Night on the Town

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When you slow down enough to look: there are Singer-Sargent clouds at sunset; a regal nature in rust; a delicate peel of paint. It’s all in the details.
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Luke Stettner, Other, 2012.

Luke Stettner, Other, 2012.

The Sound of Shutters

My kids are hams.  Crack out a camera and they strike a pose.  As soon as the shutter closes, they spring forward, hovering above my shoulder to see the image on the digital display.

Please understand – I have not conditioned them to this.  In fact, I quite discourage it.  I am from the camp of ‘candid is king’.  Plus, I don’t want them anywhere near the most expensive camera we’ve ever owned, albeit several years behind the times by now.

I don’t want them obsessed with their perceived image.  I don’t want them so invested in the perfect snapshot that they don’t live in the present moment.  I don’t want the canned smiles and stiff expressions.

I want to capture the true essence of who they are and the moment we’re experiencing.

Then the camera turns on me.

There’s always one member of the family who is nearly nonexistent in the family albums, isn’t there?  Growing up, that was my dad.  The family’s official photographer, we have countless photos of holiday dinner tables laden with full plates, anxiously awaited by full chairs, except the one he’d vacated to take the shot.  The next frame might include him switched out by one of my aunts, but never the whole set unless he’d packed the tripod that day.

Now, most of the time, that’s me.

When my husband mans the camera, I’m usually focused on the children in some manner of loving gaze (and if not that, some manner of goofy face) – probably because I’ve forgotten how to pose.  I can’t smile on demand.  It’s too taxing, too fake.  I know I’m not at my best and don’t want to capture that on film or digital download.

For all the lessons I want my children to soak up, I haven’t had a single picture of me as my profile pic on Facebook for years.  There have been family portraits, my daughter unleashing a primal scream at a particularly low point, a flower I stenciled onto my wall above my writing desk – never me by myself.  I honestly couldn’t find one I liked enough.  Is it because I hadn’t been candid enough to capture my true essence?  Or because I’d been too candid and didn’t like what I saw?

Last week, as we exited the trailhead of a hike we’d made in the White Mountains, my husband called to me and snapped a pic as I turned.  I threw my arms up and bugged my eyes out and grimaced(?) – I don’t know what that was.  The next frame, I smiled.  When we returned home, as I reviewed the pictures, I deemed that second one as close to a true capture of me as I’d had in a long time.  Was it because I was in my long-abandoned hiking garb?  Because I was partaking of an activity that long ago defined me and my beliefs and was long ago abandoned?  Was it because I’m sick of a caricature of myself and ready for authenticity – or acceptance – or a new perspective?

In any event, I uploaded it to Facebook as a new profile pic.  It was as the comments rolled in asking if I was summoning the forces of nature or singing ‘The Sound of Music’ that I realized I’d uploaded the grimace shot and not the smile.  The most-telling comment, I think, was one that said, “The perfect representation of motherhood.”  I laughed out loud, all too knowingly.  Whether it was the ‘come on, guys’ attitude one person suggested or the stress of packing a family of five up for a road trip or the persistent frustration of getting little people to tow the line, the look on my face pretty much is the perfect representation of motherhood for me right now.  And another reason why I don’t want my picture taken anymore.

The Hills are Alive

Maybe because it’s not about me and pictures just remind me of that.

But even though I crown myself the ‘Queen of Candids’, I can still artfully edit the pics I chose to focus on.  I can focus on the smiles and the fun and the love instead of the grimaces and struggle and pain.

Or I can try anyway . . . until the shutter rotates open to let in more light.

Freeze Frame

I have to start taking my camera to the bus stop.

Pine needles etched in white relief against the soil.

Green mossy mountain peaks capped with snow.

Peaks and valleys of meadow grass filled with frost.

A large oak leaf the color of cowboy boots, its stem pinched between pink mittened fingers, the snow crumbling and peeling away in the wind as it bends.

But then there are the things that can’t be captured with a lens.

The great rushing of wind through the treetops.

The force of it demanding spine erect, shoulders back.

A tingling of the checks, a tear in the eye, a crisp, fresh burn

that makes life seem new,

the morning full of possibility,

the body full of life.

* On an somewhat related note: I found many gorgeous pictures of frost on moss by many talented photographers.  I, however, did not have the heart to steal them, though they would have accompanied my musings perfectly.  I also learned a lot about BFFs Sadie Frost and Kate Moss.

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