Lens life / half life
I’ve noticed people–myself included–living noteworthy moments through camera lenses.
I noticed this only distantly until a trampoline birthday party a couple of weeks ago. I spent a few minutes there trying to capture my toddler’s glee before pocketing my phone to be with him.
I saw a few other parents recording their kids’ merriment.
A few minutes later, I noticed they were still recording.
As me and mine slipped off our bounce socks at the end of our party, each parents’ recording continued.
I mulled that over for days. I wasn’t judging the recording parents, ’cause that’s neither interesting nor useful. Maybe each has seriously ill or distant loved ones who cherish opportunities to experience through these recordings events otherwise beyond their reach. I don’t know, and it’s none of my business.
It made me wonder, though, what it is I’m trying to capture when I live through the lens.
The best I can figure, I want to capture a feeling. I want to remember what it was like to be there.
Thinking it that way made me wonder if I need dozens of photos per event, and especially if those photos are valuable enough in retrospect to outweigh the joyous value of being fully present in any given moment.
I decided that one or two pictures really are worth it for me, most the time. Beyond that, I am losing the actual, vibrant present for the mere possibility I might someday want to revisit an event from every angle and every moment I first half-lived it.
This, in turn, made me think about my blog. What “pictures” am I trying to snap with my words here? To what is it I hope to someday return?
Is all the time I spend documenting here worth the time lost for other endeavors?
I don’t know.
But if I boiled my every day down to its essence, its “photo,” how would I do that? There are so many precious moments in every day. Do I need–or want–to remember every single one with my mind? Or is my heart’s sweeping memory of laughter, love, and being loved enough most of the time?
I decided heart-memory is enough. Its strength is in its favoring impression and totality over individual, distinct moments.
So if I were to choose one mind-remembered moment for each day, which would it be?
Today, I would keep a snapshot of an unexpected hallway exchange with a colleague. After telling me he’s been reading my blog, he said with a smile and gesture toward his heart, “It keeps me alive.” (“Your warmth and the way you make me laugh have the same effect on me,” I told him before we walked our separate ways.)
Yesterday, I would keep the moments that my toddler pushed his older brother around our house on the tricycle that was once Li’l D’s. “Beep, beep,” they chimed together each time they squeezed through a narrow opening.
For Sunday, I would keep Littler J’s elation as he raced across grass on an oceanside bluff. “Eeeee!” he shrieked with arms spread wide open, as if to embrace the whole world in his tiny arms. He giggled as he fell face-first into the grass. His dad and I smiled at each other, savoring an opportunity to cherish toddler zeal without having to monitor two children’s shenanigans.
One weekend evening a few days ago, I would take my husband playing with my hair as I sobbed on the couch while I finished reading the incomparable The Last Leaves Falling. I found so, so very much beauty and love in one author’s envisioning of a brief life lived well and fully at its conclusion, and particularly at one mother-son exchange.
In this exercise, I find choosing moments to “photograph” doesn’t diminish any other sweet moment I experience.
By deliberately choosing what to capture instead of trying to capture everything, I see and remember more. I understand more clearly that even those photographed moments will someday fade, and most of all,
that each moment is precious for what it is, when it is.