An appreciated delay

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The two week delay in finishing this roll of film and getting it to the lab is actually marvelous. I feel renewed looking at images I haven’t seen before.

I remember having cold hands and feeling like the sun was extra bright. It was a weirdly clear, sunny day in Seattle, after the two days of clouds and rain we’d encountered. We had our heavy packs slung over our shoulders after leaving the apartment we’d rented and walked towards the water, down steep hills. West Seattle and the Sound faced us and there was a cold breeze coming up the wind-tunnel like streets. The lack of caffeine in my system made this cold breeze not entirely welcome. My eyes were all over the place and my mind was as well. We walked right past the gorgeous library, and buildings that had actually been obscured by clouds the nights before. Cities always make me feel hyper aware of my ant-like existence.

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A brief stop in a cafe with big windows and odd coffee only made me hungrier, and in my standard clumsy state I spilled water all over the table and felt like a fool. Food was needed. We found a sushi place and devoured quite a bit of raw fish. We were right next door to the Seattle Art Museum and part of me wanted to venture back inside. I felt like a human battery recharging, sitting in the sun by the water.

I am in the midst of finishing papers and getting images back that were made when I wasn’t so stressed out feels destressing, even though writing about them is essentially shooting myself in the foot, as I should be writing about New Zealand government repatriation programs.

After the last member of our party departed, I spent the afternoon and evening in Seattle solo. I went to dinner by myself with a new book and had two large glasses of dark, dry wine while delving into a gorgeous story. I didn’t sleep at all in my hostel bed, and mostly tossed and turned, waiting for the first sign of morning. My ferry the next day was cancelled so the next day was a flurry of being transferred from bus to ferry, bus to ferry, to finally make it back onto the island. Huge waves tossed our ferry around and arriving in town it was pouring rain in a relentless manner. I got back to my apartment that still smelled like burned pancakes (a mini tragedy involving a spacey grad student and a hot burner) and settled back into my routine.

 

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To finish, I miss making pictures. I want to make more of people. On this trip I made images of my friends tentatively, never outright trying to invade space or be intrusive. I wish I’d made more images on film. On this roll you will note the lack of portraits- I made pictures of food in lieu of people. I feel shy at times making portraits of people I am in close proximity with, as tempting as it is to photograph people.

So, this is a kind warning to everybody I will see over Christmas: I miss making images, and you are all potential subjects. Ready yourselves. I will not be shy, and I’ve got a low-light lens.

 

A hike near Hveragerði

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I took multiple rolls of film on this hike. It was impossible not to- the whole hike had such a varying degree of landscapes, lighting, and weather patterns. It was cloudy, then sunny, than rainy, then windy- or a mix of various parts of those. Emily and I hiked with our swimsuits packed, excited to see the naturally heated creek that gushed down the valley.

The soil on the hike varied in color, from burnt orange to hues of purple, deep grey, blue, and brown. I couldn’t put my camera down. I regretted not bringing my DSLR, but if I had I would have taken hundreds of images rather than less than 100 on film. Pacing myself, I tried to just revel in the landscape and in how lucky we were to be there. I was thankful Emily had driven us this far, because it was worth it. I was glad the weather held until almost the end of our day.

We found pits in the earth that gushed steam and gurgled water. We did not dare get too close to the edge of these pits, as the soil or earth might have been weakened. We saw few people- one group graciously pointed us to a hidden waterfall as they walked away from it. Everybody respected the fact that this was a place of extreme solitude and beauty. Emily and I wished we had a tent so we could just camp in a meadow. Such a beautiful place deserved more than a day of our attention, but sadly that’s all we could give it.

Butte landscapes

Butte, Montana is one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever been to. Kristin is working at the hospital there currently so I visited for the day. We ate the Gamers Cafe (one of the only places open on a Sunday), walked on multiple paved trails all over town, visited her historical mansion-turned-rooms-for-rent, and had a drink at Headframe Spirits.

I’ll post more about the particular places we were at, but for now you can see a bit of what Butte’s gorgeous/unique vistas offer.

