10 May 2012

the gifts


About This Photo
Aperture: f/1.4
Exposure: 1/30
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 400
Lens: 50mm f/1.4

I'm such bokeh a junkie it's ridiculous (for non-photog types, "bokeh" is the dreamy, creamy blurriness in the photo) . Bokeh doesn't work for everything, but dried roses encased in glass? Yes, please!

Normally (at least in the English language), we tell a story going from left to right. It wasn't until after I took this photo that I recognized the connection between the book on the right and the dried roses that stand out on the left side of the photo. The story of this photo is told from right to left.

Please allow me to explain.

On 18 September 2010, I gave birth to a beautiful boy named Ewan, our first child. We found out at a routine 20-week ultrasound that he had a serious and life-threatening heart defect. We stood by him and fought for his life alongside him until, at just barely 16 days old, he died in my arms. There are a lot of words I could use to describe what that felt like in the days, weeks, and months that followed. Devastated. Grieved. Many times, I felt like I could die myself. It felt wrong somehow to be able to survive a loss of that gravity.

Before I returned to work from my leave after his birth and his death, I wanted to take a trip. We had some free travel vouchers from a previous trip where we had agreed to take a flight that was 2 hours later than the one on which we were booked. We used them to spend a week with friends in Nashville, and then another week with friends in Orlando.

Our Orlando friends planned a special surprise trip for us -- a sunny beach getaway on the isle of Captiva. My friend gave me a copy of this book, A Gift From the Sea. It's about being a Christian and a woman and a mother and the work those things do on your soul. She uses seashells as metaphors for this life of woman, wife, mother. It was that book that accompanied me to that island, to that place where for the first time since my son had died, that I came back from the dead myself.

And the roses? The roses were given to me by our midwife upon the birth of our daughter, Ewan's little sister. Austen is no replacement for Ewan -- she has value in and of herself. But her birth redeemed so much of what I suffered throughout my pregnancy with Ewan and the loss that came after. I never had to hand Austen over to hands wearing sterile gloves, I never had to pace hard tile floors while waiting on surgeons. She was born at home, into my arms and is alive and healthy.

So I look at this and I see pain and loss and death and beauty and redemption and healing. This photo speaks all of that -- and so much more -- to me.

* * *

Lessons Learned or Affirmed:

  • In still shots like this one where you are setting things up, it pays to take my time and some extra thought setting it up, and to try a number of different arrangements -- even ones I don't think will work. The personal meaning and connection in this photo didn't strike me until after I had taken it and if it had, I might have set it up differently.

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