One cool evening in early october i took a polaroid picture.
It was in the sun room. My favorite place in the house because it has windows that go from the roof to about hip height, accented by quaint wooden frames, along the of the west facing wall looking out onto the courtyard, and two sliding doors made in the same fashion. On this particular evening the sky was a lovely patch work of orange and pink clouds, and the rolling hills that form the horizon were outlined in golden light. Birds called in melancholy voices to one another from the treetops where they fed their chicks supper. I was sitting on a comfortable cream coloured sofa, watching this idyllic scene unfold before me, when i heard a soft “meow” form the doorway to my left.
I looked to find two yellow eyes peering at me expectantly. My chocolate brown cat Ruby, stalked towards me out of the shadows. She leaped gracefully onto the sofa and folded herself into my lap, her muscular stream line body relaxed into deep purrs that made her vibrate. As i took a moment to appreciate the excellence of her design, I realized that i had not yet recorded her sublimity in photo. It was important that i did because she is a marvelous creature but nothing lasts forever. Anyway, i’d already done it for my dog, Rasta, and for some reasons in my mind it seemed unfair, almost as if my i favored him over her.
After lifting her gently off my legs i ran to my room to get my light blue polaroid camera. I really like taking polaroid pictures and even though they cost almost $2:50 each, when digital ones are practically free. There always seems to be a quality in polaroids that you just can’t achieve in an ordinary picture that makes them special. I think it has something to do with the fact that you only really get one shot to take it. One shot to capture a tiny moment that seconds later is exhibited on a slip of plastic in your hand. A fragment of time preserved like a physical memory, a window to the past, glazed in pale light forever. Its magical. This is why it was important to me to photograph Ruby. i wanted to remember.
I arranged Ruby into an attractive position on the sofa where the soft evening light shone into her face, waited until she opened her eyes (which seem to be closed half her life), adjusted the setting, and pressed the button. Went off, the flash did, making Ruby blink, and the picture came out. I caught a glimpse of white as I stuffed it under a pillow (it is said that they develop better in the dark).
After a few minutes which I spent stroking Ruby, I tentatively raised the pillow and removed the film from the depths of the shadows. It was blank. bare, black and blank. At first I was angry. What a waste! Then I was confused. I was sure i had done everything right. Then a feeling of denial swept through me. “It’s alright, it just must not be done developing is all”. But even as i thought this i knew deep down that there was nothing i could do or could have done to save my $2:50 worth of film. Put out, I stared into the black void that had materialised instead of my dear Ruby, finally accepting the fact of the matter, and preparing to move on when I noticed something peculiar. The dull dark surface was reflecting my face as many smooth surfaces do. The only difference was that due to the subtle ripples in the plastic my face became distorted and rather comical. One eye bigger than the other, a minute mouth, cheeks blown out of proportion and it all changed with the slightest of movements.
As I laughed at this strange phenomenon i realized there was a choice. I could choose to see a failed attempt at photography, or a mirror through which i could see a more humorous version of myself that had the power to cheer me up, or amuse others. I realized that it is the same for everything in life, for example,when it rains you can chose to be sulky, because if you can’t hang out the washing today then you will have to do it tomorrow and you don’t have time tomorrow because you have to go to work, but if you don’t hang it out tomorrow then you won’t be able to wear that top you love to the dinner on tuesday, and everything is just one big mess that will never be fixed! Or you could, instead notice the way the drops make your roof sing a thousand notes at once. The fact that every tear that falls nurtures the very things that produce the air you breathe, the air you can not live without.
Everything in life is a choice and it’s up to you to decide if they are going to be negative or positive ones. So with this newly found wisdom I smiled, reset the camera, and tried again.
By Ava Erickson