In the midst of it all

This week was a good sort of interesting.

I drove to Missoula, Montana, for a conference/seminar/training opportunity, and got to meet Audrey Nelson, PhD. She’s a powerhouse of a woman, and teaches communication and gender to all sorts of high-ranking companies. I loved learning from her and I admired how well she spoke and got her points across while listening to our questions and working with everybody.

This weekend I checked out far too many books from the library, drank a lot of caffeine in various cafes, and had good conversations with people I’m lucky to consider my friends. I went out and had a blast with Ella, and wore my calf-length camel colored wool jacket that makes me feel like I belong in a film noir.

Today I am doing my taxes and procrastinating but excited to get a bit of money back.

I hope your spring has thus far been beautiful, April is a month full of hope for many, and I am no exception. Every week I am closer to leaving and being done with my horrible work situation, and one step closer to better things! Silver linings, silver linings.

Snowscapes

I recently got some film developed and spent all of last Sunday curled up with my scanner, watching it slowly reveal what my negatives had gotten from my adventures outside. I watched A Streetcar Named Desire and swooned over Marlon Brando a bit while my negatives appeared, and remembered capturing these images.

A few months ago the lake would get the most incredible ice structures and snow patterns and I avidly tramped all over the frozen surface to capture the nuances. Depending on the light and the crystals I got to see many different kinds of frozen H20, and it was incredible.

I hope you enjoy admiring all the beauty nature gives us without a second thought. It’s beginning to be a Montana Spring, which is where Winter and Spring go into a fight to the death. For several weeks there will be intermittent lovely days and snowy days, windy and clear, cold and warm. Spring always wins, Primavera always comes with her flowery cape and brings greenery to the landscape, but she has to fight very hard indeed here.

Montana things

 

This morning the alarm went off right at 5 am. I had already been up for a while, listening to the intense wind whip in and around the windows. It sounded invasive and also urgent, and getting up to go outside and spend hours with it didn’t seem very delightful.

Nonetheless, I pulled on my sturdy Carhartt pants and a few layers and trudged upstairs. My gun was already waiting for me. Cooper was excited, walking all over the house as soon as he saw us with our guns and the kennel in the back of the truck. He’s almost 12 years old and still healthy enough to accompany us hunting.

Pheasant hunting is fast and intimidating. I haven’t spent too much time shooting, and my father urged me to get my best Annie Oakley on. I carried a lighter .20 gauge to make it easier to swing the gun up on a bird if one presented itself.

We drove in the dark and the rain. Rain in Montana in November is tricky business- it could be freezing, it could leave icy patches, and it could also make hunting absolutely miserable. Trekking through thick, tangled brush with a loaded gun trying to keep up with an excited dog with the wind and rain in your face made me want to return to my warm bed and curl up for a few more hours.

Luckily, as we drove farther and farther North, the rain subsided. The wind, unfortunately, did not. We parked right outside a closed gate and softly shut our doors. Cooper was amped up and excited, in sharp contrast to my regret in not having coffee.

We began our march into the field when shooting light began. There were several other hunters and we kept our distance. This year we’ve encountered a few idiots who disobey the quiet but firm rules of space, space, space, and awareness.  My father and I spread out, watching Cooper. When his tail gets loopy, he’s “birdy” and on some scent. Whether he flushes out grouse, hen pheasants, or roosters, we don’t know until they’re up and flying.

As we walked through several fields we flushed multiple hen pheasants, which aren’t legal to shoot. We watched them fly away. Every flush we made for the morning resulted in a hen. The hunting pressure in the area had most likely made the rooster pheasants head elsewhere for a few days. We made our way through barley fields, wheat fields, sage, and other kinds of vegetation, finally making our way to the edge of the lake. The ice was very slick and looked beautiful. I love how ice changes and moves, how the wind and water and temperature all interact. I’ve fallen in love with the ice on our lake and everywhere else for some reason.

