extraterrestrial

I put a roll of poorly stored, expired (2006, I think?) Fujichrome (Sensia, I think?) film in my Minolta SRT-102 last week and shot it in the garden at Cherry Point Market, then mailed it to the lab and asked them to cross-process it. I wasn’t expecting much (see “poorly stored” and note my lack of actual attention to the film details).

Uh, I don’t know what happened here. Every image is either this crazy pink/purple or red. I don’t have the negatives back so I can’t tell if they really look like this or if the lab maybe had the settings wrong on the scanner, but these are the scans they sent me and I’m totally digging whatever it is that is happening here.

This sort of result is not for the perfectionist, I know. But I’m no perfectionist. I’m messy, bad at a lot of things, experimental, and I’m done censoring myself. I’m going to make crappy art. I’m going to explore. I’m not apologizing.

(Wait. I apologize if this post hurts your eyeballs. But that’s all I’m apologizing for.)

purple in Detroit

Detroit and metro on lomo purple
DESTROY, at the Lincoln Street Art Park

I’m a big fan of Lomography’s Lomochrome Purple film. I don’t know what it is about it, but the color shifts and the sometimes surprising outcomes just hit all the buttons for me. They keep fiddling with the chemistry of it each year, but I just know that every roll I’ve shot has made me oh so happy, even when things don’t come out quite right.

Detroit and metro on lomo purple
underpass at the art park

Last month I took a rare day off and my son’s girlfriend and I planned a day to hit MOCAD and the art supply store and whatever else we wished that day. We probably should have checked in advance, but the museum just happened to be closed for a private event. So we took the opportunity to hit two of Detroit’s outdoor art venues, the Lincoln Street Art Park and the Heidelberg Project, then ate at Sister Pie and had coffee (and bought two cakes; well, a half of two different cakes because they didn’t have a whole cake to buy) at the new Ochre Bakery. I’m linking to these things because if you find yourself in Detroit, maybe you ought to make a day of art and food and check these places out, too, because they are uniquely Detroit and definitely awesome.

Detroit and metro on lomo purple
cobblestone alley at the art park

I shot most of a roll of Lomochrome Purple that day and, as expected, the results made me swoony. Blues turn greens; greens turn purples; yellows are pinks. It’s weird and lovely.

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Heidelberg Project

I have two rolls of it left from a batch I bought last summer, 35mm. I pre-ordered 5 rolls in 120mm that should arrive next month, and now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just go ahead and pre-order another 5 rolls of 35mm because geez. I really do love it. I want to see everything in purple. Is that too much to ask?

Detroit and metro on lomo purple
Heidelberg Project
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daffodils, tulips, brick wall in my neighborhood
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container in field
Detroit and metro on lomo purple
texture-y building and field

You can see more from this roll, and other purple and non-purple stuff, here.

we can’t be mad at the fog

As a child I remember foggy mornings on Lake Michigan; waking up to the foghorns of freighters and stepping onto the deck to feel the chill of the moist air. I don’t remember, however, so very many days of fog. Maybe because we weren’t here in May and early June back then?

Either way, it seems more foggy here in recent years. The fog rolls in and stays, laying down a chill blanket that obscures the lake and shrouds the woods behind us. When you drive or walk inland as little as a quarter mile you’d never know as the sun shines cheerfully and blue skies prevail. We can’t be mad at the fog for hiding our surroundings–it has its own cool beauty.

It’s late afternoon and I’m breaking from work to write for just a moment. A sleeping cat on the chair to my right; a snoring dog on the couch to my left. It’s warm enough to have the sliding door open to the deck, and outside I hear a foghorn call every minute or so from one boat, getting louder and closer with each minute now, as well as the sounds of multiple birds and the buzzing of insects.

Our former neighbor Adeline is long gone, but her lilacs–even though they were chopped all the way down last year–have grown back and are just blooming. I like to think of Adeline, standing on her cement slab porch in her robe with an ever-present cigarette hanging from her lips, maybe shouting for her shovel because a snake is slithering across the slab, or laughing her gruff, hearty laugh. She was both rough and gentle and her lilacs, baby’s breath, and lily of the valley planted along the driveway and between our houses keep coming back, year after year, a testament to the past and a sweet reminder of persistence and grit melded with beauty and softness.

