This is the oldest photograph of mine that I own. I was 17 when I took it in 1986. I'd just returned to California from a summer on the East Coast where among other misadventures I'd connected with some very strong acid. I'd tried a dose while back there —my first trip ever— and it had scared the crap out of me. I'd slipped it under my tongue late one night alone. Bad idea. It took a few days to completely resettle, and even then I still wasn't sure what the fuck had happened or how to process it. I wanted to try again.
Once back home I called up my friend Geoff and we arranged a day hike to the ocean. At the trailhead we each put a tab under our tongues. Within an hour the scenery had begun to sway. The trail went in one direction with no forks. Yet somehow we become disoriented. We couldn't remember which way we'd come from or which way was to the beach. The only thing to do was keep walking. We soon came to a small meadow overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It held superior position on a small ridge about 200 feet directly above the sea, offering an unimpeded panorama vista of trees, meadows, fog, sand, ocean, and sky. In the center was tiny little us, the only human element visible as far as we could see in any direction.
We removed our shoes and shirts and lay down in the sun. I don't remember either of us saying much. We were each melting in our own thoughts. I was immensely content, blissful even, and I think so was Geoff. This was a million times better than my bad trip at night. Ahh, this was what it was supposed to be.
Laying in the meadow I rolled over to see my old dirty basketball shoes nearby. At that moment they looked like the most beautiful shoes in the world. I had to take a photo! I'm not sure where the urge came from. I was not a photographer then and I had no interest in photos. But I'd packed a cheap instamatic camera to remember the day. I fumbled with it, aimed, and dutifully shot the shoes.
By the time I had the film developed a few weeks later, I'd been back on earth for a while. The photo did what photos do. It presented the scene soberly, recording my sneakers, a bit of Geoff's, and my tie-dye in the grass just beyond. It was a plain snapshot, but it managed to still kindle some swaying spark in my memory. I placed it on the last page of an old family photo album where it remains today, slowly yellowing. The scan shows the photo in its place with a bit of surrounding album for context.