Musings: How the ordinary becomes extraordinary
Exactly 100 years ago young journalist, photographer and aspiring seaman Frederick William Wallace joined the crew of a fishing schooner sailing out of Digby, Nova Scotia. He got hooked, signed on as an active hand for six more voyages to the Grand Banks and then, in lively prose and amazing photographs, set about to capture a way of life that is now gone forever.
Having just put down Camera on the Banks, a fascinating, photo-laden account of his trips, three things strike me:
The slenderness of the thread of history - how much is forgotten, and how quickly! And not just the facts, but the attitudes and frames of mind that define people and eras.
What seems ordinary in one place and time is extraordinary in another. The truth of this is the crux of the reason many people don't set down their own recollections and perspectives - they don't feel their lives are "special" enough.
A slice of a life tells a tremendous amount. For the writer - or the reader - of a personal history, a little goes a long way. One doesn't need to tell everything to create something wonderful.
As I turn from Wallace's book to the work of editing the transcript of a two-hour conversational interview with an "ordinary" man born in 1948, I am absolutely sure that for his children and grandchildren, the stories that describe the world in the mid-20th century will seem anything but ordinary.
As surely as I am grateful to Wallace for firing my imagination, so too will be the descendants of this client - and lucky they are that he cared enough to take a few hours to set something down.
You can do it too.