I doubt New York will ever beat through my veins like San Francisco, or feel as welcoming as my hometown of Chicago, but damn if this city doesn't get under the skin quickly.
We rose early a few days before the new year to walk across the Île de la Cité to adventure and to breakfast. As we passed Notre Dame, it seemed as though the music from Christmas Eve Mass was still ringing in our ears, the incense still in our noses.
Rain-slicked cobbles rang under our feet and corvids flew overhead to perch in the buttresses, as if knowing they fit comfortably in the mood established by their grotesque footholds. The Seine, like the centuries, was everywhere present, rolling by slowly and silently.
Life is what happens to us when we are busy making other plans, or so it's been said. Maybe so, but 2014 came at me so fast, I'm not certain it left time for me to make other plans.
I've run a photoblog for my own amusement for over five years now, and each year I end it with a post of my favorite images from the previous year. I'm not certain, but I suspect 2014 is the year in which I've taken more photos but shared fewer than any other. Instead of a re-hash of 2014, I'd rather share a few words of wisdom, newly gained (but surely not new). Aimed at my fellow photographers, I think there's something in them for each of us.
Though I've done this for five years, the reason I pay to host a blog has changed substantively over that period of time. So too has changed my feelings toward the broader online photography community, what it has to say, what it values, what it produces, etc.
Photoblogs, photo rumor / news sites, photo pundits, photo communities, social networks are everywhere suffused with mediocrity: gear reviews, best business practices for photographers, "why I switched to camera company A," ceaseless re-hashes of the basic pedantic explanations of camera operation, and so on. It is an echo chamber - you can enter this photo enthusiast / professional world and keep yourself busy all day, every day, and never speak to another soul outside of the echo chamber.
Why bother? Why do you spend time with a camera? Just to make a few pretty pictures, or is there a narrative you're laboring to deliver? What story does your work tell?
Unplug from the echo chamber, even just for a bit - unsubscribe, unfollow, ignore. Your story will be the richer for it.
Onward to 2015
I remember the way the canyon begins and the south rim ends. It ends in mausoleum silence punctuated by the crunch of boot on fresh powder.
This year I remember the way the December ends, with my footfalls matched by Oliver's on Candoglia marble. We walked past candles, tourists, and Saint Bartholomew Flayed to the stairs beneath the choir. We walked down into the crypt.
Saint Carlo Borromeo lay interred behind us, but our attention was upon a bright blue reliquary shining forth through its case and cage. Oliver asked me, with the irreverence only a toddler can conjure, "What's that?"
How to answer? Every answer from direct to evasive would equally have been a lie. In the end I don't know what I said, something close to "an object that people in the church believe is very special."
When we came to Borromeo, he posed the same question. Though I doubt he understood any of what I said, I was nevertheless heartsore to say, "Remember when we lived in California? Well a long time ago a man named Junipero Serra built a small church along the cost and named it after the person who rests here."
We ascended the steps to regain the square, I bought some almond torrone, and Val and Henry had their chance inside the Duomo. As we ate, I reflected on my path from California to here, on the threads of history and fate that enshrine the globe and that can whisk me from the crypt of the Duomo to my uncle's memorial in Serra's church, the smell of the incense, the way that wind beat the fog onshore afterward. The world is too much with us, late and soon.
All my best to you
I am exuberant to have spent a joyous year in Chicago with Val, Oliver and my family. Doubly so to have welcomed Henry into our home and hearts. To say I was privileged to have lived 2014 would be a profound understatement. I hope you are able to say the same and I wish you as good a 2015.
This morning is the first in a week where I've seen the sun in Geneva. I wandered the streets of the old city nevertheless, missing Val and my boys to death, the rain making the warmth of their presence more keenly felt.
What a strange and wonderful thing modern travel has become. Wake up to an email on Friday, find yourself in Paris on a Sunday morning. Tailwinds over the cold, immeasurable bulk of the Atlantic meant that I arrived at Gare de Lyon over an hour early than expected.
It was with some hesitation that I floated along the Seine, half in a daze, to see Notre Dame. One of a thousand pilgrims, but for reasons other than religion.
Had I my choice, I would have had a day to spend, to wander, and to explore, but a few moments was all I could spare. It felt like a terrible tease and a crime, this being one of the prime examples of my very favorite form of architecture, and me with but 20 minutes or so to spend. Another time, soon I think.