It’s been a profoundly touching month on a personal and professional level with many milestones. Formal or not, these memorials mark the passage of time and of people. As a family, we are preparing to enter a new phase as children grow toward independence and we approach the challenge of downsizing by choice; I lost friends to disease; and I quietly observed dignified commemorations that transcend our day to day concerns.
Memorial Day is a special event in this part of the world. For some it’s the unofficial start of summer parties and shopping deals. For others, it’s really time to reflect on those who served and to remember those who did not return. In my little town, it’s like an iconic movie. There are the Veterans from more than 60+ years of conflict: some still march with a young person’s vigor; others ride with dignity in classic cars and wave to the faithful flag-waiving crowd. The parade includes Police, Fire Dept, Scouts, Brownies, school marching bands, town and school officials, and many more. In the crowd you see all ages and nationalities, all united by respect. From the reverberation of the rifles fired by the Detail from the Governor’s Horse Guards to the “Last Post” and it’s haunting echo played on the trumpet by local High School students to the speeches recalling the heroic actions of a brother who did not return, this was a day of words that called for deep reflection. It’s not a movie about fictional small-town America: this is my adopted small-town America and I know these families gather on the Town Green who honor the past.
A week before Memorial Day I attended a more personal Memorial Service the Governor’s Horse Guards observes annually in tribute to those who passed. In their ceremonial Oxford Blues and with fellow militia, the Footguards, the Troop marched to St Ann’s for a dignified service. For those who have ever closely followed and heard the drum, fife or taps, you know there is something stirring in those timeless traditions. In the formal addresses Lt Moore honored the former Troopers who passed this year, Lt Mazzaro shared his personal experiences of serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and now with the 2ndCoGHG but it is the poem read by Captain Gary Brooks that still plays in my mind.
Perhaps it’s more poignant for me this year because of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1. As an Australian acutely aware of the centenary of the Gallipoli Landing next year, I recall contemplative early dawn services that honor the spirit and the loss. Between the my photo exhibit that accompanied “War Horse” at the start of this year and that is currently on display again at the Avon Library, it seems an earlier fascination with that era has returned. Those images are seared in my mind, such is the power of photography to stop a moment. Perhaps that’s why I am drawn to the simple drama of black and white imagery.
Away from the military, I attended a simple but thoughtful service for a beautiful elegant artistic woman who succumbed to cancer. She planned the tranquility of a service that was peaceful as she intended. Outside as we mingled with the other mourners I was touched when a woman thanked me for some photos I'd sent of her with that friend, now all the more precious. At the time I merrily snapped away I had not known one of the women was profoundly ill. I was simply enjoying a lovely dinner on a hill on a balmy Fall evening with new friends. 7 months later she was losing her fight with cancer so I shared happy memories with friends before the inevitable came. Her words touched me and reminded me perhaps this is why I share this gift called photography.
It’s not about striving for impersonal awards or external validation: it’s about real life with real people. Perhaps it seems like an odd choice to dwell on this topic this week but it’s part of the same continuum of life’s journey from birth, first steps, prom, marriage and all the small moments in between. It’s the laughs and the shared meals, the relaxing and everything else. Make these moments count now. Do what you love, do what is important and be with the people you want to be with. Simple. I urge you to dust of those photos and enjoy them. It’s not about perfection or how we look. Forget vanity: treasure humanity
My next post will be much more upbeat - I promise. It’s about all the activities at Hill-Stead, a unique pace I am appreciating more with each passing month.