Quietly readying to say adieu

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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.

Primavera in 35mm

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Once again I feel absent from this blog. I have been feverishly writing, editing, and re-writing my thesis for several weeks now and my pace has quickened. I get up early, write for a few hours, take a break, and then do some more. Caffeine is vital. Lots of sleep is too.

Above are photographs on film, mostly from my Chinon camera, from the last month. Coffee, walks, the ocean, and necessary bits of humanity are all present.

My body has felt off kilter for a few weeks now, but being able to be in Minneapolis for a few short days has restored my soul a bit. This weekend some really lovely souls helped me have a birthday party- my first in years and years! (Thank you all!) Things are good- the cherry blossoms are everywhere on trees and all I want to do is go photograph them all but writing this damn thing is THE PRIORITY! Keep your eyes peeled- I’ll try to get out during the day this week on one of my breaks and photograph these gorgeous things.

Mystic Beach Hike: Into the woods

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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.

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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.

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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.

Night walks and Caravaggio

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Today I literally sat on my bed, drank a beer, and read a book about Caravaggio. I had fresh air coming in my window, and I fell into another world. Guess what? It was marvelous. It’s my day off. Tomorrow I start writing some more, but for now, let me fall into books.

These are from last night’s meandering about. Shadows, alleys, and beautiful sunsets were photographed.

 

 

The act of seeing.

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Odds and ends on film. Right now it is windy and clouds are being pushed past my window quickly. I’ve been busy working on a section of my thesis that is due in a few days- and I’m so nervous to send in what I’ve got! I’ve been editing, re-writing, re-organizing, and trying to find some semblance of lucidity in my own writing. Perhaps in my life as well?

Moonage daydream

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This weekend was spent with good humans. One of the highlights was going to karaoke with a bunch of friends on Friday. Morgan and I did a killer job at singing “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, and we drank Campari at a a bar/barber shop earlier. And yes, the bar/barbershop establishment was ridiculously trendy. While I was waiting for the washroom there was literally a dude getting his hair cut behind me. At 9:30 pm. On a Friday night. In a bar.

32760100471_e351f8c9f5_c32760096541_35a2acb4ef_cSaturday I spend in some botanical gardens, and then devouring pho with Kaitlin. I walked a lot this weekend, as my mind and heart feel very full. I miss my home, I miss my loved ones, and I miss life when it wasn’t so complex. 2017 will hopefully be better than 2016 was but I know that it will be saturated with challenges I can only welcome, as the only other choice is to dread them and that would mean such a waste of energy. Trying to stay on top of everything that needs doing is overwhelming, and sometimes it gets really hard when my partner is living in another country and I can’t even go and get a hug when I need one.

Nonetheless, the words that define this year already continue to be important: survive/resist/resilient. Kaitlin and I were discussing how to let go of the toxic environment where the news only seems to get worse and everything seems dim and dark. For me, long walks and a good playlist always help. I am lucky to live in a pretty safe city where I can go on walks late at night by myself and feel fairly comfortable doing so, and I know I’ve talked about this on this blog a lot in the past, but long walks are the only thing sometimes that make me feel sane. What do y’all do to keep your heads on straight?

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Anyway, this morning’s walk was marvelous. It was a gorgeous, clear morning here, and the sunrise was epic. I said good morning to older folks on their morning strolls and listened to birds and saw so many crows (crows are the best!). I wore this grey/blue wool turtleneck dress, which essentially is the antithesis of attractive in every way- and that’s kind of my clothing aesthetic I guess? I love wearing lipstick and having my makeup done well but when it comes to clothes challenging ones are better. Big, thick sweaters, turtlenecks, loose shirts, high collars, longer hems, tights- things that hide my body or distort my shape feel safer in a lot of ways and they turn the focus away from my physical self and the value that society puts on it. I feel freer and also more anonymous when I wear things that hide my body. If this sounds strange I am 100% positive there are lots of great writers across the gender spectrum who write about disguises/clothing/dressing for anonymity and comfort and other marvelous topics. Leave me to fumble with my words, thank you very much.

I hope y’all had a glorious weekend and welcome the week with optimism! We must all keep our chins up, as hard as that can be a lot of the time.

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Garden Wanders

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The Gardens were way more affordable than the Butchart Gardens, and even though there wasn’t much blooming yet, I feel like during the later spring/summertime it would be a marvelous way to experience some gorgeous gardens on a budget! The way that the Gardens are landscaped gives you multiple paths to wander, lots of different areas to explore (a Japanese garden, a winter garden, an herbs garden, etc.), and many benches/sunny spots to sit and take in all the beauty that is naturalia. They have lovely little posts in the soil that tell you what species you are looking at, and I have to say that even the smell of the earth was amazing. Morgan and I both agreed that we wanted to come back when more things are active- but we did have the whole gardens to ourselves!

