Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Philosophy and Photos

There is a question that philosophical types like to ask that goes something like this: "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to see it, did it really fall?" Now, I like to amend that question a bit to go more like: "if a tree falls in the forest, and no one took a picture of it, THEN did it really fall?" I happen to place a lot of value on the photo. I honestly do not remember how I lived before I owned a camera, and I suppose I could ask, Did I truly live? :) When Ryan and I travel, we spend a lot of time taking pictures. It is actually difficult for me to enjoy myself until I have the required photos for wherever we are. For instance, when taking a trip to Paris, we needed to get the shot in front of the Eiffel Tower, the shot at the Louvre, and a good picture of gargoyles at Notre Dame - all while wearing a beret. In London there is Big Ben, a shot in a phone booth, a double decker bus and a good pub. When we went to the Arches National Park in Utah we raced from rock formation to rock formation just to get the photo. I dont actually remember seeing most of them, but I have photos to show for our race through the park. We have the picture of the family car going through a tree in the California Redwoods, one of Ryan in front of the Statue of Liberty, one of all the baseball stadiums we have seen to date. Okay, you get the point.

But the small tragedy of all of this - or perhaps comedy? - is that not only does the photo make the trips a reality, but it creates a NEW reality. As long as there is a picture, it doesnt really matter what actually happened. Let me explain. This last week, our family went to En Gedi and the Dead Sea - both close to home here in Jerusalem. The spectacular views, the sweet moments with our boys, the awe inspiring history of the places...these were not the focus for me. I wanted a picture of me floating in the Dead Sea, a picture of me with mud all over me, and a picture of my boys swimming under a waterfall. Our first stop was En Gedi, an area known for its beauty and described in the Bible in Song of Songs. We hiked up to the first waterfall, and I wanted to stop and get the boys in the water for their picture. Of course Ryan insisted we actually do the ENTIRE hike (which was only about a mile). Again this was not nearly as interesting to me as the photo op, but we marched on. Finally we got to the top, and while I fed Benja (the baby), all I could think about was the waterfall photo - the one consolation of course is that the photo of me feeding the baby was a photo op as well. When we got to the waterfall the boys were not in the least interested in getting in the water, as it was windy and quite chilly as well as in the shade. But we forced them in, and got our picture - it matters not that they both have little colds now. Because in 10 years we will look back at that happy moment when they were able to frolick under a cascading waterfall in En Gedi.

Then it was on to the Dead Sea, where upon walking into the water, my two older boys and I all cut up our feet on the sharp and very salt-crusted floor. We were not aware that we needed aqua socks but for future travellers, be warned. It was also very cold and the waves were fairly strong. My second son immediately jumped out and my first was a bit more of a trooper and went in for a minute. I had pretty much sliced open the top of my toes fairly deeply, but persevered despite the not so pleasant combo of salt water on my wounds. Again, I got the photo and thats all that matters. In 10 years we will look back at that idyllic afternoon, floating weightless in the Dead Sea.

And finally, we got our mud shots. Not to matter that the salts in the mud and the sulphur showers burned our eyes and exacerbated the cuts on my feet. I smiled and all that will remain of our time there are happy memories of therapeutic minerals and soft skin.

I really do love good photo ops. And the truth is, I was truly happy despite the pain and misery, knowing that I had my picture and therefore our pain would not be for naught. And I look forward to the many more photo ops that life sends our way.


Ryan said...

It may surprise some of you to know that I am not a "check the list" type of a person. I like the experience more than the goal. It turns out Sara and I have some differences!

alison said...

sara -- the concerns expressed here lead to a confirmation of my belief that candid shots are better! -- you can remember the moments that actually happened, not just the ones you arranged and posed for.