Some 35mm film that reflects my unabashed love for spring and all that Victoria brings forth in these beautiful months.
Some 35mm film that reflects my unabashed love for spring and all that Victoria brings forth in these beautiful months.
I am steeling myself for the inevitable goodbye and allowing myself to be consumed by the nostalgia that comes with it all.
In 23 days I will be on a ferry heading away from Vancouver Island, and I will have all my worldly possessions with me, plus more memories than a hundred terabyte hard drives could hold.
The future right now is tenuous at best. It is terrifying at worst. Plans are tentative out of sheer necessity. I will hopefully be returning here in August to defend my thesis and graduate with my Master’s degree and then off into the real world to find a real job and make real money to pay off those very real student loans. What happens after that isn’t really clear, nor where all of this will happen. It’s all part of the adventure though, isn’t it?
In the meantime, I will relish my time here with photographs, fresh baked goods from my favorite places, and breathe in this ocean air while I can, and I will try and share it with you all.
Hands down one of my favorite places to go. Full of plants, animals, and warmth, this is a great place to go to de-stress, to escape the rain and clouds, and to just meander around and realize how cool nature is.
Three cameras. Four rolls of 400 speed Fujifilm. One pair of Dr. Marten boots. A rain slicker. As Noah drive Rhiannon, Isobel, and me towards our destination, I wondered if my boots would suffice- my hardcore Keen hiking boots being back in Montana- and as it began to rain and rain hard, hitting the windshield with a veracity that seemed almost personal, I thought, I should have worn warmer things. Luckily, by the time we pulled into the trail head, the rain had stopped. A cool mist, the kind that is omnipresent on the coast of Vancouver Island in the morning, hung around us. The air, heavy with moisture, felt good and I breathed it in deeply. We were on the edge of the dense, hyper-saturated woods of the Pacific Northwest.
My parents started taking my sister and I camping, hiking, and deep into nature when we were only a week old. Our whole lives have been laced, consistently, with adventures where the smell of soil, the sound of water, the delighted finding of animal footprints, and the deep responsibility we have to nature comes through. I remember helping my father catch fish and learning how to be gentle with them, how to properly hold frogs, how bird feathers worked as part of a wing to help them fly. One time, to a show and tell at school, I took a duck foot in a Ziploc bag to demonstrate how a certain muscle, when pulled with tweezers, retracted the foot. (No, that did not help me make friends.) My sister and I were taught to identify footprints, find patches of fur stuck to brush, to scout for feathers, for signs of life. Something my parents have done is give me a strong, very intense emotional connection to the woods. When I walk into any forest, I feel quietly humbled, immediately renewed, and a sort of basic instinct whispers that I am part of this, and that I owe it so much. My sister has a poster that says “The woods are my church,” and I agree with this to a certain extent. Spiritually, going into nature feels like walking into a cathedral. It’s not about you, it’s about something bigger than you, and allowing that to be alright.
As we meandered down the twisted-root and mud-puddle filled trail, I mentally marveled at the wood’s density and how sound traveled in trapped, quick pockets, roped in by tree trunks and muffled by moss. Ferns grew out of old logs. Trees rose high, higher, highest, chasing sunlight. Saplings, small ferns, and fungus all compete to cover every surface. Birds chirped from branches up above. Pieces of moss trailed from branches, catching the light. Stumps of enormous size looked like squat, wooden boulders, surely occupied by insects, birds, and other animals. Downed woody debris is vital to any landscape, and here, where everything is fertile to an almost-ridiculous extent, I acknowledged every bit of the landscape. It all had a part to play.
One thing I am still not used to in these greener, more lush woods is the wet. It keeps evidence of life to itself more. Water distracts and obscures and I wondered what else had been on our path or had crossed it earlier. The woods here are full of cougars, bears, raccoons, deer, and eagles, but their signs were more difficult to find, because the soil and the wood-covered ground do not hold footprints as well- the water saturates the ground and erases or muddles them. I wondered who our neighbors were- what quiet, stealthy animals were nearby? I knew that they were aware of us- our smells, noises, and our lack of grace may as well be like a flare launched to the natural world. WE ARE HERE!
