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.

see ya, 2018

and random thoughts on the past and upcoming year

Detroit, January 2018, Kodak ColorPlus

I don’t do resolutions, but it’s not a bad time to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous year and the things in store for the upcoming year. And I haven’t written here all month, which is not normal for me but oh my, it was a month, and if I don’t squeeze one blog post in here I’ll be disappointed with myself. Or is it disappointed in myself? I don’t feel like thinking too hard about that at this moment so let’s just leave it alone, shall we?

Anyway. In the past I’ve been grateful for years to end because they’ve brought heartache, but 2018 overall has been a year of mostly good things. While November brought some unexpected changes, we watched our kids blossom and grow this year. We managed to have one kid graduate from university, get a job, and move many states away. While part of that is bittersweet (the moving away, of course), the majority of that is pretty damn awesome.

my babies, a tree and a mummy, found roll of film from early 2000s

Also no one got downsized or laid off this year, and no one got catastrophically ill, either. I got to see my brother a few times and I actually took two vacations with friends, both of which are pretty rare. I don’t want to brag about the good stuff though, because I’m a believer in karma and balance and if I get full of myself about the good stuff, something lousy might kick me in the shins to remind me that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Because, you know, that’s life.

that’s me! trail racing in 2002

I can’t find my film notebook just at this moment, but as of yesterday I believe I shot 70 rolls of film in 2018, which includes the two rolls I shot yesterday. I had hoped for 52 for an equivalent of one per week, so it’s more than I hoped for. I guess that’s a lot, and developing hasn’t been cheap, but I can think of more expensive hobbies. I also said I wasn’t going to buy any cameras in 2018, but that didn’t go so well. I bought a few (albeit very inexpensive ones), won one (thanks to Film Photography Project), traded some Lomo Purple film for one (a Polaroid, from a local guy I follow on Instagram) found one (I think it had been my mom’s, I don’t know for sure), and was gifted five (very grateful for these gifts!). I don’t know how many I actually have at this point (more than 25 but I don’t think it’s more than 30).

But as 2018 closes out I’m thinking ahead to how I can frame things in 2019. I’m aiming for more positivity and growth, and more creative pursuits. I’m starting 2019 with a class at community college where I can be in a fully stocked darkroom once a week. I took this same class two years ago and I can’t think of a more fulfilling way to spend four hours every Thursday evening for 15 weeks but to be shoulder to shoulder in a darkened room with a group of people of mixed ages and backgrounds, sharing feedback and suggestions, as we watch film and chemicals intermix to create magic.

January 2018, Lake Michigan snowy beach, Kodak ColorPlus

I also need to do some unearthing this year. I cleaned out an overstuffed closet this month and got rid of most of its contents, but I still have spaces full of things that aren’t getting used and need to go. While cleaning out that closet I found two undeveloped rolls of film, plus the camera that may or may not have been my mother’s and that had a mostly shot roll of film in it. I got a battery and it zipped into life, so I shot the rest of the roll and had the three developed. One of the found rolls of film was from last winter when we nearly got stuck at the cottage New Year’s weekend, and the other, plus the one in-camera, were from the early 2000’s, with some Halloween photos and beach photos of my kids, still sweet and young and innocent.

my babies, early 2000s, Kodak Gold, Canon point and shoot

So I’m ending 2018 with a celebration of the good that happened this year and a readiness for what’s in store for 2019. Or, a sense of adventure for what’s in store for 2019. I’m choosing to face it all, good and bad, with determination and growth. And a bunch of rolls of film.


adjusting, changes

It’s so interesting how life changes, and how things you weren’t sure you’d be capable of doing become your reality because, well, sometimes things just go that way.

My sweet Moonie Pie is adjusting. I give her medicine morning and night. She eats, sleeps, and is mostly normal except for the struggle of getting up and down steps, and standing or walking for long. She’s putting more weight on her damaged leg and she’s not unhappy; she doesn’t stew about it or mourn her disability. I started taking her on short walks, just up and down the block and she wants to go further but I know she’d end up in too much pain, so I keep it short and let her stop and sniff for as long as she wants.

