waiting for transformative conditions

Posted by on July 11, 2007


A few weeks ago, Jeff sat on my little digital camera and the zoom lens got jammed down into itself. It wasn’t really his fault, considering that I left it face up on the futon because I was interrupted by a needy baby while uploading photos onto the laptop. Most fortuitously, Jeff’s mother came into town for a visit shortly after this incident, and when she learned that my camera was broken, offered to buy me a new one as an early Christmas present. I told her I would happily go without presents for the next twenty Christmases if I could get a working camera now, not only because the hobby of amateur photography is important to me, but also because I have a ten month-old who seems to be changing by the week. Well, I did get a nice new camera– the nicest camera I have ever owned, and a huge improvement on the one Jeff sat on, allowing for a much broader range of photography.

Yesterday evening, a rainstorm suddenly pulled into town and then pulled out just as the sun was going down. The sky lit up with pink and orange, there were droplets on all the windows panes, a huge arching rainbow in the sky, and large, pure rain puddles reflecting color everywhere. I ran around outside trying to capture as much as I could manage before all of it disappeared into a summer night. After all of this eccentric running about, I think I got about four photos that I was truly proud of, before a nearby lightening bolt scared me back indoors.

I’m not sure why I’m telling this story, except that in the past few weeks, I’ve been so taken in by the photography on flickr, a world wide photo sharing forum where I and a lot of my friends have accounts. I can get so lost looking at the photos of my friends, and sometimes the photos of strangers, particularly in the shared forums like the “urban decay” group, or “pretty pictures of ugly things.” There is one amazing group named “an ever growing feeling of emptiness,” which I keep going back to because the photos are not empty at all, but full and captivating. I hesitated to join and contribute to this group, because it sounds rather lugubrious and self-indulgent, like high school poetry. But I finally indulged and joined, and added this photo to the group, because it seemed like a worthy addition.

Having just gained renewed access to all of our books, which were in storage for almost a year, Jeff keeps pulling down certain ones that neither of us have seen for a long time and had almost forgotten about. One of these is The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann. I have owned a copy of this book for so long, but was never able to read it cover-to-cover, and still, I can only manage to pick it up and read excerpts here and there. The occasional sermonizing about the faulty thinking of “modern man,” can create stumbling blocks for me, but more often, his journals describe moments of beauty experienced in ordinary circumstances, like having coffee in the morning, at home with his wife, or walking to the train station in autumn. He keeps insisting that these moments of life-as-gift are more real than discussions about theology or political activism.


I had to get a new Indiana driver’s license today, and while I was at it, I registered to vote, which reminded me how terribly insular I am, more wrapped up in weather conditions that make a dumpster look beautiful than in who is running for president in the next election, which is startlingly imminent. I should probably be watching the BBC World News rather than running out to capture a dumpster snagged in the middle of post-rainstorm, pre-sunset conditions. Or perhaps Fr. Alexander would advise me to to do one without forgetting the other…placing slightly more emphasis on the latter.

  1. Ser
    July 12, 2007

    Wow, what a beautiful picture, Julia. All of your posts have been so lovely lately–I love the title of this one, especially. I certainly hope that it is the small stuff that can be transformative, since I don’t seem capable of much of the “big stuff” since having kids.

  2. Jenny
    July 13, 2007


    Amazing photo. What a blessing that new camera is–you’ll always be grateful to have had it to capture this fleeting, transformative time.

    Glad the bag came and that you like it. It felt good to get one small thing done that day!


  3. Nostalgia
    July 13, 2007

    The picture i s amazing!
    And I love the idea of Fr.Shmemman “emphasizing the importance of noticing the dumpster”… I have no doubt he would…