I Have a Photograph

Holidailies 2005December 26, 2005
The Feast of Stephen
Monday

I looked out this morning, on the Feast of Stephen. A fog lay round about, neither deep nor crisp, but even.

I’m usually all about starting over on the Feast of Stephen. By this time in The Season I’ve had my fill of party prep and arranging decorations and anticipating events — in general, weeks of getting ready for something, dwelling in possibility instead of accomplishment.

So I tried to find my old life this morning. I read some fiction (a very short story by Amy Hempel — no sense in tackling a complicated generational saga) and even wrote a paragraph of meandering fiction-like prose, about a man who arrives home from work, finds his wife in bed with her lover, turns on his heel, and begins driving, north from the little town in Texas where they are living all the way to the Canadian border. (“Based on actual events,” as the opening credits on a tv drama might say.) It wasn’t much, but it was something. I think that reading and writing fiction have a certain kinesthetic quality, and the mental muscles that I do those things with have lost some tone in these past two months.

I’ve set Six Goals of a Quality Life that I want to achieve in 2006. They happen to be the same goals I set last year (and wrote about in a piece that alludes to the source of the name). As I feared then, I made very little progress in 2005. But Advent puts one in a hopeful mood, and I was determined today to achieve something tangible in some area.

I chose something that would fuel progress on two goals at once: Declutter My House and Create Visual Art. I opened the Drawer of Jumbled Memory Stuff.

I made a decision when I bought my camera last year. I was going to follow the advice given by the scrapbooking industry: Don’t start with the oldest stuffed shoeboxful of pictures and memorabilia you can find. Instead, get current and stay current, and review and arrange your old stuff a little bit at a time.

At least I accomplished the staying current part. I shot 18 rolls of film last year. Each is in a separate envelope with a written index identifying the subject, location, date, and other information that might be useful some time. They’re all lined up in a pretty blue box from Exposures.

And the truth is, of those 18 rolls, at least a dozen were shot in Wyoming. Four rolls shot in January consisted of “school figures,” shots I took as part of my photography class assignments, pictures of flowers or fruit in a bowl, buildings, children or animals in motion, etc. designed to make me familiar with the camera and the way it worked. That leaves only two rolls for all the rest of my life, which included trips to New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. And I’m thinking now that I can’t remember seeing the pictures I took in Washington when I went to a reading by poet Sharon Olds and then took a tour of the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and that was in October.

That’s because the roll is still in the camera, with seven shots left.

This is still better than one of the envelopes I withdrew from the jumble drawer. The first two or three were of Lynn and her friend Kim in party dresses.

“What is this?” I asked her.

She glanced at the pictures. “Homecoming, ninth grade,” she said. “2000.”

Fieldhockey_1The envelope also contained some field hockey pictures (one seen at left), a few of the Christmas party, then the Valentine dance, and finally the 2001 Homecoming dance.

A whole year in 24 frames.

Not anymore, I say resolutely. In 2006 I will shoot at least 24 rolls of film, and identify and organize at least 24 old rolls.

And tomorrow I’m finishing up those seven shots left in the camera. My Christmas present this year was a telephoto lens for last year’s camera. If the sun is right in the next few days, I might even shoot one more roll for this year.

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