Unceremoniously, the Great Lakes are in retreat. Some normalcy in what feels like a very un-normal world. I’m celebrating, but quietly, lest the climate gods and goddesses think I’m taunting them. In other good news here on the Lake Michigan shoreline:
there’s a ton of milkweed growing
I haven’t had to pluck a tick off myself yet this year
the family of eagles living nearby are thriving
my neighbor’s construction is done
either there are more birds than usual, or I’m just noticing them more (some are a bit much, like the crow that woke me up tapping and cawing from my roof early one morning this week–but most are just chatty)
I’m forcing myself out of a creative rut
there are fresh sweet cherries to be had today
I’m actually taking a week off of work (which feels indulgent but also necessary)
I sent a few rolls of film to the lab last month, which felt good because it meant I used my favorite cameras and I actually had some time and energy to get out and photograph. Is it just me, or is everyone exhausted? I’m so tired lately I feel like the world is starting to pass me by. I’m not even sure I feel bad about this. Anyway.
I used a roll of Cinestill 800T in my Mamiya C220 in May, I think, or maybe it was late April even, on a hike in the woods behind the cottage, an experiment with my friend Jane while she simultaneously shot a roll on the other side of the state. It was a gray evening and we had a project in mind, but I ended up thinking I’d completely ruined the roll and expected only a few images to come from it. This camera is finicky; if I don’t forward the film slowly and carefully, it doesn’t catch where it should and I over-advance, which means I get fewer (sometimes MANY fewer) than the 12 frames per roll that it should deliver. I could maybe get someone to repair this, but there’s something I love about the quirks and constraints of a finicky camera. I mean, I’ve got my quirks, too, and I don’t want anybody fixing them.
I happen to love the starkness of these two images and the light leaks. Some of the other images from this roll were over-exposed or just boring. But I love these two.
I’m still still here. Hoping you are, too, without having been kicked around too much by what we’ve collectively gone through, now over a year of COVID, the end of a U.S. administration that tried our humanity, the beginning of a new one that maybe helps you breathe easier, too.
I realize what I just wrote there will connect with some who read this and will cause others to roll their eyes, stop reading, unfollow this blog. But there, I’ve said it. If you don’t know me personally or haven’t guessed from previous posts, I am a liberal, pro-human, science-believing, hate-hating human. I want everyone to feel safe, secure, loved, cared for. The last four years under the former president were traumatizing, and the final year of that administration felt like the icing on a great big shitcake.
I’m breathing again. I don’t flinch when I see a news update pop up on my phone (at least not as often–there is still dire news, but our current president’s reaction to it is more appropriate, without insults or hate-tweets or disinformation). And now, because people I love are getting vaccinated, I can see them, hug them, look at their whole faces and expressions. But this country is profoundly divided. I don’t know if it’s more divided than ever; it’s always been divided. It feels deeper to me. There is no meeting in the middle with people who believe something global and devastating is a hoax, or that helping their neighbors takes something away from them, or that trump’s version of a “great” America denies Americans whose ancestors built this country.
I don’t have answers, but I have some hope. I wish I’d have written here about how I was feeling a year ago when the virus began to unfold. How I felt when a knee on a neck made people take to the streets and demand the human rights they should already be afforded. How I worried about family and friends getting sick. How I felt when a friend suffered an unimaginable loss. How navigating grocery shopping turned into a political landmine. Staying quiet has been my protective blanket to avoid the uncomfortable. Staying home got comfortable. It will take me a while to feel safe outside of the cocoon.
I’ve missed my daughter and haven’t seen her in a year and a half, but she is well and safe. And, we will see her and her partner this summer. Our son, his partner, and another friend just came and stayed with us for two days. All grown young adults in their early 20s, they were happy to be parented a bit while recovering from their vaccines. We cooked for them, and it connected me to the memory of my mother doing the same. When I was in my early 20s and came to the cottage with my boyfriend, often bringing other friends, my mom was ebullient, cooking for us, starting spontaneous dance parties, organizing late night skinny dips, howling at the moon, staying up late into the night with us, wanting to know everything about our lives in the city. This part of parenting is delicious. Like when you have little kids and they fall asleep wrapped around you and you’re sweating and need to go to work or do dishes but it’s so painfully delicious that you’re not about to disturb them and so you stay, sweating, maybe with an arm or leg cramping beneath their weight, not doing what needs doing but wrapped in the biggest, yummiest love. It feels like that. Different, but just as delicious.
