Through a Different Lens

My fingers hover above the shutter of my fire engine red point and shoot camera, a Christmas present from my parents.  The dog pulls at her leash, ready to go home. But I am not done yet. The camera’s screen becomes like a second eye, and with every click, I see the sunset anew. Whirls of color paint the sky, changing from a brilliant coral to the stately purple of a lupus flower, and finally to a soft dove grey, the color of a child’s bedroom during an afternoon nap.  But with each change, fading versions of the former color remain, layering over one another to create a quilt of hues.   The twilight is emboldening velvety  and adventurous. The dog pulls me the last block to our house, and I relent, opening the door for her. But I don’t even go inside—I have much

more to see.  Our quiet country neighborhood is suddenly  an unexplored world.   Minus my partner in crime, I stride back out, alone.

I take more pictures of the sky, and more. From every possible angle, I snap the faded pinks and purples. Then I take pictures of the moon, zooming in as far as my camera will go to try to see the craters and bumps, the fascinating imperfections, appear on the screen. I walk up a few blocks to where I know the view is best and try to take pictures of San Francisco, the twinkling lights a reminder that the wine country is not so isolated an oasis. When the dreaded “Low Battery” message appears on the camera’s screen, I switch immediately to my iPhone. The pictures are grainier and not nearly as good, but the feeling of freedom and discovery remains. I don’t see another soul in my wandering around the neighborhood—I see lights, hear laughter sometimes, but no one is out but me. It feels like all of beautiful Sonoma is my own personal paradise.

As a writer, I am constantly choosing words, adding, subtracting—especially as a poet, where every syllable matters. It can be a painful process.  Sometimes, creating exhausts me. I stare at my blank Word screen and sigh, close my laptop and read a book. Other times my mind cannot handle all the possible stories and scenes  that crowd through it.  I occasionally wish that I was not born with words pulsing through me. Sometimes I wish I had another art.

But tonight, I am not trying to be a writer. Seeds of poems appear in my mind, but I push them out—that is for later. Now is for playing with images.   I don’t have to make the picture, only to take it. I don’t have to worry about word choice, or rhythm or arc or argument. I’m sure a professional photographer would have  hard decisions to make like I do with my writing—but I am not a professional photographer, just a girl standing in the street, the click of a shutter in her ears.  It is meditative, even primal.

When I walk back in the door, the dog sniffs at my leg, smelling fresh summer night on my skin. I smile at her, pat her head, set down the dead camera on the table. And then I sit down and open my computer. I am desperate to get a fresh word document to open. My fingers begin to fly across the keys.  Despite the peace, the quiet focus of taking photos, in my heart I am a writer. I can’t help myself—words are my lens.  I look out into the now-inky night, and I want to write it all down.


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