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Category: writing to photos

A Photo of My Mother from Years Ago

Recently, I spent some time at the family log cabin in northern Minnesota. The cabin is filled with lots of memories; my folks bought the place the year I was born (1960) and it is the only place on Earth that I return to every year of my life. The trees I planted when I was in grade school are tall and wide now. The rock walls my father built are covered with moss and lichens.

In an old photo album, I found a photo of my mother from a trip there that she and Dad had taken years ago while she was still teaching. I vaguely remember the trip except for a feeling that they were heading north at an odd time of the year. I was busy with my own life, I guess, so it didn’t register. In the album I found a delightful photo of my mother from that trip, her eyes so sparkly and open, her hair covered with snowflakes. I realized that I had never seen this expression on my mother’s face before. Photos are interesting that way. Sometimes they crack open the door to rooms that others rarely see. Those glimpses make us more complex, they make us more human.

LightCreative Commons License Alexandra E Rust via Compfight

A Photo of My Mother from Years Ago

In a musty album
tucked in a cabinet
in the back room of the cabin,
there is a photo of my mother
taken years ago during a trip north.
That she had stolen
a few days from teaching kids
to head to the summer cabin in November
was surprisingly irresponsible. Yet
after that first set of illnesses –
I understand now –
spending time together
became more important. So,
as the shutter snapped,
there she was — delighted
by the early snow that met her,
surprised by its arrival to a place
she knew best
in the warmth of summer.
Her smile was warm and open.
For a moment, she didn’t feel
the wet snow on her hair,
or notice the gray sky
that loomed behind.
Enough
that she had pried open a crack
big enough to squeeze
from a bushel of work
a few drops of
sweet connection.

– Steve Peterson

Performance Art

Here’s a small poem that came from another Ben Shahn photo, which was left over from an attempt at a poem every-other-day during April. (Click here for more on my fascination with Ben Shahn.)

From the New York Public Library
From the New York Public Library

Performance Art

We write our lives
in the small things we do:
bare feet on the cold floor,
the bed made, sheet and quilt
pulled up just so;
hands dipped into a basin,
the still-damp towel
hung to dry. Your smile
warms me when I enter the kitchen
after the cold night.
We write our lives
in the things we do.
Our penmanship grows
better with practice.

– Steve Peterson

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