(* wish you were here…)
As the bulbul flashed his red bottom on my balcony garden, a cheeky tomato red to the poinsettia’s cheerful ruby, I caught myself in the act of yet another impulsive-compulsive click and thought back to that snow leopard stakeout scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Walter Mitty: When will you take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes when I like a moment, I mean, me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.
How does one truly appreciate a moment? Be ‘in the moment’? Reliving it in the mind’s eye or leafing/scrolling to its documented proof in an album? Does documenting affirm the moment one has just lived? Or diminish it?
I have more external hard drives than I have lipstick, each exploding with photographs accumulated from my trigger-happy life circa smartphones: fleeting moments frozen, a serene elsewhere, astonishing beauty in a graffiti, light that feels like a benediction, the epiphany in ice cream (especially when it’s styled as a Roman legionnaire’s helmet!), the relish of chocolate, the hope in wildflowers growing out of stony crevices, the joy of butterflies and ladybugs in a balcony garden… each one reflecting what the grizzled, elusive wildlife photographer Sean O’Connell in the movie called ‘life’s quintessence’.
Surprisingly versatile thing, this ‘life’s quintessence’ – as special as sighting a snow leopard and as special as a chocolate croissant/BLT. Think back to that blithe, balladic moment in The Man from U.N.C.L.E, that speedboat chase scene in which Solo is distracted from the mission at hand by a farmer’s lunch hamper of wine, sandwich and tomatoes. With a rearview mirror view to the sky and sea conflagrating into a fiery explosion as Illya’s speedboat is riddled by bullets, Solo uncorks the chianti, tucks a checkered napkin under his chin and helps himself to a humble sandwich.
At the time I watched it, the sheer insouciance took my breath away.
But now, I realise it was the dedication to the good life celebrated (and how!) that struck a chord.
Because, in life, it all comes down to the careful details of a well-tabled meal or a deliciously packed picnic. It probably has something to do with primary colours: Red (cherry tomatoes/watermelon/carrots), Green (leaf/peas/garnish), Caramel/Gold masquerading as Yellow! (the bubbly/fruit/ grilled meat). Colours of food, depending on their arrangement, always conjure a memory. When I eat, I often feel I’m gorging on an emotion or relishing a moment in time and feel sated. I can’t decide if I am more a memorialist (I remember, therefore I am) or just forever hungrous (I eat, therefore I am)! And photographs of these delicious moments – when I dare that is, for it’s extremely rude table etiquette (and I know a chef who will walk you out of his restaurant for this flagrance and a boy who will refuse to eat with you) – well, I think they’re like the Still Life portraits by the masters. Focussing on a precious everydayness, they’re about life, enjoyed in its nuances, in its pauses.
Still debating this vexing dilemma of To Click or Not to Click, I think I’ll hold on to the photos (and the occasional lapse of taking them), so I remember the trick to living:
Life, with a touch of buoyant pleasure.
Our stories, told with a touch of lightness.
Time, savoured in its pauses (relished all the more if f&b is at hand!).
On a not too distant gambol in the foothills of the mountains that the Packmaster loves deeply, I heard less and less the command she shoots at my quivering terrier passion: ‘Calm down’ & ‘Heel’. In spite of how I shot off to explore the pine forest filled with delicious smells and infinitely gnaw-able pinecones. In spite of how I barked at red-bottomed monkeys with my pal Coco whose boundless zest sets my tail wagging! (The only time I was schooled was when I made off with the toddler’s salami.)
And I heard not at all the infraction the boy dares from time to time with the Packmaster: ‘Just relax’/ ‘Chill’. Even when she tried to stage photoshoots to capture “life’s moments”.)
Anyway, since the Packmaster is extolling calm, I must pitch in my two-bit: I don’t understand this obsession with ‘calm’. You gotta keep exploring and thrilling to what the wind blows your way. Or the worms will get you.