Tide pools, self portraits, and podcasts.

I’ve recently begun making more and more self portraits with a slightly banged up Olympus OM-1.

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I got this particular camera after my beloved Olympus OM-G died (I went thru two bodies in about ten years). I am rough on my gear- it often sits in my purse or hangs off my shoulder and I would be lying if I said I was a delicate person in any way, so the fact that a lot of my photo gear has…ahem…character…is not surprising. After OM-G No. 2 kicked it, I went to my favorite store in all of Montana: The Darkroom. The owner, Michael, is one of the kindest people I know in Missoula. He processed every roll of film I shot in Montana for the last four years, and better yet, he sells used photo equipment, and doesn’t try to cheat you on price at all. He is fair, knowledgeable, and if you’re lucky, you will spot him ripping up the dance floor at the Union with a lucky partner- he is a great dancer. If you’re even luckier, you might get to meet his shy and sweet three-legged cat named Gitzo, after a Japanese tripod brand (if you don’t find this lovely we can’t be friends, sorry). He sold me the Olympus OM-1 I still use to this day.

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The trusty old machine is working hard, documenting picnics and cemeteries and early, 6 am walks around Victoria, before people are out and about. In our small-world, mostly-inside happenings, seeing a river otter last week was The Big Event. He was fat, sleek, and beautiful, with a fat fan of whiskers. We had just eaten some sushi in the nearby cemetery because it was…well, frankly, safer than being near the still-busy beach. Once the sun started to go down and people started dissipating, we went down to the beach and saw a little head emerge from the water, and soon an otter emerged!! WOOO ANIMALS! Can you spot the otter in the photo? I didn’t have a zoom lens and didn’t want to get too close and bother him.

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Besides the otter and tide pools, I mostly photograph Logan. On the beach, in our apartment, on walks, wherever we are, and I remember when he was in Brazil and I was in Montana how much I missed photographing him. It’s good to be stuck together during a global pandemic, as weird as it is to go from a year and a half of long distance almost straight to quarantining together with only a few months in between of normalcy. I’m so grateful to have a partner in crime, somebody to eat the things I bake and help do dishes and bemoan that somehow, there is an incredible amount of laundry built up in one short week, and that yes, we do need to go grocery shopping, as complicated as it feels right now.

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What are the things that are keeping you sane, hopeful, or grounded right now? What are you listening to? What recipes are working out for you? For me, this recipe for a Dutch baby (basically a fancy, eggy pancake in a cast iron pan) has been so satisfying to make. It’s simple, takes almost no time, and is absolutely delicious. The Guacamole song by Kevin Johansen, a (rather handsome) Argentinian musician, is full of good memories from college and my dear friend Hillary showing it to me, and after that the random algorithm often leads me to some decent Argentinian music. We recently watched Julie and Julia on Netflix, and ever since I’ve been imitating Streep’s “Oh, Paul!” whenever Logan comes into the kitchen while I’m making something. (I also bought The Art of French Cooking months ago and mean to make a chocolate Bavarian cream soon.) I come back to Karina Longworth’s “You Must Remember This” podcast over and over, and if I need to cry the Carole Lombard episode will always get me. It’s so well written and dense with facts, but Longworth presents all the information she digs up in witty,  subtly light ways that trick you into thinking she’s built some frothy universe when in actuality it’s more of a carefully constructed powerhouse of information about Hollywood, the film industry, gender roles, the economy, fashion, and expectations about sex, bodies, money, and power. (Cheers, Karina, you badass!)

Thanks for sticking around this weird, often abandoned corner of the Internet. I’ve had this blog since I was back in college, and it’s changed a lot with me. It feels good to come back to it right now though. Stay safe and well, as always.

Maybe I am kind of sad.

What do I write about right now? How there’s a knot in my stomach and the trees outside the apartment are finally decked out in leaves and there is one spectacularly feisty robin with a nest nearby that viciously harasses the squirrel that my landlord feeds?

