September sky

Where did this month go?

Honestly, September flew by. Didn’t it just start? I had too much on my to-do list this month, only some of which got done (I guess I have a few more days to work on that). Slow down, September. What’s your rush, anyway? Where’s the fire (as my mother would say)?

But here at the end of this month, I just can’t get over the sky. September sky, particularly a big, wide open view over a great big body of water… well, it kind of can’t be beat.

sky + lake = heaven
The ocean, the sea? I bet they are as gorgeous. I’d like to spend more time getting to know them. But the Great Lakes come pretty close.

blue and white as far as you can see
I sound like a broken record. I feel like a broken record. I step out onto the deck multiple times during my workday to record this gorgeousness, either with my camera or just by trying to create an imprint on my brain, my soul.

Particularly in the last several days, the wind has been wild and the waves huge, crashing, like lumbering giants that roll over each other, bumbling. It’s mesmerizing.

dunegrass in detail; wild waves and clouds

pink mini stormcloud

lit up
Maybe October will hang out a little longer, move a little slower, let us savor it a bit longer. We can hope. Or, maybe we have to be proactive and demand it. The midwest turns vibrant in October–I will try to savor the burst of color before the winter moves in.

Being still


I haven’t ventured far from the cottage this week. Sometimes it’s not so bad to be still and mostly quiet, to sit in one’s place, face the things that need doing or need thinking about.

It has its rewards, like noticing the ever-changing shades of the water from moment to moment, the shifting shapes of the clouds, the call of the crow that frequents the tallest pine near the house, the warning pain above my left eye that foreshadows a pressure shift or coming storm.

I drove out the other evening, and when I came back to the house in darkness I surprised two young deer in the dunegrass just next to the house. My headlights made them visible for only a moment before they moved out of view, but later as I stepped onto the deck to commune with the stars I heard the sound of their breathing and rustling in the grass, and felt reassured by their nearness.

Chevrolet Brookwood in pine forest

I’m never not happy when I hold a camera up to my face and look through its viewfinder. It always, always makes me feel alive and invigorated. Even if I’m photographing something for the millionth time (ahem, Lake Michigan), even if the light is crap or my subject doesn’t cooperate or not one single photograph that day ends up being technically or in any other way good or meaningful.

Truly, honestly, the process makes me happy.

Today I went for a drive, hoping to capture the essence of this season along the nearby country roads, especially hoping to see something new or at least see something a new way. I slowed as I passed an apple orchard where something caught my eye, and pulled over along the empty country road. But what I saw didn’t look like anything special through the lens, so I turned back toward my car. And that’s when I noticed something just off the road on the non-orchard side. I had parked next to a pine forest with neat rows of mature pines, but something glinted–like chrome–near the forest floor.

So I tiptoed in to see.


She was just off the road, really, so I barely trespassed. I couldn’t help it–she called to me.


She’s a Brookwood, a station wagon made by Chevrolet in 1958, ’59 and ’60. Not a car I know anything about or for which my heart skips a beat, but in her pine forest resting place, oh I fell for her. She matched the colors around her but had a voice all her own, a quiet serenity, a weird juxtaposition.


She had bullet holes in her side, one door hung open as if awaiting a ghost rider who would be hopping in any minute. There were spiderwebs where windows once were, and pine needles decorated her rusted and disintegrated innards.


I want to know the story. What puts a car like this just feet off a back road at the edge of a pine forest in rural Michigan? How long has she sat there? Does anyone remember her fondly, visit her even?

It’s a story I’ll just have to make up. She deserves one.

August on film

I know it’s September, but one of the many things about film photography that interests me is that I don’t generally get my film developed immediately. Since I like to save money by getting several rolls developed at once, I have to wait until I have several rolls to develop. Which, depending on several factors, could take a month or so. So by the time I get film developed, seasons can change, new things are blooming (or drying up), etc. etc.

I tried a new lab for four rolls, one of which was shot on a Minolta X700 I recently acquired. The price and timing was right, but the color saturation seemed off, and everything appeared over-exposed and washed out. I may still use this lab as I can muck about with some of that stuff with the digitized image. But one of the other things I really like about film is the fact that you get what you get, and even that depends on who’s processing your stuff–and even the same lab can process each roll different than the next, at least in my experience.

So, I got what I got on these four rolls and I don’t mind that one bit.

