Capturing the Moment

Since getting my iPhone, I’ve begun taking tons of photos, especially when I’m vacationing. During the nine days I was in Kauai I took 361 photos—mostly of scenery and quirky objects, occasionally of my companions.

Near Kilauea lighthouse

near Kilauea lighthouse

Tiny shrine under banyan tree at Hindu monastery

Tiny shrine under banyan tree at Hindu monastery

That’s about 40 per day. Why not? It’s fun. Taking pictures has become a way of heightening the experience. Documenting and remembering it. But sometimes I wonder: when I’m focusing and framing shots, am I more in the moment or less?

There’s something acquisitive about taking pictures.

Click. There. Now I’ve got it. This moment and this place are mine. I can revisit them whenever I want. I’m hoarding a treasure of memories. At some future point, seeing this vista, cool object, or time with friends may be just the tonic I need.

Of course I've got a beachy sunset photo -- it's Hawaii!

Of course I’ve got a beachy sunset photo — it’s Hawaii!

Initially, I might share a handful of photos on Facebook. Snap a funny scene and text it to a friend. After I return from a trip, I fuss with the photos in Photoshop, cropping them or adjusting the lighting. It’s a second way of enjoying the sights. Sometimes I create screensavers. Once in a while I make a printed calendar.

Surfboard fence in Hanalei

Surfboard fence in Hanalei

Having photos allows me to relive the good times. Except that after my first wave of enthusiasm, I rarely do.

Bird of paradise at Allerton McBryde Gardens

Bird of paradise at Allerton McBryde Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At least my photos are easy to store.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with storing my collection. I think of the albums and boxes of pictures my parents had. Some of them are precious—that’s our history. My three siblings and I lined up in front of the tulip garden at Easter. There we are sprawled in swimsuits on the dock at Lake James.

But the photos from when my parents were in Hawaii? I’m glad they had the experience, but the images mean very little to me. I wasn’t there. I don’t know the stories. Is there any reason to save those prints now that my parents are gone? Similarly, my Hawaii photos won’t mean anything to my kids either. They weren’t there.

Fortunately, my fascination with photography doesn’t require much effort or upkeep. As long as I have loads of gigabytes, digital photos are easy to keep.

There’s one picture I didn’t take in Kauai.

In Hanapepe, they have a Friday night art gallery crawl. At 6:30, it was dark except for a few streetlights and the lights from shops. The air was cooling but the breeze was still gentle. A dozen shops opened their doors and a handful of food trucks gathered. Several musicians performed here and there—folk music and traditional Hawaiian music.

An old black pickup truck was parked under a streetlight. The front of it was painted with orange and yellow flames. Hot pink bougainvillea bushes were planted in the truck bed and they bloomed lavishly. Alongside the truck, a woman in a lawn chair was making leis.

I really wanted to take that photo, but it seemed wrong. Did I have the right to the photo if I didn’t want to buy the lei? Probably didn’t matter. People must do it all the time. That truck is meant to attract attention. Specifically, tourists’ attention.

After a while, she got up and shook some flowers from the tree behind the truck. Had a cigarette. A friend of hers stopped by with a brown bag of food.

I let the moment pass. It was too dark for my phone’s camera. It wouldn’t have seen all the color and details my eyes registered during the 20 minutes that I sat on the curb across the street from her eating spicy chicken curry.

I appreciate both kinds of images—the photos because they can trigger a story and the remembered images that have become vivid because I found the words to turn them into stories.

Both bring wonderful experiences to mind.

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“Is there anything about me in here?”

Crystel

Crystel

“Is there anything about me in here?” Crystel said with a hint of despair in her voice.

“Yes,” I answered. “There’s a sentence. Keep reading.”

She was skimming my recent blog about our 3-legged cat.

“This story is mostly about Antonio,” I added.

“Grrrrrr,” she responded.

I laughed. “Do you want the next blog to be all about you?”

“Yes,” she said emphatically.

Writers often worry about writing about their kids online. Using them for fodder when crafting a story. Much is written about the ethical implications of mothers writing about their kids and the online privacy of children. Mothers don’t want to betray their children.

I’ve had a different experience with Antonio and Crystel, both now thirteen years old. My children want to be seen, noticed, and heard. They want to be important enough to be blog material. They would feel betrayed if I didn’t include them in my writing life.

Crystel helping me with squad maintenance checks.

Crystel helping me with squad maintenance checks.

From time to time, I get squeamish blogging about my children. Not because of what my kids might think but what other writers might. Mothers should protect their children, not exploit them for media attention. Sometimes, I feel tempted to add an aside to blogs and tell the reader that my children have read and approved of the story and photos. I don’t do that. Another voice emerges in my head, a much louder voice. That it’s my business what I write and readers have a choice whether or not to read my material. I won’t be silenced as I was when I was a child.

If the blog is about them, Antonio and Crystel know the contents before I even start drafting the blog.  Before it’s published they’ve read the article and seen the photos. They might ask me to change a line or to take a sentence out or to use a different photo. Most often the blog is published as is with their approval.

There are benefits to having a mother who will blog about you. Last week, Crystel was finishing a class project for her Language Arts class – a 3 panel brochure – that needed to include pictures of herself when she asked, “Do you have any photos of me?”

In the trunk of squad cars there are stuffed animals for children. Crystel is picking one of her monster dolls to add for a give-away.

In the trunk of squad cars there are stuffed animals for children. Crystel is picking one of her monster dolls to add for a give-away.

Antonio answered her, “Just Google yourself. I put a picture of me and my birth mom Rosa on mine.” He looked at me and explained. “That was the most recent picture I could find online.”

Crystel was positively gleeful. “You’re right.”

Crystel’s desire to be a part of my writing life isn’t limited to the WordSisters blog.

She visualizes herself sitting next to me signing copies of House of Fire, my yet to be published manuscript.

House of Fire shows that thirty years of breaking free from a cycle of silence and betrayal was not enough to prepare me for the trials of starting my own healthy family.

Jody and I have worked hard to create a home of love, safety, and joy where no one gets silenced.

Crystel’s been practicing her autograph. I’ll be so proud to have her next to me. Both of us will be seen, noticed, and heard.

Her only complaint about this blog – “It doesn’t have enough pizaaz.”

Well, next time kid.