Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Pictures

Summer Pictures

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.

The Vacation
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.


  1. I've done the same thing, try to capture the beauty in Nature only to realize it isn't the same when viewed through a lens, at least not a cell phone :(. I too have had moments of joy with my horse that will forever be in my minds eye. I see her now, galloping up to me with a smile on her face! Thank you for this beautiful post.

  2. This is THE reason I don't take pics often. My husband used to have a camera in his hands at all times, and it nearly drove all of us coo-coo. Yes, we have plastic bins, tubs, albums of 1000's upon 1000's of photos that no one looks at. I have always believe you "live" the moment. It will be preserved in your memory as if you were seeing a photograph, but it will be your's alone and it will always be there anytime you think of it. Very well done, Pamela!!

  3. yes.
    to every single thing you said so beautifully here.

  4. If she would not find it cruel I would send the Wendell Berry to a friend this very minute before she can send me another video snippet of her weekend away.

  5. I love this Pamela... what a brilliant verse from Wendell Perry...
    I do hope all is well in your wonderful world... Happy Sunday... xv

  6. You are blessed to live near the ocean. I have always wanted to. I love Wordsworth. I think of his quotes often. I love the one, "to me the meanest [smallest] flower that blows give thoughts that do often lie to deep for tears".

  7. Were you on the road to Savannah ? How marvellous to read Wendell Berry - not a verse I'd seen before.

  8. Another phrase when on holidays is to look up, Such beauty can be found above eye level. Cheers Rosalie

  9. I have a few sets of photographs in my head like that Pamela. I love the poem at the end - so true.

  10. Pamela,
    This was written so beautifully. If anyone has an imagination like you, they should write.
    I have such memories deep inside my heart and mind. Thank you for this lovely post.
    I enjoyed every word. yvonne

  11. Pamela, I have often thought about this. The poem says it so well. All of this technology has taken us away from the pure enjoyment of experiences. So many times as I fumble to find my camera or phone, I ask myself this question. Technology has changed us. Well said! xx Sunday

  12. Pamela,
    Such beautiful words for thought. I try to go over pivotal memories, from time to time, in my mind out of fear of forgetting. That is the only reason I still cling to some photographs. But you're right, certain memories, a camera cannot capture. You always bring joy to my day with your words.

  13. Excellent post for us blogger-photographers, reminding us to live the moment. I left my DSLR camera at home when I went to my 25th college reunion so that I would interact more with people. I came home with a few mediocre iPhone photos and great memories from engaging. Photography is a job for me, and one I love, but it's still work.

  14. While I certainly agree about people missing the present moment with their eyes stuck to their smart phone, I do have a bit of a dissenting opinion. I'm not a photographer of any note, 'amateur' would be too generous a term for my abilities, and don't even have a DSLR camera, but an advanced 'point and shoot'. However, I find capturing small bits of Nature with the macro feature to fill me with wonder. It makes me focus (!) on the intricate beauty of the natural world that I might otherwise pass by. I have to be still and present to capture the bee with its head buried in a flower or emerging speckled with pollen. I'm awestruck by the beauty of pink lady's slippers on a mossy path and kneel down in a worshipful pose to savor the loveliness and try to catch the light outlining the delicate veins. Taking time to photograph a thing of beauty makes you not only appreciate it, but can make you feel one with it. Time slows down. I may later sigh that the picture did not do it justice, but sometimes I am rewarded when it all comes together to make a memorable shot. Then both the experience and the results make me happy.

  15. My favorite post. Thank you for sharing.... xo, N.G.


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!