Losing It

I stepped out the back door yesterday mid-afternoon and as I typically do this time of year, I scanned the invisible column of space that rises in a hundred-foot-wide cylinder of the clearing in which our house sits nestled among the maples. There might be a boiling cauldron of migrating hawks (though if so, they’d be somewhat off-course for the thermals over the Blue Ridge Escarpment ten miles to our south.)

To my amazement, the invisible tube that is our air-space held hundreds of dragonflies–an almost-frightening aerial dog-fight of substantial X-wing fighters feasting on the recent hatch of what we call gnats for want of a better taxonomic epithet.

There were so many, I couldn’t miss getting at least a few in focus, so I ran inside to find my camera on the couch, just inside the door. Back outside, I commenced to set my shutter speed, ISO and such for the shoot. And in the data-viewer on top of the Nikon, the dreaded “E” for empty stopped me in my tracks. There as no card inside to accept the image I hoped to take.

It seems I have lost my memory.

In more than ten years of using Compact Flash for my lineage of exactly three digital cameras (four if you count the pocket Canon that is officially Ann’s) I have never even so much as momentarily misplaced the tiny cards: they are in the reader at the computer or they are in the camera they belong in–no in-between.

Now, my 8GB card is in-between, but not in any logical and conspicuous and safe temporary space that would befit its importance and reflect my general care in such matters.

And I have to wonder about myself with some considerable concern, as those of a certain age tend to do, when a younger person would be more forgiving and dismissive of such screw-ups as a freak circumstance of events ending in an oh-crap moment, and move on.

But this inexplicable loss of memory has really gotten to me, both because of the photographic inconvenience and unnecessary additional replacement expense and more so, for its being a new kind of error of intention and focus.

I can buy another compact flash card. If before shopping, I can only remember the pants.

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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. We do that – we have several cards, several cameras, and several card-reader-memory-transfer thingies. They’re never where they should be.
    We stopped once to take a shot at a lake in central Washington, and left the car doors open. When we came back, after 2 min tops, there were about 40 dragonflies, bright blue, swarming around the windows and inside the car. One travelled with us for a while before we could get him out.

  2. Don’t feel bad. I went for a walk in the woods the other day to photograph a huge tree that had taken its last breath and came crashing to the ground. After the hike in, I got there, inspected the tree, and realized I had left my camera sitting on the kitchen counter.

    I love this aging stuff, you gotta laugh!


  3. This seems to be the Year of Dragonflies. Until the past few days, my yard had been alive with dragonflies since late August, dozens of them. I don’t recall ever seeing so many.