“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.”
~ Annie Dillard
Except no one looks about for pennies anymore.
We make our way, merely glancing, inattentive, the phone in our hand.
My 8-year-old flaunted her wrist. I muttered: “Oh nice, sweetheart.” Somehow she knew I was replying on auto-pilot so she raised it higher and announced again: “Mama, LOOK!” And then I spotted it, a dainty daisy chain, wrapped around her wrist like trimmings on Christmas.
We’re missing the pennies cast on all sides from a generous hand.
I knew what this was. It was this mania to immortalise every fragment of my charmed life with a photograph. And the only time I am free of this mad scramble for a snapshot and the obsession to caption it, is when I’m up in the air, switched to airplane mode. There I can make out angels on clouds, feast on the gloaming sky and actually marvel at my daughter as she strings her daisy chain.
We strolled up a hill. It was picture pretty. The trees bended gracefully, and I could frame every scene with overreaching branches. A thick canopy cradled the harsh midday light, granting me otherworldly shots of a seeming forest trail.
I snapped a photo of my 11-year-old. “Mom!” she bellowed. Shoot, because that would have been incredibly composed: a forest backdrop on a dirt road with the sun beaming in all the right places.
Now I don’t remember much of the hike except the path my phone took. I missed the forest for the trees.
I’m wandering off-the-beaten-path with a filter. And so what of the songbird or the whispering trees as they cradled the sun? What of the scent of burning wood, as a lone hut built a fire pit for lunch? And what of my 8-year-old who climbed up a slope, skidded and had only a stranger to hold her hand?
This world is awash with colour, texture, scents and sounds, and pennies we miss with wide open eyes.
I’m floating past trails, past the trees and my daughters, past life itself with the iPhone in my hand and the blinders it has erected in my eyes. My memory up the hill is patchy and incomplete—marred by this need to exist and be validated in virtual space. And as I zoomed in and cropped, I missed the vastness of the world I walked on, of what happens in the distance and even of what happens on my path.
On top of that, I am endlessly on a pilgrimage, off to see new worlds, writhing and whirling to leave home. Over there is a brand new caption, another filter to play with, another fragment of a life to curate.
And if I didn’t frame it in a border, I wasn’t there.
My little one is in the garden with snips of flowers, a rock she decrees is a crystal, and burnt sienna leaves. She’s on a wooden stool, immersed in a world she has created. She pronounces herself Chef. My mouth waters. I am tempted to take a snapshot. Here it comes. This mania, this addiction to give proof of life in a virtual world.
Except this time, I break free. Disconnected from the Net and connected to my child’s incredible world of “Tindlenut” soup with shredded buds and dried-up nuts. I now overhear her humming, as she stirs flowers in the clay pot, kindling the sienna leaves for fire. She serves me Instagram-worthy Tindlenut soup, accented with a bamboo stick and on the fringe—a juice of tiny purple flowers.
Once more, this pull, this lure, the bait for the Net. “Take a photo or the moment’s gone!”
But no, I yearn to see this unfiltered world in front of me and no longer through a looking glass. I want this immense, wild, and unbounded world. This life as it lives through me. And I want to be in it. Not as an onlooker, and neither as a hashtag or a caption.
The moment is here; I lived through it. My proof of life.
And perhaps tomorrow I will be reeled in again, float, and partake of moments veiled or refined by a filter. But today I am ravenously devouring Tindlenut soup and sipping purple nectar. I will sup on this entrée and not wait until after the photo’s been snapped.
Because today, I am collecting pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.
Author: Paula Zayco Aberasturi
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Toby Israel