a quiet house again

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After many weeks with my kids being here, and then various guests in and out, and then a week of extended family renting a cottage just a few doors down, I am now the only one in our cottage.

Aside from the dog, who is snoring on the couch as I write this.

I really loved having so many people around and catching up with extended family that I don’t see often enough. But I am kind of a loner by nature–I couldn’t wait for the peace and quiet, and now, well… it feels way too peaceful and quiet. I especially miss my kids–their banter, rousing conversation, just having them in the house again. I am sure I’m not the only one who gets exhausted by social interaction but misses it when it’s not available. What’s the secret to that, anyway? How do you marry the two? I’d really like to know.

Anyway, it’s a Monday and it’s back to work for me, albeit from my dining room table overlooking Lake Michigan, where this beautiful catamaran motored by in the late morning light under a bold blue sky and wispy clouds, close enough where I could just overhear the sailor’s voices from where I stood on the cottage deck.

Blooming things

Things just caught up to me last night and today. Like, ohmygod I’m about to travel to South America kind of things. Work things. People things. Some kind of stomach bug things. All those things poked me awake at 4 a.m. and refused to let me be. And all those things, compounded by the no sleep thing, really rattled my chain and made today a little messy.

I felt lousy. But a walk around my backyard with my digital camera made things feel at least a little righter. So did reading a guidebook for my destination and looking at a map and picking out a few things I for sure want to do. And talking with people who accept my occasional messiness. Crying helped, too. I realized I hadn’t done that in a while and I’ve gotta say, I’m one of those kinds of people who has to do that every now and then. It’s like opening a valve and releasing the pressure. Like a really good sigh.

But the ferns along my fence are coming up. There are sweet little violets all over my lawn, and a clump of some tiny blue flowers (forget-me-nots, possibly) near the ferns. We have a purpleleaf sand cherry shrub on the side of the house, whose leaves are such a gorgeous deep wine and its tiny whiteish-pinkish flowers smell like heaven. It’s easy to shake off the fog when you see and touch and smell these tiny delights.

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possibly forget-me-nots?

 

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purple leaf sand cherry

hoya on Holga

hoya plant, lomo purple and Holga
hoya plant, lomo purple and Holga

I don’t have a green thumb (or a purple one). I love plants, but it’s not in my nature to take care of them. Maybe some day.

There is a hoya plant in my front window that faces south, a big, lovely picture window. It’s about the same size as the picture window in the house I grew up in, which also faced south (faced? faces? The house, and the window, both still exist…). These are the kind of windows that, in February, beg you to lay on the floor in a winter sunbeam and soak up the light. If you don’t have one of these, find a friend that does and spend a February afternoon doing just that.

Anyway.

The hoya plant in my front window is a clipping from my friend Kelly’s hoya plant, who got the clipping from my dad from the original hoya plant that I grew up watching grow in my lovely south-facing picture window in the house I grew up in. I don’t remember who gave my dad the original clipping from their own hoya plant–probably one of his teacher friends–at least 40 years ago.

My dad planted the hoya–which really was just a little tendril and maybe one or two thick leaves sticking up from the earth–in a little pot. It grew, slowly. It was supposed to bloom but it seemed we had it for years before it surprised us one year, maybe around Christmas, with the most delicious-smelling bloom, a funky waxy-looking thing with little florets. My dad built a trellis for it and it climbed and bloomed and the blooms smelled terrific and everyone lived happily ever after.

(Okay, I went away to college and then moved away and forgot about the hoya.)

But at some point in my early adulthood my dad gave my friend Kelly a clipping of that hoya, and some years ago Kelly gave me a clipping from that hoya, and now I have it in my front room, growing profoundly slowly and appreciated by me but cared for by my husband. It hasn’t bloomed yet, but I’m hopeful.

Of course I had to photograph it in purple film on a Holga, which I thought fitting for kind of a funky plant. But aren’t the shadows lovely?

