Phone diary from July

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Logan’s been gone a month. I’m on my own here in Montana. I’ve adopted new skincare methods, moved into a new room, have four bags of clothes to donate, and have been trying to enjoy summer. That means reading- a lot. In distilleries, coffee shops, bed, on work breaks, in the park, anywhere and everywhere. After the books come walks- long, meandering, in the evening. Summer is always remembered as the best but it’s so hot during the day that I duck in and out of shaded spaces and cool buildings. I can’t concentrate when it’s so hot that the buildings themselves radiate heat after sundown. The fan goes, and my mind wanders in circles, and I loathe summer as it happens, but remember it as so much better when it’s over.

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Before the defense

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Last week I went to an interview for a job I thought was going to be awesome but it ended up being not at all what I thought. Halfway through the interview, I was asked, “what is your biggest accomplishment?” and I paused. My thesis. My beautiful, eloquent, hard worked thesis. I knew then that this interview was a waste of my time and my interviewer’s. I called later to have them take my name off of a list. I cried when I got home to Logan, knowing that I wanted more. That aching compulsion to be pushing myself made my stomach feel queasy and I sobbed, harder than I should have.

I defended that beautiful thesis last Friday and I did well. I did better than well. I managed to answer every question, even the odd ones, and I left feeling a mix of elation and exhaustion. Hibernation sounded amazing- wake up three months later, as winter comes, and shake the cobwebs off my eyes and start over. But here I am, and it is Monday, and life continues. Except, now I am a Master of the Arts. I can put an obnoxious, little “M.A.” next to my name in email signatures if I choose (I think I will not do this).

Anyway, here are some film photographs from the last two weeks. A quick day trip to Kalispell for ice cream, used books, and terrible sushi. A fiery sunset that my film failed to capture in all it’s glory (but can a camera ever really properly do a great sunset justice?). A few moments lingering on the side of the road with Logan, surrounded by smoke and fire, watching the end of another day. Sunflowers all abloom in my parent’s yard, quietly exuding beauty without knowing it. I am trying, almost desperately, to make moments that will create the idea of a summer that has not, thus far, been fraught with a cocktail of stress, tears, and anxiety that has been almost uncontrollable. If that leaks out into this blog a lot, I cannot help it. But damn, y’all, it’s also been such a good summer. We moved into a house, had some irises bloom that were heartbreakingly beautiful and fleeting, we traveled to San Francisco, I’ve gotten to see friends I haven’t seen in months and years, and life is mostly good. There’s money for food, a roof over our head, and I’m lucky enough to be on Medicaid while I look for work.

What do you guys do to deal with stress and do self care? I’ve always been really good about it but not being able to be outside due to the smoke has made that harder.

Chocolate before dinner.

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It’s been awhile, eh? I am nibbling on some honeycomb covered in chocolate before we make dinner…oops.

In three days I head to Victoria to defend my Master’s thesis (!!!) but this last week has been something from Hell. I got really, really sick, had two job interviews which didn’t pan out (always a bit of a bummer), and generally loafed, hacked, and worked my way through the week the best I could. The smoke here has been dreadful- we aren’t supposed to be outside for too long, it’s so dense! They’ve got almost 700 firefighters from all over the country here to battle the Lolo fire in Missoula.

Besides fire and a bit of immune system failure I did bake some amazing blackberry pastries using a recipe from The Little Epicurean!  (Click through for the recipe!) We ate them up before I thought to make some pictures. Next time!

I also finished The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. An exquisite, sensitive, multi-layered book about the meeting of two cultures through the lens of an epileptic Hmong girl. If it sounds strange, fall into the pages. It’s a sad, extraordinary, determined story. Now I am reading Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map, which is about London’s cholera epidemic. I love medical history and stories about cities and this intertwines both. Again, if you ever feel ungrateful for modern medicine, go read something like this! You’ll be so glad that you’ve got anesthesia that isn’t ether or chloroform or cocaine! (Or a cocktail of the three!)

