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Sometimes I have these thoughts about the peculiarity of suitcases. I have tried to initiate conversations regarding this topic with my mother, father, and brother, but they respond with lost, confused looks. Then they shake their heads and blame this quirkiness on Plan II or whatever....a liberal education. But with suitcases, here's the thing: often we are frustrated with our own suitcases. It's black. It looks like everyone else. It's lost on the luggage carousel. They all look the same. Granted suitcases can have similar outward appearances, think of their purpose, of their destination, of their contents. At any particular airport, one black suitcase may contain scarves and mittens and thick wool socks in preparation for a cool, winter destination. A separate, though seemingly identical suitcase, may contain swim trunks, light cotton tees, and a bottle of SPF 30. A lot goes into packing a suitcase. One must consider the essentials. And they may be packed for short durations or maybe for a long venture. Suitcases look the same, they get lost, they get mistaken, but suitcases are essential.

What does my rant on suitcases have to do with umbrellas? I think they are similar. Yesterday, Dennis charged us the task of photographing people on a very grey and very rainy day. Thus, braving the elements with my Canon, I began to chase after umbrellas. Initially, like a moth to flame, I was attracted to colorful umbrellas with vibrant hues and distracting patterns. But then I realized, as appealing an umbrella may seem, the real subject is hidden beneath, shielding themselves from the elements. It's easy to become transfixed on the bright umbrellas, but that's not really seeing.

Similar though inverse to suitcases, we assume about umbrellas. We focus on how they are different, and I think we then begin to classify everyone holding an umbrella into a single category--those weathering the elements. But, when we begin to slow down and re-examine the subject matter, as we begin to stare as the Czechs do, and actually look with the camera, umbrellas and their patrons become more complex.

This all leads to my final point and final rant. As I chased umbrellas and seemingly stalked people up and down grey avenues, I happened to actually see something. A typical couple, holding black umbrellas. The scene was natural and understated. While some pairs huddled together under a singular umbrella and present a more obvious display of public affection, this couple carried two black umbrellas and their arms stretched out as they held hands. They walked in unison, unaffected by the weather. They were not making a point. They were not being drastic. I want to emphasize the word natural. They were like every other couple that day--mother and daughter, elderly husband and wife, two young high school girls. These two men were not obvious. They were understated, and they brought metaphorical light and sunshine into my life as I followed them a short way on a rainy day in Prague.
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