The camera. I knew it had to be mine. Surely my parents had noticed that I’d carried my father’s 35mm around all the summer before with great interest.
The typewriter. It had to be for my brother. He was the smart one. He was the one who actually did his homework. What would I do with a typewriter?
And so I wrapped them both back up with great care, making sure to put the clear tape exactly back where it had been.
And on Christmas morning, when mother handed out the gifts, I watched in pain as she gifted my brother the camera I’d grown to love…and plopped in front of me…a bulky electric typewriter.
I knew they loved him more…
It would be twenty years before I owned my own quality camera and I’d yearned for one ever since that Christmas morning, 1985.
Around the time I graduated from college with a writing degree (perhaps my parents knew something I didn’t) I bought a used Canon SLR for three times the price of our mortgage. I studied it. I researched the art. I bought books on the subject. And still, I know very little about photography.
I don’t have a clue how aperture works or which lens is for which application. I don’t understand lighting or what half the buttons on my camera are for. I don’t know what a single number on the camera nor the lens actually signifies.
But through trial and error…literally thousands of photos of nothing and everything…I’ve figured out some basics. It only took six hundred pictures of the eclipse before I happened across a setting good enough to snap a decent photo. Three years of fuzzy basketball shots has finally brought me some well earned knowledge and a few good action pictures. Dozens of blurry bears, fuzzy eagles and unidentifiable kids sprinting across a gym floor…who may or may not be mine according to the pictures…forced me to learn how to capture the moment.
I had no choice. Life was flying by even faster than my children…the risk of forgetting it all was too great. And so I learned.
I can nearly always be found with my Canon backpack in tow. A couple of years ago one of the kids strapped a stuffed moose to the pack and he’s been with me ever since. On 40 mile hikes. On dozens of kids field trips. Down rivers, over mountains, through countries, across the ocean…my camera has traveled on my side. Rarely am I caught without it. It is my companion…my eye into the world. My memory and that of my future generations.
Through my lens…I can live forever.
And so yesterday when I walked away from the scenic view point overlooking Turnagain Arm, got in my truck and drove down the busy highway, leaving my favorite lens sitting on a rock overlooking the water…I was just sick.
I raced back as soon as I knew it was gone…hoping beyond hope that it would still sit, perched where I’d left it in plain view of the passing cars, as if to say, “Take Me!”
And it was gone.
I sulked and whined and Facebooked my loss, but to no avail and the lens is no doubt lost forever. I’ll have to replace it. But the cabin needs a roof. And windows. And with Anthony’s health…and a possible trip to Seattle in the works…the money is just not there.
I’ll live. Worst things happened to me, no doubt…even in the last week I’ve suffered greater tragedies than a simple lost material object. It’s certainly not the end of the world. For now I’ll just snap the kids sports with a lesser capable lens and get a few more blurry shots for my collection. The full moon will be full again and no doubt the Aurora Borealis will show her painted face many more times throughout the years and so some time without my favorite lens will do me little harm.
Yesterday it was all put into perspective by a Facebook post to my wall from a friend who’d offered ten dollars towards the purchase of a new lens. Because, she said, she appreciated all the photos I’ve shot of her granddaughter. My heart soared at the generosity of this woman who, on her fixed income, was willing to give to the cause. So sweet. And several more offers followed from well wishers who’ve enjoyed my photography and wished it to continue. People who were willing to help…just because.
The overwhelming feeling of gratitude which I felt at those precious offered gifts cannot be expressed in the written word. The idea that people out there…some who have never even met me in person…are willing to give me money…set into motion the idea of selling some photos in order to pay for the lens. Because I just can’t accept money from people…certainly money not earned. But the thought…why the mere fact they were willing to give, means more to me than any old camera lens.
And perhaps living the moment is even more important that photographing it.