This post is the essay I wrote for my adult learning writing class at Vanderbilt University. Our instructor is thoughtful and creative in the ways he gives assignments that make us think and dig deep. The title of my essay is the same as our assignment. Study, he said, a favorite photograph and write about what the camera cannot see--feelings, what was happening nearby, the photographer, anything we might include. Some in the class write long essays. Since I am working on a novel, and putting together query material for the long-worked-on memoir, mine are short. Here is yesterday's assignment.
A favorite photograph showed Cousin Gertrude reading a picture book the school teacher cousins brought little Margaret. The adoring looks between adult and child was what captured the viewer and made it special.
A spot in the sun on the edge of the farm house's front porch allowed for escape from the plaintiff cries of Margaret's baby brother, Billy, and her mother's frantic attempts to quiet him, especially when her cousins visited. The camera captured the ragged front porch steps, but not her mother's pleas to her daddy to repair them, a request that loomed large when Cousins Gertrude, Edna, and nurse Clara came to visit.
The camera didn't capture Shep, the family's German Sheppard, asleep at the foot of the steps, ready to protect Margaret at the whisper of danger. The Cousins were among the few admitted through the yard's gate without Shep chained or held by a family member.
While turmoil reigned inside, the view from the porch was that of large maple trees, one little Margaret's favorite to hide behind, wild roses draping the top boards of the yard's fence, peonies and iris off to the side. Two tall mulberry trees flanked the yard's gate, housing birds who threatened to drop purple juice on the part of Cousin Edna's white hair as she got out of their Dodge and walked to the gate.
The camera couldn't take a panorama of the farm's front fields, Jersey and Guernsey milk cows dotting the green field that little Margaret would skip across when going to the store for her mother's brown box and striped candy sticks. In the other field, her daddy sat under his straw hat driving their red Ford tractor, cutting alfalfa for winter's cattle feed.
The quarter-mile lane the Cousins drove up to reach the circular drive in front of the yard had ruts and rocks dating from the days that Margaret's mother's dad and granddad drove their buggies up that same lane. No matter what fill Margaret's daddy put in, those ruts returned. Little Margaret would look at that lane, listen to folks talk about what a pretty place their farm was and wonder why anyone driving up that lane would think they were driving into a quiet peaceful home.
The camera caught the loving looks between Cousin Gertrude and little Margaret, the importance of which the camera couldn't know.
Note: I promise to be back on this blog more regularly in the near future. I continue to feel that I have something to say that's worth writing about the turmoil in our country, but as that's a changing target, I'll have to catch the right moment.
Blessings and peace