If you want to learn more about the Gardens at HCP check out their website!

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Chinon Auto 3001 camera

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I found a boxy little camera at a thrift store, went to 6 different shops and found the obscure battery, and took it out for a test drive.

The Chinon Auto 3001 is a sturdy little camera with a clamshell lens cover. It’s got a f/2.8 lens, a fill flash, an auto flash (that you can turn off) and no manual I could find on the internet.

So, on one of my meandering walks and over the course of a few evenings, I tried to shoot some test film on 2 rolls of Fujifilm. The results: Not too shabby. Obviously I need to test the auto-focus features more (it is supposed to be pretty good with the AF features) but it seems like a handy little beast to have around!

My greatest regret is that you cannot see the marvelous extra toes on Coco the cat’s little feet! She has polydactylism, which means that her feet have more toes than they should, and her adorable little paws look like little muffins!

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Kodak Yellow

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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…

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…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.

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A new favorite: Caffe Fantastico

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I have realized that my words do little justice but that my images do. Caffe Fantastico was bright, friendly, affordable, and well laid out. It was large but not sterile, and the food is delicious. It’s the sort of place you can see yourself wiling away a few hours lost in a book or typing out something for class.

It was really necessary to have a good chat with some friends there the other day. These days it feels so easy to fall into the blues and feel useless but being able to have uplifting experiences with good souls over warm coffee will never fail to make me feel a little stronger.

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Thesis beast and Primavera.

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Just some photos I have accumulated that don’t fit any particular theme of any one post. Some photos of some snowdrop flowers I found in all their tenacious, early spring glory. Cheerful homes I walk by on my walks to combat the intense anxiety that threatens to swallow me whole. Bits and bobs of books in the library, including the best label that reminds people that defacing books is, in fact, a crime.

Standing together, supporting one another.

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After learning about the horrific shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec in Quebec City, several friends and I decided to make a trip to our local mosque, Masjid Al-Imam. I have never lived in a community where a mosque was present (Montana and Italian Switzerland aren’t the most…ahem…diverse of communities). Victoria has one on Quadra Street, and it felt absolutely necessary to go, drop off flowers, cards, and letters, and spend a few minutes giving our grief and love to the Muslim community here and everywhere.

As a white, non-religious woman I have never faced religious discrimination. I have never lived in fear because of my faith. I have lived a life free of many fears that have affected others deeply. Being able to go, leave a letter and flowers, and express my sympathy and support for my Muslim neighbors and community members felt good. It’s not enough, and what we did was a tiny, tiny act, but it’s a start.

As we purchased flowers at the market, the cashier asked us who the flowers were for. We responded, “We’re taking them to the mosque!” and she replied, “Oh! That’s wonderful!”. When we got to Masjid Al-Imam, there were already gorgeous piles of flowers, letters, cards, signs, and a few lit candles, all saying that there are people who care, who love, who support. A man was outside the mosque and thanked us profusely as we deposited our flora and cards, and we shook his hand and told him thank you. It meant so much to have him recognize our attempts, as small and potentially meaningless as they were, at voicing our solidarity and resistance to hate.

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I am tired of feeling useless. As my motherland descends deeper into madness, being able to physically go and pay respects and show solidarity was important. There are two vigils/meetings happening in Victoria this week to honor those whose lives were cut short by a white, violent terrorist.

It is better to remember the names of those who have passed than to remember the terrorist, so I pay my respects to Mamadou Tanou Barry, Abdelkrim Hassane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Azzeddine Soufiane, and Ibrahima Barry, who were praying at their mosque. I cannot even begin to comprehend how their families must feel or how their communities are grieving.

What we must do is educate ourselves in these times. We must not be ignorant, we must pay attention and stay involved. We must attend vigils, marches, read real newspapers, and be loving. We must be willing to learn, to be uncomfortable and to be open minded, even more than we might already be. Fear and darkness do not help stop such horrible things from happening. Love and support do.

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A Fine Day for a Protest: Women’s March on Victoria

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We agreed to meet at a coffee shop to get sustenance before heading down to the march. Outside the cafe, people with pink hats and signs walked past every few minutes, and I got excited.