Anyway, these photographs are from a few weeks ago. Lovely Chelsea visited, Logan and I went to a diner, and I’ve been admiring the beautiful green plums that are on our little trees in the yard. One determined squirrel has been pilfering them, but we’ve had a host of birds, including a northern flicker, in our yard lately, and it’s been so lovely to see them! I like sitting quietly on the porch watching them flit and fly around. Birds really are so neat.

 

Missoula moments

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Last night Logan and I floated the Clark Fork River on some industrial rubber tire tubes. We had a river bag with two beers and our car keys tied to his shoelaces. The water was warm, and the smoke-clouded sun shone deep gold and warm orange on the water’s surface. We floated under a bridge with a loud train rumbling over and it felt surreal to look at thousands of pounds of goods moving over our heads. Fish jumped ahead of us and we heard the river get loud and quiet and loud again, and we bobbed in and out of waves and currents.

Then, we heard it. The the most pathetic sounding, wobbly, unimpressive sound a bird has ever emitted: the cry of a bald eagle! Yes, ladies and gentleman, our regal national symbol, with it’s glorious white head, sharp beak, and piercing eyes that grace the cheesy tee shirts that live in at least half of Montana’s older white male population’s closets. The bald eagle, in fact, shrieks in a most undramatic, uninspiring way. We saw two immature bald eagles and what we thought may be their mum perched in the tall trees alongside the river.

As we floated on, eagles close by and the sun going down, I looked all around us, I thought, This is bliss. This is what it’s about. Where else on earth do I get to do this?

36248384036_345caacd08_c35895831730_4abb3bea5b_c36248389366_cbf48db76b_c This last week has been full of reminders to be kind to myself. The job search has been brutal so far, with resumes given in hand and online, with only silence or rejection so far. Summer has been hot, brutally so, making me loathe everything. Sleep is hard to come by often. And yet, things are good. Chelsea visited us for a few days, making delicious palomas in the kitchen and telling stories of her around the world journey she’d been on with her Kate the last six months. We tried a new brewery, made pizzas, went to Bernice’s Bakery and ate amazing baked goods and had excellent coffee. We went to Kettlehouse and I had the most incredible slow pour nitro amber ale (which yes, is a dramatic title, and the beer was dramatic and delicious).

Life moves so fast in the summer. Last summer was a blur like this one, too, with hectic trips to Yellowstone, barbecues outside, delicious meals and cold beer, but also looking at the date and shaking my head, wondering if it was really already August. Last year, though, there was the inevitable departure back to British Columbia, the goodbyes and the sadness, and this August there is none of that looming. It feels so good to not worry about a date in which I’ll cross the border to the North and leave behind loved ones.

So life continues here in the northwestern part of Montana, where fires rage in the mountains and eagles screech from the river shores, and I continue to apply for jobs and keep my chin up the best I can. A dopo, readers!

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Americana: The Lewis & Clark County Fair

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I insisted that Logan come to the fair with me. The fair is a microcosm of American culture: It’s big, colorful, gluttonous, loud, and silly. Children can shoot fake enormous guns that look scarily real from rough looking carnival employees. One can buy deep fried Oreos in large quantities and people watch. Rodeo visitors dress up in their best cowboy boots, hats, and belts. Men with large stomachs wear their largest belt buckles. The exhibition hall houses goats, rabbits, chickens, cows, and sheep, all for purchase or viewing.

Old people walk past children’s carnival rides decorated with busty women, hyper sexualized characters in skimpy outfits. Everywhere there is inescapable mud and dirt, in sharp contrast to the shiny neon and the lights. Food trucks line the parking lot, and one can devour anything from pork chop sandwiches to roasted corn to funnel cakes.

And I found a roll of 35mm film in a film shop in Bozeman that I hadn’t picked up, scanned in the negatives, and found all of this waiting for me. What an odd, marvelous late gift to myself.

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Grumpy hiking and lamb lunch

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We parked the car in the two story parking area at the base of Mount Helena. My allergies, vicious as they were, matched Logan’s misery as he was getting over a cold. Two congested, miserable souls, eager for exercise, climbed the dusty, hot 1906 trail. It felt like an odyssey.

