when something is beautiful

“But nothing can be saved for later. We can make images but we can’t capture experiences.” —David Cain, Raptitude

When my mother passed away in July and we set about planning her memorial service, my sisters and I agreed that photographs would play an important part in the service. Between the three of us, we gathered over 300 pictures of our mother. People, and especially women, are often reluctant to have their picture made, but not Mom. A smile came easily to her and she enjoyed the attention of being the subject of a picture. The pictures were not confined to her early years but rather spanned her entire life forming a visual diary of her life. Those pictures were the highlight of the service acting as prompts for shared stories and fond memories.

This got me thinking about how often I have my own picture taken.

As I was reminiscing about the many first-day-of-school photos I’ve taken for both of my sons, I came across the picture above. The picture is stored in a folder of images taken in September 2004 on Jacob’s first day of 2nd grade, 7 years-old. In the folder there are pictures of Jacob standing in front of our house with his backpack, getting on the school bus, and waving goodbye. But there were one or two images of me, too. And since there would have been only Jacob and I at home during that season of life, I’m certain he took this picture of me. It’s framed from a child’s point of view — looking up. This is one of those pictures of myself that I love. It’s honest and true and genuine. I’m happy that I let him take it and happier still to look back and see that it was his love for me that made me smile.

These pictures are precious reminders of this stage of life.

Essay No.1

My intention is to visit this woodland, flooded by beaver dams, over the course of the seasons. This idea of re-visiting a landscape and making pictures over time is certainly not new. And, honestly, I’ve never much seen the appeal. It seems easier to make pictures of the novel, the mysterious, the unfamiliar — and perhaps this is initially true. But I am beginning to see the value in deep over wide. Studying things deeply. Caring deeply. Working deeply.

When we drove up on this latest visit, I half expected the marsh to be gone, as though a mirage I willed into being. We pulled the car over and I stepped out to survey the land. Immediately, two ducks and a Great Blue Heron took flight, sending ripples across the long-still surface. Like the sound of a hymnal dropped unexpectedly in church, the ducks quacking and wings flapping broke the silence of this wildlife sanctuary.

I wished I had brought my boots. Without them I was left to move about the periphery of the floodplain forest, bordered by Jewelweed. I imagined the stream that started this process. The beaver, attracted by nature to slow the flow of water, works to build the dam that backs the water up to flood the forest floor. The trees die and become sculpture, like so many skeletons standing in a row. Every element of nature is showcased. Dragonflies and duckweed. Rocks, mud, grass and leaves. Wetlands. Dead trees making habitat and food.

When my head hits the pillow at night, I dream about this magical place.