working on the thankfulness

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Changes are still rolling along around here. Just riding the rollercoaster, trying to be the best daughter, mother, partner, human, all of that, and continue to nurture my creativity and my soul. I’ve said more times in the last few weeks phrases like “I won’t go down with the ship,” and “I won’t let this break me.” Dramatic, I know. But we get so comfortable in our phases and it stings a bit to get pushed out of them. Or maybe that’s just me, and I’m a bit selfish.

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Anyway. In late October, just after I got back from Iceland, I spent a weekend at the cottage while my husband, son, and a few of their biking friends took part in a race in a town just a few miles from here. That weekend, my son’s girlfriend (who is like a daughter to me) spent a few hours out on the dunes of Silver Lake. This is truly one of my favorite places to photograph and it simply never disappoints. Open landscape, windswept dunes, ghosts of trees from centuries past, living and breathing dunescape. I don’t have the negatives in front of me, but I’m pretty sure it was T-Max 100, maybe expired.

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And now I can’t remember if it was that same weekend, or a later weekend, that I shot this odd roll of Lomography Lomochrome Purple on the backroads and at the market near the cottage. I love this film and I have shot it a fair bit, but this one was different…

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There are little green flecks in it, not totally visible in some of the images but definitely there in all of them. This roll wasn’t stored very well and traveled with me to and from Iceland, so maybe something went wrong with it somewhere? Odd, but that’s okay.

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So, yesterday was Thanksgiving and it’s been a bittersweet several days. My family has been in and out and I am beyond thankful for time I get with my kids. But I am struggling to be what my dad needs and still be myself. We have been home and at the cottage. The waves and wind on Lake Michigan soothe me but I think they are unnerving my dad. I don’t know what’s next. I just don’t know what’s next.

More from these two rolls here. (Edited this last sentence because while writing last night, I apparently accidentally pasted a link to a concise answer to a grammar question I was asked rather than the link to my flickr album. Oops.)

(nearly) Iceland bound

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moonflowers in the garden at Cherry Point Market

In just under two weeks I will wake up in a different bed every morning for eight mornings as I travel around Iceland with my friend Jane. We don’t have an itinerary or firm plans other than to see the beautiful landscape and get to each resting spot each night–this is the way I like to travel. If you make firm plans, what do you do if something exciting or interesting lands in your lap? I don’t want to say no to anything.

I can hardly believe it’s almost here! And I’m finally starting to feel mostly ready. I’ve broken in my new hiking boots. I know what clothes I plan to take. Most importantly, I know exactly where my passport is (I don’t always know where anything is). And I know work will be okay without me.

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lavender, also at Cherry Point Market
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dill flower, Cherry Point Market

In the meantime, I’ve been stockpiling film and I’m nearly certain about which cameras I’m taking. I also just sent six rolls of film for developing and am tentatively planning not to shoot any more until the trip–I’ll be too busy, anyway.

I stood on the deck at the cottage last evening and had a moment about leaving. The more I stay there, the harder it is to leave. When I get back, the corn stalks will be bleached and maybe even mowed down for the season. The trees will be well into wearing their colorful fall wardrobe. The summer will give way to fall and the nights will get cold. I’ll hear gunshots in the woods when I go out for walks as locals prepare for hunting season. The lake will chill and get moody and wild from fall storms. These things happen whether I’m there to see them or not, but I don’t like to miss a day there, even if it is for leaving to go on fun adventures. It feels a little selfish, but it is this: my heart stays there.

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mullein field
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grain (barley, maybe?)

While I’m waiting for film, here are some photos from high summer. I got a little sloppy this summer with my note-taking, so I don’t know exactly when I shot this roll, but I think it was either late July or the first days of August. In fact, my note-taking was non-existent for this roll; I thought I had Ektar ISO 100 in the camera when I shot it and was a bit surprised when I finished the roll and found that it was Portra 160 ISO. Oops! So my metering was a bit off but I think Portra was forgiving. My favorite is the moonflower. I just love those.

I have shot 46 rolls of film so far this year. I didn’t set out with a goal, but there you go.

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forgotten memorial
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windbreakers

The whole roll is here if you want to see a few more.

it’s raining, and some purple

I’m not the only one that needs it to rain every now and then, am I? I mean, not for days and days on end… that’s too much. But after a stretch of summery sun and warmth a bit of rain just feels like a necessary break. A permission to be a little blue, or introspective. It’s a little like crying after going a really long time without. I don’t know–it feels good to me.

It’s raining right now on a late Thursday afternoon. I heard thunder growling for about an hour before the rain started, and some interesting clouds formed over the lake. Nothing dramatic, just a gentle release. The dog is especially tired today and has been snoring either on the couch or under my feet at the dining room table (my cottage office). I could curl up and nap, too, if not for work. These are the kind of days I’d skip college classes and spend the day in bed reading and drinking tea. I miss those days.

