Where did August go? What have I done all month? I don’t even really know, aside from work. I did get to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Planned a trip with a friend for about a year from now to Iceland, which I’m excited about. Planned a trip to California with another friend for early next month–our big birthday celebration in encore to our other big birthday trip to Tuscany a decade ago.
I’m focused, too, on my health this month. I was a skinny, but unfit, teen and young adult. I started running in my 20s and it kept me sane and fit through my 30s, when life was wild with work and raising kids. But I stopped in my mid-40s when a multi-year bout of vertigo knocked the wind out of my sails. And the weight that I’d managed to keep off with running started creeping on, making it harder to get back to running once the vertigo loosened its grip.
So, I’ve been working on that. Me, that is. And today, after years of thinking I’d never be able to trail run again because of the residual vertigo and an ankle damaged from too many sprains, I ran (with walk breaks) a five mile loop on one of my favorite trails. And, it was pure magic. I was the only human out there. I startled three deer. I heard cicadas, birds, my footfall, my labored breathing, the occasional crack of stick under my foot, my heartbeat. I had to stay focused so I wouldn’t misstep, turn an ankle, lose my balance. I had to be fully present in my mind and in my body.
My heartbeat, in every step.
This is a section of the trail that was clear-cut maybe 10 years ago. I remember that just after cutting, it was a depressing swath of sandy, open earth where forest had been. The change in it today is so inspiring; the light through the young trees was beautiful.
A fog rolled in this morning and blurred the line between the lake and the sky in such a lovely, muted way. There have been boats all day so far, coming in and out of the fog. Some I can only hear the low hum of their motors; others, the tips of their sails peek out from the fog, like this one. Some seem to emerge fully from the fog only to be enveloped again.
I ventured down to the beach this morning to try to photograph the fog with my new pinhole camera. Because of the high water levels on the Great Lakes, our beach is slim (and on rough days there is no beach to be had at all). The stairs go down the bluff from the house, and then there is a short path that is carved through the prolific dune grass. The kayaks lie to the left of the path just as it drops to the beach. I paused for a minute there, for no good reason, and that’s when I realized that something was blocking my way… a short, thick, just-barely-darker-than-sand-colored snake, with no discernible markings. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I don’t exactly feel comforted by the fact that this one was just a few feet in front of my feet, and that this one, or one like it, could just emerge from the thick grasses onto the narrow path at any time. Of course I talked to it, asking it gently to move along, and it did in its own sweet time, in no rush at all. It didn’t seem threatened at all and moved under the kayaks and then back into the grasses.
June ended last night in spectacular fashion over Lake Michigan. I don’t recall a month before with so many incredible cloud formations. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten luckier this month, being at the right place at the right time to see just the perfect cloud formation in just the right light. This luck isn’t lost on me.
I’ve also seen more animals this month than I ever remember. More deer, in fields and roadside and in our driveway. More rabbits, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, birds, foxes (three this month!). And more plant life, and more butterflies. More of everything. It’s a healthy ecosystem here, I suppose. I’m lucky to see it.
But the animals are harder to capture in images. The deer don’t wait for me to get my camera ready. The foxes are even less accommodating. I’m not so inclined to wait in the meadow with the ticks and mosquitoes for an opportunity to photograph the wildlife.
The lake and sky? Maybe easy targets, but so satisfying, and different every day.
“Did you get any action shots?”–my husband, after I came in from photographing the snail.
I could have watched this snail for hours. Well, maybe not hours… crouching on a wet deck isn’t the most comfortable. But, they’re so fun to watch move! And I couldn’t wait to see what this snail would do when it got to the space between the deck boards. He (she?) made it just fine.
It’s just too amazing here. I think in the city we forget to look at the sky. In the country, the sky demands review. Where I am on a bluff above Lake Michigan, it more than demands… it slaps you upside the head.
It must be the time of year, but the cloud formations right now are just amazing. Storms have been rolling though this week. Some stay out over the lake where you can just hear their low, rolling grumbles and catch a flicker of lightning out of the corner of your eye. Others come ashore, steamrolling, blowing deck chairs around like the weather gods have it out for deck chairs or something.
Two days ago the clouds got all puffy and twisty and rolling-hills-looking out over the water. Rain fell out of holes in the clouds out over the lake. One looked as if a funnel cloud was going to form, but fortunately never did.
And yesterday this front came through. I love when the front of the storm looks like a tendril reaching across the sky, a pointed finger. This, too, dropped a little rain but only for a minute. The wind that came with it pressed the dunegrass nearly flat and whipped the lake into a frenzy, but again these effects were only a few minutes and the calm behind the front belied its intensity.
And then this morning, clouds stretched like rays across the western sky over the lake, lit up from the east by the sunrise.
Or, more accurate but less nice sounding, crepuscular rays, which I got to see after the sun set this evening and damn, they were fantastic. And yes, I had to look up the technical name for this phenomena (I hope I’m right… I think I am). I have seen it a few times but never quite as bold as it showed up tonight.
In fact, there were even anti-crepuscular rays going on, which converged right above my neighbor’s house. I’m not a natural phenomenon blogger here, so go look up crepuscular (and anti-crepuscular) rays yourself. But it’s rays. From the sun. And they’re totally awesome.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
long shadows on the dune, Fuji Acros and Holga
driftwood and dunegrass in valley, Fuji Acros and Holga