It’s not a remarkable picture frame. As far as picture frames go it’s probably just run of the mill average stuff.
It’s rectangular in shape about two feet by three feet and tan in colour. The outer edges boast an attractive ornate shape.
It could be old—perhaps even very old. It may be a valuable antique or simply a piece of crap. Regardless, it’s an old friend to me and will always have a place in my life.
My bond with the frame is because at a great time of need it became my safe port in the storm—or a subtle wakeup call. Without that picture frame, I have no idea where I’d be today.
It was five years ago when I first truly noticed the old picture frame and it was a complete fluke of circumstance.
Some six weeks before my wife at the time had arrived home from a 10-day visit to Hawaii and abruptly announced she was leaving me. I was truly surprised at the announcement, despite the fact we’d had a couple of rough bumps during our 17 years together. Suffice to say, I was perplexed by it all and when she announced she was moving to Hawaii in another month, I went into a tail spin.
For the next six weeks, I basically let my world tumble down around me.
I helped pack up her stuff and sent her off, then immediately hid in my backyard with as much beer as I could find.
I rediscovered my skill at getting stupidly impaired and feel sorry for myself. I did a fine job of it and may have stayed there if not for the picture frame.
Near the end of the sixth week of self destruction and pity partying, I decided to sort out her remaining stuff from mine and put it in storage.
About an hour into digging through the mounds of collected junk in the shed I came upon the picture frame.
I decided it was disposable and tossed it onto the lawn in the “give-away” pile. It sat there until the next day.
With the blistering heat of mid August beating on me, I cracked open my fourth or fifth cold one of the day and sat down in a lawn chair to relax a bit.
By fluke, or fate, the frame had landed in perfect position right next to the chair and when I sat with sad little head bowed I was staring into the frame.
At first I assumed the two-handed chin holding pout position and I started to think how the patch of lawn I could see inside the empty frame seemed so lifeless.
Nothing was happening—just like in my life.
Out of boredom (and probably the booze) I continued to zone out while staring at the frame.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I saw some grass and weed blades stir in the wind. Then I noticed an ant start to trundle across a curled up old leaf. Suddenly there were several ants making a leaf burdened trek across the expanse of grass in the frame.
It was an epic journey for them, my three-foot picture frame. Soon a fly landed on the frame followed by a ladybug that magically appeared in a piece of grass that had suddenly lifted.
When I looked around inside the frame there was life teeming everywhere; life I had not really noticed in my rush to see nothing.
Half an hour later, I pulled myself away from the amazing display of life in microcosm and started to grin for the first time in six weeks.
The lines from John Lennon—life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans—ran through my brain.
I realized life was not only worth living but was passing me by and I wasn’t making any plans, just wasting my world.
The light bulb had come back on. The pity party was over.
I picked up the picture frame and carefully put it back in my shed and put the rest of the beer in the fridge for a more sensible time.
For some time now I’ve been contemplating just what sort of picture I should put in the old frame but never really found the perfect match.
However, it’s just dawned on me this morning as I held it again that I’ll leave it as it is. Blank, empty, without a picture. It seems fitting that way. Just a simple, open picture frame on the world. Perfect.
Charlie Hodge is a freelance writer.