After pulling my hip flexor, it started to get stiff and painful. We had been hunting hard all morning, making good time over multiple landscapes. Cooper was exhausted. I started to head for the truck to let my dad finish up one last field and I was making tall steps so as not to trip in all the brush. I was holding my gun up when about 3 feet in front of me a very handsome, very quick rooster pheasant made for the next field.

This is where I sheepishly admit that I was so surprised that I got my gun up but panicked and thought I wouldn’t have time to get a shot that I gave up before I even tried. He was the only rooster we flushed up that entire day and I missed! Ugh. My father thought it was hilariously tragic, and took us to breakfast in a little town to get coffee and laugh further at my poor confidence.

Overall, though, I had a great day and got to sees some beautiful country. Now, I’m writing this post and applying for jobs and researching grad schools with hot tea at my side.

Note: I know that for some, hunting is controversial. I feel that hunting is ethical when done fairly and with respect to the animals you co-exist with. I would rather eat an elk that my father shot than buy burger from a store when I have the choice. That elk lived without ingesting antibiotics, being in a cage or behind a fence, and that elk was taken in a humane, respectful manner. Hunting allows us to humanely gain access to a healthy food source. 

Honey harvest 2014: Bees, bees, more bees, and some honey!

Buzzing, busy bees!

I returned from a night of fun with old friends (our cheer was “to old friends and new memories”) to head immediately over to the Platt haus. Julia is a beautiful friend of mine whose family has been raising bees for awhile. They keep hives a few miles from their haus and I was invited to come over and help them harvest all the honey their industrious bee ladies had produced!

I showed up and was immediately intimidated- right outside on the porch was an enormous extractor, surrounded by hundreds of flying, busy bees. I have never been a fan of stinging insects so I thought of not leaving the house at all. Plus, the sound! They hummed and buzzed and the air was practically vibrating.

However, Julia’s mum quickly assured me that they were in “foraging” mode, and weren’t in the mood to bother anybody. They literally just wanted to be left alone to eat.

I ventured outside with my camera, while the air hummed and moved with the bees moving everywhere. I watched Hamilton run the extractor with the honey trays being centrifuged inside- physics!

The honey extractor is basically a large metal silo with metal parts inside to slide honey trays inside. Before you can centrifuge the honey you have to first de-wax the trays, because the bees have capped them. “De-capping” requires a couple odd looking tools. There’s a hot metal rod that you can use to melt the wax off, or you can use a little comb-like device to get the wax off. The wax is then put into buckets outside for the bees to clean a little bit! The wax is hard to clean but once it’s clean it can be used for so many things!

Once the wax is removed  the extractor holds the honey-filled trays. Two people work the extractor, holding it steady while one person cranks it to get the centrifuge working. Honey (and some unfortunate bees that got into the trays) are removed through sheer force and fall to the bottom to be gathered once enough honey has been centrifuged. I watched as they opened the extractor and took the trays out and turned them 180 degrees, to get the honey out of both sides of the tray.

Once trays have been centrifuged and there’s plenty of unfiltered honey in the bottom, somebody opens the spigot while another person takes a bucket with cheese cloth secured across the top. The de-honeyed trays are put back into the bee boxes in the yard for the bees to return to. These are later transported back to the hives where the bees will live for the rest of the year!

The cheese cloth over the honey buckets filters out wax and other things in the honey. Whatever bees were stuck in the extractor also come out. Then, more cheese cloth is placed over the top of the filtering buckets to prevent more bees from getting in the honey and drowning. Although, they are damn quick and still manage to usually find their way into the honey! Poor bees.

Once the honey has been filtered and whatever unlucky bees have been removed, the honey is ready to be jarred!

The honey is poured into special spigot buckets with lids, and then poured into whatever Mason and Kerr jars you have on hand. This must be done quickly because bees will literally zoom into the honey if given the chance.

The color of the honey varies depending on what the bees have been eating- in this case the bees were apparently eating thistles, mint, and clover! The flavor also varies based on what the bees eat. It’s actually incredible to watch the filtered, pure honey come out of the spigot and be jarred- it’s the most amazing, rich shade of gold! Plus, honey has the most incredible smell. I want to smell like honey.

