Sunday, January 06, 2019

Before and after days

Architecture as memory
Toronto, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I took this picture on September 26 of last year, the day before the world as we once knew it was turned on its axis.

Death changes us in so many ways, but the one that sticks out for me most is the sense of before and after. Everything I do is now divided into befores and afters, delineated by that one, stark date, September 27. And every time I dig up a picture, look up a calendar entry, think of an event in my or my family's life, I view it through that lens.

The scale of it all is humbling, for we all have our own catastrophic dates, our own befores and afters, and we all quietly carry them inside.

The befores, as you can imagine, are simpler, more innocent, even naive. As if they happened at a time when we didn't know any better, had no sense of what lay ahead. Looking at date stamps, I find myself reliving the entire day around it, feeling what it was like to drop my backpack onto the sidewalk in front of Union Station and train my lens on the curved building in the distance, remembering the banter with my then-new-to-me colleagues as we sat on an outdoor patio across from the office and got to know each other a bit better.

So-called "before days" are always better than the afters. You kind of wish you could hit rewind on those date stamps and actually go back in time, but we all know the universe doesn't work that way.

Still, it doesn't hurt to wish, doesn't hurt to linger over a representative photo - or two, or ten - and think, hard, what it felt like the moment it was taken. Memories can't change the path of a life. But they can give you a taste of life before everything changed. For now, that'll have to be sufficient.

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