Photos of people at work or play are redolent with emotions and artifacts of the past. Candid shots include everyday surroundings — scenes and objects that elicit memories. A kitchen shot may include, for example, not only the expression on your aunt’s face, but the clock that fascinated you as a child — the one with dog paws for hands and a dog tail for the pendulum.
Examine your collection of photos closely. You may notice details that you overlooked in the past. A screen in the propped open window may remind you of mosquitoes which, in turn, may remind you of fireflies caught in a jar by you and your siblings on summer evenings. When you see the family car in the background of a photo, you may remember how your dog would ride with his nose poked out into the brisk air. And so forth.
This month, the challenge is to choose a photograph from your collection and think deeply about it. Look at it as if seeing it for the first time, and examine every little detail in the foreground and background. Be sensitive to all the details as well as to your emotional response. Then write some memories that emerge from viewing this photograph. You may later choose to preserve your paragraph or paragraphs WITH the photo, enhancing its value for all who see it in the future.
EXAMPLE: The following passage is is from the memoir, Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry:
The story begins on a pile of sheep manure the size of a yurt. Dad stacked it alongside the barn one winter, and I climbed it, a fact documented in a thirty-something-year-old photograph of a miniature me waving from the rounded peak, clearly thrilled to have summited the dung. My jacket is unzipped and the sun is bright, but the landscape is blank with snow, and the shading of the sky — bleached horizon rising to a zenith of cyanotic blue, and not a cloud to be seen — suggests the day was cold and deepens the green of the tall pines in the background. My hood is up, my pants are tucked inside rubber barn boots, and I am leaning on my sawed-off pitchfork as if it were an alpenstock. I am grinning like the hick spawn of the devil and Sir Edmund Hillary. (p. 1, Truck: A Love Story, Michael Perry, Harper Collins, 2006.)
Perry goes on to explain how his parents later spread all this manure on their fields, leaving this well-fertilized circle of earth, where the manure had been stored, as the location for Perry and his brother to plant their own little garden of corn and pumpkins. And, he then moves into a discussion of gardening in his current, adult life. He is one of many memoir writers from whom we can learn writing techniques.
Let us hear from you!