Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seasons

[I don't like the way these pictures are hanging indecently over the edge of the page here, but despite my vast knowledge of HTML, I can't manage to put them right.  The other alternative seems to be making them miniscule, which is worse.]
I don't think I ever posted these collections (taken over a 7-month period or so, at one of our favorite places, Red Butte Garden).  I've been flipping through them over and over today, thinking about the strangeness of time passing.  I can't see the changes in the boys from month to month, but over half a year's time, they become obvious.  And even then, it's only through pictures that the changes are noticeable: I certainly wouldn't be able to remember how they looked a year ago well enough to compare it with how they look now.
So that makes me wonder, how does the fact that we have photographs influence our memories?  Do we, generation of the digital camera, remember our kids' stages more accurately than our parents (forced to be stingier with photos) remembered ours?  And then did our grandparents and great-grandparents (with few or no photos at all) have even sketchier memories of the way their children changed over the years?  Or does all our record-keeping just give us a false confidence in the accuracy of our own memories?  Maybe memory is tricky enough that even with pictures documenting each stage and each change, we still can't re-capture the REAL PEOPLE behind those pictures, and maybe our grandparents knew that better than we do?

It does seem like if you have 200 pictures of some little guy talking to you one day, you are more likely to capture in one of them (or in the sum of all of them) what that little guy really was like at the time.  Whereas if you have one picture of that guy per year, taken at Kiddie Kandids on his birthday, the photo may have been taken at some odd moment, with some odd twist of a facial expression, and it may not really show HIM at all.  But later on, it is all that will remain of HIM as a two-year-old.  So when I look at pictures of me as a baby, how do I know if that's really ME or not?  Or even my mom, who at least kind of remembers it---how does she know if the picture is right, or her memory---or if her memory has been re-written by the picture?

[Side note, kind of: I still can't help but wonder if all our obsession with "capturing" people through photos is a little misplaced.  Aren't we just as likely to "capture" someone in words?  Or really, just as UNlikely---since it seems improbable that we could accurately reduce a whole person to any one dimension, whether visual or verbal or anything else.  I'm afraid that maybe I'm going to be lulled into thinking "Look how well I know my kids!  I have 17,000 pictures of them!" and then someday I'll look at the pictures and be surprised because I can't actually remember the people that went with them---or at least, I won't be sure if I'm remembering RIGHT.  Which is partly why I try to write down things about my kids, even if they're inane: just so I have attempts in two media instead of only one.]

Well, so I wonder what's the real benefit of even having these point-of-reference-type pictures, then?  I feel like they do HAVE benefit.  I guess they can serve as a trigger for more extensive memories.  That could happen even if they were inaccurate, really.  And they can give form to the kind of formless recollections I often have ("it was a warm day . . . and it was quiet outside . . . and Daisy wasn't crawling yet, was she?")---something on which to hang the collection of feelings and sounds and impressions my brain manages to call up as I try to remember an event.  These specific pictures make me feel warm again (no small task), and hopeful that there will be Spring again.  And a little bit sad, to know that the cuties in these pictures have already turned into slightly different cuties.  But mostly happy, because I love remembering happy times together.

6 comments:

  1. A lot to day. I may have to come back to this. I have a bridal shower this morning to go to, which means I better hit the treadmill. First of all, may I point out that Sam shows up in the pictures of the children. What does that say? (chuckle)

    I think about this, too. I'm afraid that as time closed over the heads of our grands and g grands - (actually, my grandparents did take many pictures of their baby/toddlers with the new Kodak tech), they might have forgotten their children's childhood - and as that happened, they might have demanded more of the children, measuring them against not the parents' childhood or even the children's own childhood, but some yardstick made out of the expectations they had born of their own adult responsibilities and behaviors = and emotional sets.

    I see this as a disadvantage. Because children aren't adults. And if there is no latitude taken for childhood, you can really damage a kid. Childhood was worked into the design for a reason - like chicks freeing themselves from eggs, I believe - and if someone comes along and shatters that egg and drags you out of it, I'm not sure that won't do lasting damage.

    (Which, of course, doesn't excuse lack of discipline, either.)

    You are posing more "is" questions, actually. Are we our appearance, one tiny slice preserved in rigidity, or are we our words?

    I don't remember my mother now. IF I could drag out the home movies Cam is supposed to be getting on DVD, I'd remember with the aid of those moving pictures. I remember her in still pictures in my head, but they are real still pictures, in a book. I don't remember much outside of the stills. And without the books of pictures (without in the global sense - if there never had been any and my memory was as it would have developed without the technology), I honestly think I still wouldn't remember - too much of the hard drive overwritten with the intense experiences of my own adult life.