I saw a Northern flicker yesterday on my way to work. It hid behind a boulder when it saw me, but I was still able to see the flash of rust red and the distinctive black speckles on it’s chest. I’m still working, in an old basement with hexagonal tile floors and a bathroom straight out of the apocalypse, with a ceiling that leaks questionable, smelly liquid. We’re working a little too close together to be considered truly safe, but we’re all in it, and we’ve been doing this for long enough that the motto has quietly become, more or less, a version of fuck it, we’re in too deep now. We have all joined in an unofficial agreement to not do anything remotely sketchy outside of work. I’m going to a park tomorrow with a friend to talk from a distance and it is the closest thing to a transgression I can imagine.

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We’re all writing deep things and have profound thoughts right now and I wonder how much of our own content is read by others or even considered. Are we collectively burrowing deeper into ourselves more than ever right now? Things feel creepily close to normal for me, because I still get up every day, make coffee, and trek to work, past the shuttered businesses I miss patronizing, especially the really lovely couple who run the Sushi Express in the arcade near my workplace. I force myself to dress decently for work, even though I’m in an ancient basement working in a shipping department that stays remarkably freezing.

On Friday morning I got up at 6 am because I knew my soul needed it. That was the point of moving here, right? For the mornings, early and isolated, by the ocean to soak in the salty air and the ocean breeze and look at the enormous cargo ships far off shore in front of the Olympic mountain range. This Friday, bobbing in the tide, was the headless and tailless corpse of a harbor seal, with multiple holes from being eaten. I couldn’t tell how it died. The tailbone jutted out from one end of it. Seagulls lined the rocks nearby waiting for the body to beach itself. I hadn’t ever been this close to a live seal. It didn’t feel disrespectful or sacrilegious to get close to the body, to photograph it, to notice what was there and what wasn’t, even though humans are really weird about death and dead things and I’m sure people will feel negative things about my photographing it and sharing a photo here. It was a dead body of an animal that hopefully had a long and vital life, and it was being recycled every step of the way, as we were all meant to be, and I just happened upon it. I felt like a child finding a dead bird in the yard, with all the why and how questions, wondering if it felt pain as it died, how lonely it would be to die in the ocean (though isn’t death ultimately a solo experience no matter where it occurs?).

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I walked to another enclosed beach area, warning a man with a dog about the seal, imagining our long-dead dog Cooper getting ahead of me and finding it before I could stop him, and how he’d found deer legs and other animal parts at my parent’s home all the time, and got so, so sick. Then I picked up sea glass, hundreds of tiny pieces, finding blue and green and brown pieces, some old and extremely pitted, others still clear and young, relative babies. A precious, rare, purple piece presented itself to me after my legs and back started to ache from crouching over the sand and it felt like a reward. I had found purple glass only once before, at an old hot spring resort in Montana.

I realized my thoughts were running together on the beach, turning into a fast-moving creek, too fast to see the shapes of the rocks and snags under its surface, and I was so glad that I’d left my own head. We’re all a bit in our heads right now, obviously, and it’s been hard to take leave from my hyper anxious brain. Books have been a good escape but nothing beats doing things I have done for years: collect sea glass, go on walks, feel the needed perspective of smallness: my existence is insignificant, in the grand scheme of most things, and this brings me some comfort. It doesn’t feel as shitty to go to a job that makes me feel like crap, and to feel worried and sad all the time, because when I go look at the ocean, I realize that most of these fears I have, largely linked to late capitalism and exacerbated by a pandemic, are not noticed by the tides and the moon hanging in the sky and the great blue heron wading for breakfast.

Until next time. I hope you are all safe and loved and have access to what you need right now.

Goodbye, Montana (Again)

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I’ve left and come back countless times. It was only two suitcases when I moved to Switzerland, brand new Samsonite luggage from a Macy’s sale that made me feel adult, even at 18 with baby fat still on my face. The whole back of a large Chevy truck was reserved for British Columbia, with a chartreuse velvet chair, mattress, bed frame, an old trunk from the 1970s, and way too many books. Once again, I left Montana for British Columbia, this time sharing the back of a smaller truck with Logan, divvying up space for all the things we felt we needed.