And now the sun is shining through the fog and I see sparkles on the lake again, the foghorn is getting distant, the dog is demanding an afternoon walk and I’ll have to get back to work.

digging the TLR

I think I’ve run at least six or eight rolls of film through the Mamiya C220 since it was gifted to me last fall. I’ve made multiple mistakes on most of these rolls, from double exposures (although those are almost always happy mistakes) to winding past exposures (I got only two or three exposures on my first roll) to not latching the back properly to… I don’t even know. If there’s a way to do this camera wrong, I think I’ve done it so far.

But, this last roll, Portra 160 shot throughout last week. I worked slowly. I forwarded carefully (oh so carefully). I metered each shot. I kept my hair out the way and made sure my fingers didn’t get in front of the bottom lens. I held the camera steady and didn’t breathe. I still guessed on compensating for the fact that you frame with one lens and the bottom lens is the one that takes the shot–a conundrum if you’re close to your subject, which I was in a few cases. But my guesses weren’t too bad on the close stuff.

It’s grown on me. There is a persistent sort of charm to this camera. It’s awkward to use but I’m getting there. The flipped image is confusing me a little less lately. My horizons are getting a bit straighter. The gentle click of the shutter is soothing. The dreamy image in the ground glass makes me want to look at everything through its eye.

If I’m slow and careful, the detail this camera lets me capture up close is magic. I can’t wait to practice with it on the dunes this summer as more wild things bloom.

Lake Michigan has my heart
silver-y Lake Michigan, and fingertip of storm front
Lake Michigan has my heart
driftwood
Lake Michigan has my heart
creamsicle sun before setting over Lake Michigan
May blooms and growth on the lakeshore
delicate-looking but hardy sand cress
May blooms and growth on the lakeshore
lily of the valley

house(bound)

My head is swimming with ideas.

(I actually just had to edit the word “literally” out of that sentence.)

Swimming! Finally! And completely out of stagnancy and lack of imagination. I’ve felt in so much of a funk the last few months and just devoid of creative ideas. Everything I think of to create seems stupid, hackneyed, overdone. I’m not getting out with cameras much and it’s getting to me. My time is not my own.

I’m pissy about my lack of freedom; my old dog needs so much right now, and having my dad with me is a big life change. It’s good, but I’m having to face the reality of our relationship, both as it was in the past and as it is today. It’s emotional work I’ve long avoided and I may still be avoiding it. You can think I’m selfish for struggling with these things, and maybe that’s true–but it’s honest.

I’m working on ways to reframe this part of my life as opportunity. Opportunity to know my dad better. Opportunity to spend the final months with this dog that has been my stalwart protector and consummate entertainer. Opportunity to be in the place I love most, although it’s different right now and might always be different.

I’m not good at this, but I’ll keep trying. Also that’s three paragraphs in a row that begin with the word “I’m.” I’m also too tired to edit that. So there.

But, ideas. One is a summer creative project. A way to explore the boundaries that I’m seeing as constraints right at this moment. Instead of boundaries maybe they can be creative guides, moving lines to tuck up against, nudge, color over. I’m always waiting for good creative ideas to slap me across the face, and this one did.

When I was young my mother and I would press flowers between tissues and tuck them into pages in books, which flattened and dried them but preserved their colors. I loved looking at these one dimensional, delicate, paper thin but still colorful flowers later. A few weeks ago I had the sudden urge to press as many blooming things as I can summer. I didn’t know what I would do with this and now I do, and things are just starting to bloom.

It might be the first time I’ve ever felt so sure about a project and so ready to start.

apple blossoms from the last remaining trees of the ancient orchard in the meadow

I like my hair better in Texas

and other pointless observations

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Austin skyline, doubled

I don’t have a picture of my hair in Texas. I’m not much for selfies, and no one is clamoring to snap any photos of me. But, I was in Austin spending time with my daughter and soaking up the muggy heat and ignoring my own life for just a few days and I gotta say, my hair looked poofy and full and not flat and static-y and I just liked it.

