From the song Kodachrome by Paul Simon, 1988
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day,
Oh yeah, I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.
Observing someone’s obsession with taking pictures during a manic episode reminded me of my own experience ten years ago. I was so taken with the beauty of that spring that I spent one entire day with a friend in tow, traveling all over the county. He had a really nice professional camera and I was having him take photos for me of various botanical specimens- Grancy grey beard blossoms, Cherokee roses, forsythia, and wisteria cascades that had captured my interest. I bought my own 35 mm camera and would stop and knock on people’s doors, asking to take pictures of their flowers- English dogwoods, amaryllis, and daffodils. In the early days of my mania, I had been enthralled with a freshly plowed field about 45 minutes from my house. I spent one morning driving there, standing on top of my car by the roadside, and taking pictures of it.
I speculated on what God wanted me to do with the photos. Maybe I was to write a book about the beauty of His creation and use them in it. Maybe I was to produce a calendar. Maybe I was just supposed to cherish them as a reminder of how he’d opened my eyes to wonderful new things in the world.
I moved on beyond that compulsion to take photos. They now are tucked in a pocket in a notebook with some of my notes from that time in my life. Except the plowed field. One photo of that plowed field is in my Bible. I look at it from time to time and remember where I was in my life at that point- struggling with having relocated to a new town, facing “empty nest” grief, unhappy in a job I couldn’t seem to escape, and feeling that the best part of my life was behind me. That field represented hope to me, that God was, in fact, doing something new and preparatory in my life, preparing me for another season when there might once again be growth and harvest.
What the objects of the photographs or the process of photographing the objects mean in the life of this other person are beyond the scope of my knowing. She alone can discover what they mean to her, if anything. An altered state of mind is a very personal thing, it seems to me, subject to the many experiences of the person’s own life. No one else has access to the memories, experiences, and connections that one strives to make in that state. It is a difficult thing to work through and some people don’t have the desire or ability to do it. Some of the things one discovers about oneself can be very difficult to face.
I found that, with God’s help and the patient understanding of a truly gifted counselor, I was able to make some sense of the imagery and behavior of those months. It brought some closure to it all and allowed me to truly accept and embrace it as something worthwhile in my life.