Ode to Joy

28 January 2016

This is my grandmother, Joy. I made this photograph a few months ago, on large format film. Joy has a few favorite places. One is right here in this backyard, where she has spent most of her life, planting beloved Morning Glories, swimming, and sending her grandkids to climb the redwood trees. “Kids are meant to climb trees,” she would always say.

How I love this magnificent woman. Our lives and character are built, in some way, of these little pieces of those people who raised us, or friendshipped us, who hurt us, and believed in us, and demanded more of us. These spirit fragments slip themselves and dance within us, and we learn to tie them in knots, or shoot them from our fingertips, or consciously release them. I see so much of myself in her. I pull her fragments closer, and closer to me.

Our interactions are quieter now. I remember times when she told me, “you sure know what you want, and how to get it.” I used to hate hearing that, because it made me feel selfish, or demanding. And, truth be told, I am sometimes, and she is too. But I realize now that she was saying it with a bit of kindred admiration. We demand the most of ourselves. I never realized growing up what a privilege it was to be the granddaughter of a valedictorian (let alone a college graduate). This woman lives up to her rich heritage, and she’s spent her life ever-growing, ever-learning, and ever-creating. Publishing books, creating stained glass, arranging flowers, and raising a family, through tragedy and ecstasy and tedium. She and Grandpa used to fight, a lot. Their relationship seemed complicated, but they loved and needed each other, and they fought through it. She was strong, and educated, and capable, and she demanded respect.

Life is intricate and inexplicable. It is poignantly sophisticated and intriguingly incomplete. Sometimes I simply sit and meditate over a life lived. Not a life lived well, or a life wasted; simply… a life lived.

My grandmother, Joy



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