Old photos

During the holidays we started clearing out the attic. Progress was swift until we came to old photos. They really should carry a health warning along the lines of “looking at old photos can make you emotional.” Memories and feelings that you thought were long buried can very swiftly rear their heads when you look at an old photo. Photos capture a moment in time but they can be inextricably linked to particular longings, regrets and strong feelings.

Even now over 30 years after his death it is hard to look at photos of my father. Photos of my daughters can make me full of regret about mistakes we made many years ago. Photos of those close to us who are now dead can make us cry. Other photos speak eloquently of severed friendships and relationships. Or worst of all they portray happy times in our lives; times we wished that we could recover or re-experience. The danger is that we start to wallow in regrets and thoughts of “If only!”

As we get older it is very important to keep looking forward. There’s nothing wrong with looking back but our focus should be on the days ahead. The past is gone and we can’t change it.

Sorry for the sermon. I haven’t made resolutions for 2014 but I do hope to achieve three things : to drink more water; run 5k under 20 minutes and bag 5 corbetts (hills over 2500 feet) in one day with a good friend.

Have you made any resolutions? I’ve been reading some fantastic ones on other people’s blogs.


10 thoughts on “Old photos

  1. That sounds like an emotional experience – we’ve all probably got photos that bring back painful memories but as you say, the only way is to focus on the present, because the past is never going to change – the future can! Our old photos are usually resurrected when the girls are bored and in need of a good laugh at how their mum & dad looked in the 1980s! Good luck with your excellent resolutions. I started out not making any myself, but in fact I have at least three, which I’ll share with you: I want to climb another mountain, see capercaillie in the wild, and start work on our new book. I also want to kayak to the Isle of the Dead in Loch Leven. 🙂

    • Thanks Jo. Lorna has a good suggestion which is to look at the old photos fairly regularly to make it easier. I think there’s something in that. Congratulations on the resolutions. A new book sounds like a major task – I look forward to hearing more about that in due course. I like the sound of the capercaillie one too- I suspect you may have to go to the Cairngorms area to tick that one off. The thing that doesn’t appeal so much is kayaking to the Isle of the Dead! But you will have your reasons and you can always visit the Loch Leven Larder afterwards for some apple pie.


      • The capercaillie watching will mean an early start, because they like to display very early in the morning! You’re right, the best places are in the Cairngorms. As for the Isle of the Dead, that’s in the other Loch Leven, the one up by Fort William, and I’ll be waiting for some good weather before going there! Leonie has promised to take us sometime in the summer. It has links with Glencoe, I think – I want to find out more!

      • It looks very interesting Jo. Just the sort of place for you to explore and take photos. You’re right about waiting for a nice day though.


  2. What a thought provoking post. Old photos do have amazing power to transport us and make us feel deeply things that we once felt, or think we felt at the time, although the way we view the past changes as we add more life experience. I wonder if it’s a good idea to look at photographs more often, to prevent the shock of looking at them after an extended period. It’s interesting to me that you’ve written about this because a story I’m writing at the moment revolves around photographs and what you’ve said has given me food for thought, thank you.

    Best of luck with your resolutions, I feel confident that you can achieve all of them and am looking forward to the day I read that you’ve run 5k in under 20 minutes.

    • Thanks Lorna. You say two very helpful things there. Firstly that the way we view the past changes as we add more life experience. Secondly the idea of looking at old photos more regularly. I might try that. If I’d looked at some of these photos ten years ago my response would very likely be different. And the power of photos to trigger a response is perhaps stronger than we think. I was looking at my primary one class photo and had the odd sensation of being able to recall many of the names. Not bad for over 50 years since it was taken (in black and white of course) If I survive another 10 years I probably won’t remember any of the names!


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