Every time I leave Montana, I don’t look back- at first. This time, moving in the winter, I felt relieved to leave the treacherous roads, isolation of the cold, and the far away promise of green for a proverbial and actual land of plenty, where the sea gave us warm weather, flowers in January, and other bountiful benefits. Getting on the plane for Victoria, I thought “Montana will always be there”. Thus far, this has been true. I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

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Already though, I miss working at my brewery. I miss the bustle, the Friday night line to the door, seeing regulars like Larry and making sure they had a beer ahead of the line. I miss tasting the new beers, seeing how a new keg pours, gathering old glasses and getting them into the dishwasher, giving my coworkers-turned-friends shit and ending the night tired in a way that made me sure I would sleep well. My arms grew strong working there, and I loved being on my feet. I took pride in keeping that brewery clean, in talking about the beer we poured, asking Jeremy, the resident beer savant, questions like this:

Q: What is the difference between a porter and a stout?

A: Not a whole lot. (They’re both medium to heavy bodied dark beers with roasted malts and a lot of potential flavor profiles, i.e. you can have coffee stouts and coffee porters, chocolate porters, chocolate stouts, etc., although there are particular beers to each style that are special, i.e. an oatmeal stout which is historically considered a “vital stout” that was supposed to buck people up when they were sick.)

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Anyway….you can tell I loved the brewery. I miss Leann, Becca, and Cody a lot, even when Cody yelled “GOOD LUCK” across the bar when you’d say you were running to the washroom. The money was good, the pace was quick, and even when people were drunk or rude and yelling at you, you’ve got coworkers who are there for you. There’s a collective sense of purpose: Get. People. Beer. Nice beer, mind you.

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My last month in Montana was full of diner visits, specifically to The No Sweat. The corner booth, where wise old plants that have been growing there for years almost lean over you, was the best. Having way too much coffee and subsequently talking a mile a minute over amazing hashbrowns with people you love while watching snow slowly fall over your beautiful little mining hometown: That’s a good morning. Thrifting, packing, seeing Australian friends you haven’t in a while, absorbing the moments because you know you’ll miss all these people terribly, filled all of my time when I wasn’t working.

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The biggest part of the last month in Montana, though: picking Logan up, finally. He’d been gone so long I showed up at the Bozeman airport sure it was a fluke that he was actually going to land, and when he did it was surreal. I didn’t know what to do with myself, seeing him be surprised by the cold, putting his luggage in the old Subaru, back in the land where we met and had our first home and made so many memories, a place we’d be leaving in a few short weeks, but it was all layered over with adrenaline and relief. We hiked Mount Helena the next day, had a beer at Blackfoot River Brewing Co., and enjoyed the weirdly warm November.

When it was finally time to drive to the airport, I cried the most about leaving my cat behind. Coe is my girl. She napped with me and told me ALL about all the things she did during the day (ate plants! puked up said plants in the living room! saw birds out the window! slept!) and I miss her blue eyes and picking her up. When we had to leave I cried all day holding her and she got mad about all the attention and hid. We knew it would be hard to find an apartment we could afford that would allow cats so my mom is keeping her and is being regularly annoyed by the nighttime screaming (I imagine Coe is having existential issues regarding being an indoor cat) and the plant destruction (also existential in nature, I assume).

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Now, we’re here. In Victoria, trying to make it all happen. Wish us luck, because our hearts tend to turn back to Montana without being able to control it, and moving is, as I have previously mentioned, The Worst and I’m trying to stay in ONE PLACE for more than a year or two.

Thoughts from São Paulo

It’s 2 degrees outside. Fahrenheit.

Montana, it’s only October, would you mind waiting until December to do this?

I am firmly planted inside, wearing thick socks, hoping that my car will start for me to get to work later. In the meantime, I dust my negatives from Brazil in Photoshop and think back on my two trips there this year.

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First, I never imagined that in my life that I would find myself as far South and a place as foreign in my mind as Brazil. It wasn’t until I was seriously dating Logan that the reality that we’d go down there solidified. I’d eventually meet his family and his friends back home, wouldn’t I? I couldn’t imagine what it looked like, smelled like, what Portuguese really sounded like. What sort of animals would I see? Is it really that hot down there?

After spending over two months this year there I can firmly say that I love spending time there. By there, I mean the state of São Paulo, or south-central Brazil. Brazil is a huge country, roughly the size of the lower 48 states in the USA, so making big generalizations is foolish and sloppy. It’d be like bunching people from New Jersey and Wyoming together, which Americans know would be strange and potentially hilarious.

