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Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Grateful A Day #19: Photos

We had a family portrait taken today. BB's preschool was doing them as a school fundraiser, so we decided to take advantage of it. First time we'd done a formal sitting one for just the four of us (if you don't count the ones taken with Santa Claus a few years back, and I don't). I'm really looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

Photos are very important to me -- my dad's influence there for sure -- and I've tried to keep a good family record through the images taken during the past six (almost seven) years since BJ was born. I was also trying to get a printed selection of the many (many MANY) digital images, because I'm old school like that. I really like having photos in albums to look at, and the kids like it too. I was years behind in this project, until I printed out a whole bunch a few months back, getting us caught up through August. (Granted, I have not yet had time to put them in albums; they are still in the boxes from Snapfish, but it's progress to have those boxes sitting on the shelf rather than all just still as files on the computer!) It was such fun to re-discover images like this one, of the kids playing in the rain a year ago:
It's a quotidian moment, but I love that it has been preserved. I can't imagine what life would be like without photographs. And thinking of how different it is, now that everything is digital, I really am astonished by how amazing it is that I can so easily snap an image and save it. I'm so grateful that I can do that.

All this musing about photography also got me thinking of a poem I wrote many years ago, before BJ was born. Since I've been thinking about poetry lately, and feeling grateful for that as well, I thought I'd share:

Double Sonnet for History’s Lessons

“In four years, more than a million photographs were made of the war. Now, no one seemed to want them anymore. Mathew Brady went bankrupt. Thousands of glass plate negatives were lost, mislaid, or forgotten. Thousands more were sold to gardeners, not for the images they held, but for the glass itself. In the years that followed Appomattox, the sun slowly burned the image of war from thousands of greenhouse glass panes.”
--Ken Burns, The Civil War


I

In sepia tones, they shot countrymen
In gray and blue — images caught on glass,
By Mathew Brady and his camera. Then,
The Civil War was lost and won; the mass
Of panes no longer wanted turned to trash,
The refuse of our history, piled high
In dark rooms where dust drifts and sifts, like ash
That crumbles away softly with a sigh
From the fire that had raged in the black grate
A short while before. Soon after the war,
Gardeners bought such unwanted glass plate
To build new greenhouse walls against the hoar
Of coming winter’s chill. The sun would fade
Each image back to clear glass with time’s aid.

II

I want to find a way within to build
A greenhouse from my memory’s morass —
The lingering impressions that I stilled
Sometime before on mental panes of glass.
And yet I fear forgetting, letting go;
Instead, I stack them up inside my head.
It seems the next best thing to use them so:
Allowing in bright light to fade the dead
And dying likenesses that we have kept,
While sheltering each little bud and shoot
From chills we now too easily accept,
And warming older plants down to the root,
As graven pictures fade away with time
To glass that keeps out cold for love’s green climb.

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