The Photos Not Taken

Beside a river, in the jungles of Peten, Guatemala,
Our old International Travelall broke down.
I waited while a few men discussed the options.
There were some concerns about our isolation
And the rumored guerrilla war
And the coming night.

I took a breath, I sighed, really,
And looked up to my left to see a stunning sunset
Framed by the trees along the broad river.
A postcard of a sunset:
The sky purple and red and orange,
The black silhouettes of palm trees gracefully curving in.
I cynically thought it too trite to take a picture.

Six years later I sat on the steps of our rustic house,
Watching.
They walked slowly away, along the drive,
To where it bent out of sight,
Both with their eyes seeking their footing.
He leaned awkwardly down to the side, extending his index finger.
She reached up to clasp it, her other hand raised for balance,
Fingers spread wide.  
The tall skinny dad and the precious toddler
Who walked over the rough gravel
With the uncertain gait of a beginner
Finding her way.

Three years later she lay in the bath beside her infant brother,
Pretending to be a baby,
Though she seemed enormous
Beside a real newborn
With her long thin arms and legs,
Her idea of a baby expression on her four-year-old face.
I couldn’t leave them alone
In the two inches of water
To find the camera.
But I will see them there forever.

Twenty-five years later, driving in Italy from Florence to Sienna,
The tall skinny dad and I stopped at a farmhouse restaurant
Sweetly settled on a hillside, comfortable, welcoming.
A warm spring day, we sat outdoors on a covered open porch,
With green and growing things
Creeping up every post and spreading out before us
Down across the lawn
To the gardens and vineyards.

The fragrant air buzzed and hummed.
The muffled sounds of distant farm work punctuated
The soft chatter and easy laughter
Of the several generations of an Italian family
Seated nearby.

I ate what the Roman gods must have eaten,
Luscious pesto crowning a bed of perfect pasta on a white oval plate.
Every aspect of this experience felt exceptional
In an ordinary way.

At last, as we walked back along the uneven flagstones
Toward the car,
We passed a waist-high terracotta pot
That had gone unnoticed when we arrived.

It had once broken and then been mended.
Holes had been drilled near the broken edges,
Wire had been used to neatly secure the pieces
Into a whole, strong pot once again.
Here it still stood, spilling over with
Geraniums
Lush with dark green foliage and
Vivid red blossoms.

I now live in an age of ubiquitous photography.
But I do not have these memories in an album,
Or stored on an electronic device or in a cloud.
The images live in silent stillness,
And they will be gone
When I am gone.

Share this
Continue Reading

Lynn Packham Larson

Lynn lives with her husband in a house that he built, where the edge of town meets the edge of the woods. She was raised in a big city, and now finds peace and inspiration walking the dog and hiking the trails near her home. The birding is wonderful, trees abundant, water plentiful.

More Posts by this author…