My wife and I had a conversation this past weekend that went like this…
“Ooooooh, look at that.”
“Yeah, that looks nice backed up by the crops.”
“It’s kind of late. I can get it on another trip.”
“Shit. Right. I’ll pull over.”
And I took my shot of the train car with the Co-op wrap because it might not be there next time. That’s the lesson I learned from St. Jean Baptiste Church in Morrinville, AB.
Things had just started to open up a bit again from the pandemic lockdown in June of 2020. The virus numbers were trending in the right direction and everyone was allowed some freedom once more. My wife and I decided we were due a road trip. We hadn’t been to Morrinville, Alberta before, so off we went in Vlad the Impala.
Our only real plan was to find some ice cream cones, but driving down main street we happened upon this church. St. Jean Baptiste Church was an absolute wonder to look at. I had made a point of leaving the heavy photography gear behind so I would pay more attention to my wife than my imaging kit, but old habits die hard. Out came my new Samsung Galaxy S10+ phone and I took as many pictures as I could. The light was against me, but I came away with some photos that I felt were “okay.”
At some point I wanted to come back with a real camera and get some real photos of that building. In fact, we had planned to in the first week of July of 2021. Unfortunately, just prior to this there was the horrible discovery of unmarked graves of indigenous children at former Canadian residential school sites. The Catholic Church, which ran many of these schools, was taking fire from all sides rhetorically, and then literally. Within a couple of weeks there was a rash of Catholic church fires in Canada that appeared to be arson. St. Jean Baptiste Church was one of the victims of this in the early hours of June 30, 2021 – a couple weeks before our planned trip back.
I don’t want to get into the politics of this too much other than to say that I’m one of those people who will be wearing an orange shirt each year. I’ll also comment that no matter how you feel about this issue, I don’t think responding to one horrible thing by doing another horrible thing is the way forward out of this mess.
Politics aside, the building was gone and there would be no further opportunities to photograph it. The shots I got are the only ones I’ll ever get. I’m so glad I had a good mobile phone camera with me and that I took the shots I could when I did. Shots that didn’t feel real enough to me back then feel all too real and poignant to me now.
Take that shot you want today with whatever camera you’re carrying as the opportunity may be gone tomorrow.