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Why Istre?

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July 07, 2020

Image: Japanese Gardens, Portland, OR. 35mm Velvia 50


Who am I?

When I was 6 or so, we went to my aunt's farm just outside of town. We were running around in the yard and I didn't realize I had stepped in a fireant pile. When I looked down they had covered my foot up past my ankle like a moving, breathing blanket of pain. That's when you start to feel them, biting and fighting, giving their lives to protect the small patch of earth they staked out.

My uncle had me run over and strip down, and he hosed me off. It looked like I had chicken pox all over again.

That same day my aunt and mother drove us out further into the country to help whitewash the graves at the Istre family cemetery. South Louisiana heat is obnoxious in late summer, but we went at it the same, paint scrapers, brushes, and buckets of soapy water. You clean them as best you can, wait for the water to dry, and then re-paint so they look clean. Like old memories. And of course you leave flowers.

Mom had to tell me, it's pronounced "East" not "Eas-trey". I asked why that wasn't our last name but I don't remember her answer. All the men on that side of the family are dead, though. Like that cemetery, the name will soon be buried and covered in moss.

I figured it's as good a moniker as any. It's beautiful, like those old oaks with their moss beards watching over the silent graves, cicadas singing everyone to sleep like tired kids in the back seat.

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