A bigger change in my life is that we’ve moved my dad in with us. I don’t know if this is going to be a permanent situation, but for now it is an adjustment for us, learning to live with each other’s rhythms and idiosyncrasies. I am realizing I’m more rigid, more impatient, and more set in my own ways than I would like to be. I’m learning.

Right now, and very suddenly, my world feels rather small. I know it’s a transient feeling, and things will shake out as they will. I’m trying to consider the opportunities in this and let go of my own selfishness. This is life and I’m here to live it. I won’t let the changes upend me.

I do have images back from the rolls of film I ran through my two new cameras, but it’s been a long day and words will have to suffice tonight.

my old girl’s ACL

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This is my favorite photo I’ve ever taken of my dog, Moonie Pie. This is pretty much how she looks today, although this is from last summer, late August. Well, she’s a bit leaner, maybe. Even a bit older looking. She’s 13 and a half. This was a rare moment that she tolerated me so close to her face with my camera. We’d just walked on the beach and she had been in and out of the water; I dried her off with this old towel on the deck, and it was a beautiful, quiet, serene, warm evening.

As I write this now she is on the floor a few feet from me, whining. Not because she is in pain (although she is), but because she wants a second dinner. This is pretty normal. What isn’t normal is that she spent the morning at the vet, and she did that because yesterday afternoon, after a perfectly normal amble down the beach stairs (which I watch carefully, in case an old leg were to buckle), she felt peppy and started to run and then immediately collapsed and couldn’t get herself back up. When I got her standing, I knew instantly something was very wrong. She wouldn’t put any weight on her right back leg.

I managed to get her back up to the house by hoisting her back end up the steps as she mostly managed with her front legs. The limp was profound. I got her back to the house and gave her a pain med, tucked her onto the couch, and went into the bathroom to sob.

I’ve cried much more today, really having a hard time keeping it together as my mind goes to all that this means. But really, all this means is that it’s what you sign up for when a dog enters your life. Puppies are fun. Mid-life dogs can be sweet, with a few challenges. An old dog needs you to be there when they’re hurting. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

Today the vet did a workup and she ruptured her ACL. They don’t recommend surgery because of her age and her already very deteriorated hips. The options are pain meds, anti-inflammatories, letting her body heal the injury to the extent it can and keeping her comfortable and supported. Mostly, when she is feeling a little bit better, I’ll try to let her be the dog that she is, although I think her beach running days are over.

I don’t know how much longer I have left with my Moonie Pie, but I’m going to appreciate her, spoil her, and kiss her way more than she wants kissing. I’ll try not to be annoyed by her snoring, or her bad breath, or her separation anxiety, or her constant shedding, or her begging, or any other behaviors that are less than lovely.

I mean, I’m no picnic, either, and she’s stayed by my side without complaining.

two new cameras

I have been gifted not one but two medium format cameras. If you’re wondering what I did to deserve such a gracious gift, well, I am, too. A friend’s father, a former professional photographer, offered them to me and I couldn’t say no. I did try to impress upon him that he could sell them, and that I’d be willing to pay, but he insisted that he only wanted them to go to someone who will use them.

I feel beyond lucky, extremely grateful, and quite honored. I don’t know that we open ourselves up to such generosity very often. Giving something of ourselves means being okay with an unexpected outcome. When you give something freely, you’re accepting that your recipient might not behave in the spirit in which you intended your gift. And accepting such a gift means remembering to carry that spirit forward, which is what I will try to do.

In any case, I now have a Mamiya M645 (a model near to my son’s, which I have borrowed and which I pined about here) and a Mamiya C220, my first TLR (twin lens reflex). While the M645 won’t be difficult for me to get used to using, the C220 is a new experience that I am really looking forward to.

I’m busy this week with work and a bit of freelance that I took on to help pay for the trip to Iceland so I don’t think I’ll get out with these until the weekend, but I hope to have some test rolls run though them both and developed and up here soon.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of ways I can be just as generous as the wonderful human who offered two cameras to a stranger with no expectations.

in need of inspiration

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Joe Louis fist statue, Detroit, Bronica SQ-A with Fuji Acros 100

I love this statue that sits in the boulevard at Woodward and Jefferson in Detroit’s financial district, across from Hart Plaza. It’s the boxer Joe Louis’s fist. Pow, you’re in Detroit. To me it denotes strength, grit, power.

