There's nothing quite like a good story.
My cousin Lenka is 13 years older then me and quite possibly one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. She's beautiful because she is beauty-full; her life emanates grace and kindness. One summer, my friend Alex and I went over to Europe to visit my family - and let's be honest, just to be in Europe. We spent part of our trip in Prague with my cousin, Pavlinka, and the other part in Rome with Lenka and her fam. I had just recently gotten a nice camera from my dad (cue the start of nearly every photographer's story) and was OBSESSED with taking a picture of everything we saw. I was reveling in amazement that my new DSLR could make even trash look majestic. One day, Lenka, Alex, and I were walking along Via Appia, the oldest road in Rome. I was going totally bonkers taking a picture of everything. Seriously, everything. No blade of grass or patch of dirt escaped my attention. I saw the world through a different lens - quite literally; behind my camera, everything had the potential to be beautiful. I found everything and every moment photo worthy. I was seriously holding us up on our walk, well with the constant stopping and photographing, when it occurred to me that I hadn't seen Lenka take one single photo. I realized that she didn't even have a camera or a phone with her. I assumed it was because she'd been to Via Appia lots of times before and since she lived in Rome, she could come here any time she wanted. It made sense to me that the beauty and awe of it was lost on her. But I decided to ask her anyway, and she so graciously said something that changed my view on photography for the rest of my life.
All she said was that she would rather live in the moment and enjoy its present beauty and joy than to try and capture it.
Her answer was so simple.
So confoundingly simple to me.
She's not the first person to say we should live in the moment and Lord knows she hasn't been the last. But there was something, something so true about what she said that it resonated with me on a soul level. Much to Alex's dismay, Lenka's comment didn't slow my photo rampage down one bit. But it did stick with me, and I think about what she said all the time. There was so much wisdom in what she said.
In a world obsessed with documenting and capturing moments, had I forgotten to just be in a moment? To just enjoy beauty and ponder it instead of try to take a picture of it to show people later? The answer for me was yes. And it's not yes for everyone - and maybe not even for most people - but for me it was yes.
At this point, I feel like I need to tell you that I love photography. I love it so much. I think it's one of the most powerful platforms for storytelling that has ever existed on this earth. But more than photography, I love life and the moments that make it up. I don't always love the actual act of living life, but I love life. The story of humanity is the most incredible thing that has ever been or ever will be. The epic, the outrageous, the frustrating, the awe-inspiring, the simple, the heart-wrenching, the breathtaking, the nail-biting, the boring, the confusing, the uniting, the celebratory, the painful, the joyful, down to the everyday mundane moments of this life. The totality of the human existence, the totality of our story, it's all beautiful.
Because our Storyteller is beautiful, He makes everything beautiful in its own time. From the beginning of time, He has been writing a beautiful story in each of us and in all of us.
John Steinbeck, who speaking of storytellers is just brilliant, once wrote that we all only have one story. That all novels, all poetry are built on the never ending contest in ourselves between good and evil. He's right. Our story, albeit beautiful, is broken. John - can I call him John? - also wrote of a character that once said that in uncertainty, he was certain of this: that underneath men's topmost layers of fragility, they want to be good and they want to be loved. I think he's right again. I think that all of life, this story that we live day in and day out, is a movement towards goodness, a movement back towards the Eden that once was. A place a unbridled perfection, unencumbered joy, and unhindered relationship. With each other and with our Maker. I love thinking about the Garden of Eden and what it must have been like. I think it was free, I think it was raw, I think it was lovely. Whether we know it or not, I think we live our lives to reclaim that Eden, that place and state of perfection and paradise. And ultimately, I think that's the story God is writing in us. A story of him reclaiming us back to Himself.
I think reclaiming Eden is a way of life, a way to take back what was once ours. Reclaiming Eden is choosing to live a life of love instead of hate, a life of peace instead of violence, a life of generosity instead of greediness, a life of celebrating what is praiseworthy in others instead of tainting what is beautiful. In big ways, but mostly in small everyday ways. I want my life to be a movement towards reclaiming Eden, in the way that I love, the way that I interact, the way that I think, the way that I sacrifice, the way that I celebrate and honor others, the way that I make choices, the way that I stand up for justice and truth. I think the reclaiming of Eden is the story that God is writing for all of us, a story that is both broken and beautiful all at the same.
More than I want to be anything else, I want to be a storyteller and a story listener and a story liver.
I want to tell people's stories and watch people's stories and celebrate people's stories. I want to live in my story, for better or for worse, and in it I want to see God's story. Reclaiming Eden Photography and Print is a small way that I get to do that. But it isn't everything. Because story, like love and like beauty and like joy, can't quite be captured. It can only be shared and celebrated and told. Through conversation, through letters, through laughter, through art, through nature, through song, through books, through relationships, through adventures, through cinema, through playing, through mistakes, through language, through learning, through living. Through photography and through print.
There's nothing quite like a good story.
And the one we're living, gosh well it's one hell of story.
PS. My favorite memory from my trip to Rome was one of the last days we were there, when Alex and I went to the beach with Lenka and her kids and some of their friends. We played all day on the beach and then at night, we ate dinner at a restaurant on the beach. It was wonderful and hilarious and perfect in every way. It was just one of those days and one of those meals. I left feeling so full and content and alive.
I don't think I have a single picture of that dinner.