    But who knows? Cultures without writing or a way of preserving writing seem to be able to recite reams of genealogy or cultural myth and history - the whole of King Benjamin's speech for one thing - and we certainly can' do that. But they had Benjamin's speech written down, also - and that has to be telling.

    I think the pictures are an attempt to gather bits of very valuable life moments, the way the gleaners used to follow the harvest, picking up enough to sustain them. To give us continuity in the flow of time. Because time is weird. The idea of causality, which is the basis of our mortal experience, doesn't seem weird to me, but maybe because I've been swimming in it for so long, and have no pictures of life before it started.

    But that children change so much over such a short period. I think we need to see that happen, or we can't understand that time is measured, and that there's actually very little of it. Which realization will then define us - in our manner of using this limited thing.

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  2. The pictures also serve to remind the children of this very thing. And to remind them of their own experience of childhood - so that in dealing with their own children, there can be both anticipation of problems and childish misperceptions, but also memories of the value of family time together. And of the innocence of children = and the very serious weight children give to their own perceptions. When we understand and remember (that's backwards), we are, I believe, more prepared to lead, teach, love our children, and to pitch our expectations to something closer to real.

    Also, we'll remember what is magic, and then know how to re-create it. We'll remember points of experience and maybe realize that certain of our perspectives didn't pop whole into our heads at birth, but were gathered over our young experience, through opportunities that could only be offered by parents with resources (going to Disneyland - planting a garden -going to see the ocean).

    And sometimes, I think, maybe a picture can bring back a family feeling that might heal a heart - because as we get older and we lose parents, too often what we remember are the holes in our minds - we didn't really know our parents that well - and the incongruencies - why did mother do this thing that hurt me?

    You can start to forget the feeling that held the family together, or that the family ever was really together, because of that process of retrospective. But one picture of you at - in the mountains camping, or making cookies together or something, and remember that, and remember that the family WAS good, and that mostly, you were very happy.

    There are so many reasons I can think why taking images is a good thing. Even though life is not lived in slices the way a movie is built. No one moment can be cut apart from the others and give the whole story, because we live in motion. And as science knows, observation skews behavior, so even video or moving pictures will not give you the truth.

    But then, is "accurate" ever really a human word? The colors in nature are not pantones that can be identified by number. And neither are people, whose bits and pieces shift in color and heat and shape every moment depending on environment, health, amount of sleep, combination with other personalities and their subtle chemical signals -

    Images may be simplistic, but our brain and spirit are the projectors here. And for me, any starting place is better than none.

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  3. Shoot - one more thing. YOur right hand column doesn't need to be as far left as it is. Can you get in there and change the size of your body div? Because if you can shove that column over a bit - change the column size, maybe. IF you're on Blogger - yep, you are. I can't remember how I dealt with Gin's code (other than nuking her Reader) - in Wordpress, I could change it in the blink of an eye.

    You'll want to find your CSS style sheet and look at the definitions of the body and sidebar divs. You can play with that. Your wrapper may also need to be increased - depending on how the site was built. Anyway, that would solve the problem with the incursion of text. Body wider is the best option, because the sidebar is probably defined as floating right of the body.

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  4. Red Butte Gardens is beautiful! It's amazing that something so lovely is associated with the U. :) I'm sure you're correct in saying that photos may alter your perception of reality, but I don't see that as a negative. No matter what the medium, or how often things are documented, reality will be skewed. And I'd rather "err" on the side of over-documentation. As you said, they grow so fast!

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  5. I feel better now about _not_ having pictures of my kids each year at Kiddie Kandids . . . I have struggled for years with guilty feelings about not having any real posed family pictures. I hope that taking random photos & videos of my family and recording spontaneous cute quotes, etc., that maybe I will remember something accurately . . . but I do think that living in the digital age makes us more reliant on these digital forms of media rather than using our own brains to recall people, places, experiences, etc. I tend to write it down and then think, "There. I don't have to think about that anymore. I can always refer back to it." I don't know if that made sense. I'm feeling a trifle sick today, so forgive me tardiness.

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  6. Wow, such good questions. I think the photos are great triggers of memory, and give you some reference points to hold onto. And I think they're good at triggering memories of particular stages of the little people. You're right, the growth is just so hard to see in the everyday, but in the pictures you can pick it out.
    Isn't it sad and wonderful and amazing how much and fast they change? It breaks my heart a little bit.
    I love digital photography. It makes me so happy.
    And I love those gardens. Gorgeous! When we come visit you can you take us there?

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