One Year Later in Victoria

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.

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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.

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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.

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Victoria is, for the time being, another sort-of-home.

Mornings in the rose garden.

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Beacon Hill Park has a beautiful gated rose garden that you can enter and wander through. The high metal gates prevent deer and give it a mildly romantic feeling. To be really honest sometimes the smell of roses is a bit much but it’s still really beautiful to see them covered in dew drops and be in a garden all by yourself while the rest of the world goes about their day.

Tidal pools/Little ocean flowers

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I haven’t been sleeping.

I love sleeping. I love dreaming, REM cycles, I love knowing when I woke up that I slept well. Sleep and I are at odds right now, and it’s rather wretched.

I took a walk yesterday before going to campus to read because I was too tired and punchy to do good work. It was still low tide, and the beach smelled like it- lots of leftover, decaying seaweed, kept strands, and the wet smell of wood that has been in the ocean.

I carefully made my way across the black, slick rocks and found little pools of anemones and tiny tiny fish and crustaceans. Some of them were folded up because the water wasn’t quite reaching them. It was wonderful to take a break from being inside and working and being with the naturalia around me for a bit.

What it feels like to write a thesis

USEFUL

Step 1: Turning in a proposal and experiencing gut-seizing fear.

You wonder “Why did I ever decide to do this?” Your emotions will revolve around a mixture of apprehension, excitement, and wanting to vomit thinking about all the RESEARCH!
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko a

Step 2: Sitting your ass down and researching.

THIS IS THE WORST! You get so mad at the world, kind of like Dictator Lukashenka, because you spend 83.9% of your time ELIMINATING sources rather than FINDING sources! Your advisor asks for “1st person sources” and you want to scream “Those are as hard to find as the rich husbands I need to fund my future doctoral degree!” (Just kidding…)

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Step 3: Realizing how weird and specific your thesis is.

By now you’ve got some semblance of data. You’re done being bitter and now you’re actually sort of excited about what you’re writing! You want to tell people and nobody really thinks it’s that interesting but you still tell them about it. You talk about it at parties and to strangers and when you pet dogs outside of coffee shops you mention it to them. You spend your nights lying awake re-organizing your outline and wondering if the coffee shop will have your favorite roast for your next hard-core thesising day.

(Also at this point the verb “to thesis” becomes a reality. You are always thesising, about to thesis, etc.)
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Step 4: You’re in too deep to give up! 

Now you should put on a false sense of bravado. Even if your adviser hates your stuff, even if you’re potentially screwed, you have to just act like everything is peachy and you’ve got it under control! (Because you totally do. Obviously. Even if most of your thesising is spent making effective study playlists…)

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Step 5: Realize how quickly the semester is going and have a single, graceful moment of panic.

You are scared s***less and you frankly have no idea how you will make it through. You might occasionally cry in Target store aisles looking for shampoo thinking about how little time you have left.

431px-Judith_mit_dem_Haupt_des_Holofernes_2Step 6: VANQUISH!

I’m not here yet. I’m still in the false bravado stage. I hope to get here and have the damn thing bound and slap it down triumphantly in the library and scream “HELL YEAH” and then erase all my favorited research links and burn all the old drafts! Then I fully plan on having a large helping of wine and cake and being sufficiently praised for my hard work (although the praise probably won’t happen).

 

New York- Reunion with old friends

I haven’t seen Exa or Kate in two years. I have no idea what we’re going to be doing, or what’s going to happen.

Exa pulls up in the drive way, prompt, armed with three cameras, a coat with humongous pockets, and that signature smile. Her hair is shorter than I remember, and we hug for a long time, two years going through the window- everything seems like it never ended.