About an hour down the trail, we finally came to a series of steps down to the sea. It was high tide, and the ocean roared. We could see the cloud and snow capped Olympic mountain range in America across the strait, and the sea spit forth foam at our feet. The forest goes right up to the edge of the ocean, and the two share much with each other, as these two ecosystems tend to do here in the Pacific Northwest. If you want to become enraptured with this part of the world, and the power that some of these forests hold, I highly recommend The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. That man has a way with words I haven’t experienced before and his ability to describe the woods and the land are unparalleled.
We gazed at the sea, went near a waterfall, and soaked in the sights and sounds. I cast loathing looks at the jacket-wearing chihuahuas that were brought along by their owners (I loathe small dogs for some reason.) The ocean’s tempo of rising, falling, gathering, spreading, taking and leaving, spoke to each of us in ways I don’t think we fully understand. After taking photographs, breathing in the salt air, looking at the clouds, and enjoying the sun, it was time to descend back into the thick copses of trees and bid the coast adieu. The light, in the short time we had left the woods, had changed significantly. It was warmer, more golden, and it seemed to cloak everything in a comforting light. Even the shadows beckoned in a welcoming fashion. We made our way, souls content, to the car, and the urge to fall into a relaxed slumber was almost overwhelming.
What a marvelous day.
My love affair with Kodak film has been going strong for years. My mother generously gave me her Olympus OM-G 35mm SLR in my first year of college, patiently taught me how to use the manually attached flash, how to load film, how to change it, and then let me figure out everything else.
This was back in the day, y’all. This was back when film was still fairly abundant (back in 2009!), when Target carried Kodak film with instant cameras and batteries, back when you could still go to CVS and find dusty boxes of almost-expired drugstore brand film and quietly ask if you could get it discounted because it was almost about to be no good. Gah, the good old days! (Yes, I am sitting on a front porch yelling at kids to get off my lawn as I type this.) You could still get 35mm film developed at CVS, Costco, Walmart, Target, Walgreens…wherever! Nowadays, most drugstores don’t bother, as when their developing machines broke I believe it became policy for the corporations to not repair them any more…
…Anyway, to this day, despite the changes in photography culture, the goldenrod hues of Kodak roll film always quietly whisper promises of beautiful colors, of lush reds and rich skin tones. Kodak 400 speed film has always my preferred film, and my grandfather always favored Kodak over Fujifilm, saying that Fujifilm was far too focused on the green and blue tones of things (which is still true- I buy a lot of Fujifilm because it is cheaper than Kodak but the tones are very different).
So, when I learned that Opening Ceremony had done a small capsule collection with Kodak, I freaked out. Yes, it came out in Fall 2015. Yes, it was for men. Nonetheless, when I found out, I immediately went and looked. Did I want the gorgeous leather jacket that cost something like $500? Oh yes, yes. However, on my budget all I could justify was buying the OC hat I wear in some of these pictures. It was a Christmas gift to myself, and if that sounds silly it’s because it really is. This hat has the gorgeous colors of Kodak film, along with the timeless logo, and it’s a loud little beanie (tuque if you’re in Canada, which I am, which I can still never call a hat like this a tuque).
Paired with this goldenrod shirt and my omnipresent Dr. Marten boots, I feel a little intimidating and a little nostalgic, and that’s quite alright with me. I got to see a lot of crows this morning and some ducks and get rained on a little bit, and all of that was just fine, too. Now, back to writing the introduction to my thesis!
P.S. I picked up a funky little film camera for $8 at a thrift shop that has a pretty decent reputation and so I’m trying to run some film through it! Stay tuned for scans sometime this week! There will be cat pictures.
My hands clenched the wheel of the old Subaru as I slowly turned the wheel to negotiate yet another slick curve, and I openly cursed the Montana Highway maintenance people, while Logan calmly offered to drive. You call this a highway?! This is a death trap of ice and bullshit! No gravel! No nothing! This is a heavily used road and THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE?!
Logan once again offered to take control, and I hissed NO and kept driving the car slowly over the icy turns of the highway. While I loathe driving over horrible roads, I fear giving up control even more. We crawled slowly, but the views were gorgeous. Frost covered trees, sage brush, and hillsides were passed, illuminated by the ever warmer light of the dying sun. It was, truly, beautiful in the way only cold, northern places can be.