I’ve been busy, though. I am grateful to have a job that has kept me busy doing something I love and working with people I respect and admire, and for a company that I know values me. Even so, I’ve given a lot over the past year and haven’t allowed myself balance. I promised myself this year I’d take my PTO and I may need reminders to do that, but I’m committed.
My cameras need some love, too. I still have a shoebox of film, although I’m down to the oldest, most expired, and weirdest rolls at this point. I shot a few rolls over the last two months but am in no rush to get them developed. I’m not bored with my usual subjects, but I’m eager for some new scenery, a new town or woods, a new photographic find. I’m painting, and trying my hand at sketching. It feels good to create. It has always felt good to create.
Anyway. I am feeling some hope in what feels like an in-between time of still not-quite-right, but starting to get a little better. Spring brings growth and that is a physical manifestation of hope, at least for me. I don’t want to go back to what was our normal, because I don’t think it was particularly sustainable. I want to go forward to something else, something with a whole lot of love. I don’t want to use any energy toward anything else.
Hi there. I’m still here–are you still here, too? Are we all okay? As okay as we can be, that is?
I’ve had so many feelings about this shitstorm of a year. And, mostly, I’ve felt not unable to write, but more of a sense of impropriety about writing. The horrors of living through a global pandemic are not even the issue at this point. It’s the maelstrom of what the virus has exposed. A world I don’t know or understand. People I no longer know how to connect with. Maybe I never understood, but I felt like I had more of a grip on things.
Being introspective about it here, on a public (although minimally-followed) blog feels indulgent, and just plain wrong. But, I started this blog and it’s been a way to remember events in my life, so… I don’t know. I’m navigating some things, like aging and menopause and working and creativity and family. These things continue, regardless. I miss writing my way through life’s complicated bits, selfish as it may be.
I do feel lucky, though. To not have gotten sick so far, that my family has not gotten sick so far, that mostly the people I love and care about are weathering this. I try not to get bogged down in what’s next and focus on this: I’m still here. I’m doing my best to stay here. I want to see this play out. I want to fly to Austin and visit my daughter and her two new kittens. I want to sit and have a beer with my son and talk about his life. I want to be so in love with the world again that I sing, alone in my car, loud enough and for long enough to make my voice hoarse. I want to see mountains and rocks jutting up from the ocean floor in places I’ve never been to. I want to skinny dip and lay in warm sand and get muddy in the woods. I want to have weird conversations with strangers.
So goodbye, 2020. You were awful, to say the least. I’ll admit you had a handful of bright spots, and I didn’t lose my ability to laugh or be caustic. You taught me a couple of lessons, too, about how much I really don’t (and conversely, do) need and how much better I want to be about nurturing relationships–including the relationship with myself.
I didn’t take very many photos this year, but here are my very favorites of the maybe 10 rolls of film that I shot. I really only shot with my two Minolta cameras this year and the two medium format Mamiya’s that were gifted to me by a friend’s dad, although my favorites here are from my go-to, the Minolta SRT-102. Next year I’ll have to put the other cameras in my stash to work. Maybe a project of one camera per month might get me moving in the right direction again..
I went to San Jose for work in November and then drove north from there with my friend (and coworker) Rachel where we got spoiled rotten by her super interesting aunt and uncle and we did some redwood therapy in Hendy Woods State Park in Mendocino County. I shot this roll of black and white film and then it sat kind of hidden behind a few things on my office desk and I although I didn’t totally forget about it, by the time I sent it to The Darkroom with two other rolls of film a week or so ago, I’d actually completely forgotten what was on it. And because I don’t have the actual film back from the lab yet (I have the scans) and I’m completely useless with note-taking on my photography, I honestly cannot remember what film this is. Maybe I’ll update this post next week when the film comes through the mail, but knowing me, I’m not going to remember.
All I know is these shots are super contrasty and I’m really digging them. Mostly I remember the smell of the forest as we were walking through, but because those redwoods are so massive, I think even on a very sunny day it’s just always dark in a redwood-heavy forest. I loved the occasional spotlights of sun that burst through, though, and I was trying to capture that where I could.
