Facing Retirement: Part Two


Here, a second excerpt from Aging Through the Lens of Time from my second book, What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader. I am thinking and writing elsewhere about the role that photography has played in my own notion of place as part of a larger “personal ecology.” Image: Peter Pan’s band of “Lost Boys” who vowed live forever-childhoods in NeverNeverLand.

[su_quote]Ten larger fingers later in 1970–it came so quickly after all– I was married and in graduate school. That year my first camera forever changed how I saw and knew time.

Film became a way to preserve present moments in a clear resin of recall.Every photograph set a benchmark in time, held a unique instant in the emulsion of memory, captured in perfect synchrony that vertical line of precise moment that intersects the coordinates of particular place.

No two photographic markers were the same, and there was no going back. With my lens, I fished from the moving stream of time as days flowed through the faces I knew, past the places I loved, leaving the lived, the known moments bobbing on its glassy surface–deeper down, farther back, receding Doppler-like across a realm that I could photograph, could know just once, just now.

I have spent decades more behind the camera, no longer wishing I were older, happy for the past, but savoring photographic instants in the present when one face or one flower, one sunset, yet another family pet or one more grandchild’s candle-covered birthday cake fills the viewfinder and moves on downstream.

And when the year 2000 came, lo I was still alive–much to the amazement of the freckled twelve-year-old self I can with such clarity see in the amber of memory, long ago on a New Year’s Eve.

My twenty-first century face appeared for real in the mirror that millennial year, no puckering required, pleated by laugh lines and crow’s feet, full of wonder, creased like my old first baseman’s glove.

It was the face of a Lost Boy, riding time like a pair of skates, surfing its glassy surface to the vanishing point, standing still yet moving moment by precious moment through time, aging, after all.[/su_quote]

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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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  1. Wow; did you have fun thrashing around in that huge leaf pile of time metaphors! I keep all my photos carefully in albums, so as to preserve those fleeting moments. My intention is to relish them when I am very old. I hope my eyesight will still be there so my fantasy of that pleasure will come true.