In 2007, I called my grandmother and told her I had a dream I wanted to pursue and in order to do so, I was going to need something I couldn't afford. A camera, a dSLR, which was the requirement to take a photography class at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where we lived at the time. I was 4 months post-partum from my second son and a stay at home mom. I had a sales pitch ready, about how I wanted this to be career, about how I would pay her back. My grandmother, a mother of six children, hardly let me finish the starting line from my pitch before she said "I'll get you a check, honey. A mother needs a passion so she doesn't lose who she is." My grandmother was just wise like that.
If I had to say I had a calling I suppose photography would be it, though admittedly I haven't figured out how to tame it yet. I can look back and see instances over the years where this calling just poked it's head out at me and I didn't see it for what it was. It took years, and babies, and a desperation for SOMETHING to make me feel validated and talented before I would pick up a real camera and say, "I'm going to do this thing."
Last June, my husband and I drove from Arkansas to North Dakota to pick up my beautiful step-daughter for her summer visit to our house. It's a 36 hour round trip drive. On our way back Jeremiah, who had driven all through the night, stopped at a gas station and woke me up to trade spots so he could rest. It was early in the morning and I could see that the side of the highway was littered with limbs, fence parts and building debris. We were in Joplin, MO and it was 3 weeks after an EF5 tornado had torn through the town killing 160 people and causing over 2 billion dollars worth of damage. I got behind the wheel of the car and instead of pulling back on the highway, I took a right and headed into South Joplin.
It took 5 minutes to find the tornado's path by simply following the destruction. We cleared a hill and out of nowhere, we were in the middle of a trail of devastation that reached farther than I could see. I will never forget the way I felt driving through that, my hand covering my mouth to hold in the sobs and the only phrase I could muster, "Oh God."
Immediately, I began to take photos: the flattened Lowe's, the streets of nothing but rubble, a house with only one wall standing (which was purple and had a small closet with a little girls dress hanging inside). After about 15 minutes Jeremiah insisted we get back on the road, that I get ahold of myself and that we move on. I laid my camera absentmindedly on the back seat of the car. That night someone broke into our car and stole all the things we had failed to unpack in our exhaustion, the camera that I was basing my business on being one of them.
Do you know it took my months to make the connection between the hope I'd seen in the face of despair in Joplin, MO and the way it made me feel to have my camera stolen. What an idiot I was to feel like I had lost much of anything when I had seen lives torn apart, people who had lost EVERYTHING just a single day before. We are like that though aren't we? People are generally self-centered and sorry when it comes to seeing the bigger picture.
Last week a box was delivered from KEH.com, a replacement camera, the exact model I lost 9 months ago. Whereas before I had lost the appreciation for my outdated camera and the talent I have in using it, I feel like I've gained a little perspective now. I'm not pursuing a business in photography just yet. I've decided to rediscover the passion I used to have, the passion that prompted me to call my grandmother and ask her to help me 5 years ago, the passion she recognized and understood the importance of kindling, nurturing, growing.
This is another reason for wanting to blog. I'd like a place to share the things I see and capture with my photography. I am posting this as a way of holding myself accountable. I like to think that at some point, there will be people out there who are interested in my perspective. I surely hope that will be the case.
****I must edit this post in light of the realization I made after publishing it. I started writing this over a week ago but was for some reason hesitant to share. This morning I decided that it was important and that I did want to put it up. After hitting the "publish" button and viewing my personal story as it is viewable on the blog, I realized the date. Today would have been my grandmothers birthday. We lost her to colon cancer 3 years ago. I believe in the salvation of Jesus and have given Him my heart, as had my grandmother, so I know our time together isn't over, only paused. I do miss her very much though, especially in light of my pregnancy coming to a close. It's hard when you've lost someone you care about and you know you are bringing a child into a world where that person no longer exists. Small coincidences like unintentionally posting about her gift to me on her birthday are a comfort though. They are like a little hug and a little reassurance that the people we lose really do go in our memories.