lessons on letting go
expired fuji velvia slide film. blackbird, fly.
the camera jammed.
i had set a goal for myself, to get outside of my comfort zone, i’d shoot an entire roll of expired film all in one photowalk, a span of 3 hours. the camera jammed as i was 3/4 of my way through it. i had really been having fun too.
in that moment of no advance, no rewind, no nothing… i clung to the idea that i couldn’t really remember what i had been shooting. but i wanted it. whatever it was. even if it was crap. i wanted to see it more than anything. images take on a life of their own. it’s something to notice while viewing, and then the click of the shutter locks in a memory forever. i wanted those memories.
she doesn’t sound like herself. she sounds small and faraway. she’s leaving us bit by bit. the stronger we cling the faster she slips. it’s as if her soul is letting go of her body with each seizure. with each broken bone. with each limp. with each agitation and upset.
i hyperventilate upon hanging up. while driving, her small childlike voice parrots back to me “i love you” and then silence. i no longer think i can’t wait to see her this summer, as my thoughts race with green lights i am thinking, please please just hold out for me. i hope she lives til summer.
a walk by the river so blue in reflection. the rust that comes with small texas towns. i want these memories before they leave me alone in the heat. i want the remembering. the kneeling down with fairies in someone’s sideyard to catch the sun on these wildflowers. the wind. i want to remember the wind and me trying to tame it.
i brought my plastic lens to the camera shop explaining my theory that part of the film was wound into the canister and the rest remained wrapped tightly around the plastic spool. he donned gloves and after asking “how do you open this thing?” he took it into the darkroom. the film had broken in several pieces.
when i went to retrieve the negatives (or positives since it’s slide film) later i was given a four inch strip of film from what had been rewound into the canister. “where’s the rest of it?” she looked at me like i was crazy. “it was broken. parts of it were in my camera and parts of it were in the canister” i left there empty handed being chased by her misunderstanding glares of my repetitive request. “the film was broken off and stuck in the body of my camera” she didn’t seem to care. “do you have your camera?” yes, that’s not the point. you have my film.
it was lost.
i say things like “when you’re 97…” to remind him that he’s going to get through this. “when you’re 97 i’ll be 60. and you’ll still be tinkering with your lamps and i’ll have to come over and find all the misplaced pieces for you.”
he laughs but he doesn’t believe me.
i say things like this to remind us both that we will get through this, as uncertain as it seems now. to talk about this depressing place, it’s hard for him to think of being alone for another 20 years.
for nearly a week, bits and pieces of my expired, tired, moody, and broken film floated around the darkroom of my favorite camera shop. lost without a name. unmarked canister. broken and abandoned. i just couldn’t shake the thought that i left my babies there unattended. even if they were all exposed and ruined, nothing but blank strips of film. i wanted them back. certainly by now they would have surfaced.
this time he knew exactly what i was talking about. “that must be the unmarked canister that’s been floating around all week!” two days later he handed me an uncut strip of memories curled sweetly in a box. a smile escaped my lips as i saw the wildflowers, all the things i had forgotten i had seen. all right there in some badly damaged film that i love so dearly.