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Amy Shearn (558 posts)
The first photograph dates from 1982, when the five teenagers decided to pose on a fence, showing off "dark and mysterious faces," shirtless torsos, and a pet cockroach in a jar. Though the friends went their separate ways, they regrouped for a reunion vacation five years later. Someone had the idea to recreate the photo and a tradition was born. According to CNN, "The guys all agree that this trip has been the glue that has allowed them to maintain their friendships." "I look at the photos and think of the relationships I went through. Wedding rings come and go, if you look closely," one of the men told CNN. "We plan on doing this for the rest of our lives, no matter what. Up until there's one guy just sitting in the same pose! Even then, maybe someone will take a picture of an empty bench for us."
That mental image of the empty bench gives me shivers. Think of the empty jar, sitting there, containing all of eternity instead of a cockroach! For as much as we love our photographs nowadays, as much as we all love to immediately gaze at our digital memories of a moment ago, a photograph becomes all the more eloquent when telling a story that's over, documenting a life that's changed, or gone. And the almost-extinct posed photograph has a certain evocative nature all its own. The curator of Who Were They? knows this: the blog is a moving tribute to the stories photographs tell. These pictures are kind of the negative image (to use photographic terms) of the Five Year Photo guys. Here we have the image only, and as Who Were They? blogger does we must imagine or hunt down the life story it tells. "Mrs. Marvel" writes of a grand old dame, "She has the hard face of a woman who has lived a lot of years and the sad expression of a war widow." Or sometimes Mrs. Marvel's photo collection helps to fill in a family's genealogy: "I got goose bumps when I read that Clifford had been searching for a photo of his great-great-great-aunt for 30 years. And I had one. Wow." As she writes on her blog's "About" page, Mrs. Marvel is looking for "a glimpse of those who came before us." Strange to think that some day, we will be someone else's photographic mystery.
When we capture every moment of every day, we think we're seeing more. But are we? What stories do your photos tell -- intentionally or accidentally -- about your life?
Wet Grass Photographs Prompt Thoughts on Life
How Everyone Can Be a Great Photographer
One of the most happy-tear inducing moments of the Olympic torch relay was when 13-year-old torch bearer Kieran Maxwell, who lost his leg to cancer and now walks unsteadily with a heavy prosthetic limb, stumbled and fell. Immediately, his family and neighbors hurried to his side to help him. And, as he has with every other setback life has thrown at him, Kieran stood right back up and kept going, with a smile on his face. All across the world, hearts swelled.
Particularly moved were Colin and Chris Weir, Britain's largest lottery winners, who have donated some of their millions to buy Kieran a lighter, state-of-the-art prosthetic limb. Kieran's family had been fundraising to buy him the new leg, as his current heavy prosthetic restricted his movement; his mother told the BBC, "He couldn't believe it. I am still pinching myself...He can go back to being a normal boy. He can be himself. Words cannot describe what they have done."
The Weirs have donated to other causes since winning their jackpot, saying they wanted to "share the luck." And in doing so, they are transforming lives. How's that for a torch to pass on?
Turning a Disability into a Superpower
How a Double-Amputee Becomes a Mermaid
Sunday night something happened that caused grown-up scientific types to go crazy with happiness, like so:
That's right, the little (one ton) unmanned rover that could has survived its "seven minutes of terror" and landed safely on the surface of Mars, tweeting to announce its arrival: "I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!" And all of NASA breathed a sigh of relief. According to Anita Sengupta, one of NASA's aerospace engineers who had helped create the parachute needed to slow down the spacecraft on landing, "There's no room for error." (And how we loved to see women in that room....)
People even gathered in Times Square to watch the landing and celebrate. Hooray for science!
The Curiosity rover, with no time to celebrate, immediately started taking pictures of its surroundings (and itself, seen below in shadow) and beaming them back to its beaming family at NASA.
Dare Mighty Things! It's a message for everyone's day, on Mars or not.
Real-Life Visitors from Outer Space
Read Comic Books, Learn Science
Arranged and photographed by Congdon, an arrangement of vases looks like a group of girls standing around at a party. Her drawing of vintage baking dishes resembles a small flock of expectant boats. Browsing through the blog offers the singular pleasure of readjusting your vision to see the beauty of every day objects (who knew tape measures were so beautiful?) And I especially love that she's included "imagined collections." What could be better than an imagined collection? No storage. No dusting. No limits.
Check out more of Lisa Congdon's whimsical work at her site. (Oh yeah, and for all you print media collectors, Collection a Day is a now a book.)
What Our Cookbooks Say About Our Lives
Collecting Advice from the Antiques Roadshow Experts
Until, that is, a vacationer recently found the ring on that same beach and returned it to Rafferty; it turns out the ring traveled less than a mile (surviving some major hurricanes) in over three decades. (For more on how the good Samaritan found the ring's owner, read the whole story.) Rafferty says, "It made me think, maybe nothing's ever lost forever." And it makes me think, maybe Planet Lost Thing is a closer, and more benevolent, place than we ever knew.
