A farewell to winter is a slow-going affair. The weather heats up imperceptibly for about a month, while summer sends out its heralds with the occasional, tantalizing hot spell. On the other hand, our autumns are fine since our summers cool in a similar pattern. Both of Toronto’s dominant seasons hang on past their prime.
But the uglies of winter are gone or going: the salted bumpers and streetcar shelters, stained windows and a host of grubby little visual modifiers that make a Toronto winter ugly – unless there’s fresh snow.
Snow (and temperature, of course) are the culprits. With winter days that waver around the freezing mark frequently, salt is the only thing that keeps us from careening into one another, on foot or in any other conveyance. Last year’s ice storm tells the grim but beautiful story in one way; while this year’s salt cars tells it in a “grime but beautiful” way ;)
Eleven years ago, my kidneys shut down. My death was averted through the miracle of organ transplantation. At least that’s how I felt about the disease that killed my mother but which can now be treated with dialysis. I sent my friends long, happy-hysterical, picture-filled word documents in the aftermath of my euphoric battle with death. My attacker lay strewn along the beaches of Sanibel Island, desiccated by the sun and eaten in tiny mouthfuls by sand flies.
I was dancing the gift of life. My body hummed with electricity. “Nature without check with original energy”, as Whitman would put it. Or it might have been the high doses of prednisone :)
I dedicated my time to that gift. I saw it everywhere and tried my best to record and share it. I had a mission. I wrote a personal mission statement and took up photography as if I hadn’t left it (I had, for twenty-five years).
But death has a way of changing his tactics. We compare ourselves, becoming quick to anger, judgement and pointless debate. It eats away at simple joy, filling us with rage and frustration. It attaches itself to the soul like barnacles, waiting to apply the coup de grace.
I know we all feel that way sometimes. Not just me, but so many I’ve known and loved and others I’ve loved from afar. Reaching back for a mission statement is the last thing to do. I know where my mission statement is – on my desk in a folder I don’t have the heart to open. Better not compare oneself with one’s better self. Maybe it’s the loss of my dear friend Melanie after a seven-year battle with ALS, Death’s ugliest swordsman.
Here’s something I’ve revisited. It often works for me. I hope it works for you.
Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Joe McNally to Photofocus. While Joe’s a busy guy, he’ll be making some posts here from time to time. Please give a warm welcome to Joe and encourage him by leaving feedback on the article and sharing it with your friends.
It Started with a Shimmer…
Actually, a shimmer and an idea.
I don’t know why the folks at Nikon and the Photo Plus Expo administration listened to me when I came to them with Halloween ideas. For someone such as myself, raised up on comic books and the dark fantasies of Mordor, the notion of distressed trick or treaters, of small children poised on the verge of fantastical disaster and mayhem was completely normal. I was somewhat nonplussed then, when most people I tried to explain my ideas to would listen politely, tilt their head, look at me and say, “Sounds cool. You’re…