There is a photograph of a family of bears that decided to pay a visit to the backyard deck of the home we lived in Florence, MA. As soon as I saw mama and her cubs loping towards our slider, I lunged for the camera and then told my daughter to STAY INSIDE, probably in that order. I later inserted one of the photos of a very hungry bear pouring the contents of our bird feeder down her throat, while her children looked on, into a magnetic frame, where it adorned our refrigerator door until we moved to a new location. I thought about that photo yesterday while downloading the 600+ pictures of Florida kitsch, hotel bedrooms, dinner entrees, bicycles in all shapes and sizes, waterfowl, alligators, dozens of palm trees in every weather condition we’ve encountered, and of course, portraits of my husband sitting on benches with his cell phone and leaning back in the armchair of his recumbent bicycle.
What is it that compels me to see the extraordinary, as well as the ordinary through the viewfinder of my brand new Canon Rebel T-3? Is it the compulsion to be able to savor every experienced moment? Or a need to illustrate my journey for those I’ve left behind? Perhaps I need to document everything as an aid to fading memory? What I remember when I recollect the image of the attempted break-in by creatures who are becoming all too common a sight in our small town are not the details. I don’t recall the color of the sky, or how many cubs accompanied their mother, although I think there may have been two. I don’t remember whether mama bear was downing bird seed on our deck or whether she was eating as she was making a getaway towards the wetlands that surrounded our backyard. What I do remember is the feeling of excitement that connected the three of us as we watched our uninvited guests; a little anxious about a potential break-in, but mostly we were spellbound! Yesterday, as the tiny images magically appeared, row upon row across my computer screen, I experienced an array of emotions triggered by each photograph. A photo of a great blue heron in flight against billowing clouds mounted on an azure sky took me to the moment when I discovered the bird, its legs, like knitting needles, perched on a delicate branch of a mangrove tree. The moment of discovery was a mutual one, and seeing it begin to take flight, I clicked the shutter; the expansive wings in flight that looked back at me from my screen that evening brought with it a feeling of pure satisfaction.
The wonder of travel is the joy of discovery that rewards us when we look through the viewfinder with focused attention. Never knowing what surprise will await us as we turn a corner, we thrive on the anticipation and rejoice in the moments when the shutter clicks. What an amazing gift to conjure up such feelings of wonder days, weeks, or years later.