An Avalanche of Memories

So fellow travelers, a wintry mix of sleet and heavy snow shut down my weekend plans for a reunion with some of my creative tribemates. Little did I know the weekend storm had an avalanche in the works as well.


As a veteran resident of Upstate New York winters, I have a high tolerance for driving in winter weather. Listen, earlier this morning, Mike Seidel of the Weather Channel informed viewers that Syracuse is the snowiest city in the continental US. He is in town today (those Weather Channel guys are frequent visitors to our area through the winter months) as he covers the latest Lake Effect storm whiting out our town.

Saturday’s storm threw icy roads in the mix and that’s one winter beast I have enough experience to know not to mess around with. In fact on this same weekend, one year ago, some of the same friends and I staged an impromptu skating adventure in the parking lot of a lovely restaurant in Saratoga Springs. We had gathered that weekend to attend the Battenkill Chorus Winter Concert, which one friend was performing in. While we laugh about it now, it is not an adventure we are eager to replicate. So as this year’s lunch date approached, we monitored the forecasts closely. Friday evening, still harboring hope for the trip, I packed a small weekend bag and sent out a “Let’s see what the morning brings,” message. I had the longest drive to our meeting point, so I would be able to make a decision well before anyone else had to head out.

The early morning forecast clearly indicated I would be driving east out of heavy rain into deteriorating conditions which would last through the afternoon when our group would have to navigate the winding, hilly backroads of the NewYork-Vermont border.  Shortly after I posted my decision to remain home other members indicated they woke to icy driveways, slushy roads and echoed the choice to reschedule.

Ah well, so now a long weekend stretched before me and I needed a good distraction from the mundane list of “to do’s” on my list. Ok, I did sort through a stack of paperwork, stash the last holiday decorations (you know the ones which elude detection until the boxes have been packed away) and clear out the mystery items from the extra freezer downstairs. Satisfied with those achievements I turned my attention a long postponed project perfect for a long stretch of snow bound days:

Sorting through the digital photographs stored in my computer files.

That would be ten years of photographs.

It was a project I had started to tackle before, but never got further than one or two sections. With three full days (Monday being a school holiday) and nothing else on the calendar it was the perfect opportunity to take this on. I sat down with a warm cup of tea, my dog snuggled next to me on the couch and got to work.

The process was simple. Pick a file and click through the photos, eliminate the ones not worth keeping: duplicates, poor quality shots and any experimental projects no longer needed. Simple enough, right?

I was completely unprepared for the waves of emotion ten years of visual memories would unleash. My heart was still tender from last week’s airport sendoff and recent conversations with both my daughters, one resuming her college studies in Tokyo, the other starting a search with her husband for their first house in Portland Oregon. So images of summer camping trips, music recitals, former foster dogs and furry companions who now run free in the Spirit Fields, family celebrations all sent memories flying faster than the snow flurries which kept me home.


Favorite Youngest Daughter age 8.  A decade later she’s still discovering life with that same joy and energy.

Determined to complete the project, I paused to regroup and rethink the process. I do some of my best planning when I go walking, so I took our dog out. As we tracked new trails in the snow, I realized if I went back to the oldest files and worked my way forward I would land in the present moment, a place of awareness I am always striving to be in. Here in the present, while I do miss my daughters I am also creating new focal points for myself. Clearing out unnecessary clutter is an important part of freeing my consciousness to be in the here and now.

Refreshed from our brisk walk, I reset my resolve and got to work. I put on some background music to keep me going (Jake Shimabukuro’s masterful ukulele work, guaranteed to keep the happy close to the surface) and for several hours I clicked my way through a decade of images.  I began to see how my photographic eye had been developing even before I joined the creative group.  Several forgotten gems tucked in between the usual assortment of posed family snapshots and slightly out of focused candids encouraged me to keep going as I plowed through an avalanche of memories and emotions.


Winter sun reflected in a creek. Four Mills Nature Reserve Ambler, PA

The longer I worked, the easier the process became. To my surprise, even with breaks for meals and another walk during an extended break in the weather I was done by the end of the evening. All the processing of images and memories and emotions also generated some young sprouts of poems, blog posts and future photo essays.

I woke up this morning once again to a world of swirling whiteness. I chose to see it as a blank canvas of possibility. Right on cue a little doughnut of blue sky broke through the storm clouds as Delilah raced around the yard tracking the squirrel trails between the feeders. Within minutes, Lake Ontario quickly reminded us she was not quite done making a statement and we dashed back inside for a hearty breakfast and a fresh start to creativity.

No turning back now

the past a blazing sunset

new horizons call


(an almost “toss out” shot from a recent road trip found its voice in the haiku above.)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.




Deborah H Rahalski

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