My hip flexor, which I tore and wrote about last post (in March, no less–I’m trying not to ignore this blog but it seems that’s what I’ve done) is 95% better. Sometimes I feel it a little but I’m not babying it anymore. The black and white film class I took at community college just finished a week ago today. I’ve got a bunch of negatives to scan and I’m not thrilled for that because I can’t seem to make a decent scan come out of my scanner. Plus, scanning is a royal pain in the ass.

The cottage window is fixed and the house survived the winter; the beach did not. The bluff in front of our cottage is in ruins, disarray; the pipes and tires we drove into the shoreline as protective jetties more than 30 years ago are now exposed, our stairs no longer usable, a high cliff from the bluff to the water. We know how it goes, but it still stings and it still gives me nightmares. We can only hope for the levels of the Great Lakes to go down, but I’d prefer to plan than leave things to hope or chance. I want to know what’s next, even if I’m not going to like it. I do better with that.

Still, it’s not like the cottage is about to fall off the bluff and into the lake (I don’t say this jokingly as there are cottages on these lakes that have done just that). We’re not in danger yet. The view is still spectacular, the wildflowers and the deer and the foxes and the eagles will still make appearances, the sun will still rise and set and make for appreciative conversation. Summer warmth will kiss our bare skin and make us feel better about the world.

Austin and film soaked in McClary Bros. thai basil drinking vinegar

Yeah, say that three times fast.

We went to a park in an Austin suburb and walked a trail there that wound through scrub and cacti and wildflowers and it was hot and sunny and wonderful. The leaves had only just unfurled here in Michigan and the earliest spring flowers are in bloom, but in Texas it was lush and green and fields of yellow and red and orange wildflowers were riotous and plentiful. Anyway, I shot a roll of film mostly in that park with the last few shots around my daughter’s neighborhood and on the rooftop deck of her apartment building.

The film is Lomography 100 ISO color film. The thai basil drinking vinegar I soaked it in a few months ago offered a pretty subtle effect, with no great streaks or bubbles of color, but some gentle color shifts mainly. I’m good with it.

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thistle and butterfly
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“don’t fall on that, mom…”
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fence and vine
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hotel St. Cecilia, which I’m hoping some day I can afford to stay a night in because it’s so charming
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path through the neighborhood
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arms like branches

Until next time, Texas. I might not come ’round in the summer because, well, you’re really hot, and I don’t mean that in a nice way. But you’ve grown on me, and I like to see my kid, so keep some beer in the cooler for me, will ya?

broken things

Winter Walk

the gulls laugh at me
trudging, bundled on the beach
I can’t soar like them

I didn’t forget about you, blog. I’m just having a moment. A few moments, really.

I guess this blog has turned more into a place for me to post my photographs, and if I’m not photgraphing that much I wonder if I should write, and if I write, how much of my life do I actually offer up? I don’t know; social media is a wild west–a place where people offer up intimate details of their lives. That’s not really me.

But I’m having a tough winter. I don’t know if I’ve written about my vertigo here, but I have intermittent vertigo, the details of which are boring and it really just means that sometimes I look drunk when I’m not. The vertigo has been a companion of late. And just about two weeks ago some overzealous workouts conspired to tear my hip flexor. It hurt, bad, for a few days and then started to feel better; and then I did a couple of harder workouts and now I can’t ignore it. The pain is constant and, at times, too intense to function around.

I give. I’m paying attention.

Before the hip flexor, nearly three weeks ago I came to the cottage for a weekend and the inner pane of one of the front double pane windows was broken; cracks in all directions like wandering rivers. I taped the window up and worried, because I am good at worrying and because I know nothing about windows, thinking it might still fully shatter, break the outer pane, and expose the house to the elements. I bought a cheap webcam and pointed it at the window so I could watch it while I was gone (I checked the camera almost obsessively at first).

