Two geese and one coot

Today is the 332nd day of the year, and I know that because I’ve been keeping count. Now that we’re rounding the backstretch into the last month of the year, I’m happy to report that I’m still keeping up with the 365-day photo challenge that I’ve mentioned here and here and here. Even on days when I feel like there’s not much photogenic going on, I’ve been shooting and posting to Flickr at least one photo every day: a discipline that forces me to look for something interesting to capture today regardless of how many interesting photos I took yesterday, last week, or last month.

Head of the Charles regatta

When I first decided to take and post at least a photo a day throughout 2013, I knew it would be a photographic challenge: some days, after all, you don’t necessarily feel like taking pictures. What I didn’t know then, though, was how quickly the 365-day challenge would become a kind of spiritual practice. Taking photos, after all, is about noticing the things around you, and if there’s anything that Zen practice is about, it’s paying attention and noticing.

Raindrops on spider web

Beyond the practice of paying attention and capturing interesting shots, however, the 365-day challenge has turned into something of a visual gratitude journal. When I look at the assortment of pictures I’ve collected over the past 332 days, what I see is a collage where each image takes me back to where I was and what I was doing when I took it. Better than a scrapbook that holds mementos from just the good times, my 365-day photo set represents all sorts of moments from the past year: some happy, some ho-hum. Browsing the photos in my 365-day photo set is like seeing the past year flash before my eyes like they say happens right before you die, but without the “dying” part.

Gleaming golden

Many of the images in my 365-day photo set aren’t great photos, but they are significant to me because they remind me of moments I want to remember. Like a kind of bookmark, these images flag a specific time or place. Take, for instance, this iPod panorama shot from the set of The Daily Show in New York. Photographically, it’s not a great shot, but looking at it immediately reminds me of the hours J and I spent waiting in line for tickets, excited to be seeing in person a show we faithfully watch on TV.

Audience panorama

Not all the images in my 365-day photo set are happy ones. One of the most powerful photos in the set is a simple screen shot taken on a day when J and I didn’t stray far from our television. There’s no need for me to repeat the story of what happened on Lockdown Friday: a single photo I took of the corner of our TV screen embodies all the tension of that day.

Manhunt

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’d say that’s about right. It would take more than 332,000 words to recount all that has happened–happy, ho-hum, and historic–this past year. That’s why having a visual scrapbook of the year is such an amazing thing.

This is my Day 28 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.