“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” was written above a pod of breaching Orca whales, on a photo taken somewhere in Puget Sound. The words were written in a haphazard cursive as if to imply the weakness of writing, while proving the magnificence of photography. This was was when I was a young boy, on a promotional poster for the ferry company, during the two-hour ferry crossing to see my grandparents from Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island.
Something captivated me in that quote. It seemed like a challenge. As though you couldn’t use words to create a replica of a moment, or a feeling. Since then I have written enough to realize with 1000 words you can say a lot.
Take the short story I have included in a PDF for a free download. It’s called Kids will be Kids and I’ve been working on it since I was in living in Colombia last year. This version of Kids will be Kids was edited while living in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Sucking the life out of my chosen existence; trying to find some sort of balance between the act of survival, happiness, and an environment which fosters creativity and focus. It will be included in I Killed a Black Dog, my soon to be published second book.
Kids will be kids
They were sitting on the grass across the street. It was dry now, but it wouldn’t be later. The rain always came in the afternoon and most of the time after he had taken lunch. It never lasted long, and it was never cold enough to need a jacket, but every day the rain would come.
It was something the man had come to expect and it didn’t bother him anymore. He wasn’t certain, but they looked like they were wearing the same clothes as last night.
There were two girls leaning against each other and two boys sitting on either side of them. A third boy lay with his head in the lap of the girl with jean shorts and a new tattoo. One of the boys, the one wearing a yellow hat, stood up. He wobbled to the right, leaned to the left, and then he fell down in the same spot he’d been sitting. The group erupted in laughter and across the street the man continued walking.
One of the girls took a sip from a can of beer and placed it on the grass beside her. She pulled out her cellphone and said something to thee others. The girl next to her was playing with the hair of the boy whose head was in her lap. He looked up at her curiously and she smiled. Her cheekbones were framed by her short, slightly tangled hair and she smiled back at him. The boy wearing the yellow hat pointed at the man who’d been watching them.
He looked down when he realized he’d ben caught staring and began waking faster. A nervous wave of self-consciousness washed over him when he assumed whatever they were saying was related to him. The only reason he’d been watching them was because he remembered the girl with jean shorts and the new tattoo. She had come in three times last night, each time a little more drunk.
She spoke with rapid, confusing English words and while the man couldn’t understand it, he liked her voice. It was soft and clear, but also piercing in its honesty. Walking along the sidewalk the man tried to listen to her foreign words and wondered if he would ever learn English.
Across the street he saw one of the boys grab the hands of the boy who had been laying down and pulled him to his feet. The others stood and they all looked towards him.
There was no doubt anymore; he knew they were going to follow him and he walked faster. Without slowing, he bent down and picked up an empty beer bottle from the sidewalk, and stole a quick glance towards them.
The girls adjusted their shorts and tops. One of the boys put his arm around the girl with the new tattoo, but she slid out from under his arm and turned around to face him. Grabbing both his hands she began skipping backwards; leading him, and the group, playfully across the street.
The man saw that they were getting closer. Suddenly he felt rushed. He stubbed his toe and stumbled, but used his good hand to keep hold of the railing as he climbed the short staircase. The group had almost crossed the street when he looked back again.
He wondered how long they had been waiting for him when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a key ring with keys of all shapes. He coughed a little, cleared his throat, and then bent down on one knee to open the giant padlock. He jiggled the padlock loose and with a surge of effort stood, sliding the shuttered metal door upwards. It clicked loudly at each fold until it was open.
He slid a different key into the second door and turned it clockwise until he felt the deadbolt drop into the lock. Swinging the door open made the bell attached to the hinge of the door jingle.
The sound had been burned into his memory and by this point gave him a feeling like deja vu every time he heard it. Taking one final look over his shoulder he shuffled inside as fast as his old body would let him.
The group jumped up the stairs cheering.
The beer store, was now open.
