Evidence that Victoria is once again beginning to bloom- the cruise ships, tour buses, and tourists are all slowly arriving, filling the streets of this city once again.
Evidence that Victoria is once again beginning to bloom- the cruise ships, tour buses, and tourists are all slowly arriving, filling the streets of this city once again.
“This is the time of year when the barrier between the living and the dead gets thinner”, our Quebecois guide crooned to us as we sat in a dark stone room, waiting to venture into the cool evening. It had just rained, leaving everything with a layer of chill. We separated into two groups, and went off to learn about a select few of Victoria’s many, many hauntings.
Victoria is known as one of the most haunted places in the Pacific Northwest. It comes as no surprise- Victoria was a major port city, took on many people from the Klondike Gold Rush, and had people from every corner of the globe coming here for a wide variety of reasons. One of my favorite places in the city, the Ross Bay Cemetery, has gravestones from all over the world commemorating people who came to make their lives here.
The nights in Victoria get very, very cold and as we were told stories of prostitutes murdered, criminals hanged and left in unmarked graves that were later dug up unceremoniously, and the atrocities that white men committed by desecrating sacred First Nations burial grounds, it was easy to imagine people from the past quietly nearby, ducking down the dark streets and walking down hallways that they did in real life.
These stories could feel hokey or sappy but large parts of downtown Victoria are murky feeling and damp. These spaces are like things sprouting in secret, dark corners and it was very easy to imagine dark things happening and lingering.
As somebody who finds walking at night peaceful and balancing, almost necessary to my sanity, hearing these stories was a bit creepy to be sure. However, I grew up in a mining town where equally harsh things happened, where people lived and died quickly, and that partially makes Victoria feel a bit more familiar. I can understand the gold rush and the resource extraction and people living roughly, the conflicts between cultures, the unrest that underlies all of this. Our guide, Chris Adams, was very good at making this sense of unrest clear, and he was delightfully serious about it all. I almost asked him for a photograph of his skull-headed cane but didn’t get the chance.
One thing has remained constant here during my time in Victoria: the crows. Corvids cry from lampposts, make eerie noises from rooftops, and I quietly try to never disturb them. After reading books about the intelligence of these marvelous animals, I respect them and personally love it when many are seen on my walks, on my meandering, long, illogical wanderings around this southern part of the island.
One year later, parts of Victoria still very foreign to me. It is September, still tourist season, roses are abloom, and I am constantly irked by the large buses that unload slow moving old tourists who group together like schools of fish and block the sidewalks. Although I can deftly weave through them, I prefer now to meander at dusk or dawn, when there aren’t so many humans awake and out.
Parts of town are still unknown to me- they are too far to walk, and the bus system is good but not good enough for me to risk taking one to some corner of the city. I try to avoid night walks on the weekends, as it is busier and groups of men hang around bars and cat call in an exhausting ritual I have known since I was a teenager. The smell of the harbor, intermingled with smells wafting from restaurants and cafes, is ever changing, and seeing lights reflected on the water will never cease to make me pause.
The blatant poverty present is still mildly shocking. People who need healthcare, a roof over their heads, and access to food are tucked away in doorways, seated on corners, and perched in wheelchairs. They have dogs tightly curled next to them, and a few have cats bundled up in their laps. Some who ask for help are moving through- buskers who don’t have an exact destination but offer music as a service- while others got stuck here, lured by the relatively warm winters. The chill that Victoria has in the winter, though, feels more severe than any Montana cold.
One year later and many things I do here I do alone. It is very important to know how to be alone, to be comfortable with silences and gaps in social times. I know myself, and I am a fairly predictable, sturdy creature of habits, of black coffee and long walks and a slim book tucked in my bag in case I want to stop in somewhere and take a break from my own thoughts. I have friends here, delightful souls who work hard and make time for coffee, pho, muffins, and comradery, and I am lucky.
Victoria is still claustrophobic to me. The British habit of manicured, landscaped parks, lawns, and every green space makes my stomach turn a bit. Everything is trimmed, shaped, artificially groomed, never allowed to flourish naturally. This control of nature has gone too far, and the only truly natural feature in town is the ocean, which is terrifying and all knowing, and hems me in further onto this massive rock off the coast. I have never spent so much time near the edge of the water, and the primordial respect, fear, and appreciation I have for the sea grows each time I hear the waves and let myself be still for a moment.
Victoria is, for the time being, another sort-of-home.
Images from 2011. I used to make so many more photographs than I do now, and I want to rectify this wrong and begin making images with the recklessness I used to. There are benefits to being very cerebral about photography but often my favorite images were made at the moment- organic, spontaneous, serendipitous moments. I treasure those the most.