While we were doing all of these random tasks, honey got on our hands, faces, clothes, and in our hair. The bees, which are hungry, immediately land on you. This part was the most intimidating and yet the most interesting- the bees are calm, not scary, but they’re definitely not shy about invading your personal space! We all periodically washed our hands with the ever-handy spray bottle or the spigot hose to keep our hands especially from attracting bees. We also had to rinse off the spigots for the honey. The inside of the Platt’s haus had honey on the floor, table tops, and chairs. Sticky everywhere!

The Platts have a lot of help, but the honey harvest is hard work. A lot of bending, lifting, and working while trying not to step on or bother the bees, which are literally in the thousands all over the yard. They’re in the honey buckets, on the wax, in the trays, landing on your person, and  eating honey off of every surface possible. My camera got some honey on it and bees landed there! By 5 pm we were all getting tired, and we were all sticky to some degree. I shook out my hair at the end of the night and thought a bee came out but it was actually something from a tree, ha!

My favorite part in all of this was admiring all the hard work the bees do and how incredible it is that these little ladies made all of this delicious stuff!

Julia’s dad explained to me how they house the bees and give them the trays which already have the wax the bees need. The bees do not have to expend more energy building wax combs, so they can spend time producing more honey.

Julia’s boyfriend Isaac and her brother Hamilton at one point donned handsome (ish) white bee suits to go collect more boxes. This is the part where the bees aren’t too keen on being friendly, because when an invader shows up to take away their honey, they go into defensive mode. This is when the suit is necessary- Hamilton described how the bees would bounce off of the mesh face net, obviously attempting to keep the eerily suited creatures from stealing their food! Hamilton did get stung once, and so did his dad, but other than that nobody was harmed! (Except the unfortunate bees that couldn’t help themselves and ended up in the honey or the centrifuge…)

Overall yesterday was the most interesting observance of a truly symbiotic relationship. The Platts give the bees housing, security, and give them back more than enough of their honey. The extractor doesn’t really take out every bit of honey, and crystallized honey trays can’t be centrifuged effectively, so the bees eat that as well. The Platts have been doing this for years and it was really amazing to work with them and help harvest the honey! Plus I felt really at ease after a while being surrounded by the bees.

I went home with 3 beautiful golden jars of the stuff, which I am planning on putting into pies, pastries, and tea!

Honey is also fantastic for cold sores, chapped lips, and exfoliating skin. Mix sugar and raw honey and scrub your face and wash off- honey has anti-bacterial and antiviral properties and it’s 100% natural. Using raw honey, not processed, is necessary to get the good properties out of honey- buying local is best.

Or go make friends with some folks who have a honey harvest. They’re the best! Thanks to the awesome Platt family for letting me witness such a neat event and help you guys!

Bzzzzzzzzzzz

Of the mobile sort

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These are from the last month or so. Black bear skulls, thrifting in my home town, spending time with Cooper and my famiglia, eating post-work sushi, going to parties dressed to the nines, almost doing karaoke, finding very fresh rubs from elk on saplings, hating the snow that blanketed here last week, eating breakfast and taking scenic drives. 

Film

001_24 002_23 004_21 013_12 013_12A 015_10 016_10 022_4 023_3I went to Yellowstone and saw an enormous smoke plume.

We ate cheeseburgers.

I like running my hands over old glass bottles.

A weekend in Pburg of being lost, more lost, and sleeping and eating pie and being with awesome people.

And other lovely life things.

I’m sorry I am not more descriptive. I’ve been devouring books and living and making cake and terrible cookies and trying to not succumb to the ease of making Ramen every night.

 

In which pie and adventures were had.

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This weekend was a glorious one, and I’m going about it backwards, because I can. WOO.

Saturday night Chris brought over spices and vegetables and all the ingredients to make pizza. I knew I’d be taking a backseat- my culinary skills are nothing at all compared to his- and relegated myself to documenting and ooohing and ahhhing as well as pouring the wine. Which we all know is quite important. It was a delicious pinot noir, and I am proud to say I picked a good one.

