Incomplete: The Absent Hour


Today is missing an hour.

We’ve sprung ahead. With my phone’s camera I captured sunrise on this deficient day. It featured an almost fully saturated sky, with just a flickering sliver of pure white light at the far left.

My husband Jim’s camera equipment occupies the drawers of an antique pine chest which has wended its way to me from my mother’s childhood home on Cape Cod. The four deep drawers have slatted bottoms which do not fit completely together, sharp triangular slivers affording a peek at what lies beneath.

I don’t know what the lenses do. I am flummoxed by whether any of the random chargers attaches to any of the photographic gizmos in those drawers, which still hold a hint of musty salted air. I don’t even know if all these bits and pieces, these cool black matte metal cylinders and scored metal gadgets, necessarily even belong to his cameras, but I hoped one of our children–versed by her father in the art and heart of photography–would want to use them someday.

Jim loved photography. On my very last walk-through before moving from the home he loved, the last thing I found, face down in the attic under tons of familial flotsam that had been packed away, was a black and white print he had developed of a boardwalk meandering through a Massachusetts marsh to an unseen point in the distance in a place called Land’s End.

One of my daughters is on spring break.  It warmed my heart when she first began to pick up a camera again after her father was no longer there to pick up his and accompany her outside.

This time she began going through the chest drawers in search of a tripod.  She found assorted pieces of no fewer than three different tripods, but all her engineering permutations still yielded one small missing piece: a single rectangular fixture, likely lined in cork, needed to screw atop the legs and hold her camera steady.

Without it, I imagine the camera shudders just a bit, the way I do at physical therapy as I stand on my compromised leg, wavering like a graceless flamingo, trying to build back my muscle strength and undo the damage wrought by my sudden break.  My leg will heal, but there will always be a tiny gap where the bones fractured and never again will be joined as one.  With dedicated work on strengthening all that surrounds the fissure, the weakness may lie dormant, revealing itself only in rare and unpredictable faltering.

“A false move here, a stumble there
A box of letters and a lock of hair
That’s all that’s left when I turn out the light
I count the missing pieces every night.”

~  John Hiatt 

Almost five years  after Jim died, everything–down to its innermost parts–remains, to a varying degree, incomplete.






Seacoast State of Mind


Stephanie’s Plum Island,* Massachusetts (*nod to Janet Evanovich)


It began with Encyclopedia Brown and Judy Bolton.  An obligatory Agatha Christie phase ensued.  Then it was on to Sam Spade, Adam Dagliesh, Perry Mason, Lew Archer, Philip Marlowe, Sherlock Holmes . . . and a career in criminal law.

I’ve always been a fan of clues.

Here late afternoon sunlight’s slant reveals the scene’s compass.

The season is settled by seagrasses rendered in gold-kissed rust.

A hint of the frigid air temperature may be gleaned from their blades’ unkempt sweep, against stolid pine fence posts–and from the emptiness.  My photographs once were almost exclusively of my growing family; now they are rarely inhabited by people.

The general location can be discerned by anyone with knowledge of the New England coastline.

Is it as easy to read a photograph not as a scene but as a state of mind?  I believe the photographs we take not only mirror our moods but capture layers of memory and contain clues to our subconscious hopes.

The last time I had stood in the spot where this photograph was taken was on a Sunday morning almost two decades ago.  It had been almost as cold that day: we had taken our four small children to Newburyport.  Three were wearing sweaters hand-knit by their grandmother; the baby girl who was then too young to walk–but could wave her wee arms to the beat and mimic from her car seat the lyrics and tones of “I Wanna to be Sedated“–and is now about to exit her teenage years was snapped neck-to-toe in a soft dinosaur print handed down from a brother.

One of her brothers balanced her on his lap as my husband, no doubt with a camera in his backpack, trundled the family off to the same boardwalk path where I now stood alone.

One of those children is about to celebrate her birthday far away from me at a university where she studies computer engineering–and still sings and dances.  Another daughter is across the world on a research grant. My sons have degrees in math, physics, and mechanical engineering.  The nest truly has emptied.

My husband died almost five years ago. He stopped taking pictures only weeks before that.

Colorful skies beckon and the boardwalk leads me alone to an uncertain place, bathed in gold.






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Grief can drastically pare down places one’s “Happy Places.” It also can prompt one to venture out and find new ones.

This sometimes unwitting search almost always leads me outdoors, to sunrises and sunsets, up mountains and down to the sea.  

It makes me pause to catch a creature’s movement at my periphery and the way the sun illuminates a leaf or petal–or even a piece of seaweed.  I linger in deep greens and blues, in vivid bright colors, in an orange moon surrounded by black or a sparkling pure white snowy vista.

Sometimes these wonders coalesce, and I take out my camera to capture and carry that place and space. 

Angling for Answers

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If you buzz regularly by my blog you may have noticed my proclivity for ridiculous angling in attempting to get photographs of ephemera that catches my fancy.

I teeter in heels up snow-covered rocks to catch sunset.  I wriggle in less than pristine spring dirt to point my lens up at a blase butterfly.  Just last night I swayed on a rapidly disappearing rock jetty as the tide crashed in and seagulls screamed and swooped at me. It was like a scene out of The Birds, but I got my shot.


An unusual angle on a familiar scene can tell a story, and give hints about the events and moods behind it.

My children and I recently attended their sister’s commencement and related festivities. Thousands upon thousands of people were on hand snapping pictures on cameras and tablets and phones–in so far as black and orange umbrellas could shield the electronics.

I’ve picked out some different angles on the celebration: the view from inside my rain poncho at commencement, some of my progeny to my right as they clapped for an award recipient in my daughter’s department, and the steel paw of her school’s mascot.

I paused there in front of a sculpture my husband had never seen, on a campus where so much and so many had been added since the last time he set eyes upon it, and added my own salt tears to the mix, wishing he could have lived to see this, every part of this, the steam punk paw, our astoundingly accomplished daughter and her supportive sister and brothers, the never-ending rain.

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