mercredi 9 septembre 2009

Quaker cemetery

This morning, my uncle and I drove around the countryside of Chester County, and stopped at a Quaker friend's meeting house, to walk around the old cemetery, and see if we couldn't find the tombstone of a very distant relative who had been laid to rest there. It was a hilly piece of land, and the small tombstones seemed to grow out of the lush green grass. Fields surrounded us, divided by rows of elegant, tall, gnarly trees. A barn nearby, with wide open doors, allowed one to catch a glimpse of the inside filled with hay. A flock of small birds flew over us in the grey-almost raining sky. Sounds of insects were continuous, unruffled.
Standing at the top of the hill, I beat myself up mentally for having forgotten my camera. It was one of those times where, as I was looking at the cemetery, and the fields, and the sky, I already had an idea for a composition, and I just needed the camera to be the extension of my eye. But it wasn't there, so all I could do was look as hard as I could, and absorb what I was seeing without being able to externalize it onto something beyond my own mind. Photography is all about catching the moment. And when the moment is lost, when time has flown by without being able to immortalize mere seconds, there's a heightened sense of frustration. If only I had brought my camera...
But this sense of loss shouldn't only be felt with photography. How many times have I not expressed myself when I so desperately needed to? Wanting to write but being overcome by laziness, or using excuses like lack of time, or deciding to watch whatever tv show I could catch on youtube instead of making the effort to go beyond the surface of life? There too, moments were lost. What needed to come out didn't. I didn't act on that creative impulse, so nothing came out of it. This time, I thought I'd describe the scene. No camera, but words, and memory. To remember the stillness and mystery of the graveyard, and to bring what I had seen out there for others to imagine.

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