Of course the tape job held, a new window is on order and will be placed tomorrow, and all will be fine. Things get old and worn. Windows break. Hip flexors tear. I get dizzy; it goes away.

Anyway. We are on the beach now. We got iced in last night, but we had nowhere to go. My best friend was here working on her cottage just a few doors down from ours. I’m alternately heating and icing my hip, enjoying the fire that my husband keeps stoked in the fireplace, and walking the beach, carefully, gently, to try to get blood flowing to the torn muscle and inflamed fibers so that they begin to heal. I’m trying to be positive and treat myself gently, maybe even spoil myself a little. It’s a process, this healing, this fixing of broken things.

I’ll celebrate the little things, like today the sky stays light longer. I walked the beach this evening in a bold wind, hearing the lake roar but not seeing the wild waves because of the ice hills that have formed at the shoreline. I won’t say it was peaceful because the wind howled and pushed me around and the lake gnarled back at the wind. But the wildness itself was soothing. It always is.

February, already?

As I begin to write, I’m being stalked by a dog that I have a sneaking suspicion is well on the path to senility. I woke up late; she’d already been fed and walked, and yet has followed me around the house asking for I don’t know what. I reassure her, smooch her, pet her. Finally she has settled next to me on the couch. I’ll walk her again in a bit but between her decreasing strength, the bad leg and the prolific snow here, very small walks will be the norm today.

Jim is watching women’s cyclocross on tv, a world championship race, in very grim-looking weather seaside in Bergen, Denmark. He periodically spouts off with details about each rider; a typical Saturday morning for us and while I don’t share his love of all things cycling, I’m reassured by this routine. It’s him, and he’s steady, and this is good.

We are in a cozy cottage on a bluff overlooking an ice-crusted Lake Michigan. When we arrived last night, it was the darkest night. The only thing offering brightness was the blanket of snow, but the sky was black as ink and the lake was eerily quiet. After a worrisome week of record-breaking temperatures here in the midwest, I was afraid that there would be a burst pipe or other damage here. I have no shortage of worries–about the cottage, the house, my kids, my dad, whatever it is that isn’t right in front of me at that very minute, and even some of the things that are right in front of me. I don’t know how to shake these worries, but I’m trying to acknowledge them and not let them be bigger than they ought to be.

But the cottage was fine, thanks to our plumber who came in several times to check, bump the heat up, and arrange for someone to plow out the drive. Jim shoveled the massive drifts on the deck, made a fire, and we settled in. I don’t take lightly the responsibility of this place and am forever grateful to be able to be here, in any season, to see the beauty it offers.

The temperature is in the balmy 20s and I’ll snowshoe on the beach if it’s not too windy or otherwise in the woods. After being cooped up all week due to the polar vortex and because I’ll be indoors for meetings all this coming week, I want to be outside as much as possible today.

Austin

Anyway. A few weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas, on a birthday weekend trip courtesy of my daughter, and it was wonderful. I don’t want to gush, but she made me feel really special and I hope she knows how much I appreciated that weekend. While I was there I shot a roll and a half of Kodak Portra (and I can’t remember at the moment if it was 400 or 160…) in my trusty Minolta SRT-102.

Thursday we worked in her apartment, cooked dinner, watched tv, and turned in early-ish. Friday Austin was grey and rainy but I’d taken the day off work and while my daughter went to her office I walked South Congress and ate at what may be my favorite restaurant there, Bouldin Creek Cafe, and then wandered the shops in that neighborhood. I get accused of talking too much to strangers, but I enjoy it and I met several people from Pittsburgh and Chicago (my dad is from Pittsburgh so I know it well, and I lived in Chicago for nearly a decade). Like any city, Austin seems populated by people that come from somewhere else. That evening I spent nearly an hour and a half being treated to a massage, followed by drinks with my daughter and her coworkers and then dinner with her friends. Saturday was sunny and windy and lovely and we got up early and headed out for pedicures, then had brunch at an amazing restaurant next to a huge record store, neither of whose names I can remember, and wandered UT Austin’s campus where I took a few photographs and accidentally popped open the back of my camera. We went to the Blanton Museum of Art, which I highly recommend if you like that sort of thing (I do), and afterward walked through Texas’s capitol building. Sunday we walked the boardwalk on Ladybird Lake and ate again at Bouldin Creek and had a cupcake at Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop before I had to leave her to head back home.