Exa and my aunt talk and then we are dropped off at the train station. Buying tickets and waiting, we both discuss the surreal quality of the situation: We are together again. That itself is a jewel of a thing. Boarding the train, we sit and begin talking like nothing has interrupted our effortless friendship. The train zips along and in no time we are in Grand Central. We wait in the middle for Kate- and here she comes, all strawberry blonde hair and wonderful smiles. We hug and again exclaim about the ridiculousness of the situation, in the most marvelous sense.

We get to the Met, check our coats, and begin to wander. Exa is hell bent on seeing Madame X, but we go into the Old Masters wing. Everybody agrees that our future lovers/husbands/what have you must build us wedding chests in the Italian fashion- big, heavy gilded things covered in paint, gorgeously constructed.

Fat Renaissance babies, Baroque frames, and Byzantine Italianate paintings line the walls. We walk past millions of dollars and talk about everything and anything- life has been moving on, and we’ve all changed, but our common international past threads everything. Memories laced with strawberry wine, bad decisions, and the Swiss country we resided in are shared. I think I laughed more than I have in a long time- too long!

Soon, Kate announces she’s hungry. Thank God, I think, because my stomach has been growling like an unsatisfied forest creature for some time. After desperately trying to find my favorite Judith beheading Holofernes portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder (UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN A CLOSED WING) we depart.

We take the subway and enter Union Square. Literally not a single cloud tarnishes the optimistic blue that permeates the skyline. A farmer’s market bustles, and we make our way to Republic. Seated among two other groups of people, we order mimosas and enormous bowls of curried vegetables, wontons, and glass noodles. Kate attempts to teach Exa how to handle chopsticks- the lesson was somewhat successful, though in reality this should just give Exa an excuse to eat much more meals that require them.

We discuss Buddhist monk TA’s, life in college, current life dilemmas, and what our summers hold. Kate is spending the summer in Bucharest, Romania, on a dig- she’s found her passion, and I slightly envy her Eastern European summer. Exa, currently a resident of Boston, bemoans Boston’s horrible public transportation and how her landlord is in the process of “sweating them out”- apparently the heat has been 75+ for days now. We eat until full- so many noodles! – and head out into the Farmer’s Market.

Upon finding out I’ve never had a whoopie pie, Exa and Kate decide I must have one. We buy a plate with 3 of them and sit in a park on the ground, surrounded by good weather and spring-feverish New Yorkers. The whoopie pie was a marvel. Memories of living in horrible dorms, roommates, Chat Roulette and travelling are shared once again.

Kate finds a Victorian bar on her smartphone, and we walk there- but not before running into Journelle, a lingerie boutique that has the best website ever. I enter and buy Wolford stockings, gorgeous but expensive. We look at basques, bustiers, garter belts, and the most beautiful underthings. Mint, red, black, nude- colors galore! We bemoan our lack of funds for these gorgeous things, and enter Lillie’s.

Red velvet booths, a marble bar, and a giant tarnished mirror finished off the Victorian vibe. Exa and Kate both had whiskey drinks, while I stuck with my vodka. We sit for a while, slowly drinking and murmuring more stories. I can’t believe I’m in a huge city with two people I thought I’d never get to see again. We’re seamlessly laughing, the thread of conversation continuous.

Exa leads us to Eataly, the most amazing store in New York. A store, cafe, bar, and restaurant that imports Italian goods galore, a sensor delight in every way! Enormous bricks of Italian cheeses stare at me. My life in Switaly comes back, and I see Genovese pesto, imported pasta, genuine imported proscuitto. The sauces we would by in Migros, in Lugano, line the shelves! I’m back in Switzerland for a moment. Exa puts our name down to go to the 14th floor to the biergarten.

45 minutes later we enter. We each have a pint of something different- Exa’s brew had pomegranate it in, and definitely won. We sipped, people watched, and enjoyed the coming evening. A little buzzed, a little hungry, we walk out and find a Shake Shack. I balk at the line, but Exa insists it’s worth the wait. I am dubious at best- in Montana, a line is of 5 people, not 75, but East Coast efficiency soon makes itself obvious. The line moves forward, Exa photographs us too much. My camera batteries fall out somewhere.