That being said, a few things became apparent to me.

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Most people are friendly and helpful. Not everybody (because they’re HUMAN), but most folks we met seemed genuinely stoked to let me try my sloppy, weird gringa Portuguese. I went shopping by myself in São Paulo for a few hours and all the stylists I met were funny and kind. I was able to ask for what I wanted in my size, ask questions, and reply, and while I know I speak like a child right now, I loved interacting with people. When I met Logan’s friends, a lot of them spoke really good English but those that didn’t were still so kind to me, even though I had a hard time communicating. We went to see a few bands at Al Janiah, and after one of the bands was done, Logan asked them some questions and then introduced me to the women in the band. I never once felt like somebody was annoyed by my questions or my slow pattern of speaking.

While at university in Switzerland that was not my experience: most of the Swiss people I met were too efficient and didn’t want to make the time for me to practice my Italian (I had one man literally say “it will be faster for us to just speak English” at a market in Lugano). It was frustrating going to bookshops, clothing stores, the grocery store, etc. because most people didn’t have the time or patience to let you stumble through. The thing is, in order to learn a language you NEED to stumble. My Portuguese is not great but it’s not bad, either, because I have been able to practice with real people on the ground, make mistakes, even embarrass myself a little (a lot).

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The food scene in São Paulo is unparalleled. It is a city of 20 million people and there are immigrants from every corner of the world. You want to eat Middle Eastern food in a Palestinian restaurant that has a staff made up of immigrants and refugees and later see an all girl punk band? (Al Janiah!) You want to eat incredible Thai food in a tiny joint where the owner speaks more English than Portuguese? (Thai E-San Restaurante) Do you want to eat Michelan-starred oxtail soup, mocoto, tongue, intestines? (Mocoto!) Do you want a meal that will make you need to nap for four hours after? (Feijoada will do the trick, it’s a specialty Wednesday and Saturday at a lot of restaurants.) Are you an expat from the States looking for a good burger and fries? (Meats or Hamburginha!) Are you just STARVING but also lazy and don’t want to walk more than a few blocks? São Paulo is the city for you. We ate dim sum, Lebanese food, comida de Nordeste (northern Brazilian food), a fabulous French dinner, classic kilo meals, hamburgers that were perfectly medium-rare with buns fluffy as clouds, and lots and lots of juices.

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There is more art than you can imagine being made, everywhere, by everybody. São Paulo is a massive city but everywhere we went on the metro, in Ubers, etc. there was street art. Giant murals, small tags (one particularly memorable tag all over the city said “Rice and Beans and Ganja”), epic landscapes, portraits, social criticisms. A stairwell hidden in the Pinheiros neighborhood memorialized Marielle Franco, who was murdered for being an outspoken female politician who loudly protested police violence and was probably shot by police. Live music, while hard to find, is there and flourishing. Jewelers, leather workers, painters, and ceramic artists have their works in so many galleries, shops, and markets.

We went to a few markets and I bought some gorgeous earrings made from imbuia wood by a wonderful artisan, a leather bag handcrafted by a wife-and-husband team, and had to steer away from the dozens of other stalls because I didn’t have that much money. São Paulo is also home to MASP and the Pinacoteca, both of which are world-class museums, one devoted to art from all over the world, the other completely focused on Brazilian art. Brazil is full of artisans to this day who do things in slower ways. Logan’s grandparents have a front door made of rosewood from a long time ago that is carved with beautiful flowers, and textured glass windows that I’ve seen nowhere else. Entire buildings are covered in tiles (tile and cement are big because they help keep surfaces cool in the omnipresent heat) and there are small companies in São Paulo that make tiles for homes in centuries-old ways. Art seemed to be woven into so many things everywhere we went, and the art historian in me felt so happy seeing it all.

