Posts Tagged ‘moments’

Two Minutes

23 January 2011

Dear J-

Today is a tale of two moments. There are many candidates for defining times or characteristics, from the heat and light of the afternoon contrasted to the chill dark evening that reminds us that winter still has some tricks up its sleeve. There are boys and girls two of each in our family. There is time spent and time wasted, there is money left untouched and spent on entertainment, there are teams I root for and those I root against. But today hinges on two moments and I hope you’ll indulge me.

The first came at Sea World. With a sleepy and increasingly cantankerous figgy in tow after lunch I wanted to hit one last exhibit — the sharks, where you walk through the tops of tanks until you hit the basement and then go through clear tunnels and the sharks glider by overhead. I hadn’t been by in a while and I also had packed photographically light, just a wide angle lens that would have translated the tunnels into a striking place. Since figgy had already decided to go we complied instead and I’ll see the sharks again later. You say that we’ve capitulated to a three year old and I say we’re finally making a push.

The second moment came as I was reading books to her. As she always does, other pursuits kept her interested and me occupied as the myth of the family spending quiet book sharing moments together will fracture irreparably. But I figure that enough is enough and want nothing more than to be discharged of sleep patrol. With every minute bringing fresh distractions I snap and books go flying as I storm out, having only gotten ten pages or so into the story. I don’t go back until she’s very nearly asleep but she whispers softly to me, eyes closed, “Sorry you got mad.”

If you read about new year resolutions and procrastinators you know that it comes down to just doing it, not talking about intending to start. Public resolutions are the worst because you keep them up in an attempt to avoid shame. Today is a story of two moments, and lessons learned as who I want to be wars with who I am.

Mike

Royal Moment

23 January 2010

Dear J-

Every so often I have occasion to flash back to the video of the mom dragging her kid out to the parking lot to administer a spanking, something that shocked the nation at the time (how could you do that in public, right?) but something that in retrospect seems almost tame compared to the other categories of folks-behaving-badly, sometimes on television, no less. I’m nearly at the point where if I have to do any kind of shopping it becomes a lot easier if figgy’s not around — the natural curiosity spells certain disaster for all fragile items, and we can’t convince her to move on to certain parts of the store if, say, every last bead and bauble has been untouched. And then there’s the running away in parking lots, the stubborn, protracted tantrums that every two year old is allowed to throw and it ends up being unpleasant for everyone.

Let’s say that I understand; I may even sympathize, but that video is not an example I’d follow, no matter how on-edge I become. Yet the lack of sleep leads to less patience; I find myself more willing to drag her around and less satisfied with the time we do have together. And it is precious little time, to be honest; the highlight of my day should not be the time spent alone in the car, or while she’s asleep, thoughts turning to how I could spend time on things I want to do. I keep returning to time because it’s all I spend lately; all I have to give and to ration it out in miserable little chunks begrudgingly doesn’t suit me.

The truth is out there, so they say, and we are — or should be, says I — judged on how we’ve spent our lives. Conventional notions of sin are rigidly absolute, but what measure can we use to understand how we’ve treated the ones we love? It’s in how fast the time flies by; it’s in every minute spent not looking at your watch and sighing about how late you are for nothing in particular. If walking in to work at 2 PM on a Saturday means that you’ve done something wrong, then worrying about getting there on time means that you’ve become something wrong as well. Whether it’s too fatalistic or not (can you cheat death, or was it just meant to be?) if you perceive the finite amount of time we all have and we realize we’re responsible for our own attitudes, then the choice becomes clear: everything is important, and you live like royalty, convinced that this moment has just as much potential as your finest.

Mike

Wings Outstretched

1 January 2010

Dear J-

We found ourselves amongst crowds today — strange, I thought, that we would spend the morning hiking and yet not alone, though I suppose that the appeal of Torrey Pines State Reserve on a sunny holiday is too much for anyone to resist. When we got there, we had to drive past crowds of pedestrians hiking thier way up from the lower parking lot. It’s enough to make you feel like the laziest slob in the world seeing folks grinding up the long winding hill — old folks, children, people starting off their resolutions (I’d be interested to see the crowds on 1 Feb in comparison, but my cynicism knows no bounds).