“I think they re-did the trail” Logan joked at one point. We were mouth breathing, disgusting creatures who agreed that we’d stop once we reached the cave. Thank god the cave wasn’t very far up the trial. We went back down and ran errands, buying droll things humans need to continue existing, like mascara, carpet cleaner, bleach, allergy pills, and Mario Badescu Silver Powder.

Logan did enter an Ulta with me for a few minutes. I told him it was my version of church, and it was fittingly Sunday. As we entered my particular branch of religious worship, I led him to the cologne section. We went deeper into the store. Shiny displays, lit up shelves of $30 lipsticks, blotting papers, blushes, and makeup in every shade of the world, all hemmed in with massive bottles of shampoo, conditioners. As I asked somebody if the Mario Badescu Silver Powder was all gone, Logan looked around, and from his high angle, surveyed the store. “This is a strange place…” he muttered to himself. Thankfully, they had my powder, and we left, me triumphantly beaming. (What would be the male equivalent of an Ulta? Perhaps one of the reasons I love Ulta/Sephora/etc so much is that they are very feminine spaces, and people who identify as women are welcome and there are very few intrusions of male identified persons. I am, when I walk into an Ulta, free to look at cosmetics, hair products, skin care products, etc. and not be surrounded by curious eyes of people who don’t value makeup or cosmetics in the way that I do. I am surrounded by people who likely share my interests, and I automatically am much calmer in said space.) 

After running errands, we went back to the haus. Logan chopped rosemary, garlic, and parsley, and I got out the little cuts of lamb he’d purchased. Making a little sauce from yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, and some other ingredients, we also lit the grill and washed watercress (which I had never had before!).

Logan laid the lamb on the grill with sliced, garlic laden zucchini and we opened some Haufbrauhaus Pilsners, which I learned were very similar to the beers that he drinks when home in Brazil. The lamb and zucchini came off the grill and we devoured our meal with zest. Immediately after, we went and took a nap in the park. Fine day, Sunday.

Saturday in the park

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I had been craving sushi for a few days by Saturday. My coworker had discussed eating a massive amount of it, and after work and watering a massive garden, I convened with my partner in crime while we collected raspberries in a friend’s yard.

We never get a lot of sushi. We could both consume massive amounts of it but that’s not the point. So, getting 3 rolls and some sashimi is usually how it goes. This time, we ate on a spare sheet in the relative coolness of some shade in the park. We both brought books (Aldous Huxley and Amanda Littaeur authoring the works, respectively) and unpacked our to-go order. I was wearing a brand new dress covered in kittens that I was so excited to wear! I always forget how awful it is to wear dresses for picnics though- you cannot truly just relax. Regardless, as we ate in the shade and heard birds flutter in the branches above, I felt really goddamn happy. Later , I posted a picture of our picnic on Instagram with the hashtag #idyllicasfuck and let me tell you that’s pretty accurate as to how all of this felt.

I hope all of you had wondrous weekends!

 

 

Artis and Hortus: Places of flora, fauna, and fawning.

Emily and I walked over a mile to both of these places, the Artis Zoo and the Hortus Botanicus, located in the Plantage part of Amsterdam. I didn’t take too many photographs of the critters that proliferated at the zoo, as there is still some feeling that it’s not right to keep animals in artificial environments like that.

However, the butterfly garden at the Artis was magnificent. It was hot, humid, and replete with fluttering insects. Fruit trays were laid out for the butterflies to feast upon. Many of the butterflies would land on each other before figuring out that their companions weren’t, in fact, food. Oops.

The Insectarium held some beautiful specimens, including the beautiful brown and white mantis! It reminded me of the lovely, if beautifully intimidating ghost mantis a friend of mine is rearing.

The Hortus Botanicus holds over 400 years of history, and thousands upon thousands of plants! Probably my favorite was finding out that there is a tree literally covered in spines, called the silk floss tree. I had to research a bit about it because Nature is so insane, and found out that it grows in tropical and sub-tropical Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The spines hold water so it’s drought resistant, and it can get over 80 feet tall. All I can think is holy kapow. Also, where can I get one and bring it here to dry Montana?