These first four shots are from the newly acquired Minolta X700, which after shooting one roll I decided a) to keep, and b) to take in to repair, as it has a “sticky gasket” (that’s what the shop said–I just know the aperture ring sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t). Anyway, this was a cheapo drug store roll of Fuji 800 speed film, which I intended to use in New Orleans at night when I was there last May but didn’t.

And the Pentax K100, with Kodak Ultramax 400 speed film, produced these:

These next images were shot with Agfa Vista 200–a cheap film that I love for the half frame. I am crazy about the half frame format. Have I already mentioned that? I used my Olympus Pen EE3, which I’m so excited about because I got it for only $10.50. I don’t know why that makes me so happy, but it does. This is a fun point and shoot, just easier to use than the all-manual original Olympus Pen that I have (but I love that one, too).

A local farm stand, shop in barn
The farmers here have a small shop in their barn, antiques and such
Headless chicken (front, right)! Not really. No chickens were harmed in the making of this photograph.
Peach orchard
The EE3 has a fixed focus (obviously farther out than my wine glass and hand)

Autumn’s arrival


The mood changes so fast here. Summer’s over, time to move on. There’s a melancholy (but not a bad melancholy, if that makes any sense at all). I welcome the fall air and these storms that roll across the lake, whipping the waves into a frenzy and sending me running up to the house as the huge droplets let loose from the clouds, almost a surprise.

I wrote a poem yesterday. Funny that for years I wrote poems and never showed a soul–now I’ve read two to an audience, shared them here, written more , and here is another one. There is a freedom that comes with my age and I will simply embrace it.

What have I got to lose? You will read or not read, like or not like, remember or forget. And we’ll all move on.

Autumn’s Arrival

Bring down the flags,
tuck up the beach chairs and the boats.
Shutter the windows and bolt the doors;
September has come.

She sends the summer people scurrying from lake cottages
back to big cities and dull suburbs,
where the sound of gentle lapping waves is replaced by
shrill alarms and maddening traffic.

We stay on the beach, undeservedly,
and wonder how we will fare here when the winds blow cold,
the days grow shorter and the nights clearer,
longer: more silent.

The weekenders will come before then; the color-seekers and apple-pickers
bringing city reminders and driving too fast.
We’re not like them anymore, and
we’ll say we can’t wait for them to leave.

The lake will chill by October, but I’ll still
walk the beach barefoot: either I won’t like to be confined by shoes
or the feel of the bone-cold sand will keep me grounded,
I won’t know which.

We’ll retreat when the wind finally overtakes our voices
and leaves us mute; when winter in earnest comes and the sky
is indistinguishable from the lake, the sand, the woods,
and all is a sullen and frosty gray.

I’ll keep sand in pockets and pebbles on night tables
in the city, in wait for the spring thaw and a fresh beach
scrubbed clean of last summer’s footprints.
It won’t be long.

That lake, she’s moody

In a week where I’m reminded of the things that are no longer part of my everyday existence, I’m finding that some surprising feelings are bubbling up.

Pre-storm, moody lake and sky, driftwood embedded in the sand

Here in Michigan, today was the first day of school for most public school kids and maybe even some private school kids. My kids are in college, and while I’m as aware as I can be about what they’re up to, they are on their own and have been for a while now. In their own spheres, their own apartments, making their own choices every single day. We orbit in our own spaces, only occasionally colliding. It was hard at first.

You don’t think about those things when you’re raising children, and suddenly they are adults and you’re confronted with it. You figure it out, of course, and it’s easier as the years go by. You move on, they need you less and less, you learn how to parent them in a totally different way.

And then you see pictures of your friend’s younger kids on their first day of school, and the memories flood back. The first day of kindergarten, the school uniforms, the front porch of the house that no longer stands. It’s all there threatening to erupt.

Like me, Lake Michigan was moody tonight as a storm rolled in from the north and lit up the sky as it steamrolled over the shoreline. Thunderous cracks and rolling bellows that shook the house and my eardrums, electrified fingers reaching out of the clouds and touching the earth, the lake, too close for comfort. But it was comforting, in a strange way. It’s been dry–we needed the rain. And the noise, the lightning; both cathartic.

Storms, like feelings, roil up, tap you (hard) on the shoulder, and then leave you be.