Please let me down!”
“Not until you say my favourite colour!”
What a crazy Easter. Nefoo #3 turned two on the 27th, and Nefoo #1 turned a whooping seven on the 29th. My parents and I went to my brother and sister-in-law’s place to celebrate Cubbie, Rex, and Jesus. It was a noisy, barbaric, wonderful time. Of course I had my camera with me.
I’m coming to discover that, regardless of the quality and technique of my photographs, photography itself brings me a lot of joy and catharsis. It’s forcing me to create metaphors visually (which are all of course brilliant in my head, but in the real world…)
Learning to take time to compose a shot, choose my settings, and set up my tripod are spiritual disciplines. I’m constantly looking for short cuts though. I want a polished final product without the frustration of engaging technological swamps that I don’t understand. Yet when I force myself to take that time… to see my slow process of creation as holy… to love the mundane steps… I become more centred and settled. It’s a beautiful form of transformation I can feel taking shape within me. And, while I’ll never be Anselm Adams, working hard at visual stories has become a part of my story.
And I love that.
I want my little nefoos to love that. They may not understand why Auntie Erin constantly snaps pictures of them other than “Auntie wants to be a photographer”; but I want them to learn that pursuing a difficult hobby can help create who we are. Whether Cubbie actually becomes a “mountain photographer” or not (as he claimed he would this past winter) doesn’t matter. The point is showing by example the ways we can connect with God and others through creation, imagination, and fascination is holy. It’s sacred. It’s an act of deep love.
After our Easter/birthday(s) lunch, little Rex went down for a nap. Pleased for an opportunity to spend time with Cubbie and Dodger (my 4 year old nefoo), I escorted them on their bikes to the park. We were outside, breathing fresh air, laughing — it’s always a precious time for me when I can take these boys out to play.
I wanted to capture the moments.
I wanted to practice my techniques and lessons.
I wanted to enter into that holy space that has become so precious to me.
But I had to check my settings; I had to double-check my battery; I had to remind the boys that they didn’t HAVE TO smile for the camera; and it seemed like there built up a million details before I felt confident to start taking pictures. In between all of this the boys were pulling at me to come play with them. Dodger wanted under-ducks on the swing, and Cubbie wanted to show me how he was big enough to swing across the monkey bars now.
But… my camera.
I held in my hands a tool that has helped me control anxiety, express stories, and tap into some difficult creativity. But I heard in my ears the voices of my nefoos who didn’t want my camera.
They wanted me.
I’m all for being centred. I’m all for people finding things they are passionate about, especially if those things draw us closer to God and one another. I’m all for people helping advocate for themselves with their friends and families as they take halting steps into painting, or wood turning, or sculpture, or book writing, or going to the moon.
But seven-year olds are only seven for a second.
In our bids to be so in the moment — and capture those moments — we sometimes get into a habit of missing the moments altogether. Cubbie was perched high in the air on the teeter-totter, crowing at me “Mrs.Brown, Mrs.Brown, please let me down!”
Seeing as I was the only one heavy enough to sit on the other end to keep him in the air, I was squatting on the other end with my camera pointed upwards. And I was grabbing some great shots! It felt good. They weren’t photo journal worthy or anything. But for me at my level, I was feeling accomplished at their quality.
Photography, time with my nefoos — what could be better?
But seven year olds are only seven for a second.
It was time to put the camera down.
Part of learning a spiritual discipline is to know how large the centre really is. Sometimes I focus on my task that draws me into the presence of God. But discernment and wisdom whispers that, especially in the lives of children, some moments need to be fully experienced.
There will be plenty of moments to capture with Gilmore (my Nikon D300). But those brand new adult front teeth will only be that size for a teeny tiny time. Cubbie will only call out “Mrs.Brown, Mrs.Brown, please let me down!” for a couple of years. Dodger will only slip his tiny hand into mine willingly for the span of a breath.
These moments, too, draw us into the sacred and holy. Learning when to put the camera down, even if it’s a thing that supports my growing spirituality, is a season of growth all its own. There are little lives begging me to play with them first.
And while the D300 will still be a D300 in a year or ten years, the seven year old will only be a seven year old for a second.
And I want to experience that entire second for all it’s worth.
And it’s worth the universe.