Dear Photograph

I recently discovered a blog so stunning in its representation of humanity, so beautiful in its display of memories, and so poignant in its confrontation of the past, that I decided to feature it here. Its idea aligns so well with that of nostalgia and not waiting until tomorrow to appreciate today. The blog is called Dear Photograph, and it’s concept is to “take a picture of a picture from the past in the present.”

Dear Photograph, At the time it was not common for a man to walk behind a pram. I’m still proud of my father. ~Eva Willemier Westra

People contribute photos from all over the world and each contribution is sent with a caption that is a message to the photo’s subjects or a commentary about the time period in which it was taken. The creator of Dear Photograph, 21-year-old Taylor Jones from Ontario, came up with the concept while sifting through some old snap shots of his own. He spontaneously took a picture of one of the photos he found which was taken in the very spot where he sat. And the idea was born. The project is so remarkable because it inspires people to not only revisit old memories, but to physically revisit the location of those memories, forcing them to travel to the past to confront it or embrace it, whichever the case may be. It puts the past in the context of the present and acknowledges what is gone and what has taken its place.

Dear Photograph, It’s nice to know that we loved each other once upon a time. ~Sam

If you spend even a few minutes at this site, you will be struck with an overwhelming desire to call your parents or send a letter to your grandpa. It is painfully obvious why it’s popularity skyrocketed to 1.2 million visitors within 3 weeks of its creation. It is breathtaking. Hope you are as mesmerized by it as I am.

Dear Photograph, For one brief moment, this murky little duck pond became the most beautiful place on earth. ~Greg

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Ode to Autumn

There is something magical about the change of seasons. Particularly the change from the oppressive heat of the Summer to the brisk, brightly colored, candle lit feeling of Autumn. The moment the weather turns you feel it. You walk out into the crisp morning air and you know fall has arrived. The multitude and monotony of the many shades of green suddenly transform into every imaginable color of the rainbow – from bright red and orange to yellow, green and plum purple. Temperatures that would have had us excitedly donning shorts at the start of the summer, are suddenly justification for pulling out sweaters and slacks and dreaming of winter coats. It is the start of the season that contains all of the major holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. A time for friends and family and sugar cookies.

Even the labor of raking leaves feels like a labor of love the first time you do it, bringing with it a flood of childhood memories. The very smell of the air – wood burning chimney smoke, dead leaves, evergreen sap, pumpkin and zucchini bread – fills your nose with delight like a fine wine or dark chocolate fills your mouth. This is a time for remembering and a time for creating new memories.

What are some of your favorite Autumn memories?

Nostalgia Covers a Multitude of Sins

There are moments we know, without a doubt, that we will remember fondly. But it doesn’t mean that those moments were completely idyllic or picturesque. Often times, as we dive back into our memories, they are blanketed with a think layer of nostalgia that covers a multitude of sins. Family gatherings, for instance, are often fraught with familial tensions. Unspoken but implied criticisms. Hurt feelings or frustrations. But these are not the things we remember. We remember with rose-colored glasses the good times. The unguarded enthusiasm of children experiencing things for the first time. The brash and also unguarded comments of the aged who no longer feel the need to bother with social niceties. Fingers in mixing bowls getting smacked by mammas. Christmas presents opened just a smidge at the corner when no one was looking. Or endless games of monopoly in which we seek to dominate our beloved.

But it struck me this weekend as I experienced just such a moment of pure nostalgia in the making, that it is often incredibly hard to get past the difficulties that exist in those moments so that we can see, all around us, the things we are sure to remember fondly. Why is it that we so often only appreciate things that have already passed? It is because we’re too busy dealing with the stresses of the present to notice. But shouldn’t our memories, time and time again, be a lesson to us to let go of the things that don’t matter in the present? If we can just find it in us to brush off a harsh word, let go of unwarranted criticism, or never return the slight of someone else in kind, we can remember, in the present, the love that holds us together and the joys that are the building blocks of our memories.

This weekend found me and my family in a very small town in northern Mississippi where my husband was participating in a reunion concert for a local band who’s first gig occurred 40 years previous. It was astonishingly beautiful. Already, I remember it warmly. But I do regret allowing myself to be taken up with some of the stresses that surrounded the weekend. Some of them were silly stresses. Some of them serious. But none of them will factor into the beauty of the memory. What did it matter, in the long run, if the hotel room was old and small? Or if my sick son was a bit whinny and slept in my arms for most of the concert? That, in and of itself, will bring a smile with its memory. Was it really justified of me to feel somewhat jealous of the time I didn’t get to spend with an old friend when he was surrounded by family, friends, and a girlfriend he doesn’t get to see often enough? Should I have allowed myself to embody the stresses of those around me who were prepping for the concert or dealing with their own family tensions? Or should I have been an oasis for those same people – a stress free zone to refresh their mind and spirit? Of course, none of these difficulties compared with the wonderful beauties that the weekend afforded. Such as the constant bombardment of strangers telling me how wonderful my husband was both as a person and as a musician and how much they appreciated his help over the last several months. Or seeing the pure excitement on my son’s face, despite being sick, as he watched his daddy play in a concert. Or witnessing old men relive the passions of their youth with unrivaled enthusiasm and the support of their home town for their endeavor. And seeing a mother dance with her grown son, my friend, as though no one was watching and imagining myself and my son, who was sleeping in my lap, dancing in their shoes in the not so distant future. This is the stuff of life. All the rest is not worth remembering, and so, it is not worth dwelling on.

Reminding Ourselves to Remember

I recently had the opportunity to revisit one of my favorite childhood pastimes – something I hadn’t done in over a decade. I went roller skating. Was I taking Aiden for his first experience with wheels on his heels? No. Was I attending a birthday party for some friend’s child or chaperoning some other young person’s event? No. I was just reliving the good ol’ days with some coworkers and the nostalgia of it was overwhelming.

It was yet another reminder to appreciate things as they are happening and not as we look back wistfully in the rare opportunities that we have to relive them. Although I loved roller skating as a child and even as a teenager, I don’t think I ever slowed those wheels down long enough to savor the experience and recognize that I wouldn’t be able to do it forever. I’m certainly not saying that we should take every happy, wonderful moment full of innocence and joy and make it serious, sober, and appreciative. But rather that we should learn to take mental snapshots. We are all so very good at taking digital photos these days – capturing flat, visual representations of the things we experience. But there is so much more to those memories. There are smells, tastes, sounds, feels, emotions, thoughts . . . all connected in an intricate web of vitality. And our minds are capable of cataloging all of it – if we would just take a moment to breathe and remind ourselves to remember. Tell ourselves in a fraction of a second, “This is good!”

As I looked around the rink at all of the other skaters, most of them half my age, I found myself wondering how many of them would remember. The twelve-year-old boyfriend and girlfriend with matching T-shirts skating hand in hand in countless circles. The new recruit to the roller derby team, getting a strong sense of her stride. The flamboyantly gay twenty-something spinning pirouettes at each turn and squealing with delight, not caring what anyone else thought of him. The middle-aged, excessively bearded beginner skating back and forth in the center at a painstaking pace, trying to prove that you can teach and old dog new tricks. The six-year-old little girl with white skates just like mine who put my moves to shame. Will all of these people find themselves in this spot a decade later trying to pull the cobwebs off of these memories? Or will these moments flood back with a vivid force because they LIVED them now? I am very glad I took the opportunity to experience this small part of my past again. And this time I drank it in deeply and will not easily forget.