Proscuitto, marscapone, mozzarella, mushrooms, red peppers, and green onions completed the kaleidoscopic creation. All of my oohing and ahhhing was legitimate- when it came out of the oven we both swooned.

Cue 4 am. Groaning and moaning and sleeping a bit more. Cue 4:21 am. It’s serious getting up time.

Around 5 am Chris drove us through the sunrise, giving me the luxury of seeing landscapes I hadn’t seen before. Paradise Valley opened before us as the sky blushed pink hues while classic rock played on the radio. I was in luck to have the chauffeur that I did- he pointed out all the peaks and places, knowing the area like the back of his hand. It was odd being the passenger in my own car, but in a good way.

Upon arriving at our destination, we bemoan that we are not the only souls there. Nonetheless, we put on our packs and walk down, excited for the morning to unveil itself. We slip and slide into the river with our water shoes and gasp at the varying temperatures. Steam billows and swirls in a surreal sort of dance. A giant river growler full of water is placed bravely by Chris on some rocks- he has to wade and swim through bone-chilling water to get it there, which he claims is the best thing ever. I am dubious. Later I do it, with shrieks and yelps and lots of splashing.

We spend the morning moving up and down the thermal spots, finding ourselves scalding and freezing simultaneously. We try and find perfect spots. A bald eagle appears from nowhere, incredibly gorgeous and regal. Eventually after spending so much time soaking, we crawl out and dry ourselves off. Out of the sage come elk- 2, then 6 or 7, then 10, and then 20, then more. We make our way down the trail, me feeling like a tourist snapping pictures. We are close, maybe too close, and leave after I snap a few frames.

Upon arriving in Gardiner, we park and I rush inside in my bathing suit and shorts to find a place for pie. The woman inside shows me and we drive literally a block- the map of Gardiner is foolishly out of perspective. The cafe was almost empty, and we order apple pie a la mode, which came with two scoops of ice cream (thank you kind waitress!). We eat the pie and I exclaim over it again and again, so happy to be eating something so good! Chris says we’ll be going somewhere just as good, if not better.

While leaving Gardiner, all of a sudden I hear “Check that out!” and Chris begins talking about some beautiful truck I don’t see. He does a U-turn in the street just so I can see it, and when I don’t see it again he does another one (I am blind, surely) and upon seeing it I understandd- the cherry red paint and perfect white are gorgeous!

We get the most amazing burgers and shake at Marks. By now I am a lobster, pink and burning and freckled. I had not applied sunscreen. Oops. A little girl in line stares at me, probably my incredibly pink cheeks and nose, and I laugh, knowing how ridiculous my pasty skin looks burned. We wolf down our food- it was incredible, really- and drive back to town. By we I mean he. I was a passenger again, lucky creature that I am.

We ride bikes and climb things and I panic and freak out and he nimbly scales a boulder. We point out neighborhood homes and I remember how much I used to bike and I love it again.

I drive away and make it home as the sunsets, full of adventure.

Secret secrets

002_11 This weekend was a blur. A magnificent blur.

The drive to a mountain hot spring was beautiful- the clouds were phenomenal, and evening was enveloping us in lovely tinted darkness. Chris and I awed at the kaleidoscope that the sunset was giving us, and I brought out my camera to document it.

Full darkness seemed to never show up. We parked after driving through a stream and put on our packs full of towels, water bottles, and a spare apple, and began the meandering hike to the hot springs.  We intermittently yelled WHOA BEAR, as no bear spray was to be had, and finally made our way down to the spot. Taking off our layers, our toes met cold, squashy mud and slick rocks. We scrambled our way down and into the hot spring, full of dudes drinking beer. I marveled at the temperature changes all around the small pool.

The stars were dim- the moon, though not yet visible, was working with the sun to tinge the edges enough. Chris still managed to find the Summer Triangle and expertly pointed out stars, constellations, and various Greek myths associated with them. I eagerly listened to him tell these stories.

