“Sorry, we don’t have to stay long,” I kept saying to my father. But I was lying. I knew I’d want to wander the Washington international Rose Test Garden, more colloquially known as the Portland Rose Garden, for a while.
He laughed a little and said, “your mother and I were here for hours. She took hundreds of pictures of roses. Hundreds!”
I took only 78 with my camera. I have a thousand memories of a million roses, but I stopped at 78 pictures. In my mind there are rows of roses–faint yellow and tempting pink, barely open and in full bloom, there are white roses stained with specks of blood red and a billion sunsets painted on petals.
We hadn’t been wandering the rows long when I found it. A bush weighed down by a few full blooms but many more buds, out of the glare of the sun but not completely immersed in shade. The most beautiful of things–perched on the edge of becoming, nothing but potential.
The wind held its breath for me.
I set up my tripod and adjusted the settings on my camera. I took a few pictures of a barely open, barley pink rose bud. Then my eyes saw it–the rose—the one which defies description. I shifted my camera and prayed the breeze would stay away for a few more seconds.
Press. Focus. Click. Press. Focus. Click.
After two shots I could hardly breathe. I’d held back the wind too long. With my expelled breath it came back, blustering at the bushes and chastising the roses with the threat of destruction-by-gust. With the wind my desire to wander the rows of roses faded. It had gnawed at me, a hunger seemingly insatiable. Now the hunger was gone.
I closed up my tripod. My father was standing in the next row, completely ignorant of what I’d found blooming in Portland. Perhaps he found his own rose of perfection. He was looking intently into a rosebush, hands clasped behind his back, a pensive look on his face.
“We can go, Pops,” I said to him.
“Oh?” he asked, doubtful.
“Yes,” I thrust my camera at him, a vision of perfection on the screen. “I already know this is the best picture I’ll take on this trip. Maybe ever.”
He shaded the screen with his hand and took a brief look. He made a noncommittal noise and raised an eyebrow to me. We were, after all, only four days into a two week vacation.