Frantic limbo

I’m right in between things.

barn and field
barn and field, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s
leaning shed
leaning shed, Fuji Acros, Mamiya 645 1000s

In between a work trip. My film photography class is ending. Then a vacation to an unknown and, to me, exotic place. Then a move from town to the beach for the summer. And in the meantime I feel the unease of my kids as they finish their college terms. Does that part ever end, I wonder–the part where you feel the pain of whatever stress or difficulty your (albeit adult) children are going through? Somehow I don’t think I was totally prepared for that part of parenting.

Oh but who am I kidding? All the parts of parenting have surprised me. Why would I think that now, because they are grown, it should be any different?

White River Light
White River Light, Kodak Tri-X, Mamiya 645 1000s

In any case I feel such a sense of limbo right now. I’m trying to roll with it.

And speaking of rolls… I have been frantically shooting film like I have the budget of someone who has, well, a big budget for film. I’m a copy editor, after all, and last I checked no one ever said they wanted to go into copy editing to make the big bucks. But here I am buying and blowing through rolls of film like they’re free or something.

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creeping juniper, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102
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new shoots on the forest floor, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102

I have developed 22 rolls of black and white film for my class and will develop three more this week before the lab will be off limits. I had four rolls of color film developed in February; I’ve got five rolls of color film at a lab right now, and had two rolls of color film developed a few weeks ago. That’s 36 rolls of film shot and developed since January. Of nothing special, even. I could have far worse vices, right?

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orchard road, Fuji Acros, Holga

For my last class assignment I wanted to photograph a thing I love. The sand dunes at Silver Lake offer a shifting landscape that at times buries and other times unearths the ghostly treasures of its past. I’ll never tire of hiking these dunes and coming across these alien, sculptural roots and trunks of the trees that once forested this landscape. The light cooperated, but I found the resulting photos an interesting juxtaposition–these images look serene, but the wind was so fierce it nearly knocked me off the tops of some dune ridges and sand came out of my scalp for two days after I got home.

I still have so many more to scan, and a few might show how windy it really was.

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resting under a live tree, Ilford FP4, Minolta SRT 102
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alien on the dune, Fuji Acros, Mamiya 645 1000s

Spring, sort of

Last Friday’s burst of warmth and color quickly turned to chill, gray, lackluster. I crave that color, but I’m beginning to see things differently. Black and white film opens you up to that, I think.

Since January I’ve shot and processed (myself!) 16 rolls of black and white film, 35mm and 120mm. I have one more assignment in the class I’m taking and then I may need to go a little nuts with color film for a while after that, especially as I’ll be in California for one day of sightseeing before a few days of work and then after that in Lima, Peru for a week. I don’t know much about Lima yet, but I am imagining it’s a place requiring color film. I can’t wait to find out.

But despite the gray, there are green shoots, buds, the smell of wet earth, wildly chirping birds… all these signs of impending color and warm and sun. We are poised and ready and the wait makes the reward that much more delicious.

This week is exciting, different, changing. I have a new outlook. My youngest turned 21 this week, which feels like a new era… both my babies are adults. I shared an interview and photos with a community of film enthusiasts and the experience makes me feel lucky, like pinch-myself lucky, to be considered as someone with a passionate voice. I will have family around me this weekend and I will revel in that.

Good things are coming.

 

Getting back to yoga

Many years ago when my children were small and my office was not in my home and my life was far more complicated than it is now I decided to take a yoga teacher training class and add teaching yoga to the list of things I had to do. I loved practicing yoga, and for a while after that I loved teaching it, too. I taught for several years and then burned out, even though by the time I stopped teaching I was already working from a home office. But there were still deadlines to meet and growing kids to drive around to so very many activities and it all was just one big swirl. Something had to go.

I stopped practicing yoga pretty much. Every now and then, here or there, I’d take a class or roll out my yoga mat at home, but I didn’t do it often enough to have a regular practice.