Message in a Bottle, Finally Delivered
A Ring Saves a Life, and Other Everyday Miracles
So it was that I joined the grand tradition of accidental solo traveling. And I found what so many solo travelers have discovered: that traveling alone isn't lonely at all, that you find yourself open to different things and much more likely to make new friends as you go. I found myself staying at the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris, and while working my shift to earn my night's stay (yes, I was such a wild and crazy kid that I managed to find myself with a job) I met a fellow Midwestern 20-something who had expatriated to France and showed me the town. I found myself at an all-night dance party (breakfast and all) in small town Spain; I channeled my inner Madeline at a girls-only-former-convent in Venice; a Hawaiian goth became my best friend for few days in Granada; I spent a very strange overnight train ride listening to an Indian med student's techno in an Italian dining car. And when I wanted to be alone, I was, so that I could write and draw for hours in my journal and (sorry, but I was 20), discover myself. In other words, it was an entire summer of experiences I would not have had otherwise, and, I'm sure, never will have again.
But even I have to admit, the idea of doing something like this now sounds impossible, if not terrifying. Where did that youthful bravado go? Nowadays, I just wouldn't feel comfortable bunking in a co-ed youth hostel with rowdy Norwegian skateboarders. I have a mature person's fear of death, muggings, and not getting to shower regularly. And besides, a bit of adventuring is practically de rigueur when you're 20. What about when you're 40? or 60? or...80? Enter the great Solo Traveler blog. The site was born in 2009, when Janice Waugh found herself an empty-nester and a widow all at once. She decided to take what fate had handed her and run with it...all the way across the world. Now, as she puts it on the site, "I travel solo and I carefully observe how I do it."
Of course, they are missing the subtext, which is that for some strange reason grown-ups seem to stop liking their birthdays. How to explain to a child? That you start to put pressure on yourself, or the world does, to do certain things and certain times; that you are supposed to have achieved This and That and The Other by This Age, so that if you haven't you greet your birthday with glum recognition. Oh, and the nearing specter of old age and death. But whatever -- cupcakes!
Blogger Abby Try Again has a lovely solution for again malaise: the birthday list. Of her thirtieth birthday she wrote, "It felt special but not, big and little, insignificant and significant. I'm a believer in recognizing the power of each day—not just focusing on milestones...but I couldn't help but be reflective." So she created a list of 30 Things to do Before Turning 31. I love the idea of making every birthday a kind of a milestone birthday (and by doing so, taking pressure off the Big Ones), and I love the list itself. "Make 3 new friends." "Go roller skating." "Do something completely out of my comfort zone." (Hey, those might just all be the same thing!)
Read (And Make) More:
A Mighty Life List
An "I Want" List
A Bliss List
Finn was rescued by Harnden 14 years ago, and since had become the journalist's go-to friend and companion; accompanying him on road trips and jobs, watching him write his articles and books from the cozy dog bed in the corner of Harnden's office. Finn provided cover when Harnden was traveling and didn't want to be recognized as a journalist, helping him to blend in at bomb scenes and marches, waiting outside while Harnden interviewed, for example, an IRA godfather. Harnden writes, "We had travelled a long way together, from Belfast to Washington to Israel to London and ultimately to the suburbs of northern Virginia but it was clear his journey was over."
Lately the dog had been sick, transformed from his energetic, adventurous self; Harnden writes heartbreakingly of carrying Finn up and down stairs and listening to him yelp with pain. When the time came, Harnden had his vet put Finn to sleep, as he held him in his arms: "I had anticipated the day Finn died being one of the worst of my life. What I hadn't anticipated was the utter grimness of the next day, the first one without him."
This story comes from the City of Big Shoulders itself, Chicago, where a visitor from Alabama made the mistake every rider of public transit fears, and accidentally left her purse on the train. Take a moment to make sure you know where your purse is. I know I had to after reading this, form the Press-Register: "Minutes after exiting Chicago’s elevated train, known as the "L," Nancy Pierce was in a panic. She realized that she’d left her purse with her cash, credit cards, iPhone, even her favorite dangly silver earrings, on the train. " SHUDDER. After a complex ordeal, including some creative ID work to be able to fly home, Pierce settled into her daily life back in Oakleigh, Alabama. Two weeks later, a mysterious UPS package arrived. Yes, it was her purse, sent by the good Samaritan who found it. (Read the whole article for the sender's sweet apology for taking so long to return it.) Pierce said, "I was so excited, and so touched that this woman would do this. It certainly restored my faith in people, and made it even stronger. I know there are really good people in this world." She says she'll visit Chicago again, and even ride the L.
Kind of warms even a city-dweller's crusty polluted heart.
The Ripple Effect of Kindness
Modern Tales of Good Deeds
The Card Game that Encourages Generosity
So it was with only hypothetical interest that I viewed a "Viva Snail Mail!" event held recently at our local playground encouraging kids to write and send - gasp - actual snail mail. (Warning: this had nothing to do with actual snails. I know, we were momentarily disappointed too.) The event, and the Viva Snail Mail blog, which compiles notable postcards, postal history, and a fun idea for a postcard-sending challenge (scroll down), reminded me of the tiny and imminently attainable joy that is the postcard.
The postcard! Prettier than an email, easier than an entire letter, and somehow just so summery. What a delight, to receive a postcard from a sunny vacation, preferably with exotic stamps! What a noble-and-yet-doable goal, to send your own postcard to far-flung friends around the world or across town! Peruse Viva Snail Mail for some inspiration, and then get thee to a post office (or print some postcard stamps online—you can even design them yourself). You'll help someone you know combat their own mail box depression, and perhaps, just perhaps, they will return the favor.
Music to Write Letters By
Write a Letter to Know Yourself Better