How many times have you heard the advice to save something for a rainy day? Over these past few years of posting pictures, I’ve learned this advice applies to photo-blogging as well. Today is a gray and rainy day in Keene, but because Tuesday was sunny and I snapped pictures to spare, I can show you some random images from an afternoon walk around town.
Most of the time, I have no idea why a particular scene catches my eye. In the case of my favorite abandoned factory on Water Street, I’ve looked at and photographed it so many times, I harken to any sign of change or damage. This building’s old brick smokestack has been gradually deteriorating for the several years I’ve been watching it…and in Tuesday’s sunshine, it looked like a fist had punched from the inside, buckling bricks in a particularly alarming way. Some days, that’s enough to merit a camera-snap: here’s something that looks different, a sign of change within the otherwise plane, same Jane.
The interesting thing about looking is it gradually leads you to feel at home nearly anywhere: this isn’t my front porch, but I’ve passed it so many times and smiled at the hospitable juxtaposition of vase-topped table, sunlit chairs, and watch-your-step “Caution” sign, it feels a bit like home. I suppose only a snoop would snap a picture of someone else’s porch…but when that porch shows such kindly attention to both comfort and care, who but the most hurried passerby could resist?
At times it feels like my habit of carrying a camera everywhere and snapping pictures of doors, cornices, and corners borders on unhealthy obsession: surely there are better uses of my time than this. But when I stop to consider what else I might do with my energy, attention, or re-chargeable camera batteries, I come up blank. Since both my daily life and my dog require that I walk these streets anyway, why not pay attention? Normal folks, I guess, can pay attention with naked eyes alone, but I need a crutch to help me see. Like a forgetful person who’s learned to make note of things she needs to remember, I’ve come to rely upon a camera to help me not simply see, but notice. Surely many people hurry past that abandoned factory or this cozy front porch, but how many of them notice (or remember) that it’s there? But now that you’ve seen this record of my noticing, will you ever forget? If you find yourself walking on Water Street in Keene, NH, wouldn’t you perk to attention to see not a familiar face, but a facade that triggers a photographic memory?
Time is fleeting, and the sun perpetually setting. Thoreau advised we read not the Times, but the Eternities. Along the Main Street of the town where his own mother was born, Thoreau today would find much to notice as Eternity repeats her incessant litany of day and night, sun and rain. Thoreau himself “never assisted the sun materially in his rising,” but he insisted “it was of the last importance only to be present at it.” Here in Keene, I’ve never encountered the ghost of Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau much less that of her famous son…but each day that the sun rises, I see the shadows of the present moment as it passes to its own eventual oblivion.
Whether sun shines or rain falls, the present moment is precious, one-of-a-kind, and priceless. If you can’t hold on to the Times, at least notice each passing Eternity, storing up a stockpile of remembered moments for your own inevitable rainy day.