Snapshots of a Summer

Edinburgh Fountain and Castle

Edinburgh Fountain and Castle

Someone, probably my mother, once told me, “When you’re traveling, remember to take photos with people you know in them. In a few years you won’t be interested in looking at pictures of buildings or landscapes, and no one else will either.” Great advice. I wish I’d listened.

Now, sifting through a long-lost shoebox of snapshots from my first trip to Europe, I hear those words echo, as I realize how many photos I have of buildings and landscapes, and how few I took of the two college friends I traveled with the summer after we graduated, in 1981.

Is anyone interested in seeing a half-dozen photos of an 18th century Palladian-style bridge that was our reward after a steep uphill hike on the outskirts of Bath? Recognizing the derelict bridge’s Italianate style and its special place in the history of British landscape design was of vital importance to my friends, both of whom studied architecture with the great postmodern neoclassicist Michael Graves. The ink barely dry on my Ivy League diploma, I dutifully noted in my journal that the bridge at Prior Park in Somerset County was “one of only two in England, the architectural historians say.” (I have been unable to confirm this in a Google search, but I am pleased to see that the bridge and manor grounds have since received a facelift, courtesy of the National Trust.)

Palladian Bridge at Prior Park

Palladian Bridge at Prior Park

Maybe some of you would prefer a series of photos of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, where I remember lying on a pristine green lawn flecked with daisies that carpeted the ruined cathedral’s nave and gazing up at the clouds scudding above its mossy walls? Brown with age, the photos evoke nothing of the awe a trio of young Americans felt that chilly afternoon contemplating the beautiful decay of a 12th century monastery.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Or perhaps the fellow animal lovers among you would appreciate a photo of a black and white kitty perched atop a sack of potatoes outside a village grocery stand? I also captured the image of a horse grazing in an un-mowed area inside the Royal Crescent, the Georgian centerpiece of Bath And what first-time visitor to the English countryside isn’t compelled to document her close encounters with sheep, cows, and chickens, especially if that visitor’s closest prior connection to farm animals was reading and re-reading Charlotte’s Web?

The Royal Crescent, Bath

The Royal Crescent, Bath

More than 30 years and several trips back across the pond later, I am hoping to discover photos of one of my traveling companions whose path has veered into the realm of cancer. Thinking of what Lisa has endured over the past several years, I want instead to see the youthful glow in her apple cheeks and to feel the warm grace that radiated when she smiled and tossed her head in laughter, her blue eyes dancing. The best and most important moments of our trip were mostly left undocumented. And as I sift through dozens of photos of buildings and landscapes, I realize that nowadays images of historic sites are easy to find online, in higher resolution and more vivid color than my aging prints. My mother was right. I am not interested in looking at my old photos of buildings and landscapes, no matter how important they seemed at the time. But I carefully put the prints back in the box because to discard them now would feel like even more of a waste.

Lisa takes a break to knot during a hike on the island of Mull, Scotland.

Lisa takes a break to knit during a hike on the island of Mull, Scotland.

Meg gets swept away on the heath.

Meg gets swept away on the heath.

I appear to be reading from a guide book.

I appear to be reading from a guide book, miles from the nearest historic site.

1 Response to “Snapshots of a Summer”

  1. 1 Adele March 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    poignant and charming. The real bridge here is the one Jan Devereux has beautifully constructed from present to past. Crossing to the shore of Jan’s youth has brought me back to my own and I thank her for the journey.

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