"I am playing with myself,
I am playing with the world's soul,
I am the dialogue between myself and el espiritu del mundo.
I change myself, I change the world."

Gloria AnzaldĂșa

09 April, 2009

Talking to the Dead


My mother died in February of 2004. I got a full time job at my alma mater shortly after that, and I know how much she would have enjoyed being a part of that transition.

One day, I was walking on campus and I came across a beautiful sight at one of the streams. I thought, "Oh, Mom would love this. I have to come back with my camera and take a picture so she can see it."

I knew right away how crazy that sounded. Indeed, I refrained from going back with a camera (something I'll always regret). But that was the beginning of a thought pattern that has become familiar to me. And shortly after that, I began to take pictures for Mamma.




This is actually a picture I took for her while she was alive. She loved West Texas and Big Bend national park in particular, and I knew this scene would thrill her. I guess I've been doing this all of my life--taking pictures of things that make me think of her--documenting my journeys for her.

Mamma always wanted to travel in the Southwest--go to Arizona and New Mexico--see the places Georgia O'Keeffe painted. So I thought of her quite a bit when I was driving through New Mexico and Arizona a couple of Thanksgivings ago.


And recently, I was driving down Austin Highway in San Antonio, and I noticed that the McNay had a new statue on its grounds. Immediately I thought of how much Mamma would have loved that statue. It took me two weeks to get myself to the grounds to take the picture, but I'm sure she appreciates it.

I don't know why the magic of saving an image in pixels or on film--and now the magic of being able to manipulate that image on my computer--seems to me very like the magic of communicating with the dead. It is something about holding an image as it was in the past--about freezing time--that works for me. At any rate, I do still take pictures for Mamma. And I know that much of my desire to learn about photography is connected with her. Just keepin' in touch.

How do you talk to the dead?

7 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That's wonderful. I just often think how much I would love to share something with my mother, and what her response would be.

Rima said...

I think what you are doing is lovely and good. My grandmother died over a year ago and every one in awhile I'll just talk to her out loud (no response yet, though :)

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I look right up (or down, depending) and talk.

I love that you take pictures for your mother. She can see all the same things you see, but when you take pictures for her? She can see those things through your eyes. Mothers like that better.

Nora said...

How lovely. We often chat with my grandma as if she were still here.

JCK said...

I think this is so lovely! I talk aloud to my grandmother sometimes. It makes me feel connected.

Christine said...

The number of comments here about grandmas reminds me of an African tribal saying that the grandchildren and the grandparents are "from the same tribe," to explain why we so often feel more connected to our grandparents than to our parents. When my parents died, my grandmother raised me and my younger sister and brother. I often wondered what would have happened to us without her. Where do orphans go? Orphanages, foster homes . . . ? As it was, she kept us together, said she would live long enough to see the youngest reach adulthood. And she did. Her loss, even though I was in my 30s, was irreparable. I felt orphaned all over again. I don't know what it would be like to love a mother as much as Karen does, but I believe it must also be irreparable.

Sojourner said...

Oh heck! They come to me in dreams all the time. My granparents hang around at Christmas when I try to have a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. Sometimes folks just pop on me unexpectedly- I just know they are there. And then, I have a little shrine to a couple of dear friends who have died- and I talk to them there. I like talking to the dead. They are the ones who are ALWAYS there for me no matter what.