At Robby's Game

The writing of this blog post tonight has been quite a journey. This is actually the last part of the writing, but since its most related to the photograph, I’m putting it here.

This evening I received a message from an old babysitter who writes a blog about her life as a stay-at-home mom to one little boy (so far!). She mentions in her blog, that she first started babysitting when Charlotte, now home from college for spring break, was two years old. She asked if she could quote my blog in hers. I was honored and flattered. I am also delighted to see the ease with which manages her role. I hope that more young women who have chosen this will find this ease, and I sincerely hope, even more, that they will never answer the question “What do you do?” with the statement, “I’m JUST a stay-at-home mom.”In Sarah’s blog , she mentions having made this statement. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I felt suddenly protective and thought, “who would dare to ask that question of her?” An interesting reaction… I wonder why I never considered answering the question myself with such ferocity!

Flash back in time 3 hours … I am sitting with my two writing friends. I brought my book, “Room to Write”. We opened it randomly to an exercise of writing free associations on the topic of weddings and vows, things we are married to besides spouses. Actual weddings and vows are not outlawed, but also not the emphasis of this exercise.

Warning: What follows is essentially a free write based on this exercise. I will not claim any of it as reflective of my views on the topic on any kind of permanent basis. It is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, no?

This is a test of the emergency broadcasting system.

Does anyone actually know what I think about weddings and vows? My daughter has actually said that she never wants to get married and have children. Its such a plunge. Being wedded to anything is a plunge. Its a radical dive into the unknown. How can anyone know what will lie on the other side of any commitment. How many people, when they stumble upon what it is that calls them in life are terrified? How many want to declare that calling to the world? What will I say? Will I be supported, or will “they” look down their noses and give me that look that really says, “What the hell are you thinking?”. And then what?

I can feel the fear as I write this. That’s a fear that I was sure I’d banished to some far corner of the Universe. I’ve never wanted to say what it was I loved, who I loved, or what I wanted to do. It would surely be judged and found wanting in some way. Today things are no different except that I am braver in certain areas. I am more willing to be visible and speak the truth that lies deep in my soul. Its no less scary and I have to give myself lots of pep talks, but I know that there are parts of me that have been in hiding for long enough, and its time to let them out.

A few years ago, a certain image recurred to me daily. Not only a visual companion, it was a raw feeling that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. I felt like a wild animal that had recently been let out of its cage had possessed my heart and mind. I wanted to go, to run, to fly. I spent that summer running to the mountains as often as I could; climbing, hiking, and camping under the stars. At the end of September I counted almost as many nights in my sleeping bag as in a bed.

I can still go back to that sensation. Its akin to the feeling I have driving to the mountains by myself to ski all day until I’m so tired I have no choice but to quit. I think its a part of me that will always be there, but that one summer, once released, it had so much stored energy that I could only ride the wave and follow where it took me.

To what did I make those unwritten and unacknowledged vows? I clearly made them to some unknown force. It can get me out of bed early on a day I want to sleep. It feeds my soul with an energy foreign to my daily routine. If I could travel to the depths of my being, would it tell me the secret? To whom do I owe this allegiance that has tugged at me through all these years of being home with babies such that finally, given a moment of inattention, it hijacks the practical part of me that I so carefully crafted, the part of me that keeps my family safe and happy.

Suddenly there’s a force that has to be reckoned with like the evil fairy in the Rapunzel story who comes to claim her due at the birth of the child. Did I make some bargain that had a time frame? The summer of the wild animal, uncaged, I could hold off that force no longer.

I still feel that urgency with regards to the mountains and the wild calls of nature, but I’ve appeased the demon with promises that I will no longer neglect that part of my life which restores and rejuvenates me unlike other places I go.

I can do other things again… I don’t run constantly now. Doing all that running is part of what has contributed to the fatigue I’ve recently been working with, so now there are other callings that are asking their due.

I’ve written here before about the exercise I sometimes do from “Writing Down the Bones”, in which I write for pages about why I write. Its the same thing. There’s a contract with the writing that I don’t yet understand. This is all practice for something that as yet hasn’t appeared but that is anxious to be written. Some poem or story lies buried, waiting for me to make the vows that would release it into words.

I remember the moment I said “I do” to my camera. I plunked down a big chunk of cash for a lens that I knew was mine but I hadn’t had the courage to buy yet. It was a little more concrete. The fact that money was required forced me to commit in a different way. My heart was there. My mind needed convincing, yet I know, when I raise my lens and focus it, the world and all of its worries disappears. I can see in a way that I only see when the black box covering my face blocks the distractions and reveals the mysteries the frame contains.

I say that I want to write and photograph for the rest of my life.  What is my willingness really to commit to these vows? How do I know that there are not other fairies hiding deep inside my psyche to whom I owe debts as yet unrevealed?

As I read these last lines, a couple hours after writing them, my questioning tone is answered by a Goethe quote that comes from memory:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.”

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