I always get good photographs when B and I take field trips. I write more with him around too, truth be told. It's often been that kind of friendship for me. On Saturday we went for a drive, found ourselves at a sandy overcast beach, me with two cameras and B dragging huge pieces of driftwood to make letters in the sand. I took photos through the viewfinder of my old Polaroid, trying to get a good shot by balancing the two different lens, the two different points of view.
When you take this kind of photo, you can get focus on either the person you are looking at, or the lens through which you are looking at them, but not both. While I was trying to get it right, B was going back and forth with his treasures, moving things, covering ground fast with those long legs of his. I would get focus for a moment, then he would move out of frame before there was even time to work the shutter. I should have realized I was trying too hard, but it is typical of me to think that a task is always about me doing it better, following his movements more closely, handling the camera more quickly, for example, applying more will or concentration. I have a problem with that, too willful. It is not always better to apply more force. Sometimes that only results in breaking things.
At Super Duper Exclusive Book Club on Friday night, we were talking about will and faith, in the context of long friendship, and marriage. The book we read for this time was Feast of Love, by Charles Baxter, and we talked also about Closer, and Reservation Road, which I haven't seen, and just generally the difficulty of it all. The beautiful part of the conversation though, was the thoughts everyone had about longevity, and the confession from the married women that part of longevity had to do with knowing, in the most frustrating times, the times when you just feel exhausted by the work of the relationship, that it is not all up to you. Sometimes this means the other person is the person who brings the energy to the relationship, the enthusiasm, the faith that everything is going to be okay. But there is a third thing too, a life that the relationship itself has, an energy, a will of its own that works on both people.
And this applies to long friendships too, and we talked about that, the ebbs and flows, the way the best friendships, the most important relationships, have that life of their own. Maybe you have times when it seems that boredom or anger or frustration is telling you the relationship has run its course, but then it surprises you, and whether you mean it to or not, the friendship has revived itself, set off a spark in you that leads to something better, to a set of beautiful photographs, or a piece of writing you wouldn't have had anyway or just some happier way of seeing each other.
That's not to say that everything is meant to last. Another problem I have, what to hold on to, what to let go. I hold on to too much, I know that about myself. I'm thinking about that, have been asking lately, what's the basis for a friendship, what makes you decide to stick around, what do you want to be loved for, and how do you want to love? I don't expect answers, really, not definitive ones at least. Those questions also have a life of their own, and change as I do, and depending on how things turn out. At the moment, I'm trying to listen beyond my own assumptions and old ideas about how all that should work.
There are a lot of things that keep you from seeing beyond the lens through which you are trying to look. Insecurity, fear, past grievances, drinking. There's a reason why they call them beer goggles, right? Intoxicated, you become all lens, seeing only your own way of seeing, you don't see the object of your sight, do you? But that's another story, and not one for this place, now.
The photos I like best through the Polaroid lens are the ones where what is seen through the viewfinder, and beyond it, is in focus. Those were the hardest to get, and only started to work once I stopped trying so hard. It's obvious, really that it wasn't about me trying to track B with the lens, but about waiting until he came back in the frame. But I'm not that good at holding still, at being patient. It's something I keep reminding myself of, a topic that I am finding more and more ways to talk about and explore. Beyond that, all I can do, is wait, and hope that a kind of faith shows up, one that will quiet my need to always apply my will, or to think that I know how the picture is supposed to turn out.