacred heart burning through his chest hangs crooked on the wall. All things I’ve never seen, behind a door I’ve never seen opened.
I watch my friend, a painter turned shutterbug with an eye for people’s faces, as she angles her camera before prayer flags hanging on an overhang and sunflowers posing in rays of light. She moves her body, up and down in slow, thoughtful motions, careful so she doesn’t miss a single sparkle of treasure. She walks between a row of golden flowers, holding her camera at its comfort spot against her chest — resting position, though close enough to the viewfinder in case she sees something. I think back to earlier this year when she bought her new camera, when she was so scared of the numbers and of scratching the glass. I told her she’d grow comfortable, that it would become natural to feel the clunky machine in her hands. She remembers that conversation, too. And on this day, after we wander separately but together through this forgotten town, she tells me she feels what I meant to feel natural with the camera.
She’s discovering the newness in these old remnants of Locke. That’s exciting to me. Not many people visit Locke, and I like to share it with people who I know will get it. I wonder if she, too, feels like there’s a side of this town we can’t capture even with a photo.
With the sun not letting up and our feet coated in garden fertilizer, we make our way back to Main Street, visit with the delightful artist Martha Esch and then head home, still feeling like there’s something more to find in that town.
(Enjoy the photos, friends. You can see Cindy’s post from this trip to Locke here. I’ll be sharing more photos from this trip soon, as I mostly used film and am working on them in the darkroom).
If — I mean, WHEN, because you must — go to Locke, visit Martha’s gallery and studio, The Shack. Her paintings are wonderful and her space will make you want to camp out. My favorite part is her rooftop dining area, where she’s been known to have business meetings over sandwiches. Love it.