of poppies and solitude

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I like to take pictures in the herb and flower garden at a local farm market. There’s a lavender labyrinth there that brings the masses right around now, when the lavender blooms and casts its purple hue across the garden grounds. Smack in the middle of the labyrinth is a raised garden bed, and it’s here that I like to go in the golden hour before sunset and commune with the bees as they dance around the blooms. I like this spot best in June, before the summer crowds descend on this place, right when the poppies open and before things begin to wilt and brown from the summer heat.

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I’m in love with the poppies, but like everything that grows here they don’t stick around long. By July they are replaced by other blooms, and there can be hundreds of people in this garden milling about, taking selfies. I know this is good for the business owner, but I like this place quiet and peaceful, when I can be alone with my thoughts and hear things growing and buzzing all around me–that’s when it’s really magical.

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A few weeks ago I went into the heart of this garden one evening with my Bronica loaded with a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 ISO film. A young woman who works at the farm was just wrapping up her work there and we chatted a bit before she left me alone with the bees. I’ve only used Velvia a few times but I think the colors and that evening’s light and my Bronica just kind of all worked together to make some real beauty. Who can look at the greens and reds and purples that happen in nature and not be quieted, at least for a moment?

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You can see the rest of this roll here, or an older post I wrote with digital photos from this place here.

 

dreamy

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goatsbeard, Bronica SQ-A and Fuji Acros 100 + close up filter

We wandered the music festival grounds last night. I feel honored to be able to do that, through knowing some lovely and talented people that make it possible for us to experience the festival without having to be actual festival-goers. It’s in a pine forest, lit up with light and art and hope and pure escapism. It’s a surreal landscape.

I took my camera to the meadow just under two weeks ago to photograph this goatsbeard, and the next day as I walked by it the meadow was being mowed. All the goatsbeard, the milkweed, the sweet pea and clover and everything else that was erupting or about to be erupting was gone. There’s more right behind it, but it still made me sad. I don’t like the tearing down of anything, I guess.

middle-of-the-night inspiration

Freighters sing tonight;
their serene calls amplified
in the fog-drenched air

Last week the weather on Lake Michigan was a little too spectacular for early June. Summery, hot, beach weather mostly, with little wind and a bug population that hasn’t gotten out of control (yet).

My friend and co-worker came to the lake to stay and work for the week, and we set up shop at the dining room table and made the most of the lovely view, working when we needed to and breaking when the outdoors beckoned. I’m used to being alone here, but it was nice to have a reprieve from the quiet, especially after work. We had plans to have dinner out one night, maybe a lunch, too, but it was just too nice to bother to leave the beach. So we didn’t.

One evening, the fog rolled in and stuck throughout the night. I left windows and doors open because it was warm enough for it, and was awakened at 4 a.m. to the sound of a freighter’s foghorn, steady and gutteral, in the otherwise still night. Soon after, another foghorn in a slightly higher tone; a duet of call and response. There was no picture to take, so I wrote a haiku.

These are the things that make my heart swell. The night sounds, the morning dew, the sunset colors, the ever-changing lake.

Today the power went out and I couldn’t work for almost two hours. A minor annoyance; an enforced break to walk the beach. A neighbor’s generator hummed, but otherwise there was quiet aside from the birds and the bees, which seem busier this year than ever.

I’m thinking a lot about what there is happening when I have a camera in hand. Sounds, mainly, or a mood or feeling in the surroundings. Last evening I shot of roll of 120 film in the meadow, mainly of the seeded goat’s-beard puffballs dotting a small section of the meadow near the road (these look like giant dandelions that have gone to seed). The goat’s-beard shared space with other grasses and some rich purple sweet pea. It was another windless night; gray and dull skies, warm and a bit muggy, sweet-smelling and earthy. I could hear an occasional low growl of thunder from a storm out over the lake, but louder than that were the bees–near hummingbird sized bumblebees, working around me, a din of their buzzing. I added to my mosquito bite collection, getting fresh bites on my hands as I worked. One of the resident eagles soared overhead and disappeared.

I took notes so I would remember these things–the things that you wouldn’t know by looking at one of the pictures from this roll. The things I might not otherwise remember when this film is developed in a week or two.

This is what I want to explore. Can I impart the sounds, or a smell, or my heart bursting, or the pinch of a mosquito bite? Can I infuse these other-sense things into an image?

spring blossoms/summer fruit

A few weeks ago, after we moved our daughter to Texas but before she stayed there for good (in other words, she came back to town for a bit) we came to the cottage just in time to see the blossoms on the fruit trees.

The west side of Michigan grows cherries, peaches and apples (in that seasonal order, too). Also pears, but the first three are the big ones. Aside from tree fruit, the area is also big on asparagus, strawberries and blueberries.

But back to the blossoms. They’re so pretty, and I wish I could tell you I knew from the blossoms which fruit trees I am looking at, but alas, I don’t–unless I remember what was growing in the orchard in the year past. I do know that I like to (very lightly) trespass on the edges of my neighbor’s orchards long enough to get some photos of these trees at blossom time and then again when the fruit is in season. I really hope they don’t mind.

