Odysseus’ Axes: What story do your old photos tell?

Anything can tell a story.

A rock. A tree. An anchored ship. The way sunlight hits the glass of a window in an abandoned building. Yes, I have photographed all of those things, some more times than I can count. (I really like rocks, okay? :-P) 

Photography, in its elemental purpose, is very much akin to the art of storytelling. Both involve invoking mood and movement through a medium which is in itself flat and static–photographs and novel pages remain frozen for all time, and yet allow us a window into a much broader narrative.

Facebook and Google Photos regularly tell me stories in the form of pictures I have taken in years gone by. Each morning I wake to find snapshots from the past in neat little “memories” notifications on my phone. This day last year. This day two years ago. Five years ago. EIGHT years ago? Wow, time has flown. Study abroad in Dublin feels like yesterday.

This daily curated collection of resurrected images has the startling effect of allowing me to gaze linearly back through my life through the keyhole of a given day of the calendar. After years of such reflection, I have noticed some patterns:

1.) I can pull off any hair color. Yes, this totally deserves a spot on my list. Because reasons.

2.) My life moves in cycles. By entering the teaching profession, I essentially committed to a life rhythm that involves an insanely busy school year punctuated by a short but sweet summer graced with travel, family bonfires, and oodles of outdoor adventuring. I routinely find myself looking back at photos of events past on the same day I am reliving them in the present. Four years worth of graduation ceremonies. Countless seasons of Renaissance Fest. Christmases with family, friends, and college roommates who I may never meet again. There is something disarming about seeing all these moments lined up with one another, like the axes Odysseus famously shot his arrow through. This unique perspective on experience makes me wonder: Where’s my arrow heading? In what ways will the next moment be similar or different than years past? What am I doing to shape it?

3.) The difficult moments remain just as meaningful as the joyful ones. Many of you can likely relate to this: when you start looking into the past, there’s a high likelihood you will uncover some pictures that are hard to see. Decisions I thought were sound, yet weren’t. The family members who have since lost their battle. The friend who died far too young. And yet, while it is sometimes painful to remember, I feel it is necessary to remember, because these people–these moments–are a part of who I am. We are still tied together. There is meaning in that, and I choose to claim it.

4.) The quality of the picture doesn’t matter. Those 27 grainy, washed out pics from a disposable camera my two friends and I took of us playing frisbee in the backyard? Still love seeing them. Not because they are the pinnacle of photography (oh HEAVENS, no), but because of the people, the place, and the event they portray. I love those photos because of the story they tell. The moments they transport me to. Lesson? Spend less time worrying about getting the perfect shot and just capture life as it is written. Because someday, I may want to reread this particular page.

What part of your story do you want remembered?  When you pause to examine them, what do your “axe-moments” tell you?

Above photo credit: I took this picture of–you guessed it–rocks. This was on the shore of one of the Boston Harbor Islands where I went sea kayaking on a whim. The sea was misty. I got wet. Fun was had by all.


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