[013] The Photo You Don’t Take

The last call of the day for lap swims on Sundays is 4:30–6:00pm, and for once I was early. It’s nice to be able to do a marathon instead of a sprint; it’s just a different kind of workout.

The West Hollywood Swimming Pool is located in the newly redone West Hollywood Park, with parking at the adjacent West Hollywood Library. (And now you know why we shorten it to Weho.) Well, there was bit of a traffic jam at the 5-story parking structure, with a car just sitting in the entrance. I walked over to see if the driver was having an issue with the “Press This Button for Ticket” dispenser. Turns out, the maximum number of cars had entered the structure, and the smarty-pants automated dispenser was waiting for a car to leave before permitting another to enter. Makes sense. I’ve just never known a parking structure in LA to fill up! A sort of vertical gridlock. We all just patiently waited another minute or two for another car or two to leave, and our god-given right to park was restored.

I guess that’s all by way of saying what a gorgeous day it was to be in the park. The sport courts were full of people playing, uh, sports. The lawns were full of sunbathers and frisbee throwers and dogs a-fetching. The playground and picnic areas were packed with kids and their parents. Have you ever watched a bunch of kids in a playground? They’ve never met before, but one or two bossypants get everyone organized and they make up games and rules and play and have fun. And someone ends up crying. Just like real life. It’s similar to a dog park, where dogs of all shapes and sizes just… get along. Adult humans seem to lose this cooperative instinct somewhere along the way. (But that’s another post.)

As I walked from the parking structure into the park, I saw more than a few people pointing their smartphone cameras upward, and my eyes tracked along that trajectory. All those photos that were sunday cloudssnapped at that moment will never do justice to the skyscape that caught everyone’s attention – but here’s one anyway. (Little did I know that this was the before shot.)

Fast-forward an hour, as I’m slicing my way through the water. (I may actually be plodding through the water, but it feels like slicing. Let’s go with slicing.) The pool lies on a north-south axis, so every odd-numbered lap (on my way to 90 today; just sayin’) gave me an eyeful of western sky. And on one of those southbound slices – Holy Vesuvius, Batman! – the sky had burst into flame! It was breathtaking, luminous, blood red. So intense that for a few long moments I considered that Something Very Bad had happened to produce this effect. Like a meteor strike… or the Hawaiian Islands had gone off like volcanic Roman candles… or maybe Google had found a way to turn the sky into a high-def screen.

Then, for another long moment, I contemplated getting out of the water and drying off sufficiently to reach into my gym bag, pull out my phone and snap a pic of these artistic atmospherics. But I just kept swimming. With every other lap, more color had drained out of the sky until it had cooled to a dark ember of a cloud. The whole passion play couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes. But what a show!

I don’t have a snapshot to share with you. But I can close my eyes now and experience what the setting sun did to those high, white clouds. It’s more than a visual; memory can function this way as a sixth sense. Or a sense in all five dimensions. Instead of looking at a static photo, my mind is reconstructing the entire experience, including the view through my goggles… the sound of the water splashing around me… the smell of chlorine… and tagging this memory with the thought I had that, sometimes, it’s the photo we don’t take that stays with us.

The photo I didn’t take today makes me happy.
Day 013 #100happydays

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3 comments

    1. Lily! Every day I seem to get one view coming in from HKG — this must be you, non? I smile whenever I see that “1”. I hope you’re there and not up in Beijing. Is the smog as bad as it looks? (Kind of a dumb question.) Giant video screens in the squares showing virtual sunrises?! Yikes. Of course, on the other side of Paradise, they can’t drink the water in West Virginia… We’ve really mucked up our crib.

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  1. what a beautiful and poignant entry….I ran into an artist a few years back who painted pictures of people at major historical events taking IPhone photos of the historical event, trying to document and share the historical event they were a part of without actually being present for the historical event they were a part of … thank you for being a part of your own event … love to you and the pure joys of swimming …

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