We finally passed the not-real town of Norris and made our way down into Ennis. From there we finally found Virginia City, a summertime town known as one of the early capitals, when Montana was but a Territory. A flourishing mining town at one point, now it is a small town with lots of festivals and events in the summertime. We entered it in the midst of winter, with shuttered up windows and “closed for the season” signs inevitably hung up.
We called our Airbnb host and he led us in his little white truck up roads with no names to a renovated cabin from the 1880’s. He showed us around, shook our hands, and left Logan and I. We went and fetched Mary and Amy, unpacked the cars, and proceeded to cook a meal.
Logan brought lamb from a ranch in Boulder, Montana. We had stopped by their stand at the farmer’s market many times this summer. They always remembered Logan because of how tall and nice he is. The lamb in a pan, veggies in a bowl, and wine in our glasses, we set to palavering and cooking, drinking and enjoying the end of 2016.
The cabin was ridiculously well thought out. There were a huge number of books tucked away in discreet, beautifully hidden bookshelves. Plenty of firewood sat on the front porch. The small wood stove was an efficient beast, and quickly warmed the loft into quite a toasty nest. We perused books while the lamb stewed and kept ducking outside to admire the stars. Why is it that stars always look brighter in the cold? Is there something about frozen night air that makes it clearer? The sky hadn’t looked so big to me in some time.
Soon dinner was ready. Time flew by, and when Logan fished the lamb out of the pot, it slid off the bone immediately. Steam wafted from the meat and we took turns gnawing on one shank that wasn’t so clean. We poured a Tannat wine from Uruguay and settled in to devour a perfect New Years Eve meal together. There is always a marvelous simplicity to eating meals around tables with good people.
Finally, midnight approached. We drank prossecco, bundled up, and went out into the front yard and gaped. We smoked a cigar that Mary brought and were mostly quiet, trying to not freeze to death. Each of us pondered what the year had brought us, and what the next would bring. I think that every single one of us, though, felt a quiet sort of satisfaction that we were welcoming a new year in such a place, with each other.
A few bits of home. Christmas tree cutting, petting my old dogs, making prosciutto, arugula, and mascarpone pizza, going to research at the Historical Society, and generally feeling quite content.
The VVitch was so creepy to me the first time I didn’t sleep at all that night.
It also focuses on historical accuracy, has a gorgeously eerie soundtrack, and depicts the struggle of one family who leaves their fortified Puritan town due to religious disagreements. It is not a cheap-trick sort of film, but rather draws you in by looking you straight in the eyes.
I’d highly recommend and it’s on Netflix right now (Canadian Netflix, which is notoriously pathetic, that is).
Lusting after this WWII-era lingerie set that men stationed overseas would send to their sweethearts.
Reading The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt and falling in love with his descriptions of Rome and Florence in the 14th century. If you’re interested in humanism, how The Renaissance may have happened, or are a book lover, the main protagonist, Poggio Bracciolini is compelling as a great angle to dissect this amazing wave of art, creativity, and flourishing discovery that emerged from Florence at some point in the late 14th/early 15th century.
Quietly pining for the funds to have a house covered in this Cardiac wallpaper from the Morbid Anatomy Museum. I’ve slowly accepted that if there is a point where funds are available, I will make any abode I have into an ode to all things Gothic and mildly creepy.
Waiting to be home so Logan and I can attempt to make this Nutella and mascarpone torte. (The recipe is in Italian but Google Translate is very handy!)
Loving these flirtatious and forward acquaintance cards from the 1870’s and 1880’s. Young men and women could hand out these business card like pieces of paper which offer to walk women home, introduce men as “kissing rogues”, and serve as ways to circumvent some of the formalities of Victorian norms.
Been wanting to watch this wonderful film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, for some time! Hopefully I’ll find time in a few weeks.
I may or may not have splurged and gotten myself this incredible Opening Ceremony x Kodak hat because everything else in the collection was way too pricey. My love for Kodak and film will never, ever die.
Laughing out loud at the marvelous James Kerr (aka Scorpion Dagger) and his German Renaissance-based short videos, .gifs, and other creations which he cleverly pairs with 1960’s and 70’s rock/punk/garage band tunes (and from whom I have now widely expanded my musical repetoire). This clever dude also got to do some of the animation for the new The Stooges film Gimme Danger (which I very much want to see).
Mario Badescu’s glycolic foaming cleanser has been helping me keep my skin happy with the transition to colder, dryer winter.