We sit under a table with a heat lamp, feeling like reptiles, and enjoy burgers, fries, and shakes. We look up train times. Kate finds her way to the right street and departs to Penn Station- we part with hugs, and I almost wanted to cry. Exa and I hopped into a taxi, and whisked away into the night.

A glorious day with some marvelous people. I needed to have a good day, I haven’t had one in a long time, and it was like every element lined up to make it so.

I already miss them.

 

Welcome to another year!

Yesterday we hopped into Chelsea’s monstrous truck and drove over the pass to Missoula to bring in the New Year.

After a horribly salty pizza, we readied (read: don pretty dresses) and headed out, first going to an Irish bar where whiskey was consumed. We went in and out of the bar all evening, coming back an hour before the New Year to have an old-fashioned laced with bourbon and drink free champagne and celebrate.

The New Year was brought in with cheers to strangers, cold biting Montana winter, and later dancing until the bar closed at 2, then heading slowly home, surrounded by other celebrators. We woke up and went to the Catalyst, a wonderful and sleek breakfasting place- I had a delicious bread pudding with bacon and eggs. Afterwards I indulged in the most gorgeous green sweater, on ultra-mega-ultra clearance, and then Chelsea and I headed home.

The new year has been uneventful thus far, but I am itching for adventures. I want to hop on a plane and go anywhere it will take me.

By the way, this roll went through my camera twice accidentally, thusly there are landscapes, paintings, and other things going on behind the images besides celebrating.

I don’t open wine bottles and other weekend things.

I got my roll of film developed and felt quite…disappointed. I stupidly carried around the Minolta instead of lugging the much better Olympus, and the pictures obviously suffer because of it. Next time, Olympus, I shall haul thy heavy body around!

Note to self: Ease of photographing doesn’t always translate into photographs that you like.

My parents are living in a new apartment since our house sold, and it’s tiny and quite beautiful. Also very centrally located to downtown, which I greatly enjoy! Being only a few blocks from a creperie, taco place, Thai food, a confectionery, and a half dozen or so drinking establishments, as well as all of the town’s hiking and walking trails, is pretty glorious!  Helena’s food scene is rather sad but at least we can get to the better parts of it. I walked a lot as a result of the new geography, and even tried running- which went horribly and ended with me having the sorest quads I have had in months. Since June, probably. To be fair the first 2.5 miles were fine but after that it just spiraled into horrendous form and breathing that sounded more akin to an emphysemic individual.

Now I am back in Bozeman. Today wasn’t nearly as monotonous as I expected- I won a photography contest with an antiquated shot from Glacier back in 2010, and so got $50, and then went to get delicious food with my sister after nearly napping in Baroque. Oops!

Thoughts on life- a list.

1. Napping is something that should be done often and with relish.

2. Walking alone in the dark is a joyous thing to do.

3. Looking at an old train pass reminds me of the nights spent whooshing past small mountain towns, glimmering in the dark as we sped by.

4. Writing is difficult, and mostly done at odd hours of the night.

5. Lying awake at night leads to ridiculous thought paths that were meant to remain shadowed.

6. Skype sessions with fantastic friends are the cure for the blues.

7. One down duvet is great. Two is better.

8. Having to explain what a meme is to somebody is really difficult.

9. A bad pear is an awful thing to experience- texture! Texture!

10. I miss certain persons in my life.

11. I have a fondness for overly expensive pretty underthings that would surely bankrupt me if there were such shops around.

12. Walking to class on a brisk morning is a better way to wake up than coffee.

13. I miss photographing my life.

14. Sometimes the feeling of anonymity is the best feeling ever.

15. Reading a book outside a pub waiting to meet up with friends starts off the evening well.

Stereotypes and myths about being an Art History major

As an Art History major, I’ve run across a lot of questions about what I do, what I study, how my major is important, and how am I going to survive with my degree. Also, a lot of pre-formed and often erroneous stereotypes about me and what I study.

