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Why I Don’t Take Pictures

July 8, 2011

It’s a 2-post kind of Friday…

A few years ago, my mom bought me one of those tiny little pocket cameras to encourage my photo-snapping deficiencies.  It is slim and sleek and can fit in my purse, pants, beach bag, or any other pocket used to hold the necessities of my life.  The problem with my pocket camera is that it still never comes out.  It still sits in the bottom of my purse, beneath my wallet, squished between chapstick and receipts and coins.  It’s not the camera’s fault at all – I just forget about it.  I am too busy watching what is in front of me.

I have a habit of fixating on moments.  Moments slow down for me.  Moments lodge themselves in my brain, waiting to be retrieved later in words.  Chalk it up to the writer in me, but I’m afraid if I spend the time to take out that little pocket camera, then I will miss the moment.  The moment that demands my attention, my full attention, rather than the lens which digitally preserves it.  It is the moment that wants me, needs me, fuels me, reminds me.  It is the moment that draws me back to places and people and smells and ideas, and without watching it happen with my own two eyes, my emotions from it will sever.  The peace and the gratitude evaporate.  So I will not reach for my camera.  Poor, sad, little pocket camera.

This past week has been full of moments.  Full of memories, precious memories, that I don’t want to leave.  The sight of my little cousin all strapped up in a life jacket, getting herself seated in an ocean kayak.  The sun bounces off her freckles and she turns and smiles at us all, stepping nervously into the orange boat that sways in the wake of the ocean.  She’s unsure of herself, but confident and excited at the same time.  She’ll try it out – she’ll take this small vessel out to sea.  I sit and I watch her paddle around.  Don’t lose this moment, I tell myself.

On another night, another day, it is pouring down rain.  The clouds create a nearly pitch dark afternoon and almost thirty people are crammed into my relatives’ beach condo.  Lightning lights up the sky and the thunder quickly answers back in an animated exchange.  The energy in the room is frantic – how will we grill?  There’s so many people!  How will we eat?  Where will people sit?  I sit at the counter and watch the scene unfold.  My two aunts fire up the burners on the stove.  Orders are taken, meat is pulled out, and their artful improvisation begins.  They are in sync – the two of them.  They read each other’s cues before they are given.  One of my aunts is over the burners, being engulfed in the smells of grease and heat and a cookout gone awry.  The other is desperately trying to open the window without letting the rain come in.  She succeeds, and moves onto slicing watermelon and laying out buns.  They are the only ones in the kitchen, and they like it that way.  They are partners, dancers.  The move around each other in perfect step.  Hold onto this moment.

Later in the week I am at a party.  A going away party.  A friend has decided to change up his life trajectory and head West for graduate school.  It’s a bold move, a good move, and one I celebrate and grieve in equal measure.  My friend is not one for goodbyes.  He’s not one for fanfare and open sentimentality.  And on this night, his last night with everyone, I am not one for it either.  There is too much to say and too much to leave unsaid.  So before I leave he shakes my hand.  But it’s not a quick shake and we hold on for just a second.  Just a second to communicate the meaning and the importance and the gratitude for this quiet friendship of ours. Just a second to hold onto a goodbye.  Remember, always remember, this moment.  You won’t get it back, I tell myself.

These are just a few moments, a few small moments that I frame and hang up all over the recesses of my memory.  They adorn the walls, they flicker like candles on a table, they spread out their comfort like the worn rug of a living room floor.  They are my moments to revisit and relive and rewrite as many times as I need.  They are moments I selfishly cling to.  Moments I selfishly will not share with the pocket camera.  And so, I don’t.  I leave them to myself.  I try to honor them in ways a picture never could.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sally Reynolds permalink
    July 8, 2011 9:47 pm

    hey lauren. i love your article. especially the paragraph about me in the orange kayak. it was very descriptive. i hope i can read more!
    P.S. this is sally.

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