It is a small picture album, containing only ten or so images. Each one features the same character - a big white furry dog - and each one is uniquely precious for it was captured at the precise moment that dog turned to grin at me - fur flying, eyes bright - as we ran together side by side on the edge of the sea. A moment of unabashed joy, frozen forever in time. Not one of these images has been altered in the usual ways by age - not a crease nor a wrinkle; the corners still crisp as the day they were made. As if deprived of its usual tricks, time has instead chosen to create a bit of magic over each, for in some I can clearly hear the surf crashing at our feet as we run; I feel the wind in my face in others. This album, although worth more to me than gold, is not one I would have to run into a burning house to save, for it exists in my memory alone. More valuable for being intangible; each image represents a moment fully lived and so, fully remembered.
The beach is one of Edward’s favourite places and we have been fortunate enough to take him there throughout his life. I can close my eyes and flip through this album of memories and smile as I see him running beside me. Though I’d love to share a photograph of that experience with you - for it would elicit a guaranteed smile - I cannot. To have trusted such an experience to the limitations of a camera would have cheapened, if not ruined, the moment entirely. It is mine alone. And Edward’s, of course.
These day so many of us seem one step removed from our lives as we hold our cameras aloft in a feeble attempt to document experiences rather than simply stand still and live them. Everything from the ruins of the Colosseum to the Grand Canyon must be reduced to fit inside a three by four screen. I have followed along behind people as they walked through the whole of Westminster Abbey looking through their cell phones. Were they able to see the way the light changed colours as it drifted down through the stained glass? Did they notice the way the ceiling in the Lady’s Chapel looks so much like lace or feel the cold marble of William Wordsworth’s statue as they perhaps recalled the close of one of his poems...”
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
A couple of weeks ago, just as the sun was setting, I took a bike ride through an paradisiacal corner of the south, through marshland and forest not far from the sea. No one was about; I could have been the only person on earth. As I pedaled over a wooden bridge I stopped in amazement to see a tree trembling with apparent white leaves as hundreds of wood storks gathered there for a bit of evening conversation. Their sound filled the air and made me feel utterly insignificant. Like any other modern day numpty I took out my cell phone and snapped a photo, thinking I had preserved the moment to enjoy later. Then I looked at the result. Why, I couldn’t even tell what it was. And I’d wasted precious time in the effort; time that would have been so much better spent watching and listening. Shaking my head at my foolishness, I pedaled on into the shadowy darkness of the woods. I hadn’t gone very far before I felt wild eyes watching me. Slowing to a stop I peered into the trees; straight into the eyes of a deer. For a long lovely moment we two stood face to face, eye to eye, breathing the same sweetly scented air and I felt inexplicably connected to the magnificent glory of life. How remarkable it is. What a gift. My cell phone stayed in my pocket.
by Wendell Berry
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever; the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving the vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.