Also finished The Medici Conspiracy, a fantastic book about the complex world of stealing, buying, and selling ancient Roman and Greek antiquities. The authors weave a “whodunit” web of tombaroli (local men who “excavate” tombs) to secretive buyers with Swiss lockers full of stolen goods to curators at some of the world’s most renowned museums, who all work quietly together to make it so that much of the world’s ancient antiquities are gotten by ill, destructive, and horrible means.
How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?
I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.
I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.
In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)
Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.
And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?
I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.
I grew up in a family that didn’t relish cooking. My mum is an incredible baker, whipping out apple pies, cookies, brownies, and other oven-based confections to perfection. She can cook, and I know that she and my father do more now that their spawn are out of the house. My father today makes curries, cans carrots, makes his own cider, and butchers the animals he hunts.
However, growing up, I don’t remember food being so prominent. My mother explained it in the most reasonable way when I asked her once, telling me that after getting us out the door to school, working full time, then coming home to make dinner, making dinner was a chore, not a gleeful reprieve, as I’m sure many women can attest to. I do not begrudge her this in any way, understanding and loathing the idea that women can and should have it all, including cooking skills that come out as soon as you close the office door, because you love slaving over a hot stove for hungry, picky kids.
However, my only living grandmother doesn’t cook. My remaining grandfather doesn’t either. My aunts in Connecticut cook, often reporting what they’re whipping up, but in my immediate family food is appreciated but not often lovingly made except on holidays or special occasions.
Perhaps this is why I love cooking with Logan so much. I hear stories of family members spending all day in kitchens, of special pizza ovens, of flavors and ideas I’ve never known before. Bottles of red palm oil, special coconut milks, and dende milk can be found tucked away on his shelves, things I’ve never used or known. The cuts of meat are different here in America, which I had never thought about before. He teaches me how to do ridiculously simple things like how to properly cook rice and that cooking can be a joyful, organic process. We listen to music and have a glass of wine or two and taste as we go.
My brief sojourn home was spent in his kitchen with him, helping keep odds and ends going- soaking the starch of jasmine rice, grating parmesan cheese, scraping out small meaty pumpkins, stirring onions in olive oil for flavors, helping strain broth- and whenever I play sous chef I learn.
The best dish we made this weekend was a parmigiana di melanzane, which Logan found by watching Gennaro Contaldo videos online. It. Was. AMAZING.
We picked out a beautiful, fat eggplant in the most gorgeous purple sheen at the grocery store. I had never actually handled an eggplant but it was really lovely and lighter than I expected. Logan sliced it up, beat an egg in a bowl, put flour in another, and got some oil frying, and it all began. We sipped Czech pilsners we’d picked up at a local beer and wine import shop, and a breeze came in from outside, crisp leaves on the back porch telling me that it was fall.
After the eggplant fried we tore pieces of prosciutto and mozzarella and basil and rolled them up inside, laying down a bed of tomato sauce in a ceramic dish and then carefully placing the rolled tubes down. Covering them in more sauce, Logan piled on more mozzarella, some parmesan, sprinkles of basil, and put it all in to bake.
Trying to describe how good it was would be a waste of English. It was rich and perfect. We were the happiest, most full creatures after we ate it. It wasn’t difficult, and it was damn delicious.
Ross Bay Cemetery.
I do spend a lot of time, perhaps too much, in this cemetery. It’s enormous, full of paths, and the most magnificent trees! There is so much history here, and every time I walk through I find a new headstone I admire or a new detail to enjoy. Somebody, for example, put the most perfect pine cone on the top of a tombstone, and it looked very fitting with the darkening stone.
The trees in here are regal but not overbearing. They have different personalities and the leaves they all have are different. This time of year a lot of yellow and orange leaves- the trees that have red leaves have not yet let gravity inevitably take them yet.
If you’re in Victoria and want to escape downtown head to Ross Bay and spend some time here. I like reading on one of the benches or quietly learning about all the people who came here from every corner of the earth- Croatia, Poland, all parts of England, Japan, Russia, etc., because it makes Victoria, which feels very settled and sometimes overly cultivated, feel more real.
Intermittent crying regarding frustration finding sources because archives are hell and horribly organized and nobody gets back to you.
