June 15th, 2007


This time of year the churches of Forio d’ Ischia celebrate important religious holidays, and an essential part of the celebration are the clanging of bells and the echoing explosions of fireworks. They begin in the morning, are repeated at noon and evening, and sometimes even at midnight. Clang, clang, clang, CLANG. Boom, boom, boom, BOOM. The bells make sense, but I fail to understand the artillery. It remains an enigma.

Like this favorite passage of mine in Joyce’s story “Araby,” in Dubliners:

“When I came downstairs again I found Mrs Mercer sitting at the fire. She was an old garrulous woman, a pawn-broker’s widow, who collected used stamps for some pious purpose….”

After I photographed the fireworks, knowing the camera could never do the noisy extravaganza justice, I looked down at the terra-cotta frogs on the terrace. Cute, and touching, I thought. I tried to focus but something seemed off. Perhaps it was my failing eyesight. I’m getting OLD after all. But then my Nikon has autofocus, and I could hear the tiny aperture motor whir, and lock in. But the image remained fuzzy in the viewfinder. I bent down and took a careful look. Then I understood. I had focused perfectly on a pair out-of-focus frogs. That’s exactly how they are, with virtually no sharp edges. Why the softness and lack of detail? Another enigma.