Soaking, melting, relaxing, and letting go while watching the moon shyly ascend from behind a ridge, past a tree, and finally into the mountain valley, I think I felt surreal, not totally sure if I was dreaming. I floated and meandered, my fingertips finding sand, rocks, and slippery greenery everywhere.

On the way back in several clearings it wasn’t even necessary to turn on our headlamp or flashlight- the moon was the perfect beacon. The walk through a glacier boulder strewn field felt especially bizarre. It was the most gorgeous experience I have had.

 

“We’re going to be murdered by ghosts!”

I foolishly loaned Chris The Shining three weeks prior to our going to Boulder Hot Springs. Upon suggesting that we venture there for some hot spring goodness, he balked and hesitated and hemmed and hawed, citing the resort as looking very much like the Overlook.

Finally I persuaded him (although to be honest I think he was as intrigued as I about this place) and we got our bathing suits, towels and imaginations ready to go.

The drive was beautiful- from the passenger seat I was able to see the dry, somewhat depressing landscape morph into more rich views as we got over the pass. The sun roof was open, my hair whipping about the car. I snapped a view frames of the views, and photographed clouds through the sun roof. Chris played Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.

Spanish Mission style architecture greeted us when we parked. Geese paddled around a pond, a slight breeze refreshed everything, and the air was cooler in the higher elevation. We decided to wander around the grounds.

Everybody on staff was friendly! “Have you two been here before?” The lovely woman at the counter asked us- I had, Chris hadn’t. We paid the $14.00 and put on our suits and walked to the outdoor pool. I had to put sunscreen on everywhere- Chris declined, citing his Latin roots and dark skin. We swam around and floated, noting the breeze and relaxing- it was  perfect.

The afternoon was spent there, frolicking and relaxing and exclaiming our good fortune at being some of the only people there. I got a little pink on my legs and arms, to my great chagrin- I had applied, re-applied, and applied sunscreen again! BLAST!

We left Boulder happy, and drove back to town with the sunroof open to eat some well deserved pizza.

Fin.

 

The kind of place you want somebody.

09100004 09100007 09100013Even though people never think of it that way, I always felt like Zurich was a place for quiet romance. When I went there I wanted to be bundled up with a scarf over my face holding a gloved hand, dodging the crowds in the narrow Altstadt streets. I wanted to share a bretzel and walk by the Limmat and then be in the Kunsthaus for hours with somebody who wanted to see Mondrian and Leger as much as I. Feel the crisp air redden our cheeks and duck into my favorite Chinese noodle haus for dinner or sample Luxemburgerli on a bench while the blue and white tram slowly goes by. I would drag them in to admire the gorgeous agate windows in the Grossmunster and we would duck into alleys and toss .10 CHF coins in a fountain somewhere.

There’s also something about riding on a train alone that makes one want a lover there- a quiet sort of security. They wouldn’t need to talk or be gestural, just be present. Maybe we’d share a Kagi Fret on the way back or bring a small bottle of wine to drink on the 3 hour train ride back to Lugano.

I think I ponder these things because I want Switzerland as a whole to be my lover. It leads me around to new places and shows me new things in a gentle, caring manner that is so eloquent. It writes poems for me and swallows me in lakes, streams and mountains, humming the whole way a slightly wild tune. Switzerland wears sturdy shoes and knows itself, making me all the more infatuated.

Escapism

The time to delve into my own archives is now.

Montana feels once again bleak, stripped of things that make me feel excited. My mind aches for inspiration, and though I go through the galleries and outside spaces that normally spark something, no flame comes into being.

Now, my mind goes to snow-dusted hiking trails, warm and crowded Zurich cafes, ribbed vaulting of Gothic cathedrals, and quiet walks downtown. I remember the humidity soaking me in sweat in August, trekking up the high hill with a bag of expensive groceries. Rain soaking my shoes all the way through, getting into the rickety-feeling but fun funicular, and constantly being bombarded by new things.

All of these images were taken between 2009 and 2011 on varying, and usually inferior, little digital cameras. I do not pretend to think of these images as anything but a small aid to my memories of these locales. Enjoy.