A few years ago, within days of one another, Ginny and Ann both gave me some advice. They encouraged me to buy a good camera and lens, to take it in my hands, to learn to use it, and so, to open a new window on my world. I took their words to heart, but it has taken me some time to put them into action.
Last winter, with Ginny’s guidance, I bought a new lens. And then, a new camera. I played with them a little, but nothing really clicked (no pun intended). I certainly didn’t fall in love with camera, lens, or photography. Ann’s words, in particular, rang in my head, but they still sounded hollow. She wanted me to see differently through a lens, to grab what I was seeing and truly appreciate it. To be grateful for the image and for what it represented. That whole experience evaded me.
Then, my father-in-love died. I spent most of the first week sorting through images. I was looking for pictures of him to gather into collages for the visitation. Over the course of several days, I ended up walking though both his life and mine. There were pictures of him as a young father (Mike’s oldest brother is 66). There were pictures of my husband’s childhood. And then, there were glorious pictures of my babies, of me, of our young family.
Most of those pictures were taken by Christian’s godfather, who is a gifted photographer and spent countless hours with us in his bachelor days. I am so very grateful for the gift of the images. Somewhere along the way, in those very painful days after the funeral, I picked up my camera. And I looked at it differently. I looked through it differently.
The first time my camera and I walked together in this new way, Stephen was playing the State Cup finals. It was a beautiful day. A happy day. A painfully raw day. Everyone was there. But someone was missing. The blue chairs were there. I couldn’t bear to sit in one of them. Actually, I couldn’t bear to sit at all. It was too reminiscent of the spring, when we were all there in the same place for Nick’s final. Only then, we were all there.
I borrowed Michael’s big lens and took myself down to the end of the field, away from the crowd. I lifted the camera to my face and I looked. I looked at the sidelines, where Paddy and Mike sat in the chairs. I looked at my father, who was all too aware that Mike’s dad wasn’t there. I looked away from the shadow across his face. Mortality. There it was.
I began to understand that afternoon why a musician feels the way he does about his guitar, why a baseball player becomes attached to his bat. I captured images that day and my camera captured my heart. Suddenly everything was about the light. I began to notice light. Really notice. I learned that I could tell a story with pictures and that sometimes, when words failed, the pictures were just as good. Perhaps one day, the pictures will be even better. I’d be quite pleased if words and pictures together could tell my story, could speak to how grateful I am for these full days.
A few days later, we traveled to Charlottesville to watch Patrick play. I brought along Granddad’s jacket that night, expecting a chill when night fell. It’s my jacket now and I plan to wear it well. I couldn’t that night, though. Mike was in short sleeves and needed it more and well, the jacket, the chair—I just can’t right now. Instead, I tucked my sweater around myself, put the camera strap around my neck, and took Ginny’s advice to heart: Focus with your feet. Move to the shot.
Move I did. Don’t tell Stephen, but photographing Patrick is far more challenging. Everyone was moving so much faster. I have seen a million soccer games, give or take a few. I’ve never noticed one the way I noticed this one. I love the buzz and click sound the lens makes. I love it when I get lucky (because right now it’s all pure luck) and the shot is a good one.
I love these days. And I’m grateful.