Wes has been out of town for a week in locations that have limited cell service, wifi, or internet access. Usually when he's out of town shooting on location, I get to keep track via Facebook, Instagram, and the texts he sends my way. In turn, he receives my play-by-play, real-time account of all the different domestic affairs on our little homefront (who scraped a knee, who was the Special Leader, the new bike I want, what I had for lunch for heaven's sake). It always feels really incongruous with whatever Wes is doing with his lighting equipment and cameras. Our phone conversations sometimes end lamely with the same sign off. Of course we miss and love each other, but there's just nothing much more to report. He's read the texts. He's seen the photos. So have I.
But this trip was different. I knew he was out of range, and so we suffered at home in silence while kids and I each came down with the stomach flu, one after the other (with only social media to complain to). I shuttled Finn and Maya back and forth from appointments and school unceremoniously. I cached away my plans for summer and home improvements with no one to bounce them off of, letting them grow to fruition in my mind, instead of sharing them prematurely just to have them fizzle out. Meanwhile, Wes was stranded on a small island off the coast of Alaska for a couple of nights. I knew this because I received a phone call from the production company he was working for assuring me he was alright, and that I would hear from him by week's end. So I imagined him, in the bright and cold of his tent at night (since the sun doesn't set this time of year), eating food out of those silver pouches, whales out across the ocean, maybe rain. I had no idea, so I crafted it in my mind.
When I did finally hear from Wes, he called probably eight times that day just for the novelty of it. Every time we spouted out more and more details about our lives that past week. Still, I had no photos from him, but I had crafted a vision in my mind of what he'd been up to. I would stop his enthusiasm, telling him to save some stories for when he came home. I didn't want the full picture just yet. I preferred to form my own for the moment. I liked envisioning him against black mountains tipped in white, the blue of the sea below. Meanwhile, I looked out my front porch to my own mountains, still tipped in white, and watched Finn and Maya play carelessly on the green of our Spring lawn.
When I was a teenager, I went to Europe with a school group. We all toted around our clunky cameras with endless rolls of film. I remember leaving my camera at a restaurant one night, almost fainting at the thought of losing all of those images. Luckily the camera was returned to me unscathed, my documented trip restored. That same week, on a particularly long bus ride through the countryside of Italy, I had fallen asleep against the window. I woke up to find a view of lush green hills covered in sunflowers, bowed in greeting. Beams of sunlight streamed down, gowning the hills in a vibrant haze. It was the most magical thing I had ever seen in my seventeen years. I was frozen, soaking it in. The bus was silent, most of the students asleep. We were rounding a bend too quickly for me to dig out my camera and capture tit on film. So I burned it into my mind. I stared and stared, unblinking, until we were in the shadow of the next hill. Of all the photos I took that summer, I can't remember a one. But that image of the hillside flooded with the yellow of sunflowers in afternoon light, stays with me even now, popping into my mind to visit now and then.
I imagine there are plenty of photos Wes could have taken with his iPhone to hastily share with the world of Instagram and Facebook if he had the chance. And when we were back in range yesterday, I kept asking for images just to get a glimpse. But they came slowly. Even on social media he is now sharing modestly. While there are doubtless plenty of gorgeous shots that he's taken, I am sure he has simply reserved the best ones just for himself, where a lens can't begin to do them justice.