Oh, Ohio

You’ve got some windy plains, Ohio, and some weird insistence on ditches on the sides of your minor roads which makes pulling over to explore something interesting near impossible. You’re a lot like your neighboring states of Michigan and Pennsylvania–flat in places, hilly in others, part pastoral loveliness and gritty, forgotten industry. When I think of you I think of traffic tickets and Chrissie Hynde, but this is neither here nor there.

My friend Jane and I took off late Wednesday afternoon and drove to Mansfield, Ohio, which is just past halfway between Detroit and Pittsburgh, stopping on our way because the light was kind of awesome to shoot things that struck our fancy. Oh, but that wind! It made standing still to shoot a little tough.

so windy!
(not where we stayed)
one of Sarah’s chickens (or hens, or ? I don’t claim to know much about fowl)

We stayed Wednesday night in an upstairs room and alcove in a farmhouse in another small town about 10 miles from Mansfield with a very nice couple named Ron and Sarah. We ate black bean burgers at a nearby restaurant and actually went to bed around 9:30. Which is just crazy.

In the morning Ron fed us breakfast of homemade bread and jam with eggs fresh from their chickens and regaled us with stories about the house and the area. I can’t get enough of that stuff, and I hope I didn’t annoy him with all my questions. I could have spent the day bugging Ron, but we had to get on our way.

Ohio is wet. I mean really, really wet.

We were there mainly to go on a photography tour with about 40-some other people of a prison that was built in 1904. It’s been closed since the 1990’s and has been the site of a few movies (it’s fairly famous for one in particular, The Shawshank Redemption), has a reputation for being haunted, yada yada. But before we got to the prison, we took a little spin through downtown Mansfield, which is a bit hilly and charming and weird and frankly, a place I’d like to get to know a bit better. We didn’t have a lot of time, though.

look at that sexy back end
crumbled steps leading to an abandoned house (or church?)

But on to the prison. We went on this exact tour last year and were in it not for the movie thing or the haunting business, but for the crusty, peely, yummy textures, lovely lines and light. Plus, even with 5 whole hours there last year, there were rooms we missed and we were on a mission to get to those spots.

movie room
cell block, shadows

The place is now run as a historical site by a bunch of really nice, knowledgeable volunteers, who were so terrific they jumped out of our shots, helped us find our way, and answered tons of questions. These people really love this building and are serious about its preservation.

shower room
Facts on File, 1974 (the top book) and red chair
magazine stand and peeling paint

The library was apparently the prison hospital at one time.

chair, light and shadows in solitary confinement
THE red gurney
(very former) phones
might have been the room where guards oversaw the phone conversations–the phones are just on the other side of that low wall

And after about 4.5 hours of lugging tripods and camera bags around, we had our fill and headed out. With stops, of course. Missed a turn and came upon this abandoned factory, and with the puffy clouds and blue sky and the wild wind whipping through the buildings making the most foreboding clanging sounds, well, who could resist?


And a final stop at a cemetery, view towards a farm.


Rural Ohio has a thing for putting cemeteries on hills. I imagine there is some purposeful reason for this, but I appreciate it for the vistas. Again, the sky–gorgeous!

And that was it–just under 24 hours in Ohio.

St. Joseph, again

I’m back in St. Joseph again for the weekend, a visit with my dad. While the weather isn’t as magical as it was last Saturday, it’s warm enough for an early spring and the snow is very nearly gone. It’s no secret how much I love the west side of this state, but geez, St. Joseph is just so sweet. I spent the morning walking to the beach and around downtown, enjoying a cappuccino at Tosi’s, saying “hi” or “good morning” to pretty much everyone I passed (they’re friendly here, Karen Thomas, you’d like it!), smooching a 10-year-old golden retriever as I talked with her owner about the joys (ahem) of old dogs. There are crocuses coming up here. I saw some green sprouts. Spring is coming!

The sky didn’t cooperate so much for photos today, but is it ever a bad time to photograph the lighthouse pier? I don’t think so. Well, maybe it isn’t the best time right now as it is still under construction. Didn’t stop me, though.

from the end of the pier, the outer lighthouse

I thought the pier was closed because of the construction, but as I parked I saw a woman walking across the dune from the big homes on the shore. I asked her if the pier was open and we ended up talking for a bit as we made our way across the parking lot together. She had an accent (German, maybe?), a bright smile and twinkling eyes. She walked with a cane and told me she lives right over there (pointing to the big homes), and that she is 87 and walks this pier twice a day. We chatted a bit more and I learned she used to love to drive, would drive to visit friends in Chicago and Detroit. I thanked her as she ushered me ahead so she could rest a minute before continuing her own walk.

on the beach, just starting to drizzle

I like you, St. Joe. Let’s get to know each other a little better.

