When there were small children in the house, Christmas was a big deal, but these days I celebrate the winter solstice, which just happens to be my birthday. This year it’s also the first day of Hanukkah. Celebratory foods include candy canes and latkes.
I’ve always loved knowing that I came screaming into a solstice storm. The first sound I heard as they wheeled my mother out of the hospital was the scream of a gull, and that the very same gull baptized me, in its fashion.
As the nurse wheeled us out, a gull coasted low, screaming that repetitive shriek, and dumped a load of liquid material directly on the baby.
The story might have been forgotten had I not followed it up by flying off the dock on my second birthday, apparently trying to follow a gull. It took flying off the Hobbs Wall trestle and a broken collar bone to convince me I was not going to be able to fly in this lifetime.
I give myself a gift this time every year, usually something fairly inexpensive, like a CD class from The Teaching Company. Last year it was lovely lectures on “Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.” On my 60th birthday, having saved for it all year, I gave me a piano. This year I’m going visual.
I’ve never had a real camera. I use the disposable ones, sending them in and waiting weeks for results. But everything I want to photograph is either tiny, distant, moving fast or all three. Like mushrooms, bumble bees and birds. So the mushroom appears as a dark, shapeless blob on a darker background. The raven chasing the red-tailed hawk are two dots in a featureless sky. Even the buck 10 feet away seems to be blocks away.
The last time I seriously looked at cameras they were so complex I knew I’d never learn to use one, not to mention being expensive. But now they make inexpensive cameras simple enough for me. Point-and-shoot cameras, they’re called, with lots of automatic settings to deal with light and distance issues. They have zoom lenses, and best of all, you can see your photos immediately and save only the ones you like.
Finally I’ll be able to take pictures of the things that fascinate me, and it’s all thanks to Carol. We began an email conversation before she moved here a couple years ago because she wanted to know about gardening in our climate. She’s regularly sent me photos of pelicans, mushrooms and plants to identify. Not only that, but four of her photos have appeared on the front of the Coastal Guidelines section of the paper this year. And she uses a little point-and-shoot camera, with results so beautiful I have to try.
So this year I’ll rejoice in the return of the light with a camera of my own, and deep gratitude for living in such a photogenic place.