Stopping Time

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“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”  Anaïs Nin

I have often thought of this quote by Anaïs Nin – not in the context of a writer, but in the framework of a photo. Ever since Joseph Nicephore Niepce clicked the first photo in 1814, humanity has been beguiled by the ability to capture something important.  It is our only way to stop time, to remember our journeys, and proclaim that we have lived, felt love, endured challenges and sustained losses.

I confess that I am a “photo hoarder.”  Yes, even the photos that I consider “second best” remain safely stored on external drives in hopes that some day there may be an editing program that will be invented that will enhance and bring out their beauty. By beauty, I mean the emotional impression of that event.

Just last week, I went back to “taste life twice.”  The year was 2004.  I had purchased my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot A70, for a long-awaited trip to Italy to enroll in a 3-week Italian language course.  The reviews were as generous as I was enthusiastic: “The PowerShot A70 is much more than just a 3.2-megapixel version of its predecessor, the A40.”   I was convinced that this was an excellent purchase.

With a camera in hand, there is added emotional drama at play, more clarity, more interest in the “now.”  This awareness was most keenly felt when I walked the lush paths of Frederick Stibbert’s Garden.  It was a late October afternoon. A gentle light settled on the trees and aging walls, a faint wind tossed the leaves.  A quiet solitude lifted my spirits.  I had recently finished an arduous academic journey and was at a crossroads.

Looking back on these photos, I remember a pivotal decision, made with a recognition that we move in tune with the music of time, surrounded by those who came before and those who will come after. Our myths, our struggles, our joys are intermingled.  Perhaps it is in the retrospective, in knowing what happened afterwards, that reveals a greater understanding.  And with that knowledge, we move forward with profound resolve to embrace the next moment.