I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t buy any cameras in 2018. I’m not really sure why I made such a foolish bargain now, and maybe I should have clarified. Like, no cameras over $20 or something more sane. In any case, I went to a local good will shop last week and took a $6.95 chance on a clean-looking, fully automatic, clunker of a late 1980’s plastic point and shoot. I also picked up a Cokin A series filter holder and three filters–one of which is a double exposure “splitter” that I was pretty excited to find. I took the clunker on a beach walk with a roll of heavily expired slide film from the same era as the camera. Who knows if anything will come of that roll, but it was fun. I tried the splitter two nights ago and again, who knows what will come of it. I’m not organized enough to plan decent doubles when I’m out; I’m just shooting and enjoying things most of the time lately.

I also put feelers out to neighbors via an online community about taking old cameras off their hands, and someone offered up an SLR. I met a complete stranger in the parking lot of the local market who handed me a bag with a Minolta Maxxum 300si, two lenses, a roll of unused film in the camera and a second roll in the bag. He was nice, just happy to get rid of something he didn’t use that was taking up space. It’s also a fully automatic thing and I promised I’d use it and then donate it if it didn’t become part of my regular rotation. The funny thing is it happens to take the same battery as the good will clunker, so I didn’t have to wait to test it out. I wanted to ask some background but he seemed in a rush, so, I’ll make up stories about where the camera has been and what it has seen.

I had five rolls of film developed a few weeks ago–two were Lomography Lomochrome Purple. One of these I’ve been carrying around for over a year, so it’s an older formula, and the other was a “new” formula. I don’t think I can judge how the two formulas differ, because I am absolutely terrible about storing film properly and the older roll went with me to Peru last May (but did not get used) and has been in and out of camera bags and hot and cold cars and basically has not been treated the way an $11.90 roll of film should be treated. But the “old” formula images look a little overexposed, a cooler purple. The “new” formula images seem a bit more saturated, a warmer purple. Conditions, light, subjects all play a roll, of course.

Enough writing on a rainy afternoon, and I have to get back to work. Here are some purple film photos, in no particular order. You can see more in this flickr album, if you want.

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200 stairs
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hidden
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ethereal clouds
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poppies
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garden
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orchard
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corn field, early
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my favorite forgotten garden
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out for a walk
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ferns along a path
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woods
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grain field
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old farm truck

 

of poppies and solitude

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I like to take pictures in the herb and flower garden at a local farm market. There’s a lavender labyrinth there that brings the masses right around now, when the lavender blooms and casts its purple hue across the garden grounds. Smack in the middle of the labyrinth is a raised garden bed, and it’s here that I like to go in the golden hour before sunset and commune with the bees as they dance around the blooms. I like this spot best in June, before the summer crowds descend on this place, right when the poppies open and before things begin to wilt and brown from the summer heat.

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I’m in love with the poppies, but like everything that grows here they don’t stick around long. By July they are replaced by other blooms, and there can be hundreds of people in this garden milling about, taking selfies. I know this is good for the business owner, but I like this place quiet and peaceful, when I can be alone with my thoughts and hear things growing and buzzing all around me–that’s when it’s really magical.

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A few weeks ago I went into the heart of this garden one evening with my Bronica loaded with a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 ISO film. A young woman who works at the farm was just wrapping up her work there and we chatted a bit before she left me alone with the bees. I’ve only used Velvia a few times but I think the colors and that evening’s light and my Bronica just kind of all worked together to make some real beauty. Who can look at the greens and reds and purples that happen in nature and not be quieted, at least for a moment?

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You can see the rest of this roll here, or an older post I wrote with digital photos from this place here.

 

spring blossoms/summer fruit

A few weeks ago, after we moved our daughter to Texas but before she stayed there for good (in other words, she came back to town for a bit) we came to the cottage just in time to see the blossoms on the fruit trees.

The west side of Michigan grows cherries, peaches and apples (in that seasonal order, too). Also pears, but the first three are the big ones. Aside from tree fruit, the area is also big on asparagus, strawberries and blueberries.

But back to the blossoms. They’re so pretty, and I wish I could tell you I knew from the blossoms which fruit trees I am looking at, but alas, I don’t–unless I remember what was growing in the orchard in the year past. I do know that I like to (very lightly) trespass on the edges of my neighbor’s orchards long enough to get some photos of these trees at blossom time and then again when the fruit is in season. I really hope they don’t mind.

Actually I’m pretty sure these first three photos are of apple trees.

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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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Bella/blossoms double exposure, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Aside from enjoying the blossoms, we plucked some spruce tips and tried to make a spruce tip syrup. I was excited after reading about spruce tip syrup last year, too late to pluck the spring tips, but my execution may not have been right. I might try again before all the spruce and pine tips have gone and turned into needles. You’ve got to get them when they’re tender and green.

