Today I spent a pleasurable part of the day experimenting with my camera. Following in Calvin’s footsteps before the Great Interrupter I got myself a Leica CL. Small and very easy to manage I developed the habit of taking it with me on my walks and travels. I study light and see more details, more beauty in the mundane. The last time I used it until today was the third week of March. Today I’m experimenting with the self-timer and the art of focusing on nothing that I hope will become something.
Yesterday I went out with no camera in hand. Aimless rambles are on hold. Nature once taken for granted as being there whenever I needed it is now hard to find. Randall’s Island, my old haunt is a far walk from home and now that the bathrooms are closed I’m not up for peeing behind a tree. This day the bright sky with its promise of Vitamin D and the feel of a breeze draws us to walk by the East River. The pockets of green and blue in the city like Central Park or the Promenade along the river are now filled with clusters of younger people, some not wearing masks.
Let me not generalize here. It’s not all young people. It’s young women, sleek in Lycra running gear like mine from Lululemon, pristine running shoes and not a face covering in sight. No sweatshirt tied around a neck, no t-shirt that when pulled up could keep me safe. I counted 25 of them, all of a type, high ponytails bouncing. My hair is now long enough, and I have one too, though mine is grey. As someone who appreciates looking stylish, one could access a designer mask or a Hermès scarf if you prefer, draped around a neck until it needs to be of service. My choice of mask for today, colorful madras, suggests summers on Nantucket or Newport, Rhode Island.
I must confess to a certain amount of betrayal and rage as one girl ran so close to my ear I could hear and feel the force of her breath. It felt like being held up with a gun. Ironically, some of these young women probably follow me on Instagram. The ones that leave comments that say, “I want to be you when I’m older.” They fit the demographic. I want to scream at these young women, “One day because you have privilege you will be me.” By me, I mean privileged old. A fit and healthy soon to be 67-year-old, with an enviable life, plenty to live for and given medical breakthroughs perhaps for at least 20 maybe even 30 more years. Here’s the caveat: unless I’m taken down before my time by the Great Interrupter.
I want to scream from inside the mask I’m wearing that protects them more than it protects me, “Will you also want to die when you’re me?” I answer to myself, “No, you will not.” Because you will still wear beautiful clothes, take your granddaughter on a trip to Paris, have a lover, write a story, post on Instagram, walk in the sun, start a new career, pursue a long-deferred passion, have good friends and run along the river. You’ll feel you still deserve a place on the promenade. You’ll not want to stay inside. You are me and I am you except that I’m old. The Great Interrupter prefers me over you, it seems.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made my peace with death. I’m not so naïve in my celebration of age that I deny the reality of my aging body or the arbitrariness of fate. I’m fine with it but that does not mean I flaunt unhealthy habits or engage in what I know to be risky behaviors. I know a car can randomly hit me, but I still look both ways before I cross the street even when I’m jaywalking. I control what I can and am open to the possibility of everything else.
I find this lack of thoughtfulness from other women almost as distressing as what I read in the news these days. I just wish they understood how careless they are being with those who are in truth their future selves.
So today I remain inside until I can figure out the best time to go walking in the sun when I want to. I go out to the store because I want some flowers. I want a piece of outside to come inside. I walk back and forth in front of the display passing the pastels and muted tones of the spring flowers until I see some bold orange and yellow tulips. They remind me of a fire and the way they stand out is like a scream. They feel satisfying.
I bring them home and know I will photograph them and me. Some photos in focus, others are not. Somehow I prefer those not in focus, it feels more like the life I’m living right now. Still out of focus and as yet unknown, I’m grateful that I’ve been around long enough to know that the future will all become clear in time. If I keep experimenting and practicing, I will find my focus. I will feel safe to walk on the promenade once again.