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I have so many jumbled and half formed thoughts about my time there, but one thing I feel wary about is writing about the bigger situations and issues that are going on in south-central Brazil. There are similar parallels to the States in that young people can’t get good jobs, wages suck, a lot of people still live at home, there’s police violence, racism, sexism, and very real fears of climate change and the future. However, I don’t speak Portuguese well enough to be able to do these parallels justice and talk to people who live these experiences in the deep ways I want to.  I’m not prepared to paint complex social, political, and ethical issues in broad strokes without more research and talking to people who live those experiences. Even talking about Brazilian food delves into race, history, social structures, and class structures (a lot of what we think of as Brazilian dishes are Afro-Brazilian in nature, for example). With time, research, and patience, I would like to learn so much more about south-central Brazil, because I’ve gotten a crash course in traveling there that I don’t think many people get, thanks to Logan. 

 

A Sabbatical of Sorts

Six months. I didn’t meant to let this blog die, but it did. I built a photography website, had a few shows, started working at a brewery, camped alone and with friends a few times this summer, and spent a lot of time reading and brooding.

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Brenna and I went to PonyFest in Pony, Montana and watched live music and camped out in a local park. It was peak Montana hip summer.

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I camped alone for the first time ever and had a blast making the fire, pitching the tent, and while I didn’t sleep a wink it was liberating to sleep alone and wake up in the pitch dark, pack up camp, and have Yellowstone to myself for a few hours.

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My mom and I kayaked on the Lolo National Forest and had a blast watching herons, camping on Seeley Lake, and roasting potatoes in tin foil in the campfire with butter and onions. (It takes a while but if they sit for a while in the embers the skins will get perfectly crisp and the inside will be buttery and hot.)

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Ella and I escaped from the world at Boulder Hot Springs, a century-old resort with beautiful rooms, and chatted, ate nice cheese, and heard the rain fall through the window at night.

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In spring I hiked alone quite a bit, watching the flowers that are slow to bloom in Montana reveal themselves, week by week. Things are slow to come alive here but when they do you must revel in their presence.

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A few trips to Missoula, which will always be tinged with a bit of painful nostalgia for me. I miss the life Logan and I built here, even if it was for such a short time. It’s hard to go back and go to places that were special to us and know that such a beautiful, exciting chapter of our lives is over (although we have more adventures up our sleeves!)

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My favorite creative wonder has been making semi-regular trips up to Montana from Colorado and we always make time to catch up at The No Sweat, a 1970s no frills breakfast and lunch joint that goes overboard with coffee and charm.

I know nobody really blogs anymore but I am somewhat firmly attached to this old beast. I’ve written as The Photographist since I was an undergraduate and my life has gone in such different directions than the young, naive Swiss-living Montana girl I was back then that abandoning this blog permanently just doesn’t feel right. Does anybody else have nostalgia and loyalty to mediums like this, even though they aren’t so popular anymore?

Strange Women Go Hot Springing

I took the day off work, crossing my fingers that snow wouldn’t ruin the day. Chelsea was insistent, saying that regardless, we’d be going. The night before, we were marveling at just how good Blackfoot Single Malt IPA beer is (while drinking it) and getting excited. The weather looked clear, shockingly, and I was excited.

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We piled into Chelsea’s car and headed West. I told Logan about our plans, and from deep in South America came the reply, “you strange women have a blast”. We really were a rather strange, rag-tag group, the three of us, thrown together through proximity but choosing to also care about one another, in that strange way that fate and chance have.

The drive was spectacular. Passing burned out woods, tall evergreens, beautiful cottonwoods guarding little meandering creeks, and isolated homes and winding roads that went off to unknown places, Chelsea told us about the place. We got there, with only one truck with a camper on it in the parking lot. Success! Hot springs get notoriously overcrowded and we were thrilled to have some decent odds of having a good time.

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Upon reaching the hot spring after a half mile or so of hiking, we encountered four souls who had been sleeping in the camper. One was unfortunately very naked, and another had brought a waterproof speaker and was playing dubstep. Luckily, they shut the speaker off within about five minutes, because I was going to either punt it like a football or ask them to turn it off, whichever would have offered a quicker solution.

(Pro tip: do NOT be the person who brings a fucking speaker to the hot spring, you are a rude jerk if you do so. Enjoy the fucking tranquility of nature goddammit!)  

