Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Looking Forward To Looking Back

I love taking and looking at photos, but I'm dreadful at the steps between, which these days involves downloading the photos, uploading them again, sorting/editing them into books, ordering the books, and paying for them. I just haven't gotten it together to put together the pieces for the past year, which means too many photographs.

Every time we leave the house for a market, site, holiday, or art show, I yell, "Grab the camera," because I never remember to grab it, but I always remember to yell. While we're out, I implore whoever is holding the camera, "Take a picture, get one of that, don't forget that, I might need one of that."

Every beautiful sight or site in Oaxaca--that monumental sand painting, folkloric dance, giant dancing puppets in a processional, stack of mangoes at the market--is both gorgeous and ever-so-transitory. It's all about to blow away in the wind, die with the music, go into storage, or get sold, so catch it catch it catch it.

There's a desperation I have about losing things, forgetting things. Part of it is about my sister dying, part of it is about being a writer and wanting to arrive at some strange amalgamation of personal truths. So when the photo-taking and presenting overwhelms me, I have to remind myself: this is not the only way to remember things. My favorite way to remember a place, a time, a person, a moment involves a teaching term: "looping." In essence, you don't capture the deepest meaning of a concept the first time you learn it, maybe not the second or third. No worries, because it loops around again, most likely slightly different, but when you're cognitively ready and have had enough reinforcement, the information shifts from short-term memory to long-term memory.

This is my life, my joy, and my struggle. I am the one who has to order the same dishes when I go to certain restaurants (Juan's--quesadilla a la Jesus, Biznaga--sopa azteca, Itanoni for breakfast--Veracruzano). Oaxaca's ever-changing street markets have me combing the streets and aisles for the old woman with the blue-flowered tablecloth who sold me the sweetest watermelon. I return to museums to walk the same floor, find that certain painting that transformed me. Travel plans are a perennial struggle between visiting the new and retracing my steps to reenact a prior vacation. Life as a loop may seem boring to some, but I can't bear to miss the things I find beautiful or delicious, even though one part of me knows I return to things at the expense of discovering the new.

When I taught second grade, I had my students hold up invisible cameras and click photographs of the board when they had shared key information that I recorded. They'd blithely click away and I wonder...do any of them remember that moment the way I do?

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