Grumpy gets a surprise

photo in a frame
Zoe approved. As usual.

I was working, grumpily, in my office. The air conditioner was trying to push some cool into my back porch office with the help of a fan, but still the air was heavy. Zoe the visiting dog was asleep on my feet under the desk.

Zoe is a real dog. She could give Django lessons, if Django had any interest in learning. She wags her tail when you talk to her, greets all strangers except for mail carriers with equanimity, likes to be petted, nudges your left hand when you’re only petting her with your right. She likes to be in the room, in the very spot, where you are, and when you accidentally step on her because you forgot she was there, and you curse, “For God’s sake Zoe, move!” she wags her tail.

So when the front doorbell rang, I backed up my chair, bumped into Zoe, cursed, and patted her affable head in exasperation. “Zoe, geez.” She wagged her tail and followed me downstairs as Django watched from her chair in another room. I kept Zoe from eating the UPS man, who handed me a box. It was from Christina, a manager at the company we freelance for.

Why would Christina be sending me a package? She’s not working on our current project. We hardly even talk lately, except when I send her a particularly good outtake from a recording session or she sends me a link to new pictures she’s taken. I love her photography. Simple, striking images of details from her life. Flowers, trains, bits of statues. I even love the pictures of her little boys, whom I’ve never met and have no emotional connection to. But these aren’t precious moments sort of pictures, they’re just moments in time. Two kids in masks, turning. A boy inexplicably crying over a plate of waffles. I can relate to that.

I’ve asked Christina when she’s going to start selling her work and she’s replied that the pros don’t exactly welcome people like her. “I read a stream over the weekend about how all these ‘moms with entry level dSLRs from Costco’ are ruining ‘real’ photographers’ businesses.”

“Well, I’m not a pro, I’m your audience,” I said. “When you’re ready, I want to buy some prints.”

The box was large and flat and light. I both hoped for and felt guilty about what might be in it. A gift of photos! The first was a square unframed photo of a tree, taken during a tornado. At first glance, the tree looks out of focus, just big and round and fuzzy. Then you look closer and realize the fuzziness is the movement of leaves, branches, and trunk of the ancient tree. There’s nothing else in the picture, just the moving tree, which makes it an oddly quiet shot.

The other was some kind of metal angel or cherub against the sky. I’m not big on angel pictures, but this one is different. The figure seems somehow compassionate but also remote and removed. I’d admired it on her site, and it was even more beautiful matted and framed and held in my hands as I paraded it around the house, going, “I got a present, I got a present.” Zoe was ecstatic, and wagged her tail at every wall against which I held my new picture. We finally decided on the front hall landing with the old green flocked wallpaper.

There was also a note in the box. It said, “Enjoy. Love, the mom with the camera from Costco.”

Note: You can see more of Christina’s photos on her Flickr site.

Join the Conversation


  1. I love this sweetly written tribute to Christina’s beautiful-but-intentially-not-precious photography and your grumpy, bad self 🙂 Thank you for capturing and sharing this. xoxoxo

  2. Wow, those are some great photos on her site! I love the way the tree picture looks like a painting at the top that resolves itself into a photo nearer to the bottom. I think art photography really just takes an eye for framing a shot, and she obviously has that.

    And I love the way this story is about Zoe and the picture both separately and together. Just don’t take any decorating tips from Zoe. It sounds like she’ll say yes to anything.

  3. I love her photography as well. Who is this Christina person? And are the presents for putting up with me?

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