I knelt down on the snowy shore and raised the camera to my face just as I had seen her do many times. Even as I did it, I felt her presence; standing on the sand, bending over to take a picture of the pebbles as the water washed over them, just as I now was preparing to do. Only there was no water, no Jesi and only ice and the air, chill on my face.
With one hand I grasped the body of the Canon SLR and with the other rotated the lens back and forth. I didn’t really know how to use the camera, I had forgotten what Jesi taught me when she had offered it to me to take to Australia in January 2014. But it was that gift that had convinced me, finally, to bring it now. So as I was leaving the house I carefully lifted it out of its bag and placed it on the seat of the car beside me. It wasn’t until I was half way to Walden that I felt a leaden weight in the base of my belly: a part of Jesi next to me magnifying my loss.
Making sure the setting was on “auto” I pushed the small silver button, at first hesitantly and then with more force. A pattern of small red lights lit up through the viewfinder accompanied by a shrill ringing. Somehow I knew I had not taken a photo, so with more confidence I pushed a little harder. Then I heard the unmistakable click-click of the shutter. I had taken my first photo and with it, the tears let go from my eyes, trickling in rivulets down my cheeks. Now I had done it once I tried it a second time, taking another photo. Then I leant the camera against my cheek and whispered,
“Jesi, I know you don’t mind me using your camera. But I wish you were here to use it…”
I knelt motionless on the sand, letting the cold bore into my cheeks, looking out at the ice without really seeing it.
Finally I got up and started walking. I headed along the beach toward the south side of the pond. It was steeped in long tall shadow, robbing it any warmth the sun may have shed on it. I wondered whether the path would be icy. I continued anyway.
For a long time I forgot to look up. I forgot how amazed I had been when I first walked down the ramp and realized that the pond, which had been totally fluid last week, was almost now totally iced over. I forgot that I wanted it to be ice. That I wanted it to be still. All I saw were my boots, one moving in front of the other, and the stiffness in my neck as I bent my head and slouched my shoulders. Then suddenly it occurred to me to look up. To take more photos with Jesi’s camera.
By the time I arrived back at the main beach I had taken about fifty photos. I stood at the top of the stone steps leading from the sand and breathed deep and long. Before turning to walk up the ramp I looked for one last time at the pond. The sun was throwing a stream of silver light to me, hitting me on one cheek so I felt its power. And just for an instant I could swear that Jesi, formless and expansive and glowing in the light was hovering in its rays. I felt my heart open, glowing gently within my chest just as the sun was on my physical form. And I silently thanked Jesi for being on this journey with me before I turned and walked up the ramp.