And I missed her just about instantly.

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I added these and other photos from this trip to my Austin flickr album if you want to see more.

happy birthday to me!

Ooof. It’s mid-January. It finally decided to be winter around here, starting today (our first real snow is happening as I write). I turned 52 a few weeks ago. And I’m not even about to say the things you’d think I might be about to say about that. I’m not even kidding. I’m 52, I’m here, I’m okay with all of it. Really!

Also as I write, right now, I’m sort of waiting to collectively decide if we are driving across state today to check on the cottage. The roads are crap, so we might hold off until morning in hopes that they will be less snow-covered. It’s been a long week and my decision-making skills are near to nonexistent on a Saturday, so while the snow falls I think I’ll write here and let the weather prevail. Besides, there’s a dog snoring on the couch across from me. Which makes me want to nap and even further put off both decision making and driving.

I did walk around town a bit today in the falling snow and shot most of a roll that was already in my Minolta SRT-102. I’ve not had great luck with snowy scenes thus far but I’ll keep trying. And I want to finish this roll of color film because I’ll be shooting black and white for a while. Last week I started a darkroom class at a community college not terribly far from me. I took this class in winter of 2017 and I really could not wait to take it again, so here I am. I hope I don’t annoy the instructor or my classmates because I am way too excited to be in a darkroom again!

I shot several rolls of film the first few weeks of the year, with some mixed results. I shot a gift roll of dubblefilm sunstroke, one of the many rolls of film I got from my EMULSIVE Secret Santa, around the dunes in Silver Lake State Park. I knew it would be a fun film, and it was a little more subtle than I expected, but I love a good surprise film and this didn’t disappoint. It has a nice warmth to it, don’t you think? It’s actually Kodak Gold 200, and I’m not sure what the folks at dubblefilm do to it make the random flares, but who cares? It’s fun, and I’ve got nothing against that.

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stranded tree, Lake Michigan
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dunes and dead trees
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pumpkin, deflated
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milkweed seed pods
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Moonie Pie in sun flare

The weekend I shot the dubblefilm I also shot another gift roll from my Secret Santa of Lomography f2 through the Mamiya C220 that I am still working to get the hang of. I also ran a roll of Lomography color 400 and a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the C220 that weekend, which was a gorgeous, sunny, mild weekend on the lakeshore. I have a lab that I love, but sometimes the 120 images I get back from them have some kind of funky pattern on them; I’m not sure if it’s the developing or the scanning. And, one of the rolls from this group came out really extra crispy. Lots of grain, plus patterning. I never have an issue with 35mm film they develop, but every now and then 120 has the patterning and other oddities.

Like this one:

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Lots of noise, plus a pattern. And, this one:

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But here are some others that came out a bit better. And again, I’m really working hard with the C220. The whole twin lens thing is mysterious to me. You have to sort out how to position the camera just right, and how to adjust yourself just right, to get things in frame correctly and get a horizon that is, well, horizontal. The struggle is real.

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I just wonder if maybe the chemicals needed refreshing when these rolls were developed, because my last roll of the year, developed the week before these, doesn’t have the same characteristics. Here are a few from that one:

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Anyway.

Last weekend I was in Austin, Texas visiting my daughter. A trip she bought me, AND she surprised me with a massage at a swanky spa AND a pedicure at her favorite salon. My heart was full all weekend. I shot one roll of film, which I’m eager to have developed because I definitely screwed it up. About 10 shots in and walking on UT Austin’s campus on a beautiful, warm, windy day I accidentally popped the back open on my Minolta. It must not have been fully shut, but it surprised me. So I’m not sure what I’ll get with that one.

