Friday, May 15, 2020

Photo Ops

A few days ago, the Blue Angels flew over my house. I didn't think they'd be here, from looking at the flight plan online, and to be honest, had forgotten about even the possibility of it. Until I heard the roar and felt the house start to shake a little. And then, I ran outside and stood on the porch and watched as six of these incredible airplanes, the elite of the elite, buzzed past the house.

Then, I went back on social media and saw all of the pictures everyone was posting of the flyover. It was then that I realized I had forgotten to take pictures of my own. In fact, I hadn't even grabbed my phone when I ran out the door. I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right at my fingertips, and I missed it. 

Or did I?

I often fail or forget to take pictures. Even pictures that I sometimes want to take. I just get so wrapped up in what is happening right in front of me, and I forget to put a lens between us. It's tough sometimes because we live in such a visual world. When I'm telling this story later and trying to describe it, it's not uncommon to hear something like, That sounds cool. I wish you had pictures.

A picture is worth a thousand words. It shows very quickly what takes much longer to explain. It creates an invitation into a place. I get all that.

But what a picture never does, what it can't do, is capture an experience. I stood on my porch that day and saw everything - a full view of the sky, with my neighbors' houses in my peripheral vision. I felt the wind as it blew through the porch and hit my face. I felt the rumble of the engines as they broke through the air above me. Those are the kinds of things that a picture can't capture. And the truth is - those are the kinds of things the moment was about.

I have pictures of a trip to Niagara Falls. Somewhere. In a box, probably. But if you ask me about that trip, I don't need those pictures to remember. I can take myself back there and put myself in that place all over again. Feel the mist of the water crash against the boat as we sailed gently toward the middle of the falls. See the green on my dad's face from the lighting of the tunnels on the Canadian side that took us right behind where the waters were rushing down. I can look to the right and still see the whirlpools as the water flowed away from the horseshoe. Ask me, and I can see the moss on the rocks. It's all there in full color, in full glory. And I know that if I had spent too much of my time taking pictures, then every one of my memories of that place would have a frame around it. My view would be limited. My experience, muted. Because I would have had a lens between us.

We spend so much of our time trying to capture our lives or trying to share them, turning them into posts for likes and shares and hearts and whatever else social media uses to validate our existence. But we don't, any more, take much of our time turning our lives into memories. We spend so much of our time capturing them and so little of our time experiencing them. They show up in our timeline, and I swear to you that sometimes, I see pictures from years ago, and the only thing I can remember about it is...taking that picture. Oh yeah, I remember taking that picture.

But do I remember what happened that day?

When I ran out on my porch that day, I wasn't thinking about how cool it would be to get a great shot of this. I was thinking about how cool it was just to see it. So I saw it. And now, I have that moment forever, even if I can never click 'print' on that memory.

We have to spend more of our lives just living them. We do. We have to be present to what's happening in the places where we are. We have to take the lenses out from in front of our faces and take the frames off our experiences and see them with eyes wide open, with the fullest of vision for what's going on. Maybe it makes a bad photo to have my neighbors' houses in the periphery, but it makes an incredible experience. Because I can say, without a doubt, I was here when that happened. I was right here, right in this place where I live. Living. 

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