While Preston and I are on sabbatical for the summer in our letter writing, I thought I would keep up with letters. These, though, are letters with a bit more of my imagined, someday life, and a little bit less of the every day. And sometimes, like today, I just want to say thank you.
I don’t think I understood that old line, “a picture is worth a thousand words” until I saw you and your camera. You were laughing and gesturing to us to squeeze closer together under the big Colorado sky. You were coaxing a worried three year old to pose with her brother in a vintage car. You were wandering the streets of DC with me catching me mid-laugh, staring out a window or pondering life with my chin cupped in my hands. You were reminding the bride that she was exceptionally gorgeous as we drove to the courthouse for the wedding. You were pulling yet another black lens from a hidden pocket in your bag as you laughed, almost tripping over the low lying wall behind you, anxious to capture the surprise and the nearly bursting with excitement of the unexpected engagement. You were in a studio loft in New York City with the afternoon sun with a senior in high school, asking her to tell the world her story.
But a picture of yours is worth so many thousands of words. In one still frame, you teach us the look of love, how it laughs, how it gazes, how it feels under the bright sun. You teach us to see the little girl walking down the beach holding her mother’s hand as the very expression of hopefulness.
How do you do it? It isn’t the fancy camera you have, the lenses, the sleek black bag. It isn’t the extra flash or the HD-enabled something I can’t pronounce.
No, you see – it’s the beautiful way you see the world.
It’s the stories you discover behind the camera. You know the ones I mean – the way he holds her hand is a story about their wild promise of love. The way she hugs the yellow monkey to her chest is a story about how to feel safe. The way I look at my sister while I begin to cry during my toast to her and her husband is a story of sisterhood and love and how we must give the ones we love away sometimes.
Thank you. Thank you for the way you coax us out of our shells, the way you hold up a mirror to all that is miraculous about human faces and trees silhouetted against the sunrise and a seashell cupped in your hand in late summer. Thank you for telling me I am lovely without using words. Thank you for giving my friends the image of their joy on their wedding day. Thank you for running down a path in front of the Rocky Mountains. Thank you for teaching me to see light and shadow.
Thank you for teaching me to be speechless.
You make art with our faces and our lives. You give back to us a promise that this mess we make of things is also the beginning of what is truly beautiful. Promise me that today, you’ll pause and hold your camera in your hands, and smile at everything the two of you can create.
Your work is worth ten thousand words: I only offer mine to begin to say thank you.