I didn't think this day was here yet. I mean I guess I believed in the possibility after college maybe. Or like, if I ended up widowed or something. Morbid, but truthful. Just not now. There's only so many Reese Witherspoon movies I can watch and unoriginal meals I can cook (microwave) and eat in silence before I start holding conversations with myself.
My apartment built for four is one fourth full, and yes, I am the one. Living alone was a reality I knew was coming for months before settling in. Some days it gets depressingly quiet and I fight the urge to blare Yellowcard's 'Empty Apartment' on repeat. Other days though, I'm thankful for the unshared space, and the introvert in me dances around the kitchen like no one's watching. Because really, no one is watching. The Thursday evening I moved back in, I could already tell I was going to miss the consistently-fluctuating presence of people, but my very next thought was this: maybe this is where utter dependence on Jesus picks up the burden of discomfort. Regret grew into expectancy-- the good kind.
Five days later, I stepped into Freeman Hall and a good work in me began to swell. Before that day, I couldn't have told you where the building was, or that the photography lab was even in there. I also had no idea what it looked like to freeze a moment in time and bring it life to with my own two hands. Several six-hour days in the dark room later and I now have all this knowledge I don't think I ever cared to know. Like your roll of film must be blindly wound around a reel and stuck in a canister. You develop for 9.5 minutes at 68 degrees, stop for 30 seconds, fix for five, rinse, hypo-clear for two... and that's not even the half of it-- that's only what's done in the light.
In the dark however, is where magic ensues. You throw together spurts of light and chemicals and there you have a black and white photograph on glossy paper. Okay, maybe you don't "throw together" anything. It's quite the meticulous process. Your test strips and prints may need adjustments even after trial five when you're ready to throw in the towel. But when that perfect print develops, when you can tell even before you step out of the dark room, that's when it's worth it. The hours you put in, the expensive paper tossed in the garbage, it was all worth it.
While the dark room is tiring and musty-smelling and well, dark, it brings to life more than snapshots--it lets life spring up in me! I get to make pictures appear through this unbelievably intricate dance of a system. The reward comes after about five minutes of sifting through bins and there's about a one in four chance I get to smile at the product when I step into the light-- I'll take it.
I remember my first time printing solo. Our teacher had long left, so discretion was up to me. Liza Anne's newest record, TWO, cycled through twice and somewhere in the midst of it I felt I could create anything. This process, of creation, is so fascinating. Building from scratch-- it's what I was made for. A blank page, words. A white glossy 5x7, shades of black, white, and grey. A clean slate, good. A dark empty earth, light and life. I think for us to create from scratch too makes all the sense in the world.
The dark room, a haven of sorts, is where Jesus has been meeting me. That cold November day when I heard 'Aperture' , my apparently bold, way-unartistic self signed up to learn how to shoot film. Every day I develop I can't help but smile when shuffle brings it up again. I'm not yet done with learning about the ISO and shutter-speed and contrast filters. Nor am I quite used to living alone, full dependence, or craft from scratch. But...
When I break pattern, I break ground.
I rebuild when I break down.
I wake up more awake than I’ve ever been before.
- 'Pluto' - Sleeping At Last