Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Majestic moments

I've been reading about the great photographer Edward Weston, and this morning I read that at some point early in his career he got very excited about a phrase he read in a review of a Steichen exhibit: The Majesty of the Moment.

One of the things photography keeps teaching me is that each moment is unique, and that everything is always changing. Something which looks absolutely magnificent when I drive by may be completely gone by the time I realize I want to photograph it and turn my car around. The light may have shifted, or the deer may have fled into the woods, or the boat may have sailed on by...

So I try to keep my camera handy (although sometimes I forget to put in the memory card, or forget it may be time to recharge the battery) and catch what majesty I can. This photo, shot as I was driving out our street, is an example of that: it's not a great composition (I would prefer to have the chairs facing into the photo rather than out) but the moment is a classic sandspit moment -- full of light and color and summer and view -- and it has the extra emotional impact of being a shot of our neighbor June's front yard, taken only a month or two before she died. So it will probably go into this year's Sandspit Calendar, and those who see it will think of her...

Not all moments are majestic, of course -- some of them are just ordinary: I know, because I seem to shoot way too many of those. And then there are the others, that are majestic at the other end of the spectrum, the horrifying end: the first bombs at Pearl Harbor, or the collapse of the World Trade Towers surely fall into that category. Or, on a more personal level, the loss of my friend's son this past summer to an aneurysm, or this story I learned last night in an email, about another friend's 25-year-old daughter, who had let her insurance lapse while she was between jobs, and had her pajamas catch fire yesterday morning while she was boiling an egg at her gas stove.

Fortunately, the burns were not severe--first and second degree, on her chest, neck and hands-- and there was a hospital just across the street. But she was in the ICU for about 24 hours. Which means, of course, that the bills are going to be huge. And my friend's husband is still unemployed after losing his job a year ago, so they can't help out.

It's a nightmare, for sure; one of those moments that will have a huge impact on all of them for some time to come -- and surely another reminder that in times like these reform of our health care system is desperately needed. And as I watch my friends' valiant responses to both these challenges, and their willingness to continue counting their blessings in the face of so much loss, I am amazed anew at the extraordinary resilience and determination of the human spirit.

But still -- it's a reminder that things can change really suddenly, and that even those ordinary moments can have a certain relative majesty -- because in the next moment they will be gone forever. Another good reason to pay attention now, to notice now those gifts each moment brings.

I keep hoping I'll get better at that...

3 comments:

Maureen said...

At Our Cancer we talk a lot about being present and trying not to look too far beyond the moment, to be grateful for what a moment can hold. It's a hard lesson. Sometimes all you have, in the end, are moments. What's important, I think, are not to regret they are what you have.

Maureen said...

Your image today: it's interesting to me that the chairs do face away from the sea. I'm asked to wonder: what's the perspective of those sitters that they would turn their chairs from the ocean, from the unknowable?

karen gerstenberger said...

Prayers for this dear family.