optics

26 01 2009

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My maternal grandfather was a watchmaker.  Half of the “livingroom” of his itty bitty tiny trailer was taken up by his wooden workbench.  Half-blinded by cataracts, he was no longer working when he lived there that I know of…but the workbench was still the center piece of his life.  Staying overnight was an adventure, amusing myself by going through all those little drawers and tinkering with all the tools and half assembled watches.  

Of all the gadgets, springs and gears living in those drawers but by far, my favorite were the magnifying glasses. All kinds of them – eye pieces, hand-helds, big, little, the whole gamut.  Making the tiny look huge was just as much fun as looking through the opposite end of binoculars to make things look like they were a million miles away.  OK – so I’m easily amused.  But I’ve often wondered if all those early experiments with lenses imprinted on me my love of looking through a camera’s viewfinder and manipulating the optics to bring things into sharp focus. If I had my druthers, I’d always choose portrait work over landscapes…coming up closer on things – magnifying life, not broad sweeping vistas.  

Keeping my focus on the task at hand isn’t always as entertaining as playing with those lenses when I was six.  It had been exactly seven days since I’d been here. The weather had been horrid and gray and freezing.  I was reveling in being all alone in my space – all alone. But her voice cracked over the phone when I asked a question. She was being brave but it was getting to her.  

I changed my plans but didn’t tell her.  There is no reason to have her worrying about whether or not the roads are snowy.  And they weren’t anyway.  But when we quietly share this space – she speaks her mind.  Things come to the surface and she tells me why last week was so hard.  Post-non-61st anniversary she was surprised at church when the year-in-review flashed up a photo of the two of them from a few years back – followed by a long, too quiet, winter week.  Grieving is in focus.

I will leave in the morning because there is a very special package being delivered to my northern door step the day after tomorrow…and I’ll have new lenses – ones free of the Sahara sands gritting in their guts – to play with. Trusty little point-and-shoot is on an exotic vacation and has been pried from my grip.  There are those who want me to get serious again about getting behind the viewfinder.

So here’s to new focus – be it magnified hours of loneliness or sweeping new vistas I record on a memory card.

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