Actually I’m pretty sure these first three photos are of apple trees.

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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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blossoms, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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Bella/blossoms double exposure, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

Aside from enjoying the blossoms, we plucked some spruce tips and tried to make a spruce tip syrup. I was excited after reading about spruce tip syrup last year, too late to pluck the spring tips, but my execution may not have been right. I might try again before all the spruce and pine tips have gone and turned into needles. You’ve got to get them when they’re tender and green.

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spruce, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tip collection, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200
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spruce tips, Minolta SRT-102, Kodak ColorPlus 200

am I seeing things, or is that just an inversion?

There’s this thing that happens on Lake Michigan, and the other Great Lakes, and probably other large bodies of water, too. When conditions are just right–and here, that’s when the air starts to warm up but the lake water is still cold, or late spring–there is a confluence of temperature and bending light rays that lets you see things you aren’t ordinarily able to see, namely buildings and light that are far beyond the reach of normal vision and the curve of the earth. It’s called a temperature inversion, and like rainbows and fog-bows and northern lights and water spouts and other magical things, when you get to see one you feel a little changed.

I won’t get science-y about it because I don’t want to write about things I don’t understand all that well, but the first time I got to see this phenomena was a Memorial Day weekend about five or six years ago. There was a small group of us on a neighbor’s deck, and I kept wondering if I was seeing some abnormally tall freighter out on the horizon. Only it wasn’t moving, and soon it was joined by other abnormally tall freighters that weren’t moving, and then as the sky darkened there were white and red lights around these structures, some blinking and some steady, and we realized we were seeing the buildings from the city across the lake… which was 80 miles across the lake. One of my neighbors fortunately knew that we were seeing was a temperature inversion so we weren’t in the dark about it for very long.

Anyway, last evening I just had a feeling it might happen. There is a chunk of land south of our cottage that juts out into the lake, and a few hours before sunset it looked weird. Weird as in higher than it normally is, and if you watched this chunk of land as you walked down the bluff to the water line, it changed. It looked like a mirage was happening. I figured the conditions might just be right for an inversion.

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I don’t have a high-end lens for capturing things far away, so these will have to do. The first image is from the top of the bluff, and the second is how things looked just walking down the stairs to lower on the bluff. It went from looking like a cliff to looking like a big alligator jutting out into the lake. On a normal day, this bit of land looks more like the top half of the second image (the alligator’s top jaw and up). A little elevation, yes, but no cliffs.

I wish I had pictures of last night’s inversion, but I don’t think I could have done it justice. So, maybe just imagine it: a crisp, dark night full of stars; a chorus of Spring Peepers; a fairly quiet Lake Michigan; a quarter moon leaving a dazzle on the lake; bright lights, white and red, some blinking rhythmically (think traffic lights), in city clusters, for miles and miles across the horizon.

 

half-here

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I don’t write much about work here, but I have a pretty amazing job at a company that doesn’t scrimp on showing its employees that they are valued. More than that, though, it’s the people I work with. They make it all even better.

I spent a week in January at my company’s office in the San Francisco Bay, and while it was busy and I didn’t get to spend any time outside (my favorite thing) at least it was nice to have not only a change of scenery, but to be able to wear cute shoes and not ruin them because of snow and salt. I’m luckier still that my dear friend will be joining our team in just one week, and I will be flying again to California to help get her started.

I also think that it’s a luxury to have a job like this. I hear too many stories about people hating their job, their workplace, or their supervisors and tolerating those things, sometimes for decades, because they have to. I’ve either been lucky or I’ve played my cards right, but my career has been full of friends, mentors, and people I respect. I wish everyone had that.

Anyway, maybe because I was there three times last year, I’m starting to have dreams about California. It’s starting to feel more like home.

And I’m getting itchy for another non-work trip. I poked around a bit on Airbnb last night, dreaming of different skies. When I do that I feel like I’m half-here, half-somewhere else… one foot in my normal world. It’s a strange feeling, but not an unpleasant one.

But I also dream in pictures. And most of my pictures, or at least the ones I feel like I’m meant to be making, are here in Michigan and of the lake, the plants, the landscape I feel connected to.

These photos are from my first roll of film of 2018. It was snowing like mad and I left the cottage to wander into the meadow and woods with the Bronica SQ-A and a roll of Ilford FP4+. There are some odd lines on a few of these images and I’m not sure what might have caused them, but they are on the film and not just on the scans. I was more worried about correct exposure with all the white, but I either lucked out a bit or FP4+ is forgiving. Either way, I like my snowy shots and feel a little more comfortable shooting in the snow now, in terms of metering (it’s still challenging in terms of managing gear, snow on lenses, cold, and wetness!).

 

I ran today

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.

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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.

ghost sail in fog

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sailboat and fog

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.