I had lunch with a close friend today and she asked me if it bothered me that Maria was taking so many wonderful pictures with the jazzy new camera on her new Iphone 7. I had to think about it a minute.
I said when I saw the quality of this portrait of me – the first photo Maria took with the new phone camera, I did have a twinge of unease.
I certainly have noted the string of beautiful pictures she has been posting online since we got the new camera. People are loving them. So am I. Every morning she comes to me and shows me her pictures, as I have done with her every day of our lives together.
Up until a year ago, I was the photographer, not her, that was my realm. Now there are two of us.
Seeing how creative and determined Maria is, I knew the portrait of me would not be the last wonderful image. She is a visual artist, she sees the world in images, of course she would get serious about pictures. And now she has a powerful tool to support this work.
I will be honest. I know enough about fragile male egos to know this could cause some trouble if it were not handled well and honestly.
There was a larger truth about how I felt feel, I told my friend, and that was about love and partnership, about what love really means.
It is not about competition, or the smallness of envy. I could not ever succeed at the expense of her, and of her dreams and gifts. That is not love, it is not a gift to me.
I urged Maria to buy this new phone camera, I helped her set it up.
I have always encouraged her to get hold of creative tools, and I am filled with pride and admiration for the work she has done, is doing, and will do. She is one of the most talented people I have ever known. Watching her art evolve has been the greatest gift of my life.
Yes, I am competitive, that has always helped me. It has not escaped me that our gifts now sometimes brush against one another, that we are sometimes aiming for the same shot.
But just as she has always encouraged me, I will always encourage her. And competition is good for people like me, it keeps my sharp and focused. We can work it out, we already have.
When Maria succeeds, I succeed, I told my friend. When she grows, I grow. When she is happy, I am happy. When she is stronger, I am stronger. When she is afraid or sorrowful, I can't be happy.
We are in life together. Her creativity shines on me, mine on hers. Her art is different from mine, a fiber artist is different from a writer, and used to be somewhat different from a photographer. But this is not something I have lost, she enriches me with her love and her work.
We adjust. When we go outside, she takes photos while I do chores, when she is done, I take my photos whole she finishes the chores. In this way, we stay out of each other's way. We avoid resentments and confusion, we respect the dignity and creativity of one another.
We can talk pictures as well as a million other things, and revel in the successes each one of us has. Each of us can help the other learn a bit more about how to capture the images we seek or are drawn to.
We can both try to make photos that capture our lives, our farm, our animals, and the different ways in which we express our art. I think everyone will be richer for that, that goes for us, and for you.
So now, we have another beautiful thing we can share. I have lost nothing.
My friend listened closely, and said, you need to go and write that. You're right, I said. I do.