Somebody suggests you might actually need help on the damn thesis but you’re feeling hostile and defensive so you ignore their advice and later collapse even though you are actually a nice person underneath it all.
Ravenous bouts of hunger that make you feel productive because at least you’re fueling your next bout of angst and guilt-filled procrastination that will end with you falling asleep reading a source at 3 am.
When you think you’ve been really fucking productive but then realize how much more is left to do.
When you try to do things you enjoy like beach walks and making photographs but are consistently hounded by the reality that you’re not working on the thesis and you suck and it’s all futile and life is cold and the universe indifferent.
Trying to explain to your family who doesn’t really get it that this is really really hard and that all of these problems actually matter.
More sobbing because for some reason Andy sobbing matters a lot and feels relevant because he’s so pure and good and at one point you probably were too.
At some point you’ll reach the stage where you feel cold and emotionless and more like a shell of a human. But since you have good skincare routines and a decent sartorial sense you’ll at least look decent.
Somehow film from mid-July stayed in the bottom of my handbag until last Saturday. I gave Prism Photo on Fort Street here in Victoria 6 rolls of color film and picked up all six a few hours later (those guys do a wicked job!). The next day, after a tearful goodbye to my mother, who once again came and helped me move into a new space, I settled in and accepted that it was time to let waves of nostalgia engulf me.
I scanned in the negatives, my trusty Epson machine humming comfortingly at me, telling me that all of these memories were not lost. I am back in Victoria, and it feels strangely wrong. Perhaps because the rhythm of here hasn’t sunk in yet. Perhaps because I have not seen enough people who make me want to remain here. Perhaps because my purpose, to write a thesis honoring and properly delving into the life of an incredible woman, was put on pause while I gathered my strength, made money working, and let my mental health state grow stronger. Perhaps because I am a bit behind my colleagues and the anxiety that parallels my strong yet quiet competitive nature has already made this lag seem massive.
I have moved into the spare room of an older woman’s apartment and so far that too seems strange. She is kind and quiet, lets me have my privacy, and altogether seems like a very kind soul. I fear that my want for space and order will doom me in this place though, and my mind fleetingly, even after only 2 nights in my room, tells me to find somewhere else.
Perhaps it is time to settle with all these demons that seem to mark my return here. Victoria has been a place of utmost success and utmost personal failure for me. From coming home to my apartment last year to sob to coming home feeling accomplished, I can tell you that this small city has seen the best and worst of me, at my weakest and at my most put-together. Coming back here, leaving my loved ones, my family, my car, my patterns, my comforts, is good but feels off. I loathe this feeling of something breathing down my neck, most likely my own horrid self-doubt spectre, quietly letting me know that yes, I can fail here, and it would not be difficult.
These photographs are from the Montana Folk Festival in Butte. We found a peculiar front yard replete with skulls hanging and sitting everywhere. We walked past homes in disrepair, old trucks, quiet signs of life, and up steep hills. I tried to photograph Logan in a flower garden and love the grain and shadow that resulted. These memories, of good days, of being with people I trust and love, already feel like they were made years ago. I hate that feeling.
If I sound rather defeated, it is because my heart and body are both exhausted at the moment. I’m sure this feeling will not last.
These images have been a long time coming.
Ella, Logan, and I piled into the Subaru in Helena, then made the quick, windy drive into Butte.
The first sign you’re getting close if you come from Helena is the massive piles of leftover, contaminated dirt that block your view of the city. This reminder of Butte’s legacy is a dirty one. Then, you get a view of the 1980’s strip mining scars on that side of town. Then, finally, nestled in the valley, hugging steep hills, you see the sprawling city.
Butte’s steep streets provided us with exercise aplenty all day. Ella and Logan had to fight to keep up with my ridiculously frantic pace (sorry guys). We ate all kinds of food, but the hightlight was when those two decided to split the consumption of a massive smoked turkey leg. The thing was so damn salty and massive, yet looked amazing. I stuck with my pork chop sandwich and whatever other food stuffs I decided to try that day (it was over a month ago! I am so bad at this blog!).
Overall it was a joy to be in Butte that day. We ended the day in the Silver Dollar Saloon, a dark and cozy place where we listened to a guy who looked like Neil Young (“No, I’m not Neil Young” he made clear before he started) before we walked back to crash on Kristin’s floor (thank you!).