Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time Well Wasted

Actual grass from my backyard

By JccKeith

There I was sitting around watching the grass grow.  As enthralling as it is to watch nothing happen, I decided I might find more productive uses of my time.  I decided to invest a little time in discovering a few simple joys in life.

I thought, you know there are probably a lot of things in my very own house that are quite fascinating.  I took the camera with me to document my progress.  I decided I’d become one of these people who posts photos of everyday things and calls myself a photographer.  Although for the record, I have no desire to be a photographer.

I find photos depressing in many ways.  Every photo is a moment in time that will never happen again.  Every person in every photo will never be exactly that age again.  Photos document the passing of time, the aging of loved ones and are a reminder of the constancy of change.  It is sad to see a beautiful photo and then to compare it to the way the subject looks now.  Things change, things degrade, things cease to be.

A post in my backyard
Take this post for example.  Not this post I am writing but this post in the picture.  This is actually the top of a post along the fence in my backyard.  When I bought this house that post… well actually that post looked exactly the same from that viewpoint.  Not a good example.

Take this leaf.  This is the bright green leaf of one of my banana trees.  It is brilliantly colored today.  Tomorrow it will probably still be brilliantly colored but in a few days, maybe a week, it will turn brown.  It will shrivel and crumple to the dirt.  Then all I have left is a photo to remind me that it was once so lively and green. 

Banana Tree Leaf
For anyone paying attention to this negative nelly view of photography, I am being facetious.  Photography is one of the marvels of the modern world.  How incredibly amazing is it that thanks to the invention of photography we can see into the past?  We can look at the faces of distant deceased relatives.  We can see images of far away places we might never visit.  We can get a glimpse of the world as it was a hundred years or more before our own birth.

Photography allows us to capture images of our world and share them with each other and with future generations.  It is a portal to the past and a message to the future.  Entire lives can be documented on film to be shared with countless others.  It is no mystery why this technology was invented.  Since the dawning of mankind, humans have attempted to immortalize their lives with images.  First attempts were drawings on caves and then much later through paintings and now photography.

What is it that prompts us to do this?  What is it about humanity that compels us to relate to each other through images?  Is immortalization of the world around us through visual means preferable to written documentation?

If given the choice would you rather examine cultures of the past through photos or through their written words?  What good is a photo if there is no explanation to go along with it?  The human mind can put together any number of explanations for things in a photo.  It is the written word which offers the who, the how, the why and the what for photos.

I still think photography is a most extraordinary invention.  I believe we learn more through visual images than through written words.  Although writing can offer reasons and explanations, a visual image may reveal things not mentioned in the writing.  Visual images offer something the brain can grasp, something it can associate with reality.  When you see a photo your mind immediately conjures up memories associated with things in the picture.

When you see a photo of grass, you may, like me, immediately smell the crisp scent of grass.  You may be reminded of the softness and the fresh feel of grass beneath bare feet.  You may even have an allergic reaction, if you are allergic to certain grasses.  The mind is a powerful stimulant that way.  It can bring about reactions in the body that should not occur – all based on what the eyes see - not necessarily on what the body physically feels.

This is yet another reason I say photos, photography, is such a marvelous thing.  Did I waste probably the better part of an hour taking pictures of random stuff in and around my house?  Sure.  Was it time well wasted?  Sure it was.

Someday someone will find those pictures from my excursion.  It will probably be my kids.  They will look at that fresh green grass and think – “Wtf?  Why is mom taking pictures of grass?”  They will look at that post and think, “What is that?  Is that the top of a post?  Why?  Why would anyone take a picture of the top of an old post?”

They will look at the picture of the banana tree leaf and think – “What is going on?  Is that a banana tree leaf?  Mom must be seriously wonko.”  Although knowing me as they do, that will not be anything new.

Then they will see this picture of a cigar box.  It is an old cigar box.  I took the picture because it reminds me of my childhood.  My mom used to have one of these exact same cigar boxes and it looked just as old and worn.  Inside it there were sewing needles, thread, elastic, scissors, safety pins and buttons.  It was a box that held all the things one needed for a sewing kit.

As a kid I learned to sew when I was very, very young.  My grandma, my mom’s mom, taught me how to sew.  It was a wonderful skill to have.  I sewed pillows, clothes for my Barbies and other assorted items.  It was the first time I ever began to create things.  I learned to sew before I ever wrote my first ‘story.’  Sewing was fun and useful.

I still sew.  I am often called upon these days to sew up stuffed animals.  I stitch up holes in favorite clothing and blankets.  To this day, the sight of one of these old cigar boxes, this brand in particular, reminds me of sewing.  Sewing reminds me of childhood and the independence that sewing gave me at the time.

Sewing is a way of saving things that might otherwise be lost.  Photos do exactly the same thing. 

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