So, time to de-bunk some myths:

1. Art History is a dead-end major.

Art is a universal value in every culture, regardless of language, race, or sex. Art reflects the history of the time, along with the values of the society it was created in. In addition,  art often reflects the artist’s personal values, opinions, and ideas about the time and place he/she created the art in. Art also provides us a view into things like costume and scientific theories of the time, as well as the science of the actual art (what paint was used? How did the sculptor do this and this with said materials?).

Anthony van Dyck is judging you. 

2. Art History majors can’t find jobs.

This is one I get a lot. Many of my fellow students, friends, even family members, think that my major is a black hole of failure when it comes to finding successful jobs. This is extremely false. Here are a few jobs/careers that somebody with an Art History degree can acquire:

Curator (usually requires Masters/PhD)

Professor/Teacher of Art History (Also Masters/PhD)

Art buyer- purchasing works for people and companies, working within their budget and taste.

Collections manager

Work at an auction house- appraisal of value, authenticity, etc.

Art conservator – assessing and repairing works with various levels of damage

Art writer/critic

Art researcher- pursuing ideas and theories about works and publishing papers on said research

Archivist- working within a museum or collection’s works

These are just a few careers.

I’m not going to an unemployed dreamer living off of other people’s handouts!

Come on, really? 

3. Art History majors are shallow and very much centered purely on their majors, and if you don’t understand art will scorn/ostracize you.

So false! If you don’t know Michelangelo from Lichtenstein, we can still be friends, I promise! As an Art History major I’m schooled in basic science, theories, ways of thinking, and historical and contemporary politics, as well as religion, symbolism, the use of language, etc…a jack of all trades, you might say. I’m also a human being with interests outside my major, like television shows, the news, politics, feminism, etc…

I can, and will, talk about almost anything. Even if I make some of it up.

Art History majors are generally really passionate about their studies, but the same goes for other majors as well. Also, we don’t discriminate against the art-illiterate. Never. Don’t feel “stupid” for not knowing that my favorite painting is a German Expressionist work.

Art is, again, universal. It has so many emotions and connotations attached to it so that everybody can relate to at least one piece of art. My major isn’t meant to isolate you, it’s meant to branch out your knowledge and increase your love for art. That’s why I study it.

Really? All you think I’m good at is talking about art? Oh, darling, I’m good at a lot of things….

4. Most Art History majors have their parents pay for college, and are generally from wealthier families where “less useful” majors are okay to spend money on. Or, worse, the Art History degree is code for the “MRS” degree

This is a big one. People automatically assume that my parents make bank because I’m an Art History major, as a result of the stereotypes attached to it that it’s useless and for more “flippant” individuals. My daddy isn’t getting me a gallery job after school- quite frankly, my father doesn’t give a damn what I do after I graduate as long as I pay off my debt and find some form of happiness. I’m on my own finding a job and a secure future.

I’m paying for college with help from my parents. I am up to my ears in debt, but it’s not going to be for nothing. Many Art History majors are scrappy individuals who may not be going into more lucrative majors in sectors like finance and banking, but we have faith in our own abilities. We come from all different backgrounds. Some of us are from well-off families, some of us not.

Kate Middleton was an Art History major, now married. Back when women went to college to become wives, the Art History option was pretty popular, but just until Mr. Right put you in the suburbs. This has changed. Art History is not just for the passive or for the wealthy.

5. All we do is look at pictures of art.

We read research papers, study history, read art theories and literature regarding the understanding of art, and sometimes we even make our own art. While yes, many of my classes are devoted to visually absorbing and gathering knowledge about works, I don’t just look at pretty things. Sometimes we look at hideous art, too!

I’m a real looker, I know. 

