This past Mother's Day, Marcus and Alex bought me an iPad Mini. They did this at my request: "What do you want for Mother's Day?" they asked. "I think ..." I responded to their astonishment, with shock in my own voice, "I think ... I want an iPad Mini!"
I have raged against owning an iPad, you see. "What do I need it for?" I would argue. "I can't process photos on it comfortably, and I have a laptop for that when I travel. And ebooks are going to be the downfall of civilization as we know it. Imagine our children's children, who will never know the sound of cracking the spine of a new book, or the smell of actual paper pages?" But more and more, I would find myself going on quick 1- or 2- day work trips, trips where I didn't need my laptop (or sometimes even my camera), but would replace their space in my bag with heavy books to read on the plane. I was starting to see the appeal of an ereader.
(Marcus, otherwise known as Inspector Gadget, could not understand my stubbornness when it came to this issue, so before I even had the words out of my mouth, he had already rushed to our local Apple store to grab one for me.)
When I opened it on Mother's Day, even as I ran my hand along the smooth, sexy lines of this little (little!) machine, I felt a small, sinking sense of sadness. It is beautiful, I thought, but I have officially sold out.
This feeling was short-lived: it ended right around the moment I downloaded my first book.
People, I am reading again. Voraciously. I'm reading when I'm sitting in the pick-up line at Alex's school waiting for her to come out. Instead of surfing the web, I'm reading every time I stop at a coffeehouse. I'm reading before I go to sleep. The convenience of being able to download a book instantaneously any time I've finished one has been revelatory. I've already blown through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's new book, Americanah, and one of her old ones, Purple Hibiscus (both amazing); and have just begun J.K. Rowling's latest, The Casual Vacancy (the jury's still out). But it wasn't until I was sailing through David Sedaris' collection of essays, Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, that I realized something:
It wasn't just reading that I had been missing. It was The Story.
I hadn't realized how much I missed the experience of reading something that sparks my imagination -- whether fiction or nonfiction. I also realized that I used to have this from reading blogs; indeed, the blogs that I've read the longest are written by people who all have this gift. People like Eden. And Alice. And Jenny. And Pam. Folks whose writings are very different from each other, and yet each of them manages to ignite imagery and emotions by telling authentic, real stories from their lives in a way that invites and connects. It feels like there are very few bloggers who do that, anymore. I mean, don't get me wrong: I love a beautiful blog that shares tips, tricks and advice as much as the next guy, but if you want me to stick around for the long-term? Tell me a story. It'll work everytime.
This, coupled with the experience of sharing the stories Marcus and I collected while on our recent road trip made me realize that I've been guilty of not sharing as many stories as I used to. I miss it.
This must be rectified.
The other thing that has been taking up a lot of my brain lately is the recent news that the Chicago Sun-Times has laid of its entire corps of photojournalists. No longer will they be using employees who are photographers trained in the art of capturing story; that duty will fall to reporters who receive some training on videography, as well as the occasional freelancer.
This, naturally, horrifies me. While there is certainly the argument that this act speaks more to the state of newspapers than the state of photojournalism, I'm a little disturbed that so little respect is given to the talented folks who have honed their ability to compose a shot on the fly that tells an entire story in a single frame, all the while being able to manipulate the light with their cameras (be they an expensive SLR or the humble camera phone).
No shade, but the truth is there is more to photojournalism than the average Instagram shot. (For the record, my camera phone shots are included in this sweeping statement.)
I've shared before my long-time admiration for photojournalists (including the ones I know in real life), and my desire to develop my own photojournalistic skills. The news of the Chicago Sun-Times lay-offs has reignited this desire.
Because even though both online and traditional media may not believe it to be popular or "sell," I still believe that a well-told, thoughtfully-composed Story is the most important, powerful thing we can share.
And so, from now on, I'm on a mission to bring it back.