“…[T]he point of writing is connection, stimulation, the creation of a quiet country where writer and reader can stand together for a moment in amazement and awe...an attempt to drape words on thoughts and emotions mostly too vast for words…” (Doyle, xi)*
My “writing” takes the form of photographs. I pick up my camera many times a day, each day that the Center is open. I completely enjoy doing this – it is my way of recording what life is like on a daily basis with the amazing kids and adults I share my life with each day. It is my way of documenting some of the myriad thoughts and emotions at play here. There are some drawbacks to this method, of course – the voices and songs and tones aren’t captured on paper, but nonetheless, the flavor of our lives together comes through even in this one-dimensional form.
The vast majority of the photos I take are not posed – in fact much of the time kids are not aware that I am using my camera. I am asked on occasion to come and take a picture of some specific activity or fabulous construction of blocks or Lego or snow, which I happily do. But most often my photos are of what catches my eye during the day, inside or outside. For me, the question “what did you do today?” becomes easy to answer when I look through the day’s shots – card games, bananagrams, Latin class, minecraft, music making, apple peeling, algebra, four square, more music making, soccer, conversations serious and hilarious, Frisbee-golf, reading, dancing, skateboarding, and always creations with paper and tape, marker and pencil.
At the end of each week, I sort through all the images of the past five days, pick out the ones I like best, print them, and make pages which go into the book for the current month. I have done this since the first week that Macomber Center was open, and we are now moving into the seventh week of our fourth year as a community. One book for every month. We have a history – we have a distinct beginning place, and where we are now looks different and the same all at once. We have over time arranged our physical space to reflect our needs, and the photo books capture the changes that happened as we grew into greater awareness of our paths and goals for the Center.
Always, always, of course, the focal point of this work is the kids – the incredible beings who populate our daily world. And what has become clear to me about this project is how elucidating this sort of visual record can be for kids. Often times one of my picks for the week’s book will capture a child, sometimes very young, sometimes a teenager, sometimes solitary, often in a group, pouring over the images of the week just past – or long gone by (all the books are kept at the Center). This is their history, this is their memory, this is their Center past, and I think it strengthens the feeling that this is their community, which was our primary reason for coming into existence.
Concepts expressed by “remember when…” or“when I was little…” (a sentence which never fails to make me smile inwardly when spoken by a 6 year old), have very different meanings for young kids, for a teenager or for an adult, and I hear these words or see these notions reflected on the faces of kids spending time with the photo books. I feel that an awareness of where you came from, what a year ago or four years ago looked like, contributes in some small way to awareness of where you are now, and what your dreams for going forward might be, whatever your age.
For a glimpse of our path as a community, to date, come by some time with a few free minutes and browse through a couple of our photo books, past and current.
* Doyle, Brian. Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2013.