I like to take pictures. Lots of pictures, in fact. I have my digital “big girl” camera that I truly love and use. But it’s really not practical to carry around on a regular basis, at least not to capture the seemingly mundane (though not to me) things I find and like to remember. This is why I love my phone camera and use it often. Daily usually, though sometimes even hourly.
In fact, when I recently showed a photo on it to a friend, she remarked, “You have more than 3,000 photos on your phone!?” I admit I was taken aback by that number too, though they do go back a few years. They also include things like screen shots of book reviews I want to remember or photos I use in texts to explain to or laugh about something with someone privately who’s not nearby. A bunch of them are a series of shots of the same subject. Turns out you often have to take multiple shots of moving children to get one that comes out right. I’m just not that great about cleaning up the photographic clutter afterwards.
And then there’s Instagram. I love it. It’s unfathomable to me that I’ve already posted more than 1,000 photos there in just 40 weeks. Of the various social media platforms I am on, this is the one I’d kick and scream about having to give up.
I know that a lot of people who are not on Instagram do not understand it, and often (in my experience) give me the eyeroll when I mention I’m on it (@littlelodestar). But here’s the thing: I can (and do) connect with others this way. I can also, it turns out, connect with myself too.
I like seeing what other people capture in their tiny camera lens. There are some really wonderful Instagrammers out there, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. Some people I feel almost personally connected to because of what they post there (and, in some cases, through their writing in other places). Some accounts I love for the sheer fact that they offer wonderful stories to go with the faces (like @humansofny) while others just insert a burst of interesting creativity throughout the day (like when @austinkleon puts up one of his #newspaperblackout posts). I am grateful that I can see the world through others’ eyes in this small but wholly intimate way.
I follow three times as many folks that follow me, but that’s OK. I’m not really in it for the fame. I’m in it because I like sharing bits of amusing or beautiful things that I stumble upon. I like to come up with captions, with the photos serving as prompts that break the surface of some lingering writer’s block. To a lesser extent, I use IG to bolster a blog post I might have that day. Anyone who follows me on there already also knows I have a small obsession with the endless supply of comedy that my daughter’s two most beloved dolls, Emma and Paul (#emmapauldolls), provide me on a regular basis. But in all honesty, I just want to capture and later remember the moments that moved me for one reason or another. I have an acute awareness, if not anxiety, that I might someday forget them.
Which leads me to the sunsets. I’m not sure when I started it in earnest, but over the course of many, many twilights, I have taken to the habit of snapping an IG shot of the sunset or dusky sky I see off of our deck or out my bedroom window. Ever since before phone cameras or Instagram, I have enjoyed the often majestic show that our sky view puts on almost every night. But the funny thing is, it’s not some quaint shoreline sunset or inspiring cityscape that I have the pleasure of seeing. It’s merely my humble backyard view and one that, on occasion, gets me down by being cluttered with a wholly unattractive apartment building and obstructed view of the last moments when the sun kisses the western horizon goodnight. When someone like me would much rather live in the Vermont woods or along the rocky New England coast, this vista has the potential to underwhelm. And, for a time, it did. Sure I’d notice it in passing while doing the dishes, but I wouldn’t remember those lovely views when I most needed grounding about what I do have in my life.
Enter Instagram. I started taking pictures of these sunsets. Some of them are quite stunning and in all honesty are not done justice by my phone’s camera. There is something about standing there, with the breeze and hum of urban noise in the distance that brings it all together in a way that a mere photograph just cannot do. But as I started recording these evening skies, with their various watercolor splashes of lavender, apricot, and pink, I noticed a few things. Of course, the obvious: each evening’s sky really is different from one day to the next. There are textures and contrails that are there one night that are completely absent another. Or the way a certain amount of humidity and air pollution can create a gradient that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t take two minutes to observe. These differences are visible when I view the photos side by side.
