Friday night, and it’s August

moonflower, Kodak T-Max, Minolta X700

I am not quite sure what it says about me that I’d rather lay in bed tonight with the windows and doors open and listen to my dog snore loudly and the intermittent call of an owl in the woods behind the cottage and the constant chirping crickets, than go over to the neighbor’s bonfire. I love my neighbors. I can be social and I love being social. But it’s Friday night, it’s the beginning of August, I don’t know how much longer this dog will be around and oh, the owl and the crickets sounds are intoxicating.

Today I got the scans from five rolls of film; three black and white, one Lomography Lomochrome Purple, and one Kodak Ektachrome that expired in 2006. I don’t think I’ve been so happy with images since the photos I took in Iceland. Primarily July blooms, some macro, with a cheap macro lens I bought decades ago as well as even cheaper macro filters. I make no apology for my use of cheap tools–I love the outcome.

I’ll upload them all to flickr over the next few days and write more, but here’s a moonflower for now.

late July and I’m thinking too much, maybe

private property
PRIVATE PROPERTY

I’m pretty sure my husband does not read this blog, because a) I don’t know him to be the blog-reading type and b) I don’t write about bikes or cycling, which is pretty much the thing that he loves best (and I have no issues with this–we each have our “things”). And I don’t talk about him here because he’s a private guy and he’d think it’s cheesy and all that. Maybe I’ve written about him once or twice in the context of us being married for a really long time and that we might know a little something about being married a long time. Or maybe that he’s good at a lot of things. And smart. But that might be it.

But things are changing in our lives, and some of those changes have been challenging but some have also been pretty enlightening and overall good in the scheme of life-things. We just spent a week together, which might sound weird because we are married, but we’ve been mostly living apart since late May, so the week together, alone, was a little different but so very regenerating. Marriages are hard, maybe particularly so with independent types (and maybe by independent I actually mean stubborn, but we’ll leave it at independent for now). When he left today it hit me that I don’t show him or tell him that I appreciate him enough. I’m going to work on that. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s been a rock, particularly in the last year and a half. I’m not sure I deserve any of it.

foggy road
foggy road

I mentioned it a few posts back but in late June I shot a roll of Portra 400 on a foggy morning, driving alone through the back roads around the cottage. The land looked really mystical and I hoped the shots would be even more foggy looking, but overall I really liked most of them.

dew, asparagus plant
dewy asparagus plant at edge of foggy orchard

Also, a few days ago I enrolled in a creative writing class for this fall. My minor in college was fiction writing and I’ve dabbled before and since, have always written poetry and essays and bits of this and that. It’ll be interesting to do it again in a class and get feedback and critique again. I miss that exchange. I’m excited and ready for it.

lines and fog
power lines, vines, fog

Tonight I shot two rolls of black and white film in the garden at Cherry Point Market, which smelled amazing and was teeming with buzzing bees and zipping hummingbirds. Black and white partly on a whim, but also because I’m committed to putting a dent in the shoebox full of film I have going on (don’t make me count. It’s a lot.) So tonight I shot a roll of TMax 100 and used a macro lens on my Minolta X-700 with a cheapy close-up filter on top of that for most shots. I also shot a roll of Fomapan 100, a film I haven’t tried yet, on the Mamiya C220, mostly getting really close to herbs and flowers and hoping upon hope I framed things the way I wanted but who knows? Close ups with that camera remain mind-boggling, but I keep trying.

barn in fog
red barn and fog
grounded steeple in fog
steeple, fog

Anyway, I kind of can’t believe it’s already late July. Storms came through the last few days and Lake Michigan just mowed down more of the bluff in front of our cottage. We (and by “we” I mean mostly the rock I mentioned earlier in this post) had to right and reset the beach stairs. The former post that marked the high water of the 1980s washed away, so we don’t have much bluff to work with here. The chicory and the queen anne’s lace are beginning their roadside takeover. The wild rose bush is at its peak. It’s high summer.

(You can see a few more shots from this roll here.)

jetties

Lake Michigan, Mamiya C220, Lomography Lomochrome Purple

The “poor man’s jetties” we called them, driven into the sandy shore,
pipes and discarded tires as wayward sentinel stood
in theory to protect and build the shoreline.

They did their job,
buried for decades and only half forgotten, a hazy dream.

But none of us, not rich nor poor own the lake, the dune, the shore
and the jetties unearth, gloating like an age-old secret,
a reminder that nature, always always, is in charge.

The seaglass tide reveals our folly
and everything else we buried, sun-bleached, water-washed, anew.

I wade into the lake, dizzy in the musty water on a steamy summer Wednesday, contemplating my own jetties, attempts to shore up my barriers against what might be revealed when nature advances.

gently, gently

I’m trying so hard to be gentle on myself and those around me. Really, I am. Watching my dog decline by the day is hard; so is trying to work in a place where everyone else is vacationing. I’m counting all my blessings, but I’m also allowing myself the feelings because how can I not? I have more responsibilities right now–to my dad, to my dog, to the people I love. I’m getting snippets of time for me, and I’m going to have to make the most of them right now. It all changes. This will change.

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new growth

I have shot a few rolls of film but am waiting until I have a few more before I send them to be developed. In the meantime, I’m writing when something pops into my head. Sometimes it’s just a phrase and sometimes it develops into something else. I’m painting with watercolors, abstracts and I’m drawing over top of them sometimes and learning how things work and making all the mistakes and loving it. There is a soul-stirring that happens when I look through a lens or dip a brush into water and then a color and touch it to paper. It’s healing and recharging and soothing and magic all at once. It’s therapeutic in such a profound way.