Just this past November an absolutely beautiful studio opened up so close to my house that I couldn’t ignore the siren song of the things I loved best about yoga, like the retreat into my own mind and body that happens in a supportive studio with excellent instructors, the breakthroughs that happen with a regular practice, the way my language changes about myself when I am being kind and loving toward my body while practicing yoga. And when I say “so close” I mean I can walk there in just about 6 minutes flat–5 if I’m running late. Nope, no excuses not to get back to it.

I’ve been maintaining a practice at this studio for just over three months. We practice flow sequences in a room heated to 90°, a delicious sweat-fest. I’m dripping 10 minutes into a power flow class, and loving every second. I’m already starting to think about how much I will miss this place when I am on the lake in the summer, where I’ll just have to cue Jennifer, Kate, Katie and the other teachers’ gentle voices in my head as I create my own flow.

The light in this second floor studio is one of its best features. On a corner, with windows facing both south and east, window light spills across the floor most of the day. Jennifer, the owner, let me make use of this gorgeous light to take some photos for a class assignment, and I chose her Tibetan singing bowls and the light and shadows as focus. I took these with my Minolta X-700 and Kodak T-Max 400 ISO film, my first time with this film. I developed the roll and scanned these images myself.

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Unusual weather we’re having

I think the lion says that line, in Wizard of Oz. When they’re running through the poppies and it starts snowing, maybe? I’m not certain. But it’s appropriate because February has been really odd, mostly, and now the trees are actually blooming, and you don’t need a coat to go anywhere. In February. I don’t want to complain, but I didn’t get to snowshoe yet this year. And, this stuff messes up the whole fruit season. We can’t have that.

Unusual weather, unusual cameras, unusual times.

In December I took part in a secret santa gift exchange for people who shoot film. I sent a bunch of film to a guy in Germany, and oddly the person who sent my gift (a different person than who I sent my gift to) was also in Germany. My gift took a while, but I was so excited at the end of January when I got some expired film, a Lomography baby fisheye (and they mean baby, this thing is so tiny!) with a cartridge of 110 film, plus some other awfully sweet goodies.

Although there’s been a lot of gray this month, there’s also been some color. The Luminosity installation in Detroit, for instance. The blue sky, the golden dried grasses on the marsh. Red hydrants, blue buildings, murals. Good news kind stuff. Good surprises. All colorful.

The expired film colors are a little funky, but I’m digging them. I shot this roll of 2007-expired Minolta 200 ISO film on a gorgeously warm evening on the marsh.

This unseasonable weather business makes people happy. Well, it makes me happy. It makes me start thinking about what’s next. The spring. Hopeful things. New adventures. Like, a trip (I have one brewing). I’m about to enter the age of saying yes. Ask me if I want to go somewhere with you… I’m most likely going to say yes.

Yes to weird cameras. Yes to new experiences. Like this silly, plastic, double-wide Lomography Sprocket Rocket, which might be my favorite new thing.

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Yes to color. Yes to adventure.

Are you saying yes to anything these days?

Why yes, I’ve been drinking

I ignored the inauguration today.

There, I said it. I admit it. I listened to classical music today while I worked. Arcangelo Corelli, Bach, Vivaldi. Light, cheerful stuff. Stuff that’s centuries old, from composers long gone, from a time of tenuous politics possibly not unlike today’s politics. Different actors, different times.

We had friends over for dinner and drank wine tonight, too much, talked a little about current events but not a whole lot. Touching on the things we worry about, our kids, their futures.

I’m torn between wanting to scream and shout and rally against what I see as a shocking turn of events for my country and ignoring what’s happening, retreating to my bubble. But… I have a job that doesn’t stop because I grieve for where we are and the future of the United States. I have an old dog who doesn’t care. I have bills to pay, old cars to maintain, emails to answer, clothes to clean and fold and put away, rooms in my house to unearth, meals to prepare, a life to lead. If there’s one thing I don’t do very well, it’s balance. How do other people do this? How do you register your shock, anger, disappointment and yet still manage a life, a job, hobbies, family?