My mother, sister, boyfriend, and friends were all in Helena marching in frigid temperatures. I knew friends marching in Geneva, Amsterdam, DC, Boston, Minneapolis, Houston, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.  Most of the people I love today were out showing solidarity for one another and for other humans. Right now is not the time to shelter yourself- it is time to unite, express love and support, and learn new things. To be a good listener and take time to accept new ideas. To put yourself out of your comfort zone, stand up for yourself and others, and realize that right now, we must watch out for each other and ourselves.

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The march in Victoria was overwhelmingly positive. Lots of older folks, many who seemed excited and yet tired of the shenanigans their dramatic neighbors in America seem to always get up to. Lots of amazing home made signs, dogs, and little ones- including some babies that didn’t seem to keen to be starting their lives as rebels just yet. The weather was beautiful, and a really wicked Canadian politican, Elizabeth May of the Green Party, spoke. I met her on the street once during Canadian election season (which, side note is WAY shorter and more humane than the never-ending election cycle of America) and ever since have been a big fan. The march began and we headed in the direction of the Parliament building, then turned and made a big U-turn up another street. The whole time I felt on the edge of tears- so many awesome people allying themselves with Americans who will be facing struggles in the near future.

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The optimism and exciting energy I felt today extended beyond Victoria. It extended beyond North America. It rippled across the world and it was absolutely infectious. I hope that we can learn intersectionality, true support, and be vocal for positive, progressive changes for the better, and not be okay with the horrible darkness that threatens to engulf some of us, and I hope that protests and marches like these are just a start.

There are estimates that about 5,000-8,00 Victorians marched today, and while I’m not quire sure how many ultimately made a stand of solidarity and marched, there were thousands of people that filled the downtown area with their marvelous energy. It was such a joy to march with everybody and to see Victorians, who have often seemed so friendly and helpful, make themselves known as even more quality souls.

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Sunday: Resolutions, lighting, and coffee.

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I love long walks on early weekend mornings. Spending my mornings outside will never be a waste of time. Lately, Victoria has been pulling out the most beautiful sunrises and I finally decided to capitalize on the opportunity to witness one. That meant getting out of bed before 7:30 am which is quite…uh, early? I went to bed at 10, because I am 25 and yet more akin to a grandmum than most humans, and woke up with my camera already charged and my belongings already laid out. I have no life, so planning ahead is mostly easy.

I walked out the door and found the most fluffy, pink-tinged clouds hanging overhead. It was absolutely beautiful. As I got closer to the water I could see the gorgeous glow of the Golden Hour everywhere. Everything fizzled with that vibrant energy the potential of morning brings. In the morning, you haven’t screwed up too badly yet. There is time to remedy mistakes, to kick ass, to figure it out.

31954586930_68100c00b1_c31954584800_0de4675092_c32181440942_2b952288b2_cOne thing I’ve been trying to do more this year is deliberately make more images of myself. Being the type of person who always carries around a camera (or two) means that often, I am making images of everything but myself. Looking through my photographic archives, I do not see my corporeal self. Yes, with every photograph I take there is a bit of me, but I miss out on pictures with my friends, with my boyfriend, with nature. I want to be photographed as well. I want to be present in more than a theoretical way.

Being neurotic, though, this comes at a cost: I hate having others take my pictures. I hate posing or faking it or looking how I think I should look and half the time it shows. What doesn’t help is that over the years I have developed a very complex (read: ridiculous) relationship with my face. My character-filled Dutch nose, my small mouth, and long face, have all instilled in me this idea that my face is hard to photograph. That it doesn’t hold light well. It is rare that somebody else takes a picture of me that I don’t cringe at. And so, I must take matters into my own hands and my own self-timer. 31520863063_e1f02169f4_c

Sundays I have been trying to spend exploring how to best photograph/represent myself. It’s been awkward and a struggle but my long morning walks now incorporate a bit of experimentation and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the results.This morning, for instance, it was immediately apparent it would be very sunny and experimenting with the lighting and angles was quite productive.

After meandering back into the bustle of the town, settling into some coffee and a book felt perfect. The downtown location of Habit wasn’t too busy and I pulled apart a croissant, making a flaky mess, while perusing the dense, spiraling world of Dostoevsky. I bought this tattered copy of Crime and Punishment in the English bookstore near the Bahnhof in Zurich on my 20th birthday and it may sound silly but it’s the best size and the best weight for toting around. One thing Dostoevsky does with his writing is make it so dense that if I don’t keep reading every day or so I have to almost totally start over, and over the years this copy has never had my eyes graze the final page. (Yes, it has taken me over 5 years to finish this book. I always get close but never quite finish it). Part of me wants to never have it end so I can always keep this copy around.

Now, I find myself reading Evelyn Cameron’s diary for my thesis. Grad school work lurks as an omnipresent spectre even during relaxing moments…

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