In the spring of 1988, Mary Ann’s body betrayed her again. She had done everything right when she was pregnant but ended up with a slash in her belly; she’d put all of herself up against cancer, but it came back, this time in her bones. We spent that summer at her parents’ suburban New Jersey home. It was like going back into the nest, with two solicitous and caring older people feeding us meals and watching over Eve. Mary Ann rested between treatments. She started asking me to lie down with her in the middle of the day so she could “absorb my energy.” I liked the closeness, and energy was something I could give her. I replenished my strength and relieved my anxiety by swimming a hundred laps at a go in her parents’ small backyard pool.

Rock In A Landslide


I did an assignment for The New York Times that summer, on the subway Number 7 Line, known then as the Orient Express, because there were a lot of new Korean and Chinese residents living in Flushing, Queens, the last stop on that train. Since we were living in New Jersey at Mary Ann’s parents’ house, I drove to Queens many times to shoot the pictures.


When I turned in the assignment and my invoice, I included all the bridge tolls and mileage charges. Clients had become very cost conscious, and my editor called to question me about the expenses, saying she’d expected me only to be taking rides on the subway. It wasn’t a great deal of money, maybe one or two hundred dollars, but I was indecisive and turned to Mary Ann for advice. I didn’t really have anyone else to ask. Mary Ann’s and my typical state was not to have enough money to do everything we wanted to do, so she focused on the immediate and told me to insist on getting reimbursed. It was unfair to have asked her, with all that she was going through that summer—in hindsight; I should have decided myself to take those charges off the bill. My editor was irritated enough that she didn’t give me any more work. New York City was full of photographers who could do just as good a job as me.


We found relief in going to the country house every weekend and most school breaks. It provided a respite for all of us from the wear of city life, a place to relax and soften all the tensions we were living with. We brought work with us, and the house and property gave us their share of fix up and maintenance responsibilities, but we played too. In the winter, we would cross country ski straight out the back door, meandering for hours on deer paths through the snowy woods. In the warm months, we would walk on the ridge, where there were hundreds of miles of trails and where, in June, the blooming mountain laurel made long banks of gorgeous flowers for us to pass between.

Rock In A Landslide

Kelly Nowels