I did not take this photograph this week, I took it last summer. I submitted a photograph with some writing to a journal with an issue devoted to the use of photography as an aid or a hindrance to memory. This week’s entry is what I submitted for that journal.
My biggest fear is forgetting; a fear that stirs something deep within, a kind of urgency to document. I am driven by this sense of urgency to pick up a camera and assert some kind of permanence over those moments when the harmonious correspondence of light and body language perfectly embody an experience. Just in case I am injured in some freak accident and have lost all memory, I will have my archive of moments to help me remember the fullness of my grandmother caught in the midst of a laugh, the series of autumns that I fell in love with a man made from songs about home, or the winter I became a sister again. Taking photographs has also been a way for me to make a connection with people, it is a way that I can show people that we shared a juncture of space and time and their presence was not insignificant to me. One of my favorite photographers, Duane Michaels has a photograph called This Photograph is my Proof, it is a couple sitting on a bed and the handwriting beneath the image reads “This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were just good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!” I love that photograph because I so intensely identify with Michaels’ compulsion to create a visual testament to his relationship with others.
Last summer one of my dear friends died unexpectedly. I took only a few pictures the times I spent with William. When I was around him I was content with just being and observing and not recording. In the wake of his death it has been hard for me to not have those tangible moments of proof. That piece of evidence that proves that this radiant soul crossed into my life, that I jumped in the New River with him, or that he rode in the passenger seat of my car. This is the last picture I took of William before he died. An accidental double exposure. First exposure: William runs into the waves at Emerald Isle, NC. He had been seizure free for a couple weeks but felt more comfortable if somebody stood on the shore in case he had another. I stood with Dave and Misa and joked that I felt like a proud parent. Second exposure: the mountains the two of us tried to name the last time I saw William, when he sat on the steps and told me he planned to live to be 103 years old. The picture was developed a few weeks after his death, and I cried in the drug store to hold my last piece of proof, my friend William, the adventurer extraordinaire, running into a sea of mountains.
There is a restful stillness in the morning light. Even on the days when the loudest voice in my head is me, reminding myself "the sum of your tips is not equal to the the sum of your worth." The moments of morning light carry through out my day when I go with Suzanne to interview and photograph farmers, because when I hear people talk with great passion about local food and their love for the land and these mountains, I have faith in the world again. I carry the lightness of the morning till the evening light falls her tresses all warm on my shoulders and I remember that the service industry is not forever, and my lease ends in July, and come August all roads are moonlit and unknown.
I am living by myself for the first time. Here amongst the plants, the photographs, the early morning light, lamplit windows, and my great grandfather's rocking chair, I am settling into this home between the shadows.
2014 was a doorway I would not walk through again. Although it is true, when I summed up the parts of its heartaches I found something like wholeness. I returned to Boone in January of 2014 with one diploma, a world of uncertainty, and something like heartbreak. I came back to these mountains seeking solace in the home of their ridges. On their peaks I learned what it means to be present in spirit and community. In the rivers at their foot I was taught what it means to be swallowed whole by the depths of grief when I lost a dear friend. Through 365 days, 52 weeks, four moves, three houses, eight piñatas, two jobs denied, something like 2000 photographs, and a few too many heavy hearts I found a home that transcends geographical coordinates.
All gathered here at the threshold of 2015 holding sparklers alight with new hopes, new joys, new possibilities.