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.

herbs and flowers and life

I’m still enamored with the Mamiya C220 and intent on making the best photos with it that I can. One thing that plagues me is that you can get close–I mean really, really close–with this camera, but in doing so you have to frame just right because what you’re looking at is not what the film is going to capture because the lens you’re looking through is two inches higher than the lens that records the image. Roughly. I’m no expert on this, but I do know that when shooting something far away, this is not a problem. Up close, yeah, it can be funky.

chive blossoms
chive blossoms

But since it lets you get so close, that’s what I want to do. I’m not going to hunt for the tripod device that does this for you since I don’t often shoot with my tripod. So I’ll keep guessing and probably getting it wrong a lot. Fine with me.

A week or two ago now (I don’t know, the weeks are getting mushy), the evening I shot what ended up to be all red and hot pink cross-processed images, I also shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 through the Mamiya C220, focusing on the new blooms of the herbs and the poppy flowers in Cherry Point’s garden. Some of the poppy images came out poorly framed, so, I have some work to do figuring that out. Again, fine.

poppies
poppies, not framed exactly how I wanted
poppy
poppy, still not exactly what I was going for

I had a day and night alone at the cottage and yesterday the fog blanketed the beach and the backroads, in some places so thick it was otherworldly. I know these backroads by foot, bike and car and even I was turned around in some spots. But it meant for seeing things differently, and I had the Mamiya loaded and with me when I went out for an errand and filled a roll of what I hope are foggy, ethereal landscapes evocative of yesterday’s still, damp, foggy mood.

Also yesterday, I cancelled an appointment. In desperation last week I scheduled my dog for, you know, the end of life (I can’t write the word–I just can’t). She seemed like she was going downhill so quickly and I was sure of it, resolved in my decision to not let her suffer. And then over the weekend she seemed to rally, enjoy things, even play a little. She’s still aging. She’s still suffering dementia and I know she’s in some pain, stiff, confused at times, and I know where this is going. But she’s not ready right now and I owe her whatever time she can enjoy. It’s hard and it’s life and that’s it.

Storms came through last night although I didn’t hear them. I woke up once to lightning and some low growls but that’s all I remember. Today the lake is loud and shouty although the wind is light. I used to love a rough lake, but now one rough day does so much damage to the fragile shore and dune–you can see the damage from just one day of wild waves. I’m hopeful that later summer will bring some stabilization of the shoreline, because that’s what usually happens, but water levels are expected to continue going up.

I know I have to not worry so much.

Anyway, in a week or two I should have a roll of Lomography Purple showing a bit of the dune decay, among other things, and that roll of Portra on the backroads in the fog. Today though, on a sunny and loud day on the beach where my dog is still here and snoring comfortably on the couch and I am drinking coffee and need to get to work, here are some photos of herbs and flowers, some not framed exactly as I expected, from Cherry Point Farm Market’s garden.

yarrow, maybe
maybe yarrow?
comfrey flowers
comfrey
lamb's ear
lamb’s ear
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thoughts? I don’t know what this one is…

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.

house(bound)

My head is swimming with ideas.

(I actually just had to edit the word “literally” out of that sentence.)

Swimming! Finally! And completely out of stagnancy and lack of imagination. I’ve felt in so much of a funk the last few months and just devoid of creative ideas. Everything I think of to create seems stupid, hackneyed, overdone. I’m not getting out with cameras much and it’s getting to me. My time is not my own.

I’m pissy about my lack of freedom; my old dog needs so much right now, and having my dad with me is a big life change. It’s good, but I’m having to face the reality of our relationship, both as it was in the past and as it is today. It’s emotional work I’ve long avoided and I may still be avoiding it. You can think I’m selfish for struggling with these things, and maybe that’s true–but it’s honest.

I’m working on ways to reframe this part of my life as opportunity. Opportunity to know my dad better. Opportunity to spend the final months with this dog that has been my stalwart protector and consummate entertainer. Opportunity to be in the place I love most, although it’s different right now and might always be different.

I’m not good at this, but I’ll keep trying. Also that’s three paragraphs in a row that begin with the word “I’m.” I’m also too tired to edit that. So there.

But, ideas. One is a summer creative project. A way to explore the boundaries that I’m seeing as constraints right at this moment. Instead of boundaries maybe they can be creative guides, moving lines to tuck up against, nudge, color over. I’m always waiting for good creative ideas to slap me across the face, and this one did.

When I was young my mother and I would press flowers between tissues and tuck them into pages in books, which flattened and dried them but preserved their colors. I loved looking at these one dimensional, delicate, paper thin but still colorful flowers later. A few weeks ago I had the sudden urge to press as many blooming things as I can summer. I didn’t know what I would do with this and now I do, and things are just starting to bloom.

It might be the first time I’ve ever felt so sure about a project and so ready to start.

apple blossoms from the last remaining trees of the ancient orchard in the meadow

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.