6. We’re all women.

You’d be surprised at how many dudes quietly live their lives pursuing Art History degrees. I’m not claiming it’s the sausage-fest that engineering is, but dudes are present.

Along with that, women do have more Art History degrees than men. However, for whatever reason, men still hold the best art positions at prestigious museums and universities! I find this to be ridiculous, because Art History is not easy to understand, and is pretty competitive field, but somehow most of the people with vaginas are deemed somehow unfit for the top-notch positions.

Awkward…

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I have put to rest some perceptions about Art History majors and what we do. If you have questions or comments or insight to add, please comment or somehow let me know!

Also, if you are an Art History major and you want to add any stereotypes or ideas to this, feel free! Feedback is awesome! I’m going to end this post with a self-portrait by Ferdinand Hodler, because he’s sort of awesome.

Sunday Poem: Lugano and New Shoes

And here do I sit, with bandaged feet,

For as I walked did trouble I meet.

I set off with my camera early one morn’:

Indeed I set off for the rising sun.

The sky was pink, the water still black,

And soon I knew I couldn’t turn back.

Except in my mind, surely I thought,

That this is something that I rather ought,

Not do today, in brand new shoes.

But at the time, if you snooze, you lose.

So I kept on stepping farther away,

In brand new shoes on a brand new day.

My camera was clicking, my eyes were dazzled.

Surely by now, my feet would feel frazzled.

Sadly, my nerves didn’t react,

Quickly enough for me to turn back.

I walked another mile, perhaps even more,

I kept on stepping further towards,

Total destruction of my heels and toes,

An idiot I was, and this I now know.

Eventually, my feet did start to bleed.

And this warning did I finally heed,

And retreat like Napoleon in Russia’s winter,

But my bleeding feet did my progress hinder.

So as I pathetically limped back, as sad as could be,

I knew I was screwed for my entirety.

Alright, that’s dramatic, but you understand,

By being spontaneous and forming last minute plans,

And going on walks when one shouldn’t be walking,

Well, obviously, danger I was stalking.

So my feet are sadly covered in bandages now,

Hopefully gangrene doesn’t show up to say, “Wow!

I’ll gnaw on some dead flesh! Mmm looks so good!”

I think my feet are out of Infection Neighborhood.

They’re just ripe with blisters and painful as hell.

It’s my own silly fault, I must shrug oh well.

But I wish to bid adieu to my foolish ways,

And next time I go on a hike, perhaps I’ll be fazed,

By this tragedy of epic proportion,

And don proper footwear, a wonderful notion!

So, people, do not follow my lead.

Unless you desire for your feet to bleed,

Please, dear readers, really do heed,

My creed of begging your feet not to bleed,

So wear shoes that are comfy with cushion and bounce,

So that you can hike, step high, perhaps even flounce.

I wish you good luck in all of your fun!

Please wear good shoes next time, everyone!

I composed this poem after an almost successful attempt to walk to Gandria, a little Swiss village about 5 km away from Lugano’s downtown. I walked with my Olympus OM-20 and a couple rolls of film, in some new oxfords, without breaking them in one bit.

My feet were ripped to shreds, and I eventually took a bus back to Lugano after walking about 8 km with my feet raw and bleeding. Luckily, I think these photographs, all tinged with early morning blues and pinks, are worth it.

How I feel about Finals Week.

Finals week seems like a great idea. At the end of every semester, you are tested on your knowledge and your grades reflect that knowledge you’ve gained. Woo! Easy peasy, ja?

Nein.

Finals Week is when all your professors act like they’re the nicest people in the world while really trying to see how many challenges they can hurl your way before you die at your desk. They tell you to get lots of sleep and take study breaks, then hand you a study sheet, and multiple ways you can fail at their exam, then bid you adieu.

The thing is, the math doesn’t work out. You’re supposed to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, take study breaks, and somehow find the time to spend about 10 hours studying/writing for each exam/paper, while still finding time to eat, bathe, and maybe go to class, which is very important. You’re automatically screwed. Then, add in the time you’ll spend procrastinating!

