I got my first camera for my ninth birthday. A little Kodak Brownie. I still have some of the snapshots that I took with that camera. I should not have put it away. There was a long period in my life when I didn't take pictures, and I deeply regret that oversight.
Once I picked up a camera again, I couldn't stop. My cameras have been with me through the best and the worst and the mediocre.
One of my Lenten promises to myself was to work on the last four years of disorganized photos. The advent of digital media has resulted in a new formula for chaos in my life. When I used film, it was easy ~ I reached number 36, rewound, and took the cartridge to the photo store or the darkroom. I have files and files of negatives and duplicate prints, and bookshelves neatly lined with albums. A few things are a little bit mixed up, but not too badly. I could organize the entire collection in less than a day of I had to.
But digital! Now there are little cards of varying sizes lying around, and piles of developed pictures, and FILES of pictures. And there's Photoshop ~ the possibility of creating and recreating an unlimited variation of images which reproduce themselves into more piles and files.
So. . . I have made what some people might conclude is a well-meaning but more New Year's than Lenten resolution to take care of all that. It's not that sort of resolution, however.
It's ultimately a resolution about healing, well in keeping with the journey of Lent. We go into a dark place and we are made whole. We retreive the visual reminders of what was, and what we hoped would be, and what would not be, and we imagine the restoration that will come.
I started this afternoon with a half-finished album of the canoe trip that my father, stepmother, and sons made to Algonquin in the Fall of 2004. When they returned from that trip, we insisted that my stepmother get herself in to see a doctor. Her cheerful good humor was tinged with a disturbing undercurrent of exhaustion and an ominous hoarseness and, after she and my father drove away, the boys confirmed that she had given out easily every day of their trip.
I knew before she ever got to the doctor what the ultimate diagnosis would be, God help me, because of the internet. And eventually I made the first Algonquin album for her, hoping that she could enjoy it before the cancer closed in on her.
I'll never know what she saw when she looked at these images. But here's what I see:
How MUCH she and my father loved each other. What a gift they were to each other, those people with so much loss behind them, who reached out with such enthusiasm for what life still had to offer.
A grandson, completely but only temporarily derailed by the low water levels that forced more portaging than paddling. One of two boys whose willingness and good humor enabled their grandfather and his new wife to enjoy one last backcountry trip together.
A North Country sunset. You can hear the loons as you wait for the stars. The sunsets are still there, and the stars, and the loons will be back soon. There is healing to be found in all of that.
Photographs for Lent. For the Easter that awaits.