The sun was setting out the window to my right sending warm rays of light through the wind shield and into my eyes. Link was napping in the seat next to me. He was along on the road trip to fetch his sister simply because he likes road trips and he likes his sister. Three hours to her college dorm and then three hours back so that we could have her home for ten days of spring break. On the other end of those days we’ll make the trip again. But I was not thinking about the drive, I was measuring the height of the sun. Link had a digital photography class and his current assignment was to shoot sixteen photos by the light of sunset. We’d hoped to arrive in Cedar City in time to shoot photos at the historic cemetery there, but the sun was fast vanishing. It would be gone before we arrived.
“Hey Link, if you want sunset pictures today, you’d better take them out the window of the car.” Link blinked himself awake and mumbled that he would just take them some other day. My head filled with unspoken arguments. After being sick for four weeks, Link had lots of assignments to make up. Photography was among them. My task managing brain wanted him to knock out all the assignments as quickly as possible so that they would be done. But they were not my assignments. They were Link’s and I had to get out of his way and trust that his more measured approach would result in work completed by the end of the term. It was a careful dance, sometimes nudging him to do a little bit more, mostly trying to keep my hands off. The sunset was right there. The camera was in the car. Maybe pictures taken from a moving car would all turn out bad, but it was worth a try. I said all these things to Link and he pulled out the camera to humor me.
The sunset hid behind some mountains and then peeked out again. Link began to revel the challenge of trying to catch an object, a tree, a passing vehicle, in relation to the sunset. Once a flock of birds flew across the glowing sky and he attempted to capture that.
“It’s like Pokemon Snap!” he said to me smiling. “Only I need a better camera.” I watched him managing the low batteries by turning the camera off between shots. Unfortunately this meant he was not always ready when a shot appeared. We definitely need to upgrade the batteries, or figure out why the camera manages to drain batteries dry in less than ten minutes. Photography would be more fun for him if he could just shoot without having to worry that the batteries will run out.
Link reviewed the shots on the camera screen and claimed that some of them are good. We planned another photography outing to a park for the next day, just to make sure that he’ll have sixteen good shots before the due date. Going to a park with ducks and a pond at sunset sounds like a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening. We’ll probably bring the other kids with us. They won’t care so much for the photography or the sunset, but they’ll like the park and the ducks.
The light dimmed and Link put the camera away. We sat together in companionable silence. I thought how different this March felt compared to last year. Back then so many things in our family were shifting. We did some relationship recalibration with Link because somehow our love for him was not getting communicated to him in a way that he could see it. Gleek was just headed into the descending slope of her meltdown and stress which would result in major school interventions and some necessary diagnoses. Kiki and Patch were both picking up on the general stress and also dealing with grief over the fact that life was aimed irrevocably toward change. Kiki was going to leave for college. Life was going to be different, and none of us knew how that was going to feel. The emotional landscape of our household in March of last year was a rocky, treacherous, messy place.
This year March arrives with a sense of things coming together instead of falling apart. We’ve passed through the transition year and arrived in a place that is different, but better in many ways. Kiki’s life is hers to direct and she does it well. Link has begun to take the helm and steer his life. Gleek still has many things to learn about emotional management, but we’ve got the right structures in place for her to learn them. Every day I see her unfolding and engaging instead of curling tight to keep herself safe. Patch has discovered his own strengths and how to face anxiety by teasing himself out of it. Everywhere I look, I see growth and family members aimed in good directions. I am no exception. I am less afraid than I was and more ready to embrace the joy that already dwells in my life.
We arrived in Cedar City just barely too late to photograph in the cemetery. The sky was still light, but Link pointed out that the magic hour was gone. Colors and sun had faded from the sky. We still drove into the cemetery to take a look at the generations old headstones and the looming trees. Link was somber at the quantities of grave markers. I felt a little of that too, though I noted that almost every single marker had flowers or decorations of some kind. They fluttered in the evening breeze. These people were not forgotten. I would have liked to get out and walk around and read some of the stones, but Link was ready to see his sister and he was hungry.
Once we collected Kiki and got back on the road, I listened to Link, who often doesn’t talk much, tell her in detail all about taking pictures on the road. I thought about the road ahead, and not just the one we needed to drive that day. Truthfully, we have as much transition ahead as we’ve just weathered, but not all at once. We know how to survive transition and we know that good things come after. Next March will be different, but I don’t need to worry about that now. All I need to do is catch some moments so I’ll have them to remember later, like sunset photos snapped quickly out the window of a moving car.