I have everything I need to develop my own film except the chemicals. I’m procrastinating because although I do have a scanner, it’s a royal pain in the ass to use and I haven’t gotten one decent scan out of it yet. I’m not blaming the scanner–it’s probably my fault but I’m running out of patience trying to figure the damn thing out. But I do think I’m closer to pulling the plug on buying chemicals, and I either need to have a local lab scan my film or I need someone to show me how to use my scanner. With a tighter budget coming up, I should save money where I can and develop my own film. Right?
Anyway, here are some shots from Hendy Woods, all light and dark and contrasty-yummy, from a gorgeous day last November.
Both literally and figuratively. I’m paddling hard here.
Lake Michigan is high. I mean, all the Great Lakes are high. Polar ice caps are melting, oceans are rising, we’re toasting up this blue ball we live on here and the news isn’t good. But I’m not tackling all that. I’m just one person in one little cottage atop a bluff on Lake Michigan, and that lake is getting closer.
That’s the literal bit.
The figurative bit is that it’s been a rough summer. It was different, sharing close quarters with my dad. I think we did ok but there were bumps for sure. And, I lost my sweet old dog in early September. It was for the best, but I’m still bruised and missing her. Things are going on with my kids and my husband, too, but those aren’t my stories to tell. It’s interesting, parenting grown people. The things I worried about when they were little make me laugh a bit now. If I’d known the challenges of parenting adults I might have softened up a bit back then.
Hindsight is 20/20 though, right? Or so they say.
Anyway, I sent seven rolls of a variety of films off to the lab a bit more than a week ago. Here are images from one of those rolls, Ilford FP4+ shot on my Mamiya C220.
Silver Lake State Park is just a few miles from me. Most people think of the park as a place to go dune buggy riding, and that’s probably what it’s most known for. But I like it for the landscape. And I like it best off season when I can hike all of it, not just the areas relegated for foot traffic. Plus, I feel like I’m the only one out there off-season–just me and 3,000 acres of dunes and woods. The dune buggy season ends at the end of this month, so I’m really looking forward to visiting again soon.
I love shooting here. I can shoot the same piece of driftwood a hundred times or year after year–I swear it’s different every time. The sands shift, the wind covers one piece and unearths another. These skeletons of old trees are gorgeous sculptural elements on this vast, shifting landscape. I can never get enough and so I will keep going back.
The month sort of slipped by me. Late July blooms on five rolls of film here, and an August that seems to be moving the way August’s do, hot and too fast and suddenly you’re looking down the barrel of September and wondering where the time went.
I had plans and ideas and projects. Most of which I only half carried out. I love September and October, don’t get me wrong. And it’s not like I’m starting school (oops, wait, I am starting one class but I’m not in school) or have kids in school anymore–nothing really changes in that respect. But yesterday I went back to the garden that I love, the garden I shot some of these blooms in (the black and white images), and it’s in its last hurrah. That’s the part I’m having trouble with. So many beautiful blooms in so many shapes and colors, and they’re nearly done. I know, there are fall colors to look forward to until next summer. But, I could stand a few more months of blooming things.
I’ve fallen into a bit of malaise, too. More of a longing, or a need for a change. A road trip or a weekend away, a surprise, just something outside of my norm. I know it’ll pass, but it’s where I am.
Anyway. I have a shoebox full of film that I decided I should make a dent in this summer, so from that shoebox I shot three black and white rolls (one TMax 100, one TMax 400, both 35mm, and a 120mm Fomapan. I also shot a roll of 2018 formula 35mm Lomography Lomochrome Purple and a 2006-expired roll of Kodak Ektachrome. I used my Minolta X700 and Minolta SRT-102, and the 120 film went through the Mamiya C220. I used a cheap long lens on the Minoltas and some cheap macro filters to get really close on some of these, and I love how ethereal and dreamy they came out.
Really, if I’m being honest, I’m tired this summer. I feel the weight of some heavy responsibilities and even though my dog is still with me (snoring, heavily, on the couch as I write this) I am already mourning her. Her personality is gone; she flinches at shadows and at my hand as I reach to pet her. She nips me when I help her onto the couch, up the steps to the deck, or up from the floor if she gets stuck. There’s an evening routine of panting and pacing, around and around the dining room table, only stopping to stare at me until she decides to go around again. Today I think the last of her hearing went. Still, she eats, goes out (mostly) to go to the bathroom, still likes treats from the neighbors, still gets around (not very far). So it’s still not time yet. I feel like we’re in a holding pattern. I’m not great at the unknowns, but I’m working on working my way through this.
