There is a photograph that I first came across when I was much younger. I remember the feeling of seeing it and standing there for several minutes losing track of time. In my life I have come to discover that, often, there are things-people, pictures, environments, interactions, objects-that will stop me in my tracks. Almost as if they latch onto my soul and won’t let go. Many times, I don’t understand “why” when it happens. I just know that I am pulled strongly towards these things and that it’s usually best to listen to that calling and let it figure itself out later.
This photograph is one of those things. I can remember standing in the store looking at it. I can remember the gray industrial carpet underneath my feet and the metal slats on the wall where the other pictures hung. And the turbulence I felt looking at this photograph and wondering.
Recently this memory came forward for me again. I have thought a lot about that day…catching sight of this photograph for the first time. Many things have fallen apart in my life over the past two years. And when things fall apart you often feel like you’re standing there holding broken pieces in your hands. Wondering where you go from here. Looking at those pieces trying to figure out if there’s anything familiar in there or if you’re actually just as lost as you feel. Expecting that there is a good chance that you might just be completely swallowed up by the chaos of it all.
When things fall apart they don’t look like you thought they did. They become fragmented…the familiarity is gone. I think that’s the pivotal moment of it all. It does not look like it did before. It never will. And, did it really anyway?
The “aloneness” that comes with grappling with those questions can be overwhelming. But I think it’s supposed to be. Things happen to all of us…pain is universal. To make meaning of it is to hang out in it for a good while. Not become consumed by it, but to make friends with it and understand it may stay for a bit and that’s ok.
From that pain twinges of beautiful things erupt. Moments of peace come and there might be one or two souls that will stand on that perimeter with you and hold your hand tightly as the waves pound you madly.
This photograph was taken by a man named Jean Guichard. The lighthouse keeper is Theodore Malgorne. This moment was captured off of the North western coast of France. According to Firepress.net, Theodore had stepped out of the lighthouse thinking he had heard a helicopter coming to rescue. Initially unaware of the wave, he quickly realized what was about to happen and steps back inside slamming the door.
Saving his own life.
Things will happen in life that are unexpected and will shake you to your very core. People around you will often stand and watch helplessly…not because they want to but because they don’t know what to do with something so overwhelming. But this is actually perfect. They are not meant to know what to do. People can’t rescue you despite how much you want them to.
It’s up to us to save ourselves. No matter how big the mess or how lost we get. Allow and hang onto the soft steadiness of the one or two sets of hands that extend from the perimeter.
But close the door yourself.