First Spring Leaves

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Gary Hunt

Bristlecone PinesThis photo and post are dedicated to, and in honor of my friend Gary, who passed away on March 3 this year. It was taken on a trip we took together in 2008 to the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the Sierras, near Bishop. Not only did we see and photograph many of these incredible bristlecone pines – the oldest living thing on earth – the oldest of the species a staggering 5067 years old (the ones we saw being in the mere 4000 year old year range), but we were also privy to a full moon rising above the Sierras. It was quite a hike to get to the trees, but more than worth the effort. Gary even dragged along a tripod. It was a great road trip too, asides from getting a speeding ticket when I was too busy looking at the landscape on the left and right to pay attention to the speedometer.

It was tough to watch Gary battle Parkinson’s, especially the past few years when he fell all the time and often hurt himself. I’m grateful I could help him with errands and still take him to a few concerts in the local area. I could see him light up, whenever we did. Our mutual love of music and photography was a great bond between us. I will never forget a very special concert we saw together in Santa Cruz: Bela Fleck and Toumani Diabaté, and the drive home on Highway 17 late at night after the concert, looking at all the glistening lights of the valley below us.

Gary was a wonderful photographer in his own right, and took beautiful kaleidoscope-like photos of many plants. He loved my photos, and it was a joy to give him my prints as birthday or Christmas presents. He even insisted on buying one of them when I was having a really hard time making ends meet – a true friend and brother. It was always special to me when he attended my photo open studios. He once gave me a print later, that I had laughed out loud at when I first saw it – a scene with some fishermen and a seagull – where the seagull looks bigger than the fishermen due to the perspective. He told me, that I was the only one who ever saw the humor in the photo.

Gary was a talented composer, whose knowledge of music always amazed me. To me music notes still look like bird droppings on a page. Gary would explain complex musical nuances to me after we went to concerts, and I always listened politely, usually understanding about half of what he told me, if that. He was the church organist at a former church I attended, where despite his Parkinson’s related limitations, he played beautiful sacred hymns and music, both on the organ (which had inherent mechanical problems) and on the piano. That’s where we met and our friendship started. He also surprised me one time when he played trombone at church! As a composer, Gary composed among other music, some subtle and moving pieces for his niece Jennifer Hunt, a flute player, which we went to see her perform in Napa. I think he worked over a year on the flute and vibraphone piece below to get it just right. To me the flute sounds like a bird fluttering about gracefully, the vibraphone perhaps like a meerkat.

The audio file below is a recording that Gary and I made together in my sunny loft in Oakland in January of 2010. I’m so grateful I recorded this. He brought over his portable piano, I picked up my guitar, and we had a great afternoon just improvising and playing music together.

One fairly recent humorous memory I fondly like to recall, was driving to a surplus store, where Gary had ordered some overalls (I think those were the most comfortable for him to wear). I went inside the store with him to pick up the two pairs (one denim, one black). When I carried the bag to the car, Gary grinned at me: “the black ones are formal wear”. I reciprocated the next time I picked him up for a concert when he wore them, by putting on my sunglasses and announcing: “the other half of the Blues Brothers – at your service”.

My cat Calvin was fond of him too, as he once received the compliment that he had “nice markings”, and usually a pet or two when Gary and I had a bite to eat together.

Rest in peace with Christ in a resurrected body with no more pain my dear old friend. I miss you.

Matthias Leue