Life Savers

Some–perhaps many–of our virtual technologies separate us from the real events and places and times of our lives. That is exactly what so much of computer life consists of for some folks–the virtual travel, adventure, action and detachment of simulated realities that removes the X-boxer, the Second Lifer from the mundane grind of the ordinary.

Discovered this morning on my Mac a technological wonder that is like a digital knitting machine that does just the opposite of what I described above. It weaves together a tapestry of memories, experience and familiar faces using my photographs–tens of thousands of them–into a single image mosaic of another composition in time and place: a screen saver that creates an amalgam of a photographer’s life.

It begins like a normal image-based screen saver with a single image on the screen. After a short pause, that image recedes into the distance, becomes one of a thousand, and other images appear in rows and columns, also receding, growing smaller and smaller as they move into the “distance” of the monitor screen.

In the end, each of the several thousand images on the screen become a pixel in another image in the group of images I’ve selected. A first image of Ann’s Falls is joined by scanned images of our children, the dog in the snow–Buster, our dog that died in 2004; friends who visited us here so long ago I’d forgotten; various silly blog posts going back to 2002–images aggregated and oriented as needed to build light and shadow, blues, greens and golds to give shape to the “whole” of our house in the fall. This then starts the sequence again, building another whole from fragments of memory and light.

Life is like this after all–each conversation, each view out the window a metaphor mosaic of all the days, memories, language, and experience come before, nothing lost, receding into the distance called the past–pixels in our evolving grasp of who and where we are and were.

You can watch a demo of this here.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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