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spruce, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tip collection, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Who could not be happy?

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oh, just another sunset on Lake Michigan

Is it normal to experience a bit of a depression after a vacation? Not like I have experience in this. I’ve only had what I would call a true vacation once, 10 years ago when my best friend and I went to Tuscany to celebrate the year we both turned 40. In the years before and since Italy I’ve had little trips, yes–long weekends, short weekends, a few days off at a time but not a “real vacation” until Peru a few weeks ago.

And even that is starting to feel more like a dream.

It is so refreshing to step away from work. I knew everything would be handled expertly so I didn’t worry. It felt amazing to experience a new place. But there’s a shift after something like that; everyday doesn’t feel quite the same. Like, there’s a little piece missing, a change of some sort, something is not quite right. It’s more than a little unsettling.

I’ve moved to the west side of Michigan for the summer and get to wake up on a bluff above Lake Michigan. I make coffee in the morning, feed the dog, settle in to my workday while she snores away on the couch. I break from work to walk her and see what the weather is doing. Like today, a north wind makes the air a little chill while the sun is warming if you’re out of the wind, like on the south side of the house or in the dips on the road behind the cottages. It’s quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Who wouldn’t be happy here? But this malaise, or post-travel funk, follows me on these walks, taps my elbow as I brush the sand off my feet when I come up from the beach.

With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

I came across that quote yesterday, which is attributed to Oscar Wilde. I have freedom. And books. And oh there are flowers popping up everywhere. The moon is waxing right now and was bright and loud enough to make it hard to go to sleep last night. How could I not be happy? Yeah, it’s a little pitiful to feel sorry for myself here. Cue the violins and all that.

I’m sure I’ll shake off the funk any day now. A new photography project will help.

Still (barely) upright

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one corner left, Fuji Neopan Acros, 100 ISO, Holga

There’s just a corner left standing after this winter. I’ve been watching this farmhouse in west Michigan deteriorate for decades. Really, for my entire life since it has been empty as long as I’ve known it.

I have always been fascinated by this house and I’ll mourn the day there’s nothing left to see, but until then I’ll keep photographing it so that I can hold the image of it and the stories I’ve created for it in my mind.

October on film

Aside from the two rolls of purple film in October, I also ran a roll of Kodak Gold 400 and Agfa 200 through the Minolta SRT 102 and Pen EE3, respectively. Countryside, mid-October colors, the usual (for me) suspects. No edits, other than the addition of a watermark.

I’m still smitten with film. The planning, the composing an image, the waiting, the surprise. It just slows everything down in a super delicious way that I’m finding I’m really okay with.

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More fungi everywhere

Total fungi-fest in the woods here (or is it fungus-fest?). Way more fungus afoot than there was when I shared images in my post about mushrooms on the last day of August.

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Which is fantastic because it’s a nice little filler, considering the fall colors aren’t quite showing yet and there are hardly any more flowers still blooming aside from some chicory, a few straggler blooms of Queen Anne’s lace, some thistle, an occasional yellow wildflower. None of which I bothered to photograph yesterday, because, well, too many gorgeous mushrooms, you know?

I’m not usually here on the lake for more than a short weekend in this in-between stage, so it might really be the first time I’ve let myself wander aimlessly in the woods, no time frame or rush, seeking out mushrooms. A whole afternoon of it, in fact.

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I never realized quite how much fungus happens in the woods right now. I mean, it’s everywhere. White, yellow, beige, pale salmon-y pink, red, brown, pearlescent, moldy-looking (for real, I came across one type that looked like it was covered in a white mold). Growing on trees, from the sandy ground, from moss, from life and from decay.

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coral-like fungus

It’s like a world that I bet plenty of people go their entire lives not knowing anything about. I’m so glad I get to see it.

I’m not going to attempt to identify any of these. I just like taking pictures of them. And looking at them in their natural habitat. And smelling them (they were particularly pungent yesterday).

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eyeballs*

And it’s interesting, but once you see one on the forest floor, usually there are tens, hundreds maybe, just nearby. Of the same variety and/or different varieties. And it’s easy to wander off the path as you see one just there, and then there, and then farther over there…

And then you look up and realize you have no idea where the path is and your heart starts to quicken just a little bit and then oh, nevermind, there’s the path right there. Not that you were concerned.**

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Anyway, I know these woods, but I won’t pretend to know anything about mycology (except that mycology is the study of mushrooms).

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So I’ll leave the identifying to people who know what they’re talking about, and hope you enjoy my photos of mushrooms in a western Michigan forest.***

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*No, not really eyeballs.
**Maybe for a second.
***If you’re reading this and you know about these things, feel free to comment and identify any of these.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.