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new pine cones

My daughter spent a week and a half here at the cottage; her boyfriend came for half of that; my son and his girlfriend were here a few days; my husband was here; my dad was present when he wanted to be part of the fray and then did his own thing when he didn’t. We ate and drank and talked over each other and I reveled in all of it, except the decision-making parts (like meals) and soaked up the love. They’ve all gone and the quiet, well, I love quiet. But the transition is tough, and I miss my kids and husband.

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fern leaf from above
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fern leaf from side

It really only started to feel like summer a week ago. Lake Michigan warmed up enough to let people in (or, to let me in specifically; I’ve become a cold water wimp). The fourth happened, and I get more and more crusty on the whole fireworks thing. My dog is already distressed enough these days and watching her panic with the explosive onslaught of fireworks all up and down the beach was brutal. Things are blooming, I mean really blooming–pink, purple, yellow, white, clovers and fleabane and sweetpea and daisies and the tiger lilies, which I think might be a little late here this year. The cherries are getting ripe and I think blueberries will be soon, too.

Mid-June, with the two rolls of film from the last two posts, I also had developed a roll of Portra 400 ISO that I shot in my Minolta SRT-102, of plant life just in the driveway of the cottage. Ferns and evergreens mostly, but also this swirly cloud formation that I couldn’t get enough of. New growth, fresh greens.

The valley just behind our cottage and all our neighbor’s cottages is filled with evergreens. We planted some of these decades ago, just after our cottage was built. I believe the DNR either sold (cheaply) or gave out 100 tiny trees to whoever wanted them, I think in the mid-1970s. My brother and I and neighbors took these plants, dug little holes into the welcoming sand, and popped them in. They’re two or more stories tall now.

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fresh pine growth
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swirly clouds framing old tree

Anyway. It’s late as I write this. The dog has finally settled after doing her nightly pacing and panting. I’m writing this, and will set up the coffee for the morning and step out onto the deck to say goodnight to the half-moon, leave windows and doors open because it’s a warm night, and climb into bed.

herbs and flowers and life

I’m still enamored with the Mamiya C220 and intent on making the best photos with it that I can. One thing that plagues me is that you can get close–I mean really, really close–with this camera, but in doing so you have to frame just right because what you’re looking at is not what the film is going to capture because the lens you’re looking through is two inches higher than the lens that records the image. Roughly. I’m no expert on this, but I do know that when shooting something far away, this is not a problem. Up close, yeah, it can be funky.

chive blossoms
chive blossoms

But since it lets you get so close, that’s what I want to do. I’m not going to hunt for the tripod device that does this for you since I don’t often shoot with my tripod. So I’ll keep guessing and probably getting it wrong a lot. Fine with me.

A week or two ago now (I don’t know, the weeks are getting mushy), the evening I shot what ended up to be all red and hot pink cross-processed images, I also shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the Mamiya C220, focusing on the new blooms of the herbs and the poppy flowers in Cherry Point’s garden. Some of the poppy images came out poorly framed, so, I have some work to do figuring that out. Again, fine.

poppies
poppies, not framed exactly how I wanted
poppy
poppy, still not exactly what I was going for

I had a day and night alone at the cottage and yesterday the fog blanketed the beach and the backroads, in some places so thick it was otherworldly. I know these backroads by foot, bike and car and even I was turned around in some spots. But it meant for seeing things differently, and I had the Mamiya loaded and with me when I went out for an errand and filled a roll of what I hope are foggy, ethereal landscapes evocative of yesterday’s still, damp, foggy mood.

Also yesterday, I cancelled an appointment. In desperation last week I scheduled my dog for, you know, the end of life (I can’t write the word–I just can’t). She seemed like she was going downhill so quickly and I was sure of it, resolved in my decision to not let her suffer. And then over the weekend she seemed to rally, enjoy things, even play a little. She’s still aging. She’s still suffering dementia and I know she’s in some pain, stiff, confused at times, and I know where this is going. But she’s not ready right now and I owe her whatever time she can enjoy. It’s hard and it’s life and that’s it.

Storms came through last night although I didn’t hear them. I woke up once to lightning and some low growls but that’s all I remember. Today the lake is loud and shouty although the wind is light. I used to love a rough lake, but now one rough day does so much damage to the fragile shore and dune–you can see the damage from just one day of wild waves. I’m hopeful that later summer will bring some stabilization of the shoreline, because that’s what usually happens, but water levels are expected to continue going up.

I know I have to not worry so much.

Anyway, in a week or two I should have a roll of Lomography Purple showing a bit of the dune decay, among other things, and that roll of Portra on the backroads in the fog. Today though, on a sunny and loud day on the beach where my dog is still here and snoring comfortably on the couch and I am drinking coffee and need to get to work, here are some photos of herbs and flowers, some not framed exactly as I expected, from Cherry Point Farm Market’s garden.

yarrow, maybe
maybe yarrow?
comfrey flowers
comfrey
lamb's ear
lamb’s ear
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thoughts? I don’t know what this one is…

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.

Detroit and metro on lomo purple
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
Detroit and metro on lomo purple
daffodils, tulips, brick wall in my neighborhood
Detroit and metro on lomo purple
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