I keep trying to remember how to get her to walk on her own, but every fifty feet, it seemed, she was running around in front of one of us with arms up hoping to be picked up. I’d look with some envy at the other kids running around the Preserve, dashing away down the trails as free as the wind. At that point I realized how much I’d miss the ache in my arms that comes from carrying her everywhere. The new year marks time in a distinct, abrupt border, and the further along we go, the farther we are from her relying on us for everything. It’s double-edged, time’s pendulum cuts both ways.

Last night our neighbors set off fireworks at the stroke of midnight; we had already retired for the night and the flare lit up the window for an instant, lighting the room in stark monochromatic relief. I could not have asked for a clearer sign even though every moment is lost in the next: there is no difference between this second and the second before midnight, New Year’s Eve. What do we need to know about how the year will turn out? I used to read all the horoscopes and psychic predictions religiously (not only because it was the only reading materials in the store at times) in order to spoil the surprise, but I’m finding now the joy in the journey.

Mike

Repeated Themes

12 February 2009

Dear J-

Capture moments by stopping momentum; savor the time when and where you can.  We rush places because we’re convinced that there’s something better out there, but I’m not convinced — never convinced — that we don’t choose to leap prematurely.  Of course there’s also the dreaded paralysis of indecision that grips us when overwhelmed by choice; the open road, the next intersection, the nearest restaurant all pose indecipherable mysteries of their own.

Timing is key; once you’ve made the decision it’s a matter of waiting for the closest match, right?  Dithering about means, alternately, saving the time/money/effort versus the utility of what you end up with.  Call it cost/benefits if you must; it’s one thing to get a bargain and another thing entirely to correctly estimate the usefulness.  I keep believing that the right tool will unlock creativity when it’s a skill that’s nurtured through use, not crutches.

So where are we headed tonight?  More boondoggles?  My life is littered with well-intentioned projects ranging from the plastic models I got part way through or hurried to finish — and believe me, that’s a hobby that shows meticulousnes or lack thereof — to the proposed MythTV recording box that has yet to make it off paper.  I get older and questionably wiser, starting to recognize all the little tricks I like to play on myself to convince me into poor decisions.  Organizing life isn’t as easy as it seems, eh?

Mike

Aquarium Two

4 January 2009

Dear J-

flickr tells me that it’s been almost exactly six months since we were last at the Birch Aquarium (June 2008) and prior to that, eight months (October 2007), which implies that a yearly membership may not be financially justified (especially if they keep up these secret deals — first Sunday of the month free to Bank of America customers?).  Regardless of visit frequency, it’s less about the undersea wonders that await (I suspect that their old octopus must have gone to see the Great Cephalapod of the Sky, as the current resident of that tank is significantly smaller) than it is about photographic philosophy.

You see, when I took pictures six months ago, figgy was interested but not fascinated by the sea’s residents and animals in general, and the pictures bear it out — I’ve got photographs of fish and atmospheric lobster shots (okay, shot) but relatively few pictures of figgy, who spent most of the day in a stroller or strapped to my chest like some sort of two-headed beast out of Total RecallThis time, there are fewer fish shots — and virtually no shots sans people, in general.  I chalk part of it up to not knowing where we would end up prior to setting off, and thus neglecting to bring along a fast lens, but I ended up being glad I hadn’t — I’ll see the fish at other times, and they’ll still be fascinating.  But watching a twenty-month-old figgy laughing at how that silvery river swirls — that’s something that happens, well, once.

around-and-around-9680-sm

So the lens, for all the lenses I have access to (on the Nikon adapter, 15, 24, 35, 50, 55, 85, 105, 180, 300, 400, 600, 80~200, and 100~300mm; on the Leica R adapter, 35, 50, and 60 — it was no joke when I said most of my grad school stipend went up in glass costs), the lens that lives most often on the camera and the lens that consequently has borne the brunt of my photographic ambitions for the past sixty days or so, is an autofocus zoom lens, with no distinguishing characteristic (e.g. marketing-speak for special glass, motors, coatings, heritage, etc.) aside from a few aspherical surfaces:  the Zuiko Digital 11~22mm f/2.8~3.5, which roughly corresponds to being a 22~44mm angle of view on a regular 35mm film camera.  It’s what I had today; I found myself increasingly drawn to watching figgy’s reactions to the fish, rather than the fish themselves, and a (relatively) fast wide-angle proved perfect for that.  I still wish I had a bit more speed, but anything wider wouldn’t have the same spread in focal length, and thus wouldn’t be quite as useful for me.  And with that said, I find myself rarely venturing much wider than equivalent f=28mm, so … stay tuned.

Mike