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.