frozen

I’m a little frozen, and not in the “it’s winter in Michigan sense” but in the sense of being overwhelmed with all that is life. This isn’t uncommon for me–I’m fairly easily overwhelmed outside of my professional life.

I’m not sure why, but work is the easy part. And, my work is busy–sometimes crazy busy–but it comes innately to me. Life is a different story. When I have too many balls in the air, so to speak, I have a hard time managing. I’ve had too many balls in the air for a few months now. Emotional balls, big life decision balls, money balls. I am realizing that I’m most content when things are humming comfortably along, with no crises to manage or fires to extinguish. I like comfort, probably too much. Being so drawn to it has made me near incapable of managing the zingers anymore.

Life lessons don’t fit into that comfort-seeking behavior, however, and here I am staring down the barrel of taking on the financial obligation of the cottage that I love so much. That part I’ve been ready for, the ownership and what comes with that. The part I was not prepared for, but that I feared was coming and is in fact here, is the expense of saving the house from becoming a victim to the rising lake.

I spent the summer stewing about this, worried and waiting for neighbors to catch up with me on the worry front. The very bottom section of our beach stairs, a temporary and cheap homemade build as the low bluff began to disappear and the first cliff appeared, needed to be pulled up as there was no safe place for it. The low stairs we built in the 1980s (after the record-high water level began to subside) appeared from beneath the sand and I hoped we could use those all winter. But the next storm in October swept those away. The next section of stairs disappeared in the wild waves later that month; a mid-section in November, and by late December the upper stairs were loose and then gone in January.

The platform that was the top of our beach stairs remains now, with nothing beneath it, in a lopsided half-hold, its last gasp.

I know about coming and going. I know about the Great Lakes and their interconnected nature, the ebb and the flow. I know about the Army Corps of Engineers and their monthly reports on the water levels. I know about the news stories and the houses that have fallen in, or are torn down just before they are about to plummet. The desperation of homeowners trying to subdue something that cannot be subdued.

The predictions for the lake levels are dire for 2020. Many cottages along the shoreline are in trouble. Did we court this by building so close to the water? Maybe. We tempted the lake, and in repayment for our enjoyment of her shoreline, she is knocking on our doors. Some are building seawalls, walls of cement, layers of giant boulders. I would rather get out of her way, and that’s where my decision leans. With such an unstable bluff, however, and not much room to spare, my hope is that we can hold on until spring, when a move can happen.

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last week

Even with the upheaval and the concerns about finances to pay for this move, a friend asked me to go with her to Sedona in the spring to hike and commune with nature, and I said yes to red rocks and desert air and sights I’ve never seen. This is something to look forward to. And my cameras have been a little lonely, so I’m excited to choose one or two to take with me.

I’m sending two rolls of film off to the lab on Monday and I can’t even remember what might be on one of them. The other I shot of beautiful ice formations on the beach last weekend. There is beauty even in the devastation, at least.

I don’t know where I am when I wake up sometimes

I’ve meant to get back to those last rolls I shot on the west side and I’ve just been so busy. Busy at work, busy being busy, busy avoiding things, busy with things I don’t feel like doing but must do. You know. Or maybe you don’t (lucky you).

I’ve been missing my dog. I know it takes time, but I miss having her near me. I miss hearing her breathe. There is a lot I don’t miss about how her last several years were, but I feel a bit lost without her. There are moments of tears that surprise even me.

Last week was a whirlwind of work meetings in California, then a long weekend on a mountaintop near Ukiah, spent with an old friend plus strangers who now feel like family. I felt mothered for a weekend, and I haven’t felt mothered in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed this, either. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but to be cared for is such a treat. I want to have this and to provide this. If you come to stay at my house, I want to make you feel this way. It was nourishing, and I am grateful.

I still feel like I’m recovering from the trip. I left a sunny, hot mountaintop to come back to an early winter and six inches of snow. This week in Michigan was gray, dull, cold, a sharp contrast to the sun and brilliant colors of the changing leaves on fields of grapevines blanketing the valleys and hillsides of California. It’s been a rough re-entry. After travel and several beds, and the summer at the cottage and the fall back-and-forth from home and the cottage, I often have to get my bearings when I wake up each morning. I’m not quite sure where I am for a minute or two. And I’m enjoying that, really. There’s a moment of dream state and a realm of possibilities before I know where I am settled.

But I meant to get back to those rolls of film I shot in September, and so here are some photos I took on the I guess not-so-newly released Kodak Ektachrome. Gosh, it’s pretty, the cool, saturated colors of this slide film. I walked through the woods with it loaded in my favorite camera, the Minolta SRT-102, and took my time with it, waiting for colorful sunsets and clouds over the lake.

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You can see a few more from the roll here, if you like.

rising waters

Both literally and figuratively. I’m paddling hard here.

Lake Michigan is high. I mean, all the Great Lakes are high. Polar ice caps are melting, oceans are rising, we’re toasting up this blue ball we live on here and the news isn’t good. But I’m not tackling all that. I’m just one person in one little cottage atop a bluff on Lake Michigan, and that lake is getting closer.

That’s the literal bit.

The figurative bit is that it’s been a rough summer. It was different, sharing close quarters with my dad. I think we did ok but there were bumps for sure. And, I lost my sweet old dog in early September. It was for the best, but I’m still bruised and missing her. Things are going on with my kids and my husband, too, but those aren’t my stories to tell. It’s interesting, parenting grown people. The things I worried about when they were little make me laugh a bit now. If I’d known the challenges of parenting adults I might have softened up a bit back then.

Hindsight is 20/20 though, right? Or so they say.

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Anyway, I sent seven rolls of a variety of films off to the lab a bit more than a week ago. Here are images from one of those rolls, Ilford FP4+ shot on my Mamiya C220.

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Silver Lake State Park is just a few miles from me. Most people think of the park as a place to go dune buggy riding, and that’s probably what it’s most known for. But I like it for the landscape. And I like it best off season when I can hike all of it, not just the areas relegated for foot traffic. Plus, I feel like I’m the only one out there off-season–just me and 3,000 acres of dunes and woods. The dune buggy season ends at the end of this month, so I’m really looking forward to visiting again soon.

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I love shooting here. I can shoot the same piece of driftwood a hundred times or year after year–I swear it’s different every time. The sands shift, the wind covers one piece and unearths another. These skeletons of old trees are gorgeous sculptural elements on this vast, shifting landscape. I can never get enough and so I will keep going back.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.