• Aperture: f/7.6
  • Focal Length: 24mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter: 1/800 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1H

Coden, Alabama

If you look too quickly, you might miss something.

Blue skies. Four walls and a ceiling. Yep. All in order here.


Nothing is right about this picture.

The blue skies shouldn’t be here. By all accounts, the sun should never shine again. That’s the odd thing about hurricanes. The sun almost always shines the next day. Ask anyone who has lived through a major tragedy and they will tell you — the sun that rose the day after was absolutely spectacular. To the shell-shocked, stumbling blinking from their sanctuaries, it must have seemed wildly surreal — like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are supposed to fit but none of them add up to make a complete picture.

The grass is still as green, though the blades are tinged brown from exposure to the salty waters of Porterville Bay. The walls are still robin’s egg blue, though much of the paint is chipped from exposure to the high winds and debris from Hurricane Katrina. The beadboard ceiling is still beautiful, and the living room chandelier still hangs, albeit crookedly.

But life lies somewhere in the small details.

The single shoe resting on the front porch, still tied the way its owner left it. The lone chair facing the open expanse of water, perfectly upright in a world where everything else is upended.

On the front steps, small treasures have been carefully picked from the debris — a few pieces of broken china patterned in a delicate pink floral, a child’s bright red block, a faded black and white photograph of a grinning boy standing next to a 1965 Mustang, a silver Zippo worn smooth with use.

It’s anyone’s guess as to why someone left these items behind after taking the time to cull them from the pile of refuse. Maybe they were forgotten as the shock of realization set in, or maybe they just seemed meaningless amid such devastation — remnants of a world that doesn’t exist anymore. Pieces of a life that will never be again.

Maybe the owner left them behind because she realized that she didn’t need them. She would build a stronger house on higher ground. A place with happier memories and prettier things. A place to shelter her from the storms.

Or then again, maybe I spend so much time staring at broken glass that I can’t see my own reflection. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

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