I mentioned last week I’d probably divert from the calendar entries for a few, and write a couple posts based primarily on my grandpa’s photos. Indeed.
Two years ago around this time, I wrote a post about a gorgeous, timeless heat-of-summer photo my grandpa captured.
Most likely, it was taken July 31, 1975, during a visit to Cove Island Park, a public park in Stamford overlooking Long Island Sound.
The picture I wrote about isn’t the only great photo my grandfather took on that trip. Y’all wanna click on this and look at it full-size for a minute:
(Yes, there is a honkin’ big hair-thing in the photo, probably an artifact of the scanning process. I look at it from a Zen perspective: All things manmade must have a fault somewhere, or else they wouldn’t be manmade. Look past it, out toward the eternal sea.)
I am guessing the woman in the picture — laboriously dressed to block the sun, even on a 90-degree day — is my grandmother. She would have dressed like that to go to the beach.
And, since the original calendar entry mentions “lunch at Cove Island,” it’s possible that the bag or basket in her hand has a couple sammiches in it. It’s not a large bag, but my grandparents were not gluttonous.
I’m not hung up on literal reproduction of the day’s events, though. What I like is the story between the lines.
Check out the woman in long sleeves and pants, separated by both height and distance from the faraway figures on the beach.
She is so close to freedom and relaxation and pleasure, she can practically reach out and touch it. And yet, it is not hers to have.
Her clothing and posture suggest a certain fundamental ambivalence about it. She has deliberately brought herself to the place of sun- and sea-worship, but has come prepared to deny herself any participation.
Down on the beach, practically at the photo’s center, is a young family — what looks like two parents and a small child — suggesting fertility, vigor and action. Up on the viewing deck is a single person, suggesting stillness, confinement and loneliness. Is youth a release? The image suggests so.
Both a fence and a road separate the woman from the beach. In the endless dichotomy between civilization and nature, man and wilderness, she is staying firmly planted in the known, sanitized, well-defined world of settled life.
There is no visible threat to keep the woman on the deck away from the beach. No riptides; no thunderclouds; no crush of towel-to-towel, shoulder-to-shoulder bathers.
She just chooses not to go, even though the grass beckons with a wonderful deep green, and the sky presents a tapestry of deep blue dotted with cumulus white.
Also note, while we’re at it, the rich marine blue color of the observation deck. It’s sorta like a copy of the ocean … a flat, tamed version of the sea in which even the likes of my grandma can feel comfortable parking her feet.
I am sure my grandparents eventually made their way down to the beach, got comfortable after a fashion, and enjoyed their lunch.
But in this single fall of the shutter are more complicated possibilities.