• Burr Morse: So worth a thousand words
    July 22,2013

    It seems trite expressions are coming these days faster’n raindrops. “Stayin’ dry?” “Great weather for ducks.” “’Bout ready t’sprout fins.”

    There’s one expression, however, that I’m not sick of: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Betsy and I have been getting those “thousand-word” messages a lot lately in the form of our baby granddaughter Caitrin. Caitrin was 6 months old on July 9 and has recently graduated from colicky crying to cuddly cute. In fact, she “majored” in cutest baby of all time. (What can I say? She’s my granddaughter.)

    Her mother, Monika, is very handy with that hand-held device that does just about everything but change diapers, the iPhone. In fact, it’s safe to say there’s been a bit of a “resolution” revolution lately. Lots of folks are able to take very good, high-resolution digital photos and email ’em anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat. Monika has sent us lots of world-class photos, and contrary to the old days of photography, they’re accessible, crisp and ours forever with a click of a mouse.

    My cousin David Aiken is more of an old-fashioned photography guy, although he finally succumbed to the digital revolution a few years back. For most of my life, David has been a crazy man with a camera snapping everything that walks, crawls or has pistils and stamens that point toward the sun. Sometimes he even snaps folks who don’t want to be snapped at, like my Betsy. Betsy avoids “Kodak moments” like the plague — a fact attested by thousands of cousin David’s shots of her suddenly about-faced derriere. Once she countered one of these photo-ops-gone-wrong with some rather pointed words. “One picture is enough, David Aiken,” she shouted. “Y’don’t need a thousand pictures of the same thing.”

    I, kind of a photo-phobia-type myself, hovered in the background cheering her on. David all of a sudden came on like a tiger and put us in our place with a mere five words: “Some families only get one,” he shouted.

    David was 18 when his family made a day trip to our farm from their home in Springfield. They spent the day with us and we had a wonderful time together. On their way out of town, they stopped down on State Street and my mother shot a family portrait of them in front of the Capitol building.

    The picture came out great, a happy family of five with David, his two younger siblings, Kicky and Judy, and their parents, Aunt Caroline and Uncle Bunny. Copies of it remain in our family archives, and it is treasured because it is the sole portrait of the Aiken family. That was summertime, and just before Christmas that same year, Uncle Bunny was killed in a plane crash. Since the day his dad died, David and his camera have been inseparable and, yes, sometimes insufferable, but at least he has pictures.

    His pictures would fill 20 houses and have truly grasped, over the years, the concept that “practice makes perfect.” He has walked away with first prize at numerous fairs and photo competitions. He’s famous around these parts for his natural life photos, both flora and fauna, but in our family he’s known for his pictures of people.

    “People, people everywhere and not a chance to miss”; my cousin David captures the moment, every moment.

    In the meantime, we keep receiving email pictures of our beautiful Caitrin. Betsy and I, silly old fools, hover over the screen laughing at her sucking her toes, beaming at her sipping from her first sippy cup, and even saying her first words thanks to the iPhone’s video/audio option. (“Bow wow, bow wow.”)

    There’s a lot in this complex, modern world that bothers me — the storms, the national debt, the political unrest — but with apologies to Mr. Eastman, I so appreciate advancements in photography. These days, pictures are so good, everyone’s a photographer, and chances are, we’ll never be left with just one.

    Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier.

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