I Live My Life In Pictures
I live my life in pictures. Every moment I capture displays some small segment of it. Fleeting memories, each holds in its grasp a plethora of my thoughts, dreams, hopes, and beliefs.
I live my life through photographs. These photographs form a parade of emotions. Highs and lows, good times and sad, in their totality they are what I have become. From an image of my daughter, age four, all smile and goofy grin to the silent, empty table in my grandmother's kitchen, these pictures are "me." Like a puzzle, each piece fits neatly into the next unfolding a greater image.
I am photographs, and photographs are the deepest part of me.
I am always learning about photography. There is ever room to gain knowledge. The day I feel I know it all, is the day I cease as a photographer. No, this is something I will never attain to, and I'm actually glad about that. I continue to strive to better my work; I willingly correct my errors, and drive myself to move up onto the next plane in writing and teaching. I determine to do what life hands me, and I labor to do it well.
These are my goals. In photographs, I see what I have accomplished. I remember the day I stood again in a location that I thought I'd never return. I rejoiced to be there, but greater than that, to be there healthy and well. It was an ordinary day, unnoticed by others, yet that meant the most to me.
In photographs, I recall the joyous laughter in my young daughter's voice when she proclaimed, "I want to catch a marlin!" her small frame barely capable of lugging a suitcase, much less a large fish. I see the look on her face in the video image, hear the rushing waves, and can almost feel the salt spray.
On another afternoon, I stand in a dark-water swamp; the pulsing drone of cicadas hums from the trees. The sticky air clings to my skin. Above me, bald cypress limbs frame the sky. Their cathedral holds itself aloft with myself alone sitting to worship there.
All these moments, flood through me in an instant because of photographs. Suddenly I return to fields of spring flowers or marvelous multi-colored sunsets. I listen again to trickling mountain streams and hear the musical call of warbling birds. I stand atop the world with all the mountains beneath my feet. Photographs take me back to the many places of my life.
Through photography, I know more now than I ever thought I'd need to know. I pick out species and genera, talk of anatomical features, behaviors, and cycles. It is no longer enough to simply label them "dragonfly" or "bird," but it must be a particular dragonfly. I must know if it is male or female. Why does it live there? How does it feed and what makes it survive?
I ask about wildflowers. Thrusting their delicate heads up from the soil, I need to know about environment, temperature, water, and light. Do they grow only at this time of year? Are they tubers, seeds, or bulbs?
My photographs overflow with a thousand questions.
I find life in pictures. Emerald spiders lure their victims atop brilliant pink petals. Unsuspecting yellow butterflies flit and land, flit and land, around them without a care. Tiny pin-sized bees buzz past larger relatives whose enormous whirring breaks the silent air. Green, golden-eyed wasps drink deeply of nectar from a dozen flowers. Each creature flies about its business of living directly beside that of another doing the same.
And there, I, in the midst of all this movement focus and snap, seeking to preserve each little breath of life. I choose to remember the swamp rabbit that appeared underneath our rosemary bush one afternoon, the soft-shell turtle, which crossed my lawn only to get stuck in the neighbor's fence, and of course, a million sniffs and barks from my beloved dog. All find themselves retained permanently through my photographs.
Now I hold in my hand a black and white portrait of my grandmother taken many years before I was born. It is my favorite image of her. In the same way as my own photographs, this portrait is a part of the path of my life. Someone, I don't know who, on that day at that time had her pose just like that. Someone, to whom I am now, these many years later, so grateful, saved for me, her granddaughter, this precious moment in time.
I live my life in pictures. My pictures, your pictures, the pictures taken by this unknown photographer, and those of other unknown photographers - my grandfather in his coast guard sailor's uniform, my great-grandmother, a baby balanced on her hip, and those of innumerable ancestors who I've never met. All are a patchwork of my past sewn together into what has become my life.
In some small way, my images are theirs. They are the result of those who went before me, and they are a connection as well to my future, to that of my daughter, and maybe one day, her children, or her children's children. I like to think that somewhere down the line a little girl, like me, will pick up a camera and add to this grand picture of my life. Her images will become mine, and mine will become hers.
My life is lived in pictures, and pictures are my life.