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Anyway…

It was beautiful. It was tranquil. Our current hot spring partners seemed a bit…not sober, not stoned, but off. A bit meth-y, perhaps, which is actually not unlikely in rural Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, or lots of other places. Luckily, they left fairly quickly, and we had the hot springs to ourselves for a good while before a dozen or so people came in a big group, complete with a tiny dog.

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That time in the hot spring was amazing. We quietly chatted, took pictures, breathed in the steam, and reveled in the marvelousness of the misty, quiet woods. I felt quietly settled, content in a way I hadn’t in some time. After dropping Colette off Chelsea and I went to Kettlehouse and chatted more, sipping a delicious New England style IPA. It was a damn fine day, with damn fine souls. I couldn’t ask for a better one.

Found film: Iceland, May 2015

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Hiking in Iceland was gleefully devoid of warning signs. We stayed on the trail, walking through apocalyptic-feeling sulfur clouds, bathing suits and towels and water packed on our backs. There were one or two signs that let us know to be careful, but a few miles in the trail was devoid of directions.

I like that. I liked the idea that the Icelandic government, the people, whoever, just didn’t bother to post warning signs everywhere, unlike the sign-strewn Yellowstone National Park, which at some points shows children being boiled and burned alive encountering geysers, just in case the wooden boardwalks and the bubbling mud pots weren’t enough of an encouragement to stay on the path. I secretly, morbidly loved the idea that people who were dumb, who didn’t pay attention, could end up in trouble out here, in this barren, strange land with billowing steam clouds, plushy moss, hot ground, snow patches, and rushing creeks coming from sandy, rocky, steep hills. Get your shit together people, just pay attention. 43856350020_1ac2615a49_c43856347250_d43bb8e140_c31802027998_89683ba317_c31802030858_5881a88466_c

We hiked to the hot springs, which were full of loud, naked German men. We immediately decided to keep hiking and wait them out, not wanting spring-mates in the form of slightly intoxicated, boisterous boys who were without a shred of clothing and likely decorum. Nein, danke. As we hiked, it got lonelier, and we encountered fewer and fewer people.

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The land was part Yellowstone, part meadow, part alien. It was bare, with moss, lichen, colorful soil, and lots of pocked, bare volcanic rock. Emily and I were amazed, not even close to tired, even after we’d been hiking for hours. We eventually turned back, and found the river mostly to ourselves, enough that we put down our packs and slipped in. It wasn’t hot; it was warm enough that the day we went it was comfortable, but on a colder day I wouldn’t want to swim! Eventually more and more people packed up and left, and we took off our bathing suits and, like the prudish Americans we were, enjoyed the privacy. I felt like a nymph from a painting in the water, silly and un-bothered by anything.

It really was a joy to re-discover some photos of one of the best days I’ve had on this earth, with one of my favorite humans, in a place neither of us knew and marveled at.

Preparing to leave, part two (visual).

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My time here summed up in visual form.

Photography is a tool, and even the most casual of photographers use this tool in decisive ways. I have used mine to capture the fleeting moments that will last, longer than my anxious thoughts or potentially sad feelings about this place, because if you put me in a corner and asked me, truly, if I was happy here, I would have to tell you that there were moments that were fucking blissful.

Seeing the sunset on our street. The first night we spent in our home. Meeting Logan’s friends from Brazil, bridges between our two worlds that I hadn’t known before. Late nights at the VFW watching a good live show with Nick, Logan, and Ev, feeling like the universe sent good people to be around. Chelsea’s all-too-brief visits that were filled with photos and chats that my soul needed. Quiet mornings at Bernice’s and Butterfly Herbs, nestled at tables and booths with a library book and a note pad. Kettlehouse afternoons, with delicious beer and salty peanuts. Drives out to the Lolo National Forest for fishing, exploring, and renewal. Walking to work in the snow, having the early morning feel like it was all for me as I made the first human footprints on my walk . Watching spring be tenacious and persistent and then take over Missoula with a ferocity I reveled in, photographing blooms and green, chlorophyll-devouring things as eagerly as they emerged from their deep winter slumber.

 

Upstate but feeling low

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Lately I’ve been realizing how in statis I’ve been. Like an animal keeping its metabolism slow so that it can conserve calories. It’s tiring in it’s own way.

