The Greek roots of the word photography translate as "writing with light." Welcome to my studio--a place to practice and illuminate good work using writing and photography.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Witness

The soft light filled the Sunday morning little by little. Winter had arrived and the trees below the upstairs bedroom window were bare and moving slightly in the wind, urging daylight into the neighborhood. The mother and her suckling child were perched in the oversize upstairs window, sleepily enjoying each other’s company and rocking in the wooden chair. It was their morning ritual. The hungry swallows of the baby girl matched the rocking rhythm of the chair.

The neighborhood was still asleep—most for several hours yet. The quiet comfort of mother and child was the only event on the deserted street. The mother alternated her gaze between the sweet face of her feeding child—long, dark eyelashes brushing her pink cheeks--and the view of the yard and alley below. She cherished this intimate relationship with her second and last child. No one was the wiser for their presence she thought. No viewers to watch the bare breast breakfast bar. No one could feel the effects of the bond sealed by mother’s milk.

But a movement caught the mother’s eye from the house across the yard and alley below. She switched her gaze to the back of the neighbor’s house. The glass door that opened onto the deck slid open a few inches and a nose and then face appeared. The head glanced to the left and to the right, up and down the alley. The door closed again momentarily. The mother puzzled and kept watch.

The door opened again and the full head of the neighbor poked out for a second look. She looked around her yard and the alley as if to see if anyone were looking. Her gaze stayed at street level. She did not see the mother and baby watching from the second story window. She seemed satisfied she was alone in the neighborhood when her shoulder and then naked body emerged from behind the curtained door. The cold of the winter morning broadsided her skin as evidenced by a shocked grimace and brief self-hug. The mother’s attention riveted on the bare body. Like Wiley Coyote avoiding the Roadrunner, the neighbor continued to look around to assure herself she was alone and undetected.

The naked neighbor, slender and athletic looking half-crouched and half jogging, sprinted diagonally across the platform deck, reaching her arm toward a stack of firewood laying in wait. Still looking up and down the alley to make sure she was alone, she grabbed with one hand a piece of quartered oak. With one last look around the alley she sprinted for the door, like a scared child running up the dark basement stairs. Once inside, she peeked out again, as if to make sure she went unnoticed. The glass door closed.

The mother smiled, and then laughed out loud, startling the child whose arm reached out for balance. She chuckled throughout the day and smirked every time she ran into the neighbor in the following weeks. She wondered if she should tell her. Instead she filed the delightful image between the pages of secret sweetness left behind by a nursing baby.

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