Early in my career, I worked too much and slept too little while covering crime, floods and the daily circus of news. I needed a break from urban reality and the adrenaline rush. I needed a reboot. I reasoned a visual study would calm me mentally and spiritually and perhaps help me understand what was missing in my career. Maybe a visual study of music would work?
So off I went to Jamaica to film the Reggae Sunsplash music festival at Montego Bay. Surely the tropical island settings and the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora would lend an insight into laidback and make for an interesting photo study. But no, that didn’t work, and that’s a story for another time. Regroup, try again.
I decided to try dance photography as therapy. Some months later, a ballet instructor introduced me to a brilliant child prodigy student and her parents at Ballet Hysell. In my off hours, I began photographing her in class—a stick-figure athlete who could turn it on and soar with disciplined elegance and turn it off in a spark of whim and childish wit. A natural, she didn’t move as much as she floated, extended. I sometimes wondered if she would land. In a few weeks, I learned more from a 10-year-old about the balance of logic and intuition than I have in a lifetime of work in a comparatively competitive field. Her gift, her talent was featured in the newspaper in a full page of photos and copy about work and play and harmony.
I lost track of that prodigy but would get an occasional career update in the form of a letter from her proud, considerate parents. She had been hired by Baryshnikov at the American Ballet Theatre and had moved to New York as a teen to live, work and dance. A subsequent letter told of a 15-year career dancing at home and internationally followed by retirement and a new passion and career interest—photography. Her specialty—dance photography, working for many ballet companies. Ah poetry.
She recently found me on Facebook. She tagged me in a post of a framed velox copy of her page of memories. We had never spoken much—I had interviewed her briefly but relied on her teachers and parents mostly for my copy—but I had left her with a photo record of her childhood and she wanted to reconnect.
We had a reunion recently with conversation as comfortable as longtime confidantes, following which I can report she has retained most of those childlike nuances embodied in an elegant, smart young woman. She told me I had a calming influence on her then as well as now. I guess I subconsciously wanted to return the favor. And I got to thank her for helping a younger me keep my sanity…well mostly anyway.
Since it’s March, I’m out of my soup mode and into something seasonal, like pasta primavera. To make it more substantial, I add protein, but you can keep the dish vegetarian if you wish. I use a combination of a French mirepoix (in Italian, it’s soffritto), and I add an Italian slant by adding red pepper flakes and garlic to the base.
This recipe is versatile in that each step can be altered for your particular tastes. Don’t like broccoli? Shrimp allergy? No problem. Play with this recipe and in no time, you’ll have a delicious and healthy meal for family or friends. Try my recipe for Pasta Primavera Plus.