Also, if you claim you do not procrastinate, I’m going to call you a liar by default. Saying you don’t procrastinate is like claiming you never lie: it’s automatically false.

Basically, Finals Week is akin to having your fingers being bitten off by rats while  being forced to eat habañero peppers and recite the Odyssey by Homer with a smile on your face. It’s not possible to go through it gracefully or without pain.

Right now I’m in the midst of finals, and this is a procrastination post of inferior quality! Danke!

The Dead Matador by Edouard Manet

The lost folder of photographs that I found from Istanbul this spring.

Spending two weeks in one of the most chaotic, strange, amazing, and labyrinthine cities this spring certainly made March a month to remember. Istanbul, you rule! Although most of the time I was either in a state of awe/confusion/being hurried along somewhere, I still managed to soak up some of the scenery.

I lose things like it’s my job, and I thought these photographs were gone forever, but it turns out I had filed them in with my photographs from Palermo, Sicily. Woo! Please delve into the world of Istanbul seen from a 19 year old photographer. Warning: We were mostly taken to “touristy” spots, so I do not call this an authentic view of Istanbul. Then again, can a city of 16 million that spans two continents really have one identity or one idea of authentic? Nonetheless, we did mostly go to bazaars, mosques, restaurants and main streets, and we were also put up in a “hotel block”- an entire block of just high-security hotels, surrounded by guards at the exit to the block. It felt strange staying in this sort of “island” of hotels, you can be sure.

Although our experience was at times skewed so that we could experience Istanbul’s most famous parts, we wandered and explored, took the public transportation, bought coffee grinds and sipped Turkish tea in multiple-story-high cafes, ate lots of good food, and had a definitely fantastic time. I also remembered some Turkish (mainly on how to order food), which felt nice.

Of course I have more digital photographs of Istanbul that I chose not to put up. These photographs were from the last three days we were there; the only days it didn’t snow/rain/sleet or give us some sort of inclement weather! This is how I want to remember Istanbul: Sunny with a size of haze and choas, enveloped in history and torn between the past and present.

Things I like: Origami!

Yesterday I showed many families here in Bozeman how to make easy and fun Christmas decorations with their kids, and one of the most fun things to teach was how to make simple origami things into Christmas decorations. I used to spend hours fidgeting in my home room class during middle school, and then I started investing in the little squares of paper. Of course, many a teacher confiscated my creations thinking they were secret “notes” to classmates, but I kept making swans, boxes, giraffes, frogs that actually jump (yes!), butterflies, etc.

If you’re a broke college student or your Christmas tree looks sad or you don’t have any decorations, simply make a couple of these boxes or swans, then die them up and string them around your space- instant gratification at almost no cost! I wrapped the boxes like Christmas presents and strung them up.

Pretty living things post. (Look away!)

Everything here is dead. (I mean flower/pretty plant wise).

I mean, dead. It won’t re-appear or re-animate until maybe March…but that’s a stretch. To cope with this bout of lifelessness here in Montana, I periodically post sappy photographs of pretty naturalia (natural things). Today, it’s flowers. If you can’t handle the cheesiness of them, I suggest you go play Tetris or make some hot chocolate or do something – anything- else. This is going to be pretty, it’s going to be sappy, and it’s going to be repetitive.

Also, I sadly do not know the names of a lot of these flowers. If you want to get all horticultural on me and spread your knowledge, let me know so that I can properly identify the flora! Thanks!

Final color photographs of the year, part II.

Meghan and I went to a park down the street so that she could photograph me as a weird old lady in a fur stole, a large green felt hat, and a hideous sweater. They turned out pretty cool, and the day we took them was beautiful- sort of like autumn bidding us a really warm farewell.

In other words, I have a roll of black and white that needs to be developed, and I have a massive project coming up I think will definitely get shared here!