I walked around the Hortus, where the light came in through the leaves of various trees and plants in the most gorgeous, vivid shades of green, yellow, and brown. The cactus greenhouse was full of desert species, and I stumbled upon several enormous varieties of aloe plants, large enough that I could almost take a nap on one of the leaves and wrap myself in others. They had endangered species of palm trees, ancient varieties of plants they were preserving, and I couldn’t stop reading the labels.

The Hortus also  had the neatest addition ever- an apiary! I meandered on a path and heard the familiar buzz of bees. Ever since I helped my friend Julia with her honey harvest (blog post here) I have fallen in love with the efficient and beautiful lives that bees live. Sure enough, the apiary was busy! Signs warned visitors about the bees, but they went about their business without bothering a soul, merely pollinating and making food for themselves in their fantastical, algorithmic ways.

I could go on and on about all the naturalia but I’ll leave you with a litany of photographs instead. Hasta luego!

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

Sturdy old things make beautiful new things.

Shooting with a 70 year old Argus Argoflex is not an easy task. The top glass viewfinder is rather dark, and focusing never feels steady. There’s also no light meter, so proper guessing skills are a must!

However, for finding this beauty in a Goodwill in near perfect condition for $20, I don’t mind. Getting a good frame with this lovely camera takes work, so you have to earn each frame.

Not that I’m not looking at investing in a decent DSLR…with a decent lens…but first, I am planning a trip to Europe with my lovely sister and saving for graduate school. Those two things come first financially!

These images are from Cape Cod, on walks with my mother, meandering around the Portuguese-founded whaling town of Provincetown, and feeling salt in my hair and on my skin. It’s like nothing else! I also had a good quantity of decent gin on that trip. 🙂

 

Lonely landscapes

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I have been lonelier as of late than I have in a long time.

My social life is bordering on dead, a husk of what I imagined it would be this summer. I had a break-up, took a job I was very unsure of, and have spent most of my summer working and catching up on sleep, feeling as though I never had enough.

I moved out of my apartment in Bozeman permanently. Packing is hot and sweaty work but it also brings to light how much unnecessary stuff one has. I wanted to throw most of it away. I cried intermittently. I know that many people have bigger struggles and harder lives than I do but it doesn’t make it easier to move and deal with a break up.

This summer has been the hottest, loneliest, and hardest one I can remember. It doesn’t help that I worked too much and didn’t see enough of the good people in my life.

I hope my next post has better positive vibes attached to it, but I’m not going to apologize for being a person and having a difficult time at the moment.

 

 

A little peek at where I’ve been

I joined a gym.

I’ve been working so much I have to in order to sleep well or get any semblance of adrenaline going. I love having something to do after work, and I feel better already, even after only a week of going.

I also received a beautiful, sleek, almost professional grade Epson V700 scanner as a graduation from university gift.

And it’s amazing.

I’m definitely still getting the hang of it but I am definitely in love.

I can’t wait to be able to shoot my pictures and still be able to scan them in myself. It’s very gratifying to do so!

These are some shots from Glacier National Park. I want to film a series like Twin Peaks there, except among the hotel staff and the guests. It’s perfect, don’t you think?

North feels right

We went into Glacier and it was breathtakingly beautiful.

I love living where I do because I am constantly surprised. I am always amazed and shocked and the opportunities that abound here aren’t like any other.

We encountered a man carrying a cigarette and a walking stick simultaneously. He was walking at a decent pace. He got out another cigarette after he finished this one.

The Many Glacier Lodge we went into was built by the railroad companies as tourism destinations, but they are in the “Swiss” style- it made me a little nostalgic for my real Switzerland, although real is entirely subjective.

We hiked 8 miles to Bullhead Lake that day, quietly soaking up sunshine and hearing waterfalls and the breeze blow through the alpine flora. Glacier is beautiful, despite the people we encounter. I enjoy solitary moments while travelling but being somewhere so popular doesn’t always afford those.

Regardless, last weekend was absolutely lovely!