I’m smitten with this piece of architecture, this battered seawall. I’ve photographed it in all seasons. I love its jagged shapes and protruding planks, the way the incoming rush of a wave moves around or through it.
A few years ago it was in several feet of water. It didn’t have a chance then. The lake was gaining on its borders and there’s no stopping that. Nature says when she’ll give a reprieve, and she wasn’t in the mood to bargain.
As Lake Michigan continues to lower and the shoreline does its normal shifting and scalloping, this seawall is battered less and less. Someday soon, I hope, it’ll be mostly covered by sand, but I’ll keep photographing it until then.
I’m also still attempting to use up a shoebox full of film, much of it expired and of dubious quality. This was a lone roll of Lomography color 100, and I couldn’t tell you when I bought it. Maybe for that Iceland trip in 2018? It’s been carried around, left in hot places, and generally not treated well. The colors on this roll look a little blown out, but that’s okay. I like the pale hues here.
In August, my cousins came from Pittsburgh to spend two weeks at the cottage nextdoor. It was an upended month already, as I had my dad at the cottage with me and also his cat, who was living out her last moments (she is now in the valley behind the cottage with the other beloved pets that went before her). But I managed to take a few days off while my cousins were here and we had plenty of communing, stories, wine, tequila, and excellent dinners together.
In any case, they bestowed upon me a load of darkroom equipment, for which I’m extremely grateful. Trays, a clock (I love those darkroom clocks), an enlarger, books, more. I haven’t unpacked it all, and I’m still not sure if I’ll build an actual darkroom in the basement or just cover light sources and take over the bathroom every now and then. Now, all I really need is chemicals, time, patience, and the guts to do this.
I’ve spent time in a school darkroom, but I still find the process daunting. Exhilarating, but daunting. It’s easy to make mistakes, and then a roll you may have lovingly shot, or that you have big plans for, just fizzles. That thing that you witnessed that just won’t happen again, that you feel so lucky to have caught on film–you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that your favorite old camera malfunctioned, or that the film wasn’t loaded right or stored correctly, or that you’ll totally just open the lid of the tank in the middle of the developing process (yep, I’ve done this) or something equally foolish, and you’ll have nothing to show for it.
I’m being dramatic, though. It’s just film. It’s just pictures. It’s all a learning process. I should chill out. I can do that, I think.
The dune grasses on Lake Michigan go to seed in the fall. One variety shoots a tall wispy stalk of delicate seeds several feet above the grasses; another produces these thicker stalks, which are soft and sturdy and remind me a bit of a cat tail (but not the plant called cattail, or bullrush–I mean an actual cat’s tail). The grasses turn from a verdant green in summer to a rather striking golden straw color in the winter.
In the spring, the green shoots of new grasses poke their way up through the golden carpet. This carpet of old and new grasses just layers on top of itself, helping to stabilize the dune. It’s miraculous, I think.
I took this photo last winter on a short hike across the dune near the Little Sable Point Lighthouse with my Minolta SRT-102.
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’ve meant to get back to those last rolls I shot on the west side and I’ve just been so busy. Busy at work, busy being busy, busy avoiding things, busy with things I don’t feel like doing but must do. You know. Or maybe you don’t (lucky you).
I’ve been missing my dog. I know it takes time, but I miss having her near me. I miss hearing her breathe. There is a lot I don’t miss about how her last several years were, but I feel a bit lost without her. There are moments of tears that surprise even me.
Last week was a whirlwind of work meetings in California, then a long weekend on a mountaintop near Ukiah, spent with an old friend plus strangers who now feel like family. I felt mothered for a weekend, and I haven’t felt mothered in a long time. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed this, either. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but to be cared for is such a treat. I want to have this and to provide this. If you come to stay at my house, I want to make you feel this way. It was nourishing, and I am grateful.
I still feel like I’m recovering from the trip. I left a sunny, hot mountaintop to come back to an early winter and six inches of snow. This week in Michigan was gray, dull, cold, a sharp contrast to the sun and brilliant colors of the changing leaves on fields of grapevines blanketing the valleys and hillsides of California. It’s been a rough re-entry. After travel and several beds, and the summer at the cottage and the fall back-and-forth from home and the cottage, I often have to get my bearings when I wake up each morning. I’m not quite sure where I am for a minute or two. And I’m enjoying that, really. There’s a moment of dream state and a realm of possibilities before I know where I am settled.
But I meant to get back to those rolls of film I shot in September, and so here are some photos I took on the I guess not-so-newly released Kodak Ektachrome. Gosh, it’s pretty, the cool, saturated colors of this slide film. I walked through the woods with it loaded in my favorite camera, the Minolta SRT-102, and took my time with it, waiting for colorful sunsets and clouds over the lake.
You can see a few more from the roll here, if you like.
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.
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.