Within the ever-enduring half-life of grief–the Carbon 14, if you will, of dubious metaphorical chemistry–I remain in the stage in which the word “beyond” immediately prompts thoughts of “beyond the door,” “beyond the veil,” the unimaginable “great beyond” that I subconsciously seek out every day as I click away at the sky.
Photographs can beckon us to other intriguing, magical places both in and out-of-the frame–places where my children and I still can go, so long as I can summon the courage to venture out there in the world without Jim.
He always would urge me to go away with him and our children, to get outside, to have adventures–whether a kid-friendly day hike in the White Mountains or a dive from on top of a two-story boat into shark-rich teal water on the equator.
Go beyond what you’ve experienced. Trade it in for door number three (even if you’ve already picked door number two, to return to metaphorical mathematics). He would not use those words, but that was his nature.
I might be blearily heading for the coffee. Some of our children might be scattered on couches and floors, their energy sapped from a week at work and play. Some still might be asleep. Jim would already have a series of illegible checklists made up for his day’s tasks, and would be raring to get out of the house once everyone was up and had received some sustenance. No excuses.
“Let’s go,” he would say.
Jim was a man of few words.
The photographs Jim left behind continue to beckon me beyond my zone of comfort and to places I’ve never been. He would draw me in with the details: spiders guarding their webs, bright flowers, howler monkeys.
Then he would step back, zoom out, as he did with the active volcano above, from a trip in which he wished I were there: his first shot was through a gray fog, like a hazy shot of our planet from elsewhere. He would capture surrounding geological details and plant life. He always included the bigger picture, in this instance broadening the photo field to show man-made structures which house people with a cultural life I’ve never experienced, who speak a language I do not speak (though Jim learned it before he took this trip; he never considered it pointless to learn something new).
On every level, those pictures ask me to go beyond the beauty of the instants he captured and think about what I might see and learn outside the frames.
My elder daughter, like Jim, both craves a home of her own and to be elsewhere–far, far away, living among people in India, Germany, Spain, Russia, and wherever her next great academic adventure takes her. She has host families scattered around the globe, complete with a German brother and sister and an extra Russian grandmother.
Both my daughters are exceptional photographers, and have mastered the Art of the Beyond through this picture-taking art. Both learned at least part of their craft from their dad.
My daughters’ photographs, too, beckon me not only visually beyond what I could have imagined, but also to explore other ways of thinking and believing and being among fellow human beings and other creatures.
I will never tire of searching the extraordinary faces and light and color in photographs my children have taken around the world, and wondering what the people in these places are thinking and how they look at this world.
I will try not to lose sight of Jim’s lesson of going beyond, without fear.