I should probably put a warning, or maybe a minor alert here, that this post contains heady material.
It may not be suitable for Monday mornings. Then again, maybe it’s just about right.
There’s a Counting Crows song with lyrics that creep in my mind a lot. It’s called “Have You Seen Me Lately” and the lyrics are:
“Like she said she loved to watch me sleep
Like she said,
“It’s the breathing
It’s the breathing in and out and in and…”
Every night, even every morning that I’m the first one awake (rare), I stand and watch them sleep. The telltale breathing up and down. The rhythm. On Saturday morning, I stood and watched my Nana sleep. It was the breathing, in and out and in and out.
Quite like I watch Des sleep and breathe. Des and my Nana. They’re growing in opposite directions and it’s much too fast for me.
It was too much, too fast for me. It was so fast I felt sick and suffocated and I ran out of the room, saying that Des needed air. I needed air. She lay in her bed in her room, in her rehab facility, where she may learn to walk and eat again. And she may not. My money is on “may”, but for how long? She lay in her bed in her room, with wires and monitors – huddled under covers like a small child. What does it feel like to wake up and be close to 100-years-old? What does it feel like to wake up and be one-year-old? To be deteriorating so fast. Or to be expanding so fast. All we can do is watch them sleep, and pray for their breath.
Breaths are the sweet rhythms of life. Where they stop, no one knows.
It was one of those times in which I thought I might throw up, or cry, but I didn’t start because I feared I’d never stop.
Scarlet stayed. She saw my retreating back and she knew a nurse had arrived to get my Nana dressed for visitors. She had a choice, or a “choose”, as she calls it. You know what she said? She said, “I’m staying with Nana Jane.” Then when my Nana was dressed and awake and waiting for me in a cool, windy courtyard, I came to my senses and brought Des back. There was a fountain in the courtyard. Scarlet and my mom made wishes in the water. There may have been coins involved. Scarlet’s wish?
“For Nana Jane to feel better again.”
Amen, my princess. Yes, she is a princess. In every sense of the word. Her heart, soul and inner beauty. The stuff that matters.
And she dresses like one too, which is more fitting than she knows. Her “costumes” don’t always look like costumes.
For days now, there’s been a song stuck in my head. Firmly. It plays on a continuous loop at certain points of the day, and the only lyrics I know of it are “safe and sound.” Not that I’m any good at learning lyrics, but I’m stuck on those three words. As the weekend approached, the song in my head sped up in tempo. I craved this weird song like I’ve never craved anything. It was almost like I breathed it in, and out, and in. I only ever feel sick and anxious when I don’t feel safe and sound. Quite simply.
The song is by Capital Cities and I’m writing to it, so maybe you can read to it:
Sometimes it’s ok not to feel safe and sound. When I am stretching outside my comfort zone so far that I can’t even believe I can still stand. On my tip-toes. In a rehab facility. Shooting what I consider my first wedding Saturday night. It was a second wedding, actually. A vow renewal ceremony. It had all of the makings of any great wedding – true love, a hot bride, a professional photographer, two cakes, a stunning church, music and good food. I was so nervous – so ambitious to get that photo-magic feeling I get when everything is working out. I was so anxious to capture a feeling and a story. 25 years of a love story.
I know what I can do, and capturing life and love is something I can do.
I am starting this part of a victory speech before I leave for the wedding. It is the only way to self-soothe; the only way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I have to make come true. ‘Cause writing this is hard and soul-reaching and I’d hate to show up on Monday morning without a blog post. So here I am, maybe transcribing this on a Sunday night at home, but my voice here is from Saturday afternoon in New Jersey. I am so nervous and so determined to make my photography dreams come true.
And now, it’s Sunday night.
So I thought of all of the voices of those who are stronger than me – my mother who went through the deaths of two dogs, a horse, her father and a close friend in the last 15 months. Still, she goes on and is building a life for her nearly 100-year-old mother that is even remotely familiar to old comforts. Even remotely familiar in this amazing and horrifying life. Then there’s my daughter who cries happy tears because she says she “loves so much”, and she stayed by the side of a visibly ailing, woman who was sleeping so old, she looked infantile. I ran out to catch a fading breath. My daughter stayed. I will NEVER forget that.
I also thought of all of the voices of my in-person and blogging friends who have shown me support for this photography job. I played all of your words in my head in the same loop as the “Safe and Sound” song. It kept me going.
And now, thank you. It happened. Finger met shutter button a few hundred times. Something, I hope, was captured.
And now I’m home and I’m processing. And if I shot film, I’d be processing that.
I’m home and Cassidy is home from his trip, and everyone is sleeping but I’m not. And we may never really be safe and sound in this ever-uncertain world, but I feel it right now. I will lose this feeling, and I will feel it again too.
Safe and sound.