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Cynthia Staples : Ephemeral Beauty, Enduring Inspiration

Words & Images

Ephemeral Beauty, Enduring Inspiration

By Cynthia Staples

As I sit here on a bright autumn day in New England, I realize that I am surrounded by the remains of my summer. Shells from a north shore beach. Rocks from an abandoned quarry. Shards of glass from an urban park. All are strewn about my desk. Each item brings to mind a summer experience never truly to be repeated but, with a single touch to the item, I can be transported back in time. For a little while.

With objects that I can touch so freely, I have often drawn creative inspiration as sparks for both writing and photography. The more ephemeral objects have always proven a greater challenge. By their very nature, their fragility, I know that I will not be able to hold onto them for any length. At some point too soon all that I will be left with are the memories and a few photographs. Such is the case with the dragonfly.

Found one muggy day in a dark church stairwell, it now lies in a shallow box on my desk, its body slowly disintegrating. I take pictures of it often and quite randomly as the light shifts upon it. Sometimes I gently lift it and place it upon different colored papers. Once or twice I have misted the lace-like wings and watched as the water beaded. All the while, I wish that I could have seen it in flight. And I can't help but wonder what was it doing inside the church? How did it come to perish and then lay so perfect on that step for me to find? The seeds of a story are forming, I think. Or perhaps the seeds for a poem. Or a song.

Lately I've been jotting down such questions and ideas on index cards and placing them in a little box on my desk. My own seed bank to cultivate when autumn gives way to winter.

Photo © Cynthia Staples

Hanging above the box is a bouquet of roses purchased on a whim at the local farmer's market. Milk-white petals are slowly turning dark cream as they dry. Green leaves are beginning to turn brittle and brown. As lovely as the petals are in the autumn light, it bothers me that they have no scent. My mother grew white roses. Hers always smelled divine. How are these flowers different? Would the grower be willing to talk with me? More ideas for the seed bank.

Photo © Cynthia Staples

On a nearby table sunlight fills three tiny glasses recently picked up at an antique store. More than once, I have fingered the delicate images etched inside each vessel marveling at the craftsmanship. Who made them? What family owned them? Why were they given up? Should I do the research or simply use my imagination? You see, I think there is a story in each glass.

Or a poem. Maybe even a song or two.

I do not wish to rush time, but I begin to look forward to winter, when I will crack open my little seed bank and pull out a card. By then, the glasses may have shattered, the flowers may have fallen apart, and the dragonfly will surely be gone. But, along with a few photographs, I will have the memories of their ephemeral beauty to draw upon for inspiration. For a little while. •

Next: Beneath the Sun, Moon and Stars »

© 2011 Cynthia Staples. All rights reserved.

Photo by Cynthia StaplesCynthia Staples is a highly creative writer and photographer living in the Boston area. Her words and images capture moments and memories and weave together inspiring stories for her readers. More »

Updated 4/17/14