Late September, native grasses deep yellow and reddish-orange, grey and cream limestone cliffs, tall ponderosa pines with their reddish bark and stands of tiny little pines bunched together like Christmas trees. Clouds came in a few hours before sunset and took away the chance of golden hour* images, but at least cloud cover still makes for nice light.
We spent an hour in the grassy space with the trees and the nice woman with the huge camera. I’d bribed my son and his cousins with cold hard cash to smile pretty, listen, and stay away from the cliff edges. (The cousins came so I could surprise my sister and the grandparents at Christmas with updated photos of them.) By the end I was offering candy bars if my son would endure just.one.more.shot.
Blue was an easy choice for him, to bring out his eyes, but I couldn’t decide on my own outfit and ended up quickly changing clothes behind a juniper bush. I tried to stay out of sight of two outdoorsy young men as they dashed up and down the trail.
Search and rescue operations are common at these cliffs close to town. The photographer said the men were already there seven hours earlier when she shot a wedding, a few beers in hand, their two shaggy dogs free to roam. They secured a new zip line from one cliff to another, flying drones to help place anchors. I hoped their new zip line wouldn’t lead to more young lives broken open by the boulders below.
I can take pretty decent photos on my own. I’ve captured wonderful images of him and his cousins. But this time I needed to be in some as well. I wanted to mark our first one-and-a-half years on our own with a photo shoot. I wanted to document our combined strength as a mother and her only child, document our relationship while he is still sweet and affectionate and not yet pulling away from me as children slowly do with time.
I wanted to document the closeness of our bond, of the fact that I have raised him, almost single-handedly, to be a wonderful kiddo of almost seven years of age. While his cheeks are still round and soft and he still has the look of a young child. While there is still a tint of red in his hair, which has already faded from the bright carrot top he was born with. I avoid being in front of the camera. But making it this far on our own deserved to be captured. The photographer’s portfolio of work pulled me in and I thought I could endure some closeups of my face pressed next to his.
By the time we were done, sunset was over and the temperatures were dipping into the 40s. The kids were cold and ready to stop hiding in the trees and grasses for the comfort of the car. I praised the kids for their relatively good behavior, thanking God that they’d listened and stayed away from the cliffs, especially since the babysitter I’d hired to come with us to keep an eye on them had stood idly by, playing with her own camera. I gave the kids their cash back in town.
We came close to the edges of the cliffs in our lives the last few years, or at least I have. While I pray he will never be as bodily foolhardy as the young men tying zip lines from one limestone edge to the next, I do hope he will find and grow the same sort of confidence in spirit. I hope he will be nice even when he isn’t being paid to behave. I hope he will have the vulnerability to change when needed, just like I did with my quick wiggle into new clothes under the open sky. I hope he will find the spiritual zip lines he needs to move from one challenge to another.
There isn’t always golden hour. But the clouds can make for nice light.
What emotional or personal ‘cliffs’ have you successfully navigated in your own life? How do you mark those successes? Please share!
*golden hour – approximately one hour before and one hour after sunset, a favorite time for photographers because of the special, warm quality of the light
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