I wrote a bit about this on Instagram and here’s part of it.

“I feel untethered, but it’s hard to tether yourself to anything when you’re in a state of preparing, however slowly, to leave. I want to be making big loud friendships with complicated amazing people, and I want to be social and look outside my box, but it’s hard not to feel duplicitous building relationships that likely won’t last or gain the beautiful layers of depth that many do only after lots of time. I guess moving every two years like clockwork is catching up to me a bit.”

Tonight after expressing these feelings, I came home and made a risotto with chanterelle mushrooms, had a glass of wine, and currently have a face mask on. Laundry is in the dryer, dishes are done, work is over, and life is moving along in the clunky but regular way it is right now. I get to look back on beautiful photos like the ones above that show quiet, sunny days in Upstate New York of spiderwebs, marble topped dressers a hundred years old, and oil-based skincare that I talked about in my previous post.

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Missoula in early autumn is something else.

The park begins to get tinged in yellow and the lightest shades of orange. The students are back and the bars become busy and crowded. But mornings remain quiet, private, and beautiful. Sometimes I get up even earlier than normal so I can go have a cup of coffee and watch the sun touch the world.

One year ago and other memories.

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A little over a year ago I entered a room on the third floor of the building where I took a majority of my courses and spent many hours on campus, utterly terrified, holding my personal copy of the thesis that had occupied and been the point of two years of academic research, drafts, edits, feedback, and stress.

I don’t remember much of my thesis defense. I remember that many people came and that my family and friends and classmates being there meant so much. I remember that some of the questions were quietly brutal, but that my thesis stood up to criticism well because it was thorough and thoughtful. I remember feeling gratitude for my thesis supervisor for her eagle eyes and brilliant mind, who took me on and helped me take a woman’s enormous life and help make her story into something manageable.

The weekend there was far too short. I was inundated with the want to do everything- eat at Pho Vy, drink coffee at Habit, go to the graveyard, take my family to the tiny sushi place that I treasured so much. I remember crying on the ferry that took me away from Canada, wondering when I’d be back.

I miss that city so much.

6300 miles/10,100 kilometers

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Taking Logan to the airport to say goodbye for six months was surreal. The drive from Missoula to Spokane is unbelievably beautiful, with cloud-covered mountain passes and little mining towns nestled by the highway, and we both discussed everything but his impending flight to go thousands and thousands of miles away. After we said goodbye at the gate, I drove home in a daze. I knew I couldn’t be emotional because a 3 hour drive on the highway is not the place to be a compromised person, and I compartmentalized everything and drove home without really remembering it. I came home and slept like a corpse, absolutely exhausted and horribly sad and hollow feeling. Our house echoed and felt devoid of the soul it had when we moved in.

It’s been a month now and life hasn’t become “normal” again. I want to sleep a lot still. I keep my space neat, much neater than it was when we lived together, and joined a gym. Cooking hasn’t happened- lots of raw veggies, sandwiches, yogurt and cold dishes. It’s hilarious how sad my diet has become since his departure. I would always know Logan was cooking when I’d smell garlic, basil, cilantro, olive oil in the pan, and other familiar smells. The sounds of the house have changed and so have the smells. No more of his cologne or our clothes hung together in the closet, even if only for a little while. Much of my grad school habits have returned: long walks alone, people watching,  having a quiet drink alone, writing in my diary, devouring books, finding quiet spaces, and letting my mind unravel and go all sorts of places. It is peaceful, familiar, and a tiny bit sad, but not entirely empty of happiness.

These were from one of our last walks in the park here in town, taken with my ancient SLR camera, which we didn’t position correctly, to my odd delight.

Black and white reflections

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Odds and ends of a strange month. I got my Canadian work visa from the kindest border agent and then had the most awful experience coming back to my home country. I stayed out late and saw people I rarely see, found a dead bird behind the auto repair shop on my way to work, ate at a diner outside Spokane in eastern Washington, spent some time by the sea with my mom in Bellingham the night before getting my visa, and photographed flowers sprouting everywhere here in Missoula. It’s 90 degrees outside and I miss those weird spring days where you still might see snow on the mountains and have frost on some bits of the yard.