Musings on language, images and life

Month: August, 2010


I bought a fancy dancy new camera few weeks ago. It was something I really wanted for my company and myself, but I hemmed and hawed about the actual purchase for several months. I spent way too long thinking up different ways to justify the large expense (“I can write it off!” “It’s an investment.”) and lusting over different models online and at National Camera Exchange, but it took me a while to “press the shutter button” (as it were).

When I got it home, I didn’t quite know what do to. I skimmed the first few pages of the instruction manual, ate dinner staring at the sealed camera box, and then finally took both camera and lens out of their respective containers and connected them. At the risk of sounding melodramatic (or hyper-chromatic), my vision has not been the same since. Before I purchased my camera, I assumed that it would compliment my writing in a very clear-cut, fiscally advantageous kind of way (mostly travel photos to go along with my travel writing and iPhone app projects). I had no idea that my newfound love of photography would open up a whole “canister” of philosophical musings.


It’s a word we hear and use often, especially when trying to come to grips with or better understand a particular situation. While physically playing with perspective during my photo sessions, I’ve begun to meditate on perspective in the larger, more abstract sense of the term. As I position myself so that x object lines up better with x backdrop, I think about how events in my past can be better understood when examined from a different angle and perhaps juxtaposed with current events. When I swap out my telephoto lens for my fisheye, I realize that sometimes a different, “atypical” lens is needed in order to capture the unique beauty of a scene. As I crouch down and contort my shoulders to get the “perfect” shot, I am acutely aware of how uncomfortable the process of gaining perspective can be. As I edit my photos at the comfort of my laptop, I reflect on how various situations I’ve experienced seem to make so much more sense after I take a step back and play with their details or over/under expose them. When I crop a boring image to make it more interesting, I realize that perspective can lie while simultaneously revealing deeper truths.

I am confident that, along with my photography, my views on life will become more refined over time. In the meantime, I’ll just keep practicing.


The Feeling

10 years ago I was living in the south of France, supposedly teaching English. One late afternoon, I was hiking around outside my new digs and came across a large hill. I started walking up it, and that walk soon became a run. When I reached the top, huffing and puffing, I looked down the other side of the hill and gazed upon an expanse of grapevines beneath a setting sun. I inhaled deeply, spread my arms, spun around and laughed. Despite the fact that my employment and living situations were dubious, and that I knew no one anywhere near the small town of Gassin, I was overcome by a feeling. The feeling.

For years (well, 10 of them now) I’ve tried to put the feeling into words… hope, happiness, love, delight, trust. None of these words quite grasp it. Stick all of them together in a lexical blender and perhaps I’d find it (but no portmanteaus, please). For several years after the “vineyard event” I chalked the feeling up to being the byproduct of twenty-one-year-old Euro-obsessed naiveté. I would still think that today if I hadn’t experienced the feeling several times since then. I think I’m stuck with it…and I’m more than OK with that.

The feeling often hits me during a time in my life when many things are uncertain and at least one thing is drastically wrong (to my mind, at least). An acutely beautiful event (not necessarily as “spectacular” as a sunset over a vineyard, perhaps more quotidian) triggers the feeling and elevates my mind and soul to a place of clarity. For a split second, I feel more connected, more alive and stronger…and I am thankful for it.


I stood in a parking lot talking to my sister for nearly an hour last night. It was, without a doubt, the best hour I’ve spent this week. Although I would say we are close, long conversations like this are few and far between. We are close in the “we both think this is hilarious because of something that happened 15 years ago that only you and I remember” kind of way, or in the “I’m hurting because you’re hurting or I’m thrilled because you’re thrilled and I know you know that” kind of way.

We love each other. We drive each other nuts. We are quick to roll our eyes at one another’s comments, but even quicker to lend a listening ear or offer support when the other needs it most. To an outside observer, we couldn’t be more different from one another (except for the fact that we have the same voice). However, there are more fundamental similarities between us that I can count.

We lived far from each other for a span of 7 years, rarely crossing paths as we bounced between France, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Northfield, L.A., New Zealand before finally landing — both of us (well, all 3 of us, Annie finally got a brother) — in Minnetonka in 2007. During these 7 years apart, we both went through some of the most trying experiences of our lives thus far. We found ourselves in dysfunctional situations (relationships, work situations, etc.). We dealt with them in our own ways, sometimes on our own. We discovered, we learned. We changed. At times I forget how much she grew during the time we spent away from one another. Last night was another reminder of that.

As she recounted how she had recently handled what can only be described as a craptastic interpersonal situation, I stood in awe. The clarity with which she presented her ideas — the way she combined emotional honesty with rational analysis and generosity with self-respect — bespoke a wisdom beyond her years. I only have one word for how I felt as I drove home last night: proud.