On an exceptionally good leg day, I find magic in my camera.
Really, a good leg day is magic in itself. So I go out for a walk. A long one. 4 miles -- The longest I've ever walked on city streets in one afternoon!
As usual, I stop to shoot photos along the way. Taking pictures enables me to really SEE what I'm passing. To notice the shadows, the leaves, the intricacies of architecture. It also gives me a reason to pause and regain my footing on the cobblestones!
In the sun glare, it's hard to see how the photos turn out. When I squint into the two-inch screen of my camera, I can only make out lines and shapes. But when I reach a shady spot along Walnut Street, I notice something unusual has happened. The camera has unexpectedly shifted into "Painting" mode. It's user error, I'm sure -- but the effects are downright magical.
A colonial garden transforms into an impressionist masterpiece.
Bricks and mortar, dull with history, shine like new construction.
The accidental change is brilliant... and addictive.
|They create a jigsaw rainbow!|
|My balcony plants!|
It's a fun way to spend an afternoon -- walking around with a magic camera.
But it also brings to mind another magic camera I discovered during my days in the hospital. Nearly four years have passed since then, but on a good leg day, it feels like a lifetime ago.
People often ask me, "When did you first learn your leg was amputated?"
I know they're disappointed when I tell them there was no defining moment. There was no "A-ha!" or shouting of expletives (or any heart-stopping comments, for that matter). There wasn't one specific moment when I stared down in shock at the emptiness on the left side of the bed.
My family credits this to the doctors and nurses who cared for me during that first week in Critical Care. As I recovered from multiple surgeries, they told me over and over again how they were "able to save my life, but not my leg." At the time, I was heavily sedated -- barely conscious really -- but still they repeated the story. And when I finally woke up in the ICU, I knew what had happened. I knew my leg was gone.
When I moved out of the ICU to my long term room on 7 Center, I received a package in the mail. It was from my sister's in-laws, Alan and Consuelo, who live in Florida. In the chair next to my bed, I opened it gently, careful not to tug the tubes that surrounded me.
Inside the box was a tiny hardcover book called Mr. Eaves and his Magic Camera.
And inside that book was my defining moment.
My guess is that you've never heard of Farrell Eaves or his magic camera. But if you read this book, you'll find out he's a retired engineer who loves photography. One day while shooting photos for a class in New Mexico, he accidentally knocked his tripod over, sending his expensive camera tumbling into the rushing Pecos River. Moving swiftly, he was able to rescue it, but not before it sustained serious damage.
The story hit close to home.
Farrell Eaves went to great lengths to dry the camera out. He left it to bake for hours in the desert sun. He tied it to his windshield while he drove 75 m.p.h. on a New Mexico highway. Eventually, he got it up and running, but the camera never worked quite the same way again.
It reminded me of me.
As I paged through the book, the photos struck me, each one filled with more promise than the last.
They were simple things -- household items, landscapes, objects of nature -- but through the lens of the magic camera, they took on prisms and shadows, colors you'd never see with your naked eye.
And I knew the existence of a distant road ahead. But I had no clue how I'd ever travel it.
Paging through that book, I had my defining moment. I understood now that everything would be different. That a chance encounter had forever changed my world too.
The damage was beyond my control, but the LENS would be mine. Mr. Eaves' photos appeared before me like a road map, or a tool, or the first hint of a strategy. A tiny sliver of hope. And however small it seemed, I knew in my heart it was the way to go.
I can do this. I'll have a magic camera too.
Through his damaged lens, Mr. Eaves discovered new beauty in everyday events. I would do the same.
After 2,127 miles, I can tell you it works. If you keep your eyes open, this kind of magic happens everyday -- no camera necessary. Even the smallest event can change your view, and the views of others.
A few days (and miles) after my long walk, I park my car on 10th Street to check on the Healing Garden at Jefferson Hospital. As I walk over to the parking kiosk, money in hand, a man in a nearby car waves me over.
"How long are you going to be?" he asks.
"Maybe an hour," I say.
At first I think he wants my parking spot, but then he tries to hand me something. "I'm leaving," he says. "If you want my ticket, there's time left on it."
I take it and thank him.
Just then a homeless man calls out from behind me. He's huddled in the shadows about 8 feet away on a small step where the buildings come together. I didn't even notice him when I first passed.
I hand him the 2 dollars I was planning to put in the kiosk.
"Bless you, sweetheart!" he says.
I start to walk away, but he keeps talking.
"You really helped me today!" he says.
I turn back around.
He tugs up his pant leg on the right side. Across his knee is a long, vertical pink scar. "They've been trying to fix this leg for a long time, and they told me if they can't fix it, they might have to take it off. Then I see you today, walking like that! And I know no matter what happens, I'm gonna be all right."
I glance down at my Genium shimmering in the afternoon sun. "I'm glad I could help," I say. "Good luck."
I don't have my camera, and even if I did, it isn't really the time for photos. But I tuck the moment away for safe keeping. Maybe today, in some small way, this man found his magic camera too.
So be open to magic. And have your camera ready.
Sometimes a new perspective is just what we need.