At just over 700 words, I hope Kids will be Kids says as much as any Instagram photo I’ve posted. For now, I will borrow a quote from Michelle de Montaigne’s Essay’s. It describes the merit of written verse (and prose) in an illuminating analogy :
Just as the voice, confined in the narrow channel of a trumpet, comes out sharper and stronger, so, in my opinion, a thought, when compressed in the strict meters of verse springs out more briskly and strikes me with a livelier impact
What do you think? Is a picture worth a thousand words? Or is 1000 words worth more than a picture? Sign up here, I have a new post coming soon!
If you want to read more of my writing, check out my first book Five Weeks in the Amazon
4 thoughts on “Travel Psychology Secrets: Why 1000 Words is Worth More Than a Single Picture”
I think our culture is asking us to capture memories and life in snapshots and we are learning to put aside the work of language. Brene Brown describes the culture of scarcity. She says that in our Post 911 culture we have shut down. We need to re-learn our ability to be vulnerable and place ourselves out there to be seen – or in the case of writing – to be read. We are expected to lead extroardinaire lives today (B Brown)- and we are doomed to fail. Calculators, Cameras, reproductions of Art…are tools to expedite our mastery of the moment — What/which language is more intimate and more visceral? There is a photo of two lovers kissing in Paris streets. It is a poignant moment and seeming superb photojournalism/street photography. Apparently Robert Doisneau, The Kiss by the Hotel de Ville was staged. The photo becomes a sort of betrayal – or does it? We are not sure. Is it just that this photo has been used by popular culture to define ourselves, the perfect romantic moment on Paris streets? If we hang this poster in our living room do we gather the feeling about us. Because despite the manipulation of medium, it captures an emotion… There are many poignant photos taken by Robert Doisneau that capture our humanness with much less fanfare – and less artifice. And there may be better photographers… Of course with the internet we can now see the oevre at home rather than go to a gallery. Certainly a skillfully captured photo of a whale opens up the possibillity outside of the house (especially in the lives of those living in British Columbia, BC and our regular lives. But writing is also a bit about lying. I don’t like to say ‘lying’ ‘ouch’— but it is kind of like the child who fabricates all sorts of goofy, flambouyant stories about the faeries in the garden to his mother who is at the kitchen sink washing dishes. It’s a fantasy that is charming. Telling stories transforms us and brings us to a new place. I think the camera has a power, and the pen moves mountains… all can be harnessed to reveal a beautiful, worthwhile and interesting world. You have written of such a frail moment – but also tells of power through the secondary characters – the youth – the chorus to the movements of the old man. You are not old like the man fumbling for his key for the low lock. But you can imagine. There is a charm to your easy vernacular that conveys your argument, however; I’d say that you need more editing! Iris Garland, a human movement professor at Simon Fraser University started the dance program back in the 60’s (or 70’s?) said that there are two types of people. “The charmed” and “the charming”. I think this reciprocity is more reliable in writing than photos. Words or images? It’s a good argument you have brought up. I highly recommend “The Power of Vulnerability” course by Brene Brown, on Udemy. She is a lively speaker – like I’ve tried to be here! and helps to untangle many difficult emotions, and pitfalls in our world.
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Wow, thank you univercityenvironmentalstewards I really liked your thoughts! Thanks for sharing your own… Of course I mean no disrespect to photographers, as their art is beautiful as well… But the pen truly is a mighty weapon…
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It’s Vivian from WVan. I’m no longer in Burnaby though; I am keeping up the blog because I am sure someone out there is reading about sustainable communities in an urban setting! Burnaby Mountain is a sanctuary. There is a charming movie you might like – exactly on your theme. It has a few box office draws and has a slightly disappointing finish… but it is full of lovely nuance. Words and Pictures with Juliette Binoche and directed by Dina Delsanto. I think you are both on a good course!
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Thank you so much Vivian! I really appreciate the note! It isn’t always easy (as my mom unknowingly proclaimed in the first comment) haha , but my life is true and filled with diversity and experience. Hope all is well, what would interest you to hear about from Cambodia?
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