I had joined Instagram for quite a while but only made my first post almost exactly a year ago, in support of a friend with ALS. I met Gary shortly after moving to Tennessee, and shared his enthusiasm for hiking and the outdoors. He amazed me with stories about his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and many other adventures. But starting a couple years ago he went from being anactive outdoorsman and fisherman to no longer able to move. The hashtag #FishForGary was started by @kiwifur as a way to bring the fish he loved to him. I became active on Instagram to bring to him in my small way the wilderness he could no longer explore.
Gary lost his fight last month, with his kindness and humor to the end. I have been wondering how to honor his memory, and our friendship of 20 years. Less than two weeks after he died, while it was still winter, the first wildflower bloomed in my woods. The flower has many common names, but I have always called them trout lilies. This fishy name is because the leaves are mottled like the scales of the trout, and first appear when they begin to swim upstream. A time of year when Gary’s thoughts would turn to the woods and streams where he loved to hike and fish.
As spring has arrived the trout lilies are now near their peak, a blanket of yellow and green draped over the forest floor. I chose to photograph this flower at sunset- the end of a day, of a friendship, of a life. Right now there are thousands growing on my hillside. Each individual plant may live decades, but together they form colonies that can live at least 300 years. This flower is rising up nourished from last year’s dead leaves in the same way Gary gave strength to everyone he met. Strands of a spider’s web below it glint in the golden glow, a reminder we are all part of life’s web. Gary is gone, but for his friends and family we all shine brighter for knowing him.