Dear You:

Making time when there is no time is unfamiliar to me. Time is lost. Time speeds by. Was it always? No, no, it was not…and yet it was. I learned to give up my time, to surrender my time, to lose track of time which I think is why so much time has passed and I cannot account for it. The photos and empty frames are sentinels. I think back to Camara Lucida by Roland Barthes.

My comfort zone in my mind’s eye is a meadow

My comfort zone in my mind’s eye is a meadow

with an electric fence along it, parts of it enclosed by an old wooden fence, the most beautiful and the most decayed part. Other parts enclosed by an older fence with wooden posts and barbed wire. When I try to go over this fence, move beyond it, bad things happen.

When We Were Young &

Crouched on Picnic Tables

I’m penned in this maze of constricted time, in a labyrinth of days rigidly defined by schedules, the schedules of those I’m responsible for, by appointments and work and old animals and plants coming down with powdery mildew because they were too close to the single paned windows and now they have fallen prey to microscopic pores sucking the life out of them, their cries for my attention not heard at this wave length. 

Then…and now

Then it all stops, suddenly, because the frames have sat there empty for so long, and we bring boxes and boxes of photos, some from the days of real film, many printed from digital files, but all just stacked, unseen in envelopes which creep into my mind in the night. You’re a bad mother. You’re a bad daughter. Just like your mother, you have no photos in frames. There is never enough time Lean in. Stand back. Move closer, Bend over. Why do you live on your knees?

These Knees

Oh my god, I am on my knees, photos. Susan Sontag says in On Photography that to collect photos is to collect the world. But I am breathless and dizzy in my tiny corner of this world I am still trying to define. Some of the images sing. You’re too busy. Life is passing you by. We remember your life though. Children asking about photos, we hear them. We know how much they like to look at them. They know a screen never takes the place of a frame on a wall where they can linger and remember and explore the past. You’ve left us up here in the attic beside the tool box with your father’s ashes which you’ve also been too busy to scatter at sea. My dear, stand up. Take charge. Take the time.

An afternoon at Little Mussel Island with Lulu, picking ditch cranberries, rowing boats, losing track of time.

And so I took the time. We filled all these frames with photos. They will hang them on the walls. It’s remarkable how much joy this brought me, to the children.

Seeing our lives and adventures and moments on display, presented, the past alive on old horse hair plaster walls here in rural Nova Scotia in this big old rambling house where time stands still and time moves slowly, and reaches out to slow me down, to hold me when I am dizzy, when I reach out my hand, and feel all of this time plastered all around, and see these faces, all around. 

The moral of my story is take the time to print your photos, to find old photos, to frame them and hang them, no matter how eclectic the frames, no matter that they might not be the exact photos you wanted. Don’t wait. Use what you have. Make the time. Climb over the old decaying fence around the meadow and move into the land you see but never can reach.