Oh, home video. People always say it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful to have everything: the cities you saw, the wedding, the first steps, the faces and talk of people we love, gone, still waiting there on tape. When Josie was born there was some pressure to take video. But we didn’t want video. I find no thrill in steel building corners or my shiny wedding-day nose and we wanted to remember, not record, the first steps. Once home movies came sentiment-ready with no sound and fuzzy pictures, a sort of dreamy, sped-up and slowed-down version of picnics, plays and road trips. But video clarity, it’s hard. Your voice sounds like you squawking through tin, and the voices of departed too painful to play back, too precious for machines. It’s good for whatever just needs viewing, like training seminars or soap operas or how to chop an onion. But what we take doesn’t always need viewing. Memory’s edge is safer tumbling in your head, safe from poor lighting and flat sound. Memory can live quite comfortably with an audience of one.
And yet. This year up in northern Minnesota, balancing on a sunny granite rock in a Lake Superior cove, I pulled out my iPhone and took silly, shaky video. Because in the last 100-degree days of August or in the gray, woolly depth of winter, I might wish to hear water splash and wind over a lake. I may need a few seconds of the most full-hearted minutes all year, less memory than talisman, Josie’s wet sandals and the gull sky, and nowhere to be. From the lake to my head and into my hands, and for once, video does the trick.