Through the Years

There’s a framed, sepia-toned photograph hanging on the wall behind my monitor. “Racing at the Clarendon” is its title, and it was taken on the sands of Daytona Beach in 1922.

Spectators are lined up along the boardwalk and can be seen viewing the festivities from out their hotel room windows. Cars — four of which are somewhat visible — take to the hard-packed sand inches away from where the water has lapped at the shore. The flagman is dressed sharply in a suit and hat, and looks a bit off-kilter. I’d be, too, if cars were heading straight towards me and we were sharing the same ground.  I’ve never been able to tell the models — a Paige or two from the ’20s, perhaps? It’s a bit of a mystery.

Those were the days: the birth of auto racing. It may not have known how many years it would see, but it’s clearly still very much alive and kicking. The same stoic expressions that grace today’s drivers’ faces are seen back then, and they command the same attention, the same crowds, the same adoring fans.

I wonder if, in nearly 100 years, any photos familiar to me — perhaps even those I may have taken — will be held up and esteemed by generations to come. The same way I look at my racing photograph and wonder what it was like to have been there, I wonder if anyone will look at fans’ NASCAR photos today (ahem, like mine) and think the same thing. Better yet, will they look at any of our current-day photos and wonder what it would’ve been like to be here in 2013?

Will Disneyland still be around? And if so, will photos taken today put the park in a recognizable light? What about our ballparks and stadiums, our national monuments and protected parks? What about city landmarks?

Will the places we’ve come to know still look the same, or will the activities we’ve taken part in be the things to last through the years and across the ages?

In my photo, the beaches of Florida look vastly different today than they did back in 1922. I imagine that in 100 years locations will experience a similar fate — we’ll be told where a photo was taken, but it will look nothing like what you and I know something to be today. Such is change.

If ever we’re impatient with the pace of our lives, all we have to do is look back on old photographs — ones from a hundred years ago, maybe photos of our grandparents during their younger years, photos of our parents at their wedding — and we’ll be reminded how quickly time passes. In the blink of an eye and in the split-second a camera shutter opens and closes, change is already taking place. With change comes a shift, however slight. Life can move pretty fast. And in the words of Ferris Bueller, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

For memories in old photographs and for those times before our own time that remind us to live in the here and now as much as possible, I am thankful.

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