I biked most of the dirt path, walked the rest. The last part was steep. As with most things that wear you out, the payoff was worth it.
I sat on the stone bench, my bike leaning against the railing. The whole front range of the Rocky Mountains laid beyond. Suburbs reclined at their feet.
The sky darkened, but just before, a splash of burnt light flared over the silhouetted peaks.
It lasted for ten minutes. The anticipation before was beautiful. The dimming light afterward left an impression too.
I didn’t watch it alone. Some hikers joined me to the right and left.
One didn’t linger long.
He joined us right as the sunset hit its most majestic moment, snapped a picture with his phone, then stood up and left.
I was slightly offended.
Who sits in front of a sunset against the Rocky Mountains for a mere 60 seconds? Who thinks they can snap a picture and say they’ve really seen a sunset?
It felt like he had taken a girl on a dinner date, shoved food in his mouth and stood up to leave immediately after eating his last french fry. Technically he went on a date but was he there for the girl or the food?
The sunset deserved more than a “snap and go.”
I shouldn’t judge. Maybe his mom was making dinner and he knew the trip needed to be quick. Maybe those 60 seconds were sweet moments of refuge, the photo merely capturing the intimate experience.
But let’s just say (for the purpose of this post) he wanted a pretty picture of a sunset to post on Facebook so his friends could “like” it and make him feel like his life is as deep and beautiful as a sunset even though it’s as shallow as a sixty-second dinner date.
It had me thinking about what makes a memory.
Is it something we’ve merely caught on film? Or is it something we’ve felt in the depth of our hearts, even if no photo evidence of it exists?
In the fast-paced social media world, it seems we’ve become infatuated with looking fun, exciting, intellectual, cool, artistic, creative, adventurous etc…
All we need to prove that we’re awesome is a cool picture. We can take a picture of a book we’re not reading, a meal we didn’t make, a guitar we didn’t play, or a sunset we didn’t see, and we have some awesome “memories.” No one knows the difference.
People “like” it (read: us), and we feel good about the life we’re supposedly living.
Don’t get me wrong: photographs can be wonderful things. I’m amazed at the memories I’ve forgotten when I go through a stack of old photos. I’m so thankful those moments were captured. My memory is fallible.
But I hope the pictures I continue to take are for me, not for an audience. I hope they help me remember who has really meant something to me, and what experiences truly shaped me. I hope they’re not status symbols or trophies that only have meaning on display.
That evening in front of the full sunset isn’t captured on film. In the moment, I wished I had a camera. But in lieu of a photograph, I traced the mountain silhouettes as hard as I could with my eyes. I held my breath a little, trying to make sure I wouldn’t get in the way of the moment. I may not have a picture, but because all I had were my eyes and heart, I think they got more of the mountains than a photograph could have.
What do you capture in your photographs?