I was great about taking film and camera notes in 2018 and I was very proud of myself for that, and already a few weeks in to 2019 I’m not sure what’s what. I have a roll of Portra 160 in my Minolta now; I’ve shot and accounted for four rolls of film, but without the negatives in front of me I can’t remember what’s what. I would say 2019 might be the year of limiting my film choices so my recordkeeping is a little easier, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. I have a stockpile of differing films that I should probably use up, so I will. Ah, well. I have 11 months to get my act together.

These images and a few others from these rolls of film are on my flickr albums, here and here, if you want to see more. Speaking of flickr. I’m still debating using it, which will in the near future require me to pay for a pro membership. I am wrestling with the pros and cons of that. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

see ya, 2018

and random thoughts on the past and upcoming year

Detroit, January 2018, Kodak ColorPlus

I don’t do resolutions, but it’s not a bad time to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous year and the things in store for the upcoming year. And I haven’t written here all month, which is not normal for me but oh my, it was a month, and if I don’t squeeze one blog post in here I’ll be disappointed with myself. Or is it disappointed in myself? I don’t feel like thinking too hard about that at this moment so let’s just leave it alone, shall we?

Anyway. In the past I’ve been grateful for years to end because they’ve brought heartache, but 2018 overall has been a year of mostly good things. While November brought some unexpected changes, we watched our kids blossom and grow this year. We managed to have one kid graduate from university, get a job, and move many states away. While part of that is bittersweet (the moving away, of course), the majority of that is pretty damn awesome.

my babies, a tree and a mummy, found roll of film from early 2000s

Also no one got downsized or laid off this year, and no one got catastrophically ill, either. I got to see my brother a few times and I actually took two vacations with friends, both of which are pretty rare. I don’t want to brag about the good stuff though, because I’m a believer in karma and balance and if I get full of myself about the good stuff, something lousy might kick me in the shins to remind me that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Because, you know, that’s life.

that’s me! trail racing in 2002

I can’t find my film notebook just at this moment, but as of yesterday I believe I shot 70 rolls of film in 2018, which includes the two rolls I shot yesterday. I had hoped for 52 for an equivalent of one per week, so it’s more than I hoped for. I guess that’s a lot, and developing hasn’t been cheap, but I can think of more expensive hobbies. I also said I wasn’t going to buy any cameras in 2018, but that didn’t go so well. I bought a few (albeit very inexpensive ones), won one (thanks to Film Photography Project), traded some Lomo Purple film for one (a Polaroid, from a local guy I follow on Instagram) found one (I think it had been my mom’s, I don’t know for sure), and was gifted five (very grateful for these gifts!). I don’t know how many I actually have at this point (more than 25 but I don’t think it’s more than 30).

But as 2018 closes out I’m thinking ahead to how I can frame things in 2019. I’m aiming for more positivity and growth, and more creative pursuits. I’m starting 2019 with a class at community college where I can be in a fully stocked darkroom once a week. I took this same class two years ago and I can’t think of a more fulfilling way to spend four hours every Thursday evening for 15 weeks but to be shoulder to shoulder in a darkened room with a group of people of mixed ages and backgrounds, sharing feedback and suggestions, as we watch film and chemicals intermix to create magic.

January 2018, Lake Michigan snowy beach, Kodak ColorPlus

I also need to do some unearthing this year. I cleaned out an overstuffed closet this month and got rid of most of its contents, but I still have spaces full of things that aren’t getting used and need to go. While cleaning out that closet I found two undeveloped rolls of film, plus the camera that may or may not have been my mother’s and that had a mostly shot roll of film in it. I got a battery and it zipped into life, so I shot the rest of the roll and had the three developed. One of the found rolls of film was from last winter when we nearly got stuck at the cottage New Year’s weekend, and the other, plus the one in-camera, were from the early 2000’s, with some Halloween photos and beach photos of my kids, still sweet and young and innocent.

my babies, early 2000s, Kodak Gold, Canon point and shoot

So I’m ending 2018 with a celebration of the good that happened this year and a readiness for what’s in store for 2019. Or, a sense of adventure for what’s in store for 2019. I’m choosing to face it all, good and bad, with determination and growth. And a bunch of rolls of film.