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This last weekend I was in Queenstown attending the 150th anniversary celebrations  for St. Peter's church. It was a very full programme, with a walk around the historic sites of the still rumbustious mining town, talks on some of the interesting pioneers, including the founder of the parish, W.G. Rees and music led for the most part by the incomparable Mark Wilson whose gob smacking jazz improvisations on Happy Birthday enlivened Saturday evening and whose lovely hymn ( Mark on piano, his wife Emma on trumpet) did the same on Sunday morning.  Clemency wore a light blue Victorian  gown with a bustle and frills and I wore a top hat and a wing collar, well some of the time anyway. There was a meal at the Vicarage attended by, obviously, David Coles the Vicar and also five previous vicars all with their respective spouses. A sumptuous lunch after church finished things off very nicely indeed.
It was a great start to the week. Then on Monday my new computer crashed. As it was only a few months old I took it into the shop where I bought it and watched the techie guy shake his head sadly while he told me that perhaps the people in Auckland might be able to get some of the data off it. I came home chastened. It contained all my photographs, except for ones like the above which were still in the camera. And all my email, documents, sermons from the last 20 or so years, and a book I am sporadically working on. I plugged my old computer into the monitor and keyboard and was given a demonstration on why it was replaced: it crashed about a dozen times in the space of three hours, told me it had signed me into a temporary profile and wrecked the old, non temporary one. To date, I haven't managed to get any useful files off it. The external hard drive onto which I thought I had backed up proved to be blank. I tried everything I knew, and a few more besides but it seems that everything has gone.

I'll see what the techies come up with, but I have been thinking a lot about the loss of all that data: especially, the 50,000 or so photographs. Some were of family events, weddings and overseas trips. Some I had worked over for long periods, tweaking and trimming and erasing and shifting around. Some, maybe a dozen or so, I was very very pleased with indeed. But now there is the real possibility they are gone beyond recovery, and I have been surprised how little that has bothered me. I did lie awake for some of the night and I did look at my quite large and elaborate camera and question the reason for its existence, but mostly it has been business as usual: a quick trip to Invercargill and back and a pile of email on my work computer and phone.

This morning when I pulled the curtains back there was a band of strong horizontal light falling on the hills on the other side of the harbour.The clouds were mother of pearl and branches of a neighbourhood tree were silhouetted against them. Sun glistened from some windows and a shadow fell in a curving ribbon on others. It was lovely and it might have made a beautiful photograph. But why take it? Why this effort to capture moments and hold them still? Why the drive to deny that all things are temporary and all fade away, as did that scene as the sun slowly rose behind me? I thought of the old ones, who slogged up the Kawerau Gorge and set up a tent city by Lake Wakatipu. Was their life any less full and rich for not being able to capture instant colour images of it all and to Tweet each other about their breakfast menus?

Actually, no.

Sometimes the invitation of God is most volubly heard not so much in what is given, but, rather, in what is taken away.


Anonymous said…
Perhaps more often than not? Our eyes are captivated and we cannot see, our ears filled with noise and we cannot hear, our physical prowess means we can run marathons but not walk the second mile . . .
Elmer Ewing said…
I, for one, hope--fervently hope--that some tech miracle will recover your photos. I enjoy them immensely. Either you live in the most beautiful part of the world, or that camera you mention is super good, or you have a remarkable talent with it. I suspect all three to be the case.
Elmer Ewing
p.s. I like your writing, too; but please don't abandon the camera.
Boyd Wilson said…
Long, long ago I began with an Atari ST without hard drive - it did the job but a power cut, e.g., meant anything worked on that hadn't been saved to floppy was not just lost but non-existent. As a writer, I learned that my words are never more than transitory symbols. As a Christian, I learned that forgiveness where it matters really is absolute, unconditional, available to whomever names and lets go of the blot so it's irretrievable. All very well, but your pix & words enrich many so I hope you can retrieve something. - Boyd Wilson

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