These were made using Kodak’s Profession BW400 Black and White Negative Film. It’s black and white film that can supposedly go through C-41 developer, which is for color. It’s not truly black and white, as you can tell. I’ve had sepia frames, some bordering on blue, others more purple, but it’s honestly so fun to see the hues and tones that this odd film gains in the developer. Guess what I found out this morning?! Apparently Kodak stopped making it in 2014! My heart gave a small twinge as I learned this.
So, rest in peace you delightful, fun film that I used 20 or 30 rolls of in my lifetime. You gave my photos delightful tones and added some drama to my small hometown summers. Kodak, stop killing my film options!
The gorgeous creative force of nature that is my friend Chelsea flew into Victoria one afternoon. I took the bus to fetch her from the airport. Bedecked in red rainboots and her fantastic smile, I immediately was infected with the biggest grin and couldn’t wait to hug her and show her my tiny apartment and this little city I am calling temporarily home.
Chelsea was my first visitor, and we both had lots of work to do, so much of our time was spent in pubs sipping various brews and finishing papers or projects. I didn’t give a damn- just having a familiar soul that I care about deeply was plenty to lift my pre-final spirits. We had some really amazing chats and spent evenings in the glow of various pubs and I insisted on making the last shot which turned out exactly as I hoped- with soft lighting showing just how beautiful this soul is inside and out.
Homesickness has me in it’s inevitable grip. Yesterday I ended up talking with a professor for over two hours and she asked me how I feel here and it took a lot for me to not just begin crying. You don’t break into tears in front of Oxford educated professors. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule. I did try to wear heels to class, for some reason that seemed like a good idea- my horrible ankles, ruined after so many injuries and falls, failed me shortly after I hobbled into the library, and thankfully the cynical side of me tucked some flats into my purse. It was fun being 3 inches taller for a while, though, and you never know until you try. They had free food yesterday on campus so I obviously took advantage of that. Finding optimism in the little things, like the cold air coming in from the open windows on the bus, or feeling how warm your sweater is against the chill of the rain, or the snug comfort of well-fitting rain boots- these are things to focus on and draw power from. How satisfying it is holding a warm mug of tea in my hands, seeing my little plants slowly grow, these are all beautifully worthwhile things to concentrate on instead of wanting to be elsewhere.
Even though I didn’t shoot as much as I would have liked to, I think I still had some decent shots.
Some are in Los Angeles, others home in Montana. A few are from our annual trip to the Cape haus, and some are from Austin, Texas. Overall these highlight the better parts of the year. The bad parts, luckily, weren’t photographed so they’ll fade fast.
Today was my day off.
I woke up early and played with my dog, drank mint tea and ate muffins. Then I headed downtown to read on a sunny bench. I’m currently reading about 3 or 4 different books, all with very different ideas. One is Margarted Atwood’s The Robber Wife, which thus far is very much from the early 1990’s and different, if not still good. A biography of FDR has revealed that he was a ridiculous momma’s boy, but still incredibly good as a man and president (we can’t all be perfect!). I shared my books with a spider that literally blew in on the wind, but didn’t want to hang around for whatever reason.
I wound up at the Montana Museum, where I saw Charles M. Russell’s depictions of cowboys, Native Americans, and life in Montana 120 years ago. I feel very grateful for modern furnaces and adequate clothing, as well as bug spray!
Among many of the treasures there, however, a beautiful red dress adorned with elk teeth always catches my eye. It’s such a beatiful color and elk’s teeth are smooth and symmetrical, and on the dress they are beautiful. I am not sure if they were elk ivory (elk have two ivory teeth in their mouths, per elk. They are beautiful!). I also visited the eerie creamy white bison that inhabits the second floor the Historical Society. Blue glass eyes add to the effect, making me never want to spend much time in front of the creature.
I came home and promptly fell asleep for 3 hours of odd afternoon dreams, and woke up in time to help make dinner and wish I’d done more with my day. I was going to drive to the Deerlodge Car Museum but decided that I couldn’t afford the gas (GAH) and so stayed within the town limits for the day, but nonetheless still had a lovely time!
I woke up this morning feeling restless. I feel restless a lot. This probably means I need to exercise more or be active, but I don’t see how. I walk or bike everywhere, and I’m not still a lot. I fidget constantly and my mind races at the same pace I would imagine a thoroughbred might.
I woke up at a reasonable hour and immediately put on my trusty Asics. This pair is still stubbornly white (I like my shoes to look like they’ve been well loved). After I filled my Nalgene, quickly ate some breakfast and brushed my teeth, I set off.
Chris and I had hiked a little bit in the area exactly a week ago. And yet, it felt almost alien. It was chilly and quiet and damp feeling. There was nobody around, and I had the whole trial to myself. I quietly walked, letting the sound of a stream and of leaves rustling with birds create the perfect acoustics for my adventure.
