The Importance of Putting the Camera Down… Just Now & Then
Summer holds on a bit and really, who can mind the clinging?
When we pack up the kids and head to the woods, we drive tent pegs into the earth, and we walk in bare feet and it is right like this.
There’s tabernacle light caught in trees, in eyes. My brother brings a vase of his roses and puts them on the picnic table, an offering.
I sling a camera around my neck.
The river runs. Blocks of wood open up like Gordian knots, answering the riddle of time with a gift of heat and all the summers past. What feels like the sharp blade of an axe can split open the blaze of radiant things. I hang the lantern high on a broken branch.
Mama washes dishes. There are never enough s’mores. Under our feet there are veins of water running, and I feel it, all the passing by. Kids run down to the river. They ride the river running on and they laugh down the river, down the gorge, and holy joy, it rings loudest in the deepest canyons.
I stand at the bottom of the gorge and I keep looking up.
All is hard and holy at once. Mothers know how the happiness and hurt entwine and love is the suffering that holds a life together.
The kids are so tall and so achingly wonderful.
When Mama and her crown of white hair and milky white bottle legs lay back in that rubber tube and Caleb paddles and pushes her down the river like some royal chariot, we laugh way too much — if there is such a thing — and we tube down the river and when she just about tips in her ring of bouyant grace, everything happy in her spills, this riotous howl.
All the years can wrinkle you into sheer beauty.
And what I think afterward, when I look at the pictures of day in the woods, in the water, is just that — just that sometimes, just a bit —
Why can I confuse staying behind a lens as staying in the moment?
Sometimes attentiveness may feel like letting go — more like being captured by the grace of the moment than trying to capture the grace of the moment.
It’s the glory of Christ that does all real justice —- so can cameras do glimpses of His glory any real justice? Yes, definitely yes.
Like the moment when I first saw him trace the outline of his daughter’s face with the tip of his finger.
The moment when Mama brushed that singular tendril and from her cheek and said Christ was enough and I could see it welling in her, how He was like an aquifer of quenching to her, and nothing could contain that moment.
When the youngest looked up from her plate, from the end of the table and the light of the candles flickered in her, in the windows, and she seemed older right then and beyond me, and some moments are only memories that ever sear you with glory.
And that night when the Farmer and I wake, thunder shaking the sky to the west, the whole sky to the west clapping shock white with the hope of rain — and then it coming, the thrumming, drumming of rain on the roof and down the windows and out across the fields and us just laying there, spooned in thanks.
There are times grace out and out defies a shutter and all you can do is murmur a prayer of thanks.
They’re all right there, all the pictures of one wondrous day —
Of the food on the table and kids in the river and a man and a woman and their children and her mother under one doming sky —
and in all these digital streams of information one can present as being present to all these the moments, but the truth is:
Framing your life may not necessarily mean that you are paying attention to your life…
That moment of my Mama tubing down the river? That moment of our four sons side by side eating pancakes in early light? That Farmer-led breakfast and the way he sprinkled berries into mountains in all the bowls? It’s unashamedly true, I am glad it’s framed, I am glad the shutter memorized it for amnesia of the soul.
Yet the thing is: Lenses can help you look — but it’s stillness that helps you see.
I had stood there with the boys, with everyone eating breakfast under leaves — and I had framed. And then set the camera aside. Turned the camera off. And there’s no guilt. All the moments a mother never captured on film — isn’t perhaps a failing, but a releasing into fully being in that moment. They say that — that you can tell as much about a life by the photographs that weren’t taken as those that were. There doesn’t have to be fear of missing.
It’s sort of wild to think about: Moments don’t need to be captured as much as they need to simply be enjoyed. There’s ridiculous freedom and glory in a courage like this.
I felt it, there in the woods with the kids: It is good to press the shutter — then set the camera aside and be shuttered up in the wild wonder. In being a partaker of life, not only an observer…
I had stood. I had stilled. There is a seeing that can burn the heart like a film.
When the kids ask me to tube the river with them again, just one last time, I lay the camera down and lay into it. The water laps cool. Grace is the realest stream and the most courageous of all is to be all here. The gift always come in simply being present in the moment.
And this river, it can flows us all on, beautiful and perfectly unbottled.