i go a lot of places. and i know this. i've traveled the world over, teaching what i know, teaching what i see. teaching how to see, if that's even possible. and sometimes i go a lot of places, right here at my robin's egg blue desk, looking into worlds that i've captured with the simple click of a camera lens, with the focus pointed at things i may not notice completely until i get home and look a little closer. and sometimes i go places without going anywhere at all. i walk and i stroll and i sit in little worlds that may never present themselves, except in the corners of my own quirky mind. sometimes i dive into a body of water that rests in a jar, a jar that sits at the foot of mossy branches that are only one inch in length, branches that cling to old brick that hold a home together, that came from other homes torn down long ago. so long ago. i am there nestling amongst the tiny milkweed leaves, clinging with them to the brick steps in the sun - staring out to the grass and the trees and the sky that is so blue, the sun that is golden and warm when spread out across this wide expanse called home, the home i've known for long, so long, so long. i've known this sunshine for a long, long time, this sunshine that spills across home. i've followed it for thirty nine years off and on from morning 'til night, i've traced its path it lays across the pegged pine floors, the warmth it leaves on asian rugs, on soft old weathered pine, on dry, thin leaves that manage to come in the door and rest upon the creaky floor. i follow the shadows that lengthen, i walk from room to room and end up back outside where i find comfort in the form of my father's wrinkled hand that holds a patterned cup.
there is a face with the hand, and i spend the next two hours snapping images of the map that is this face; i ask, at first, and when my father obliges, when daddy complies, i stop asking and simply take, and take, and take. i've told so many of you who are at this stage in life to do the same, and you have. i've urged you to take photos of the hands, the feet, the wrinkles, the scars, the eyes that look away, the eyes that look back in return. daddy doesn't mind. i think he understands, even though he so quickly forgets; i know he does. and i leave that place rich with all of this, the things i see. the things i remember, when i see again and again and again. my mother has not been so quick to let me freeze her face in time, and protests when i show her the gorgeous end results. i've tried to tell her again and again that she is a beautiful woman, a lovely one to capture with my camera lens; it took daddy and me walking into her beloved little episcopal church called grace, out in the countryside, until she became comfortable enough for me to point the camera and click away. this is my mother's comfort ground, a place she volunteers and visits several times a week; she has a key, and we were there late on a sunday or monday afternoon, when quiet was a blanket, and we nestled with it, quietly. these photographs are my aching pride and joy - the light, the angles, the peace... the grace of these sweet parents in this sweet place. all of it, captured with the simple opening and closing of a lens made far away in germany. who knew? i wish i could thank the hands who assembled my camera, who fabricated the lens. my mother has thankfully learned to look into that lens and relax, and smile. daddy still won't smile, daddy who smiles and laughs (and cries) so very very much. smile, daddy. this world is now wanting to smile along with you.
there is something to be said for a quiet sunday afternoon in a hushed little church, out in the country, out in the trees, where the sunshine shyly filters in and shows these gentle faces in true beauty displayed, where the birds are quiet too and the little windows frame so lovingly the people who are in my life, the people who have meant so much to me. i look at these portraits, so poignant in their dignity, so soft in that late light, so soft in the way that they tell my story for me, and my heart wants to collapse into itself, it wants to explode, to swell up so tenderly. i wonder, too, if these are too much for you, too much for me to show the world, the part of the world that peeks into my life, that feels these things with me. but i can't help myself - this is what i know, this is how i feel, this is what i want to share with you today. i don't want these images to ever go away.
we live in memory, so much of our lives; we sit and reflect, and dip our hands into the reflections to see if the ripples will follow, if the memories will be stilled when we want to see clearly again. i look at these faces and see a little of myself reflecting back to me, i see the girl who wore seashells in her hair and who now wears striped socks and shoes of red, of sea green-blue, who strings glimmering jewels and laces them with wire and leather and weaves into these things a story or two that make those who hold the trinkets feel a little of the story, too. i look at my mother and father and see the two of them smiling in the milky, watery light of old glass clear and green, i see them holding weathered hands and hope i'll always remember these hours i just spent with them, talking and musing and remembering the loved ones we lost, remembering the stories of our lives, remembering the places we've been, the people we've known, the things we have loved and loved, so hard. i hope i'll recall the way that my mother smiled, the way that daddy looked at me with wistfulness, the light in their eyes, the hope in their hearts. i hope i will always be the daughter who loved back as fiercely, in return. xo
(and this, shared with me by a reader, mona - a poem by wendell berry)...
They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes -- only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons -- small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak.
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.