I spent the first 60 years of my life living pretty much inside my own head, aware of my surroundings only as they intruded upon my mission of the moment. Of course, I’ve appreciated spectacular sunsets and marvelled at the majesty of Niagara Falls or the New York skyline, but until I walked with Ann, I was blind to all but the grandest of vistas.
In celebration of my 60th birthday, my son, Rob Gross, and his wife, Ann Peterson, rented a cottage for all of us in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I awoke very early the first morning and was surprised to find that my daughter-in-law was already dressed with camera in hand and about to leave for a morning walk. She invited me to join her. That’s the morning my world became richer.
As we walked, Ann stopped every few feet to take a photograph, and I grew more exasperated with each interruption of our exercise. When she got down on one knee and scrunched her body under a roadside mailbox I finally blurted, “What ARE you doing?”
“I like the pattern of the rust,” she said.
That seemed a bit loopy to me, but she showed me what she had photographed, and I was immediately wowed. As her eye had captured it, the mailbox was not just a mundane object, but a unique presence on the roadside. We walked and took photos and walked, and I began to realize that Ann had a special sense and an appreciation for all things visual, and I wanted in! I forced myself to notice the pieces of the whole and listened as Ann pointed out a graceful sprig or an interesting shadow, or how the sunlight played with the colours of things. I began to see! But what I saw with my naked eye, even with prodding, never came close to the magical images she was capturing and the emotions they evoked (which is why her photos are so perfect for greeting cards!).
Since that morning, I’ve walked with Ann on the streets of Dublin, Galway, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, and our hometown of Buffalo, NY. I never become impatient, because I have a new appreciation for life outside my head, and a deep admiration for the art that Ann creates through her visual gift.