I don’t think about black and white film when color is raging all around, but geez, I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve had it all wrong! I was really excited to get the three black and white film rolls developed, and they didn’t disappoint. They didn’t disappoint me, that is. I can’t speak for anyone else here.
You can see a few more from these rolls here. And, I’ve managed to further dent my film shoebox and have three rolls of film ready to develop so far this month. Not a serious dent, but I’ve still got some summer left, I suppose.
I am not quite sure what it says about me that I’d rather lay in bed tonight with the windows and doors open and listen to my dog snore loudly and the intermittent call of an owl in the woods behind the cottage and the constant chirping crickets, than go over to the neighbor’s bonfire. I love my neighbors. I can be social and I love being social. But it’s Friday night, it’s the beginning of August, I don’t know how much longer this dog will be around and oh, the owl and the crickets sounds are intoxicating.
Today I got the scans from five rolls of film; three black and white, one Lomography Lomochrome Purple, and one Kodak Ektachrome that expired in 2006. I don’t think I’ve been so happy with images since the photos I took in Iceland. Primarily July blooms, some macro, with a cheap macro lens I bought decades ago as well as even cheaper macro filters. I make no apology for my use of cheap tools–I love the outcome.
I’ll upload them all to flickr over the next few days and write more, but here’s a moonflower for now.
I’m pretty sure my husband does not read this blog, because a) I don’t know him to be the blog-reading type and b) I don’t write about bikes or cycling, which is pretty much the thing that he loves best (and I have no issues with this–we each have our “things”). And I don’t talk about him here because he’s a private guy and he’d think it’s cheesy and all that. Maybe I’ve written about him once or twice in the context of us being married for a really long time and that we might know a little something about being married a long time. Or maybe that he’s good at a lot of things. And smart. But that might be it.
But things are changing in our lives, and some of those changes have been challenging but some have also been pretty enlightening and overall good in the scheme of life-things. We just spent a week together, which might sound weird because we are married, but we’ve been mostly living apart since late May, so the week together, alone, was a little different but so very regenerating. Marriages are hard, maybe particularly so with independent types (and maybe by independent I actually mean stubborn, but we’ll leave it at independent for now). When he left today it hit me that I don’t show him or tell him that I appreciate him enough. I’m going to work on that. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s been a rock, particularly in the last year and a half. I’m not sure I deserve any of it.
I mentioned it a few posts back but in late June I shot a roll of Portra 400 on a foggy morning, driving alone through the back roads around the cottage. The land looked really mystical and I hoped the shots would be even more foggy looking, but overall I really liked most of them.
Also, a few days ago I enrolled in a creative writing class for this fall. My minor in college was fiction writing and I’ve dabbled before and since, have always written poetry and essays and bits of this and that. It’ll be interesting to do it again in a class and get feedback and critique again. I miss that exchange. I’m excited and ready for it.
Tonight I shot two rolls of black and white film in the garden at Cherry Point Market, which smelled amazing and was teeming with buzzing bees and zipping hummingbirds. Black and white partly on a whim, but also because I’m committed to putting a dent in the shoebox full of film I have going on (don’t make me count. It’s a lot.) So tonight I shot a roll of TMax 100 and used a macro lens on my Minolta X-700 with a cheapy close-up filter on top of that for most shots. I also shot a roll of Fomapan 100, a film I haven’t tried yet, on the Mamiya C220, mostly getting really close to herbs and flowers and hoping upon hope I framed things the way I wanted but who knows? Close ups with that camera remain mind-boggling, but I keep trying.
Anyway, I kind of can’t believe it’s already late July. Storms came through the last few days and Lake Michigan just mowed down more of the bluff in front of our cottage. We (and by “we” I mean mostly the rock I mentioned earlier in this post) had to right and reset the beach stairs. The former post that marked the high water of the 1980s washed away, so we don’t have much bluff to work with here. The chicory and the queen anne’s lace are beginning their roadside takeover. The wild rose bush is at its peak. It’s high summer.
(You can see a few more shots from this roll here.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.