We work in flickers and flashes. Fractions of seconds. We do this to freeze moments in time, emotion and people and place static forever, one sliver of time apiece.
You see, I’m a writer. I don’t just mean placing words on a screen or scribbling them lovingly on paper. I do those things, too, but I also believe writers are built differently. We aren’t quite right. There is an additional world we experience, the one in our heads, and these words that spill out are us desperately trying to build a window so all of the world can see it.
These images are windows, too, though they need the story to go with them. I am not a photographer. I take pictures. This picture is one where I was in the midst of falling apart. This can happen when the world you’re experiencing in your head is torn asunder. It just goes bad, and you fight the maelstrom not to be lost with it.
This is my favourite place in the world, the real one, the one we can all touch. It is an anchor for me. It is my church. The feeling at dusk is one unlike the day, though. At dusk, people go away. When I lived in the suburbs, it would be house after house, window after window, all with a flickering blue glow. Not in fractions of seconds. A steady stream. I have to turn away from it.
My favourite place is instead a collection of fractions, of fragments. The ripple of water, the warmth of the sun, working its way up the rainbow before falling away. Each colour seems to create these distant kingdoms, places of light, something we could reach only if we could get there. I want to try to capture them all, to carry them all with me, these moments. These are the ones we don’t simply endure, work through. These are the ones we bask in.
They heal that other world I have.
There are two companions with me in this picture. The first is my radio, a shortwave companion, one that pulls in signals less ordinary, ones that those in those houses, behind those windows, have left behind. Here I can listen to Taiwan, Russia, the Netherlands, or Maine. Or a million more. There are mysteries here. They are more floating kingdoms.
The other is my partner in life, who I have now spent more than half my life with. She understands why I need this place, why I need space, why I struggle in large crowds. I love her, and she understands when my love has wandered to others. She forgives my faults. She watches my struggles and comforts. She sees me work through the colours, and tries to make sure I don’t fall away.
This is one moment. It could be 9.24pm anywhere. And there are billions of stories to tell of this moment. The somber, excruciating, exhilarating beauty of our pictures is that we can only grab a few angles of a few of these stories, and yet even here we see how beautiful they are.
You see, I’m a writer. And I survive by having the person and the place come together, the story told at the right moment, a chance to peer out my little window while a few others can see in. As I place these words, I know they cannot be enough. They’re only a few angles of a few moments. And I will forever chase the horizon to try to get my words to do what this picture does, put everything right in two worlds at once.