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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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A shutterbug’s manifesto (06/12/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Black and white configurations: Draw the drapes! Unfurl the shades! Windows hold us within our spaces, as well as welcoming the greater world into focus. Opened windows commingle stale vapors of confinement with refreshing scents of interacting and roaming outside of one's dwelling.

Zoom in: What was the visual composition of your mind's eye, back in observant adolescence, that has ceased to be your reality?

Freeze-frame: Through openings of stained glass windows, during summer's church services (both morning and afternoon during Mission Festivals), long hours ushered in dogwood and primrose breezes, where tree limbs beckoned children to come out and frolic.

Catnaps on rock solid church pews were almost restful in the nostalgia of colorful rays cast across familiar faces and Bible passages wafting from soothing voices.

Still life: Images of Rev. Splies, hands folded reverently on the altar, his gray head bent in petition and praise, take me back to that quaint country church. Its sprawling cemetery and grandfather trees, with bird song and fluttering shadows, are all that remain on that Utica Township, Bethany Moravian Church plot.

Double-take: In dreams I've often revisited Whitewater Valley's south branch, its dense forest and fertile paths, overgrown by time's ravages and human disinterest. There grew honeysuckle, maidenhair fern, phlox, Dutchman's britches, goldenrod, jack-in-the-pulpit, and snake weed.

Untamed scents of moss on stone in a dry creek bed, and genuflecting wildflowers, fade with laboring earth's breath into a vast silence. Desertion hits me like a revelation. It is me who hasn't visited for, oh, so long, forced to sacrifice the call of rugged adventure, the uncharted, and thorn-riddled.

Picture this: Remember how small it made you feel...to stretch your young, firm body the full width of Mother's lilac bush, out by the rhubarb patch, as you gazed into night's stratosphere of mesmerizing patterns? You seemed enshrouded by a vacuum of darkness lit by it's own devices.

Enlargements: The heavens began a magical spin. In that moment, you were assured that the earth isn't going anywhere and that darkness is a sacred oath to daylight that each dawn its galaxy would extinguish. As questioning youth happens to stretch out on the ground, anywhere, something will arise to invest their faith in, before the vises of a greedy world hold them captive.

Roll that footage! Each frame of memory unveils squares from the inside out- tall kitchen windows where winter birds flitted, stopping off for brief feeding forays. Mother, comical in her brown plaid, wool scarf and flopping rubber boots, trudged through snow-packed ridges with Wonder Bread bags of dry sweet rolls, last Sunday's biscuits, kernels of corn we husked, and sunflower seeds.

In the blink of an eye: The three dining room windows back home, forming a nook where Mother's treadle sewing machine stood, faced our neighbors to the south, the elderly and eccentric Ed, Francis and Mary Hvorka.

Flashback: From the couch and recliner, one had a bird's eye view of Dad's sister's home across the street. As I picture them, it is those windows that have kept one traumatic memory alive for me all these years. Frenzied activity was unfolding across the way, at Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Millie Mulholland's house. I was a mere child, sitting on my mother's lap.

Darkroom exposures: I distinctly recall that Mom was reading the book "Heidi" to me, even as her attention was divided, drawn to Aunt Millie's. I'm sure death was explained to me, as our mother always openly and candidly kept the lines of communication freely flowing. Not an old man, Uncle Lloyd had been taken away that day in that oversized, black funeral wagon.

Cheese! Record the action!

Rewind! Dare to focus on past Kodak moments, spent and savored. Your self-portrait may reveal something pleasantly surprising. It's worth a peek! 


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