Two experiences that would have been greatly enhanced by photos. Not taken over by them. Or perhaps not.
The last two days were the last two days of our Jewish cycle of holidays. It’s been a very full three weeks. How many challah loaves were baked and consumed, how many times did prep knives go up and down and through, how many times was the floor swept? The best part about it was that not all of it was by me. Yes, I did do the baking of the challah, and most of the cooking and shopping and cleaning. But not all. And that’s what makes a huge difference. Thank you, team, for all of your help.
But for the last set of days, we were back to basics, with all the guests and family members off to their corners of the universe. On Monday afternoon, I went for a walk down by the pond near my sister’s to see if the leaves have started their change of life. You can see photos from two years ago here; from last winter, the day before her death here. Why the nostalgia? Isn’t changing leaves, changing seasons enough? And saying Yizkor, the memorial prayer for the dead that morning in shul…But it’s also the road leading down to this pond from my house. It was under construction at this time last year; every time I drove that stretch when my sister was in the car, I had to slow down. Every bump was hardly tolerable for her by that time, even to the point that I would drive in a circuitous route to avoid that stretch of road.
Now it is smooth.
So, in that frame of mind, I got to the area. But right before I reached the pond, I heard music. I could not place where it was coming from, but little did I realize it was from the pond.
Technically incorrect. It was coming from a pick-up truck parked right next to the pond, from some kind of machine that was playing big band orchestral accompaniment, while a man stood in front of a microphone, with a music stand with his music, singing to his heart’s content.
I, of course, was much too polite/shy/embarrassed to ask him what he was doing. Was he recording? Was it going to be some kind of romantic gift for a mate? Was he just practicing? Did he have some kind of purpose to record the frogs along with his music? I can only conjecture. Since it is a path that is used by many, I did see a few people I knew go by. They were as stymied as I.
But I really wish I had a camera. That way, I could look at the photo and try to figure out what he was doing. Or share what I saw. Honestly, though, I probably would have been too embarrassed to take a photo directly of him, so maybe I’ll just have to go with my memories.
And YouTube. This was the last song that he sang. This was about the strangest video I could ever find, which is just really perfect.
And then yesterday, I decided to go for a walk along the lake. It was a beautiful day. The trees are just starting to show just a touch of color. I took the opportunity to sit on a bench for a while, seeking calm. After a few moments, a large bird swooped onto a sailboat tied up in the lake. It looked like it was going to take off a number of times, since it was spreading its wings out. I really wanted to watch that, but it was more stubborn than me. I sorely missed having a camera, since I really didn’t trust my memory to be able to identify it correctly later.
I should not have been so concerned, of course, since ISHI figured out what it was pretty quickly. Apparently, double-crested cormorants
often stand in the sun with their wings spread out to dry. They have less preen oil than other birds, so their feathers can get soaked rather than shedding water like a duck’s. Though this seems like a problem for a bird that spends its life in water, wet feathers probably make it easier for cormorants to hunt underwater with agility and speed.
So, again, camera not needed.
Recently, there have been a few articles that have bemoaned the fixation on photos. And they are all completely correct. For example, surely you have seen the photo going around about the woman who is in the moment for the Black Mass movie premiere. But who, other than I, is pointing out the irony that she will be remembered because of the photo that was taken of her?
And surely, this poem by Wendell Berry also works on the ironic stage:
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 his 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.
Ironic, because it was published in 2012. The selfies revolution put people into their photos in a ridiculous way, but pretty much took people out of the experience of the vacation completely. They are too busy being in the photo.
But what do I know what they think, really?
So is there a happy medium?
Or is there another, more valid, reason for wanting to have a camera?
Here’s what Valerie Millett said on Facebook:
Iconic beautiful landscapes and grand vistas are sometimes almost effortless subjects. You show up at the right time, plop your tripod down and the magic is right in front of you.
Finding beauty in the ordinary, in the everyday scenes…that’s another story. (It’s not elusive, I see it all around me, but) conveying it photographically is a craft. Practice, experiments and failures…the best way to learn and grow. The best way to find your own voice.
In this day, which we could all look back at and state “This was the beginning of when it really went bad”, I will stand and say I will look for my voice. But in the meantime, I will let Michael Freund speak:
What can one say in the face of such moral obtuseness? It beggars belief that the world’s top diplomat, the man charged with the mandate of preserving international peace and security, would denounce the killing of murderers but not that of their victims.
This is far beyond the standard fare of anti-Israel bias or anti-Zionist animosity. It signifies a deeper loathing, an aversion to Jews which degrades and dehumanizes them to a point that recalls some of the darkest chapters of recent history.
It is an intuitive anti-Semitism that is at work, one that speaks volumes about those who cannot muster the minimal moral courage needed to decry the murder of innocent Jews.
We cannot remain silent. We dare not turn taciturn and allow this to pass unnoticed. Let’s raise our voices and shout from the roof-tops, flood social-media and storm the fortresses of ignorance and anti-Jewish bigotry.
Seventy years after Auschwitz it should not need to be said, but apparently it still does: Jewish lives matter too. It is time we remind the world of this simple and unassailable truth.
Use the hashtag #JewishLivesMatter and spread this message at every opportunity.
In the days of antiquity, the Jewish people gave the world ethical monotheism and the basis for morality.
In our times, it would appear that we need to do so again.