In praise of naps

the afternoon nap, perfected

This is my dad’s cat, Ginger. Like many house pets, she really knows how to nap.

This is an afternoon ritual. My dad curls up on his couch under a cozy blanket, and Ginger curls up on the back of the couch on her own cozy blanket. They can remain like this for hours, not entirely together, but together.

My dad’s previous cat lived to be 22 and I suspect this one will age just as well. She is spoiled (as all pets should be). She isn’t a lover like her predecessor was, but she is lovey in her own way–she’ll rub your legs, allow you to pet her, purr, stretch and blink and talk at you–but she’s just not a cuddler. They are all different, as are we.


My dad has always been a napper. I am a big fan of naps, but my life doesn’t allow for many lately and the occasional luxury of one is greatly appreciated. I love a summer nap in the middle of a hot day with windows open and summer sounds outside. I love a fall nap when it’s raining outside. A winter or spring nap when the weather is chill and the days are still short, well, what could be better?

When I do make the time for a nap (or I just can’t keep my eyes open anymore and I have no choice but to nap) my dog is almost always happy to oblige and join me. Then again, she is almost always napping. But if I lie down on a couch or in bed, she’s there almost instantly, filling the empty space behind my legs or in front of my belly. Sometimes even under the covers. She’s my personal furnace like that.

Maybe 2016 should be the year of making time for naps? We should all nap more. What ill could come of this? None, I tell you.

Maybe I’ll try to fit one in today. Just as soon as I finish this pile of urgent editing projects on my desk…

Home is where the lake is

When I was younger, I thought that by the time I arrived at the age I am now I would have it all figured out. I’d know exactly who I was. I wouldn’t stand in the toothpaste aisle and wonder what the hell toothpaste to buy. I’d not look in the mirror or at my body and question what time has taken from (or added to) me. I’d know what to eat, not fuss about where to go, what to do–I’d make decisions easily, in other words.

But it’s not like that. I still get completely stymied by the simplest things, I still don’t know exactly who I am. But mostly I have a better idea. And the surprise is that it’s kind of freeing to accept that, yeah, even at this age, I’m still developing. I’m glad I’m not fully formed–it means I still have things to discover and learn and try.

One thing I do know with all my heart and soul and very fiber of my being is that I need to be near Lake Michigan. Growing up with my summers there embedded that lake into my makeup, the sand into my skin, the dunes and grasses and colors and wind into my essence. I’m sure I’d survive if I left it, but I don’t want to. I want to get old on Lake Michigan’s shoreline. I want to die with sand in my hair and between my toes.

I was in St. Joseph for just a night and day this weekend and at least got to stick my hands into Lake Michigan’s water. I considered taking my shoes off and walking in, but opted for easy and dove both hands in, dragged my fingers through the sand and tried not to let my camera bag or my coat get wet. It was sunny and beautiful and windy and plenty of people were out on the beach and the pier.

November–barefoot and hooping on a really warm day

I was barefoot on the shores not long ago, in both October and November, a lucky warm fall.

But it always feels like a homecoming, feeling that water–no matter the temperature or unseasonable time of year. It’ll hold me until the spring when I can walk the beach at the cottage further north of St. Joseph.

Old and new


A new blog, a new format, so much newness to get used to. Here’s some old to counterbalance the new.

I toured an unused but not abandoned church, with permission, a few weeks ago. If you know me personally, you know I do a bit of abandonment photography. You might not know that I am conflicted about that–it involves trespassing and putting myself in some occasionally dangerous situations (scary, but exhilarating). For me it’s not about capturing the demise of the city but more about documentation, a journalistic view. I don’t attach myself to the right or wrong of a church or a factory that once was great but that can no longer be supported anymore, or a neighborhood in demise. These things beg for change but they are what they are in the moment that I come across them. I try to see the beauty in them where they stand.


But this church, and the building that housed the church offices and activities, has some new owners with all sorts of exciting, artistic, community-focused ideas. I love that new life will be breathed into these two structures and, hopefully, in the neighborhood around them.

Say what you will about Detroit. I know what’s happening here. I know the people who are fighting for change, and I know that regrowth is happening. There is art and food and culture and commerce here. I may live in the suburbs, but I patronize the city that centers our metro area. If you don’t step foot within city limits, your opinion means nothing.


Well, hello there.

I kept a blog once. For about two years, and then I screwed up some settings and poof, the whole thing was gone. Some raw writing, some photos I’ve since lost in another technical glitch–all gone and never coming back. I pissed and moaned but a wise friend wrote in response to one of my complaints about this event, “Kill your darlings. And then make more.” It resonated.

So here is the “make more.” Even if no one reads it, I will write, share photos, and generally get on with life.