Being there

Where to begin? With something simple: a meal, the arrival of rolls warm from the oven, crust hot to the touch when the boy takes one from basket to plate and breaks it, tastes the yeasty goodness. A supper shared between mother and father and son, no books or magazines allowed at the table; here we converse and we savor what’s before us and what’s passed in the gift of a day now dimming. This happens to be a special evening—we’re dining out, fine Italian, and, to the delight of the boy, who can’t eat wheat, everything on the chef’s menu is gluten-free, from squid to sorbet. From the table by the window there’s a view of hummocky meadows and, beyond that, ancient forest. But it’s the bread that the boy is most gladdened by, even though he knows and is reminded once more, here by his mother, not to fill up on it, advice he acknowledges as he dips a piece into olive oil. The waiter delivers three rectangular stones bearing slices of prosciutto and Parmesan, which is an opportunity the boy’s father takes to ask if the boy knows the word grazie. Paired with prego. Gratitude being a good place to begin a new language, or sustain the ones that you inhabit daily.

It’s just a moment in time, though moments add up to lives and histories, don’t they? Remembered, revered in their distinct sounds and smells and beams of light, they are, one could say (and many have), sanctified. Sometimes a larger arc becomes visible in accumulated moments: where ideas and ideals, research and roundtables, fellowships and conversations have led in terms of wisdom articulated and applied. To wit, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, now into its second quarter century of work on the campus and in the world at large.

Or let’s take another moment. A sunny afternoon, a photographer on his way back from a shoot, walking a corridor he’s walked many times before, passing a doorway he’s long wanted to capture in just the right light—bright but kind—the texture of the etched glass and the framing of the world outside: green lawn and trees and the buzz and whirl of life about the Mission Campus. And, he sees, this is it. Click. And again.

The life of a photographer is filled with such instances, if said catcher of stories in pictures makes the time and effort to be there, as Chuck Barry has here at Santa Clara for 25 years and counting. More often than not, to do that work he’s quietly blending into the background, since the moments he wants to collar now and bequeath for years to come are here’s what’s happening. So often in what he’s framed you can feel the rush of wind, hear the strummed guitar, and touch the threads that connect that moment to bigger stories that stretch across time and space. Another good place to start.

Keep the faith,

Steven Boyd Saum

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