I’m a little unmoored this month. My daughter’s graduation and move to Texas for work. A lack of focus and direction on my part. Work is busy; that’s good. But I feel unsettled and a bit lost, and rather suddenly not young anymore. Sort of waiting for Joe Louis and his giant, bronze fist to punch me in the gut. Pow, ideas and focus, a project, artistic inspiration.

I took some pictures in Austin last week, but haven’t dropped the film off yet. Maybe the greenery and blooms and Lake Michigan’s freshly-scrubbed shoreline will set me straight this weekend, or some other light bulb will go off in my floaty head.

farewell, silver cannonball

I spent the week getting distracted from work by the process of finding myself a new car. Decision-making is a stress-inducing thing for me. Me in a toothpaste or detergent aisle? Panic. I do better with fewer choices, mainly. Fewer colors. Fewer models. Fewer formulas. When I do decide on something, I second guess until the cows come home. And then I ask their opinion (the cows’ opinions, figuratively) and second guess some more. And change my mind. And change it back again.

I think I drive everyone around me nuts with this. Which one is best? Am I going to regret my decision? What if something better comes along? Seriously, it’s never-ending.

The van, aptly named the silver cannonball, came to me as a hand-me-down from my brother who bought it in 2005 because he had to drive around with pounds and pounds of fabric samples, and for salespeople and families you kinda can’t beat a van. She was in great shape, four years old and well cared for when I drove her halfway across the country to bring her home. She carted me and the kids and bikes and extra people all over town and all over the state; made trips to Myrtle Beach and to Chicago and, when my son graduated from high school I let him and his friends drive her to Yellowstone. She was reliable and roomy and didn’t need much. Until she sort of hit her twilight years.

Maybe I could have taken better care of her, kept her a little cleaner, been better about the routine maintenance. She wasn’t neglected, but, you know, there was life and all that. She moved kids out. And then it was pretty much just me, alone, in this big old van. Electrical failures, broken locks, a broken mirror, little things going, big things starting to slip, nearly 200,000 miles. She’s done, tired. I’m done with her. Ready to move on.

I decided that a few months ago. I was clear about it. But then, the panic. What to choose in her stead. And, oh god, a car payment?!? Car payments are commitment. And, money. The panic froze me and I decided I’d wait for a while. And then I drove across the state and something went wrong; she had trouble accelerating and there was a shimmy that went on for miles. It might have been the roadway that caused the shimmy, but it was definitely happening. And I realized I didn’t want to be stranded on the side of the road, in the freezing cold, with no snow boots or gloves because I never listen to Jim when he tells me to keep those things in my car, and no cell service because I’m on a backroad in the wilderness looking for something interesting to photograph.

I didn’t want to freeze to death on a remote backroad in the silver cannonball.

(Okay, that’s unlikely and I’m exaggerating. I digress.)

But last week all the little broken things just really got to me, so I started looking and working on the process of deciding. I drove three cars this week and picked one, but went back and forth (in my head, with the dealer, it’s too much, am I getting ripped off, would they offer me a better price if I was a guy, etc. etc. ad nauseam) and talked the whole situation to death with anyone around me who would listen. All the moving parts, all the balls in the air, all the distractions, came to a halt today and tomorrow I’ll hand over the silver cannonball and drive my new wheels home. A young(ish) 2013, low(ish) miles, a stick shift, compact SUV. Just what I want. A new driving chapter.

So it’s my last night with the silver cannonball. I took her to the grocery store, an average evening thing to do, and in walking around making choices about bread and veggie burgers and yogurt I suddenly got a little sniffly over her. More than a little sniffly. Not sobbing in the frozen food aisle but inexplicably and surprisingly moody, sad, and for real a little wet in the eyes and snotty in the nose.

Hell. I can’t explain myself. My brother and I sobbed over cars when we were little: a turquoise Corvair, the brown Pontiac station wagon. Maybe some others, but those two particularly. Maybe I’m more sentimental about cars than I want to admit.

I loved the silver cannonball, I hated her, I respected her, I tolerated her, and now I’m replacing her. I’ll miss her a little bit. She took good care of me of me and mine.

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?