I’m bad at this.

And yes, yes, yes, I’ve been drinking tonight. I don’t have to make sense.

Tomorrow I’ll attend one of the women’s marches because I feel a need to stand in solidarity. For me, for my daughter, for women who have a bigger stake in what’s to come. I’ll join voices and shout until I’m hoarse. But I still get to come home to a warm house, to food, to an assurance that too many people don’t have. It’s not fair and I know it.

And after tomorrow, I’ll hope. Hope that unqualified appointments surprise us. Hope that love and decency prevail. Hope that insults give way to understanding, and that divides shrink and become traversable. I’ll especially hope that people awaken to dealing with each other with a newfound sensitivity. I don’t know how these things will manifest, or how I will do my part, but I’ll commit. Wine-soaked as I am tonight, I commit to approaching it all with love and understanding. It’s a small start, anyway.

Don’t believe what they say about 50

I’m serious. Just don’t.

I just turned 50, and after a week of surprises and a big gift from my brother and brother-in-law and all the stars essentially aligning to create some kind of crazy halo–I swear it–right above my silver-tressed head, my husband threw me one bang-up of a party.

The people I love came, one all the way from Chicago. My best friend cleaned bathrooms (that’s love, cleaning someone’s bathroom). My dad came. My two dearest friends helped me clean and put cheese out and and helped bake and laid everything out on the table just perfectly and were both like tornadoes (and I mean this in the best way ever). We had the best food. If we do anything right around here, it’s the food. We made some of it (cakes, cupcakes, orzo salad and quinoa salad, a Swiss chard erbazzone) and had some amazing stuff we didn’t make (samosas, savory and sweet pies, expensive cheeses) and oh I can’t even remember what else. Booze. Plenty of booze, and no scrimping there.

I will say in all honesty that my 50th birthday party knocked every other birthday celebration out of the park, although the birthdays my parents threw me in our basement when I was a kid, with balloons, friends around a picnic table, my mom’s cakes and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey are a distant second (and a distant memory). You know what I wore? Bare feet, that’s what I wore. And no one even batted an eye. And a comfortable dress. I was totally myself. The invite said no gifts, but the gifts came anyway. Who deserves that? I didn’t think I did. But oh man, the love I felt has me fuller than a huge pasta dinner. It’s going to last all year, I know it.

50 is the new 30. 50 is the bomb. 50 kicks ass. I think this is going to be one hell of a decade.

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I didn’t die, I just turned 50. No biggie.

Unsticking

There is this thing that happens to me and I bet to plenty of other people. Something that knocks you quite off your rhythm, freezes you, and you just stumble to get back into the flow. November 9 did that to me, and I’ve given myself the space and the time to have all the feelings and thoughts and fears and to decide on the actions I want to take to move forward.

In that time, which I’m a little shocked to realize is already coming up on a month, I’ve had to both soften and harden. I’m open to respectful conversations with those who disagree or don’t see my position. But I also have to keep living my life. I have people to be my strongest for, relationships to nurture, an old dog to spoil, a job I love and for which I must be fully present and alert.

I’m doing things to nurture myself, like uncluttering bathroom drawers and cupboards (who needs 10 bottles of 95% empty shampoo or conditioner? bottles of decade-old and rancid oils and creams? make-up from who knows when?), re-finding a (nearly) daily yoga practice, catching up with girlfriends I’ve not seen since spring.

I closed down creatively, too, and I’m working to get back to taking pictures and writing.

This week has me re-inspired, however–I went to a local college to see 17 of my prints framed and installed in common spaces there. Big and bold prints of nature and the city, and I’m just so incredibly honored to have them displayed. And another honor, an article and photos of mine published on a site I greatly admire, a site full of voices and dreamy film photography from both experienced and new photographers (if you have any interest in film photography, I encourage you to cozy up with your computer or tablet and get lost in this site).

It’s a process, this unsticking, thawing. I’m working on it.