But there’s something else I noticed too. I now have a deep and fundamental (though still growing) sense and awareness of how and when the sky is going to shift and peak in my midst. I can walk out there on almost any evening now and just sense in my core of whether I’m seeing the preview, main attraction, or closing credits of the sky’s show that night. I can feel in my bones whether this will be a one or twelve picture night, each one completely different from the others. I am now profoundly aware of the shift among seasons and when I must get out there to capture it all. As fall grows near, it’s sadly earlier than I’d like it to be. This is an intimate knowledge and understanding about our physical world that I had either lost or not truly appreciated until I started taking pictures. And, it turns out, I am not the only one out there who does this. Knowing this makes me feel less alone and silly. Still, I think this kind of intimacy with and appreciation of our surroundings—especially, perhaps, the ones we live among every day—is immensely lacking in our world today. This is why I make sure to point all of these vistas out to my daughter who, thankfully, has started telling me when to “look, Mama!” That, perhaps, is the most meaningful benefit to all of this. It is something I hope that she carries forward and shares as she grows older.
So this is why I love Instagram, as ridiculous as that sounds. It’s an introvert’s dream. It’s an “I’ll never be able to travel to all the places in the world in my lifetime” worrier’s portal. It’s a parent-who’s-stuck-at-home’s escape hatch. It’s a “noticer’s” tool. It’s an “I don’t ever want to forget this moment” person’s answer to the otherwise unresolvable problem of time not stopping. It is, I think, the lens that helps me view the world with a little more clarity.
Are you on Instagram? Leave your handle in the comments so I can follow you too, or suggest others that you love to follow.
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
If I hadn’t told my husband two nights ago, to give the butternut squash to the birds.
If I hadn’t listened to my hunger this morning and grabbed the yogurt from the fridge.
If I hadn’t wandered around the house looking for a warm place to sit.
If I hadn’t found this sunny spot on my chair, alone in my office.
If I hadn’t looked out the French doors that face the gathering spot for birds.
If I hadn’t heard the tik-tik of two cardinals chattering high up in my tree.
If I hadn’t noticed that one of the branches was bleeding ice behind them.
If I hadn’t run outside to take a closer look and recall what twenty degrees feels like.
If I hadn’t stood under the mid-morning winter sun to warm my eyelids.
If I hadn’t leaned down to notice the tiny scratches in the diamond flake snow.
If I hadn’t stopped to hear the cacophony of the bare tree branches swaying in the wind.
If I hadn’t walked away just then, and noticed the angle of sun.
I would have missed it all.
Our house is teeming with ponytail holders. Some days they are EVERYWHERE. Other days, I can’t find even one. They’re shifty creatures, those things.
And lately, M has taken to doing this to all of them:
These double loops clutter every nook and cranny of her room. She calls it her “neat trick”, one that is accomplished with some sleight of hand that starts with a ponytail holder on each wrist and ends in what might be the gateway to the notorious Rainbow Loom that I keep hearing about (but have thankfully been able to avoid).
But on this dreary day, where she’s (finally) back at school after a winter break that was protracted with two snow days at the end, I don’t mind stumbling upon the color it brings. It reminds me that she will be home in just a few more hours, likely making more.
This year, we purchased a new advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas. The one we had been using in the past few years was a total flop. This could be related to the fact that we forgot to fill it with treasures. Ahem. Maybe. But this one is foolproof because it already comes with all of the treasures waiting to be discovered. And M is in love with it. Each morning she comes down the stairs, the first place she goes is to the advent calendar to open the day’s door and reveal the animal inside. Perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out she has been assembling a little school of animals on the front porch.
Tonight, M decided to write a book. Actually, she started it in school today and finished it at home. She told me she wanted to write a book for her Kindergarten teacher “because no one else has yet”. She wrote it without any help. Although she doesn’t use so many words, I think it’s clear just how she feels about this important person in her life. One might even call it a love story. And sometimes, you just nail it on the first draft.
Copyright (c) 2010-2014 Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved. Personal theme was created in WordPress by Obox Themes.