I held two cameras in my hands- the film will come later- and tried to navigate around mud puddles. My roommate went to church this morning at the same time I did and I realized that we were both in our own way worshiping. I felt leaves and touched tree bark and made the experience a thorough one. I went off trail back to a stream Chris and I had explored a bit earlier. The stream was a tiny bit lower, enough that my shoes didn’t get as wet last time. The sun was peeking in and rising and I wished I had packed breakfast to go so I could sit by the stream and just relax by the rushing water. A squirrel announced to the world I was there, and I moved on.
Climbing higher, I realized how heavily used the trail was, and how lucky I was that I hadn’t seen an alma yet. I like being alone or with people of my choosing in those quiet early morning hours- it feels almost destructive to disturb the perpetual quiet that the woods settles over the land like a blanket. Who likes having a blanket roughly pulled off them in the morning? Nadie, that’s who.
Eventually the earth started warming up. I saw more and more people. I turned around after maybe 2.5 in, and made my way back. I petted several dogs, passed multiple trail runners already drenched in sweat, and a school group of international study abroad students with mixed accents and experience.
I left at the perfect time. Getting to my car, I informed some men about the lack of wildlife and the wealth of people and told them that it was much better earlier in the day. They responded, “It always is.”
William Hope supposedly was able to capture spirits whilst taking your portrait. Do I believe that? No, I do not- by the early 20th century I think dark-room manipulation was advanced enough that Hope could have easily made fraudulent positives for his customers.
Nonetheless, they give me the most delightful chills.
Black and white and some photography, finally. Julia and I found ourselves in the trees, around the autumnal woods. Perfect temperatures and a variety of shadows made me feel creative again. An image of myself that I dearly enjoy even came out! We sat on the ground, walked in streams, and waxed about anything and everything.
Photographing Julia is easy- she takes direction, comes up with her own awesome ideas, and we both know that every frame will not turn out. I don’t pretend to be professional, and she doesn’t either. We improvise with what we have and see what turns out!
I have missed taking photographs I enjoy. I have quite a few more to post soon!
I remember how to order pastries in Turkish, how to say “I love you”, and how to thank people.
That doesn’t mean that Turkey didn’t leave a mark. I remember Istanbul as this sort of young rebellious teenager and simultaneously wise old crone- mostly because it is both of those things, and every other thing in between. It is incredibly difficult to sum up a megapolis that goes between 14 and 16 million people (the official census isn’t accurate).
Riding ferries with asbestos ceilings, taking the new public transportation system (trams mixed with trains), being treated like the visitors we were, trying and then promptly despising raki (the national drink in Turkey, it’s basically black liquorice in liquid, high alcohol form, which is sometimes but not always diluted with water) were all parts of Istanbul. So was looking at a Frida Kahlo exhibition and then shopping in TopShop and eating on the 5th floor of a building, and sitting on carpets. Rain, sunshine, pollution, health and sickness, wealth and poverty, adventure and boredom- they all take place in this city.
I know these things take place in all cities, but toss in a chaotic history (Byzantium, then Constantinople, then Istanbul), multiple countries claiming reign, and it’s geographical split between Europe and Asia, and the religions laced in, and you get the most energetic and exciting city I’ve ever been to.
My advice: Be ready for anything in Istanbul. I mean anything.
I am now the renter of an apartment with two other girls. My room is fairly small, but I prefer “cozy”- I fit my bed, a dresser, and a table in. The walls are covered in maps, pictures, and posters from photography and art museums. I even managed to install a shelf that called for POWER TOOLS with a beautiful hand-cranked drill with help from Julia!
Also yes, these are digital, mostly because I was lazy and wanted them NOW not LATER.
These pictures are evidence that A) I have friends and B) I do things, even though many a time I feel as though I don’t do a lot.
Last weekend Kristin and I drove up to Lincoln to find huckleberries, and came back with NOTHING- minus some huckleberry milkshakes from a local diner. Wednesday was lunch with Claire and Chelsea- Claire just got back from two months in Guatemala and had stories to tell for what could have been hours (my lunch break was vastly shorter than the time needed). Thursday evening consisted of hiking and eating ice cream on a porch. Mild chaos ensued at the beginning when a baby garter snake darted in front of me- I have a strange infatuation with all reptiles and amphibians. After attempting to locate it, we continued on a lovely loop that consisted of skinny trees, evening shadows, and the usual talk that ensues among people you’ve known for a long time. Friday was Moonrise Kingdom for the 4th time with somebody I was hanging out with for the 1st time. The rest of Friday included pushing a bike up a hill, drinking lots of wine, taking some blurry photographs of our Gothic cathedral, and general revelry that was quite marvelous.
My Minolta has a dirty lens that I haven’t cleaned but it’s giving me a nice blur that I’m enjoying.