Who could not be happy?

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oh, just another sunset on Lake Michigan

Is it normal to experience a bit of a depression after a vacation? Not like I have experience in this. I’ve only had what I would call a true vacation once, 10 years ago when my best friend and I went to Tuscany to celebrate the year we both turned 40. In the years before and since Italy I’ve had little trips, yes–long weekends, short weekends, a few days off at a time but not a “real vacation” until Peru a few weeks ago.

And even that is starting to feel more like a dream.

It is so refreshing to step away from work. I knew everything would be handled expertly so I didn’t worry. It felt amazing to experience a new place. But there’s a shift after something like that; everyday doesn’t feel quite the same. Like, there’s a little piece missing, a change of some sort, something is not quite right. It’s more than a little unsettling.

I’ve moved to the west side of Michigan for the summer and get to wake up on a bluff above Lake Michigan. I make coffee in the morning, feed the dog, settle in to my workday while she snores away on the couch. I break from work to walk her and see what the weather is doing. Like today, a north wind makes the air a little chill while the sun is warming if you’re out of the wind, like on the south side of the house or in the dips on the road behind the cottages. It’s quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Who wouldn’t be happy here? But this malaise, or post-travel funk, follows me on these walks, taps my elbow as I brush the sand off my feet when I come up from the beach.

With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

I came across that quote yesterday, which is attributed to Oscar Wilde. I have freedom. And books. And oh there are flowers popping up everywhere. The moon is waxing right now and was bright and loud enough to make it hard to go to sleep last night. How could I not be happy? Yeah, it’s a little pitiful to feel sorry for myself here. Cue the violins and all that.

I’m sure I’ll shake off the funk any day now. A new photography project will help.

Still (barely) upright

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one corner left, Fuji Neopan Acros, 100 ISO, Holga

There’s just a corner left standing after this winter. I’ve been watching this farmhouse in west Michigan deteriorate for decades. Really, for my entire life since it has been empty as long as I’ve known it.

I have always been fascinated by this house and I’ll mourn the day there’s nothing left to see, but until then I’ll keep photographing it so that I can hold the image of it and the stories I’ve created for it in my mind.

October on film

Aside from the two rolls of purple film in October, I also ran a roll of Kodak Gold 400 and Agfa 200 through the Minolta SRT 102 and Pen EE3, respectively. Countryside, mid-October colors, the usual (for me) suspects. No edits, other than the addition of a watermark.

I’m still smitten with film. The planning, the composing an image, the waiting, the surprise. It just slows everything down in a super delicious way that I’m finding I’m really okay with.

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More fungi everywhere

Total fungi-fest in the woods here (or is it fungus-fest?). Way more fungus afoot than there was when I shared images in my post about mushrooms on the last day of August.

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Which is fantastic because it’s a nice little filler, considering the fall colors aren’t quite showing yet and there are hardly any more flowers still blooming aside from some chicory, a few straggler blooms of Queen Anne’s lace, some thistle, an occasional yellow wildflower. None of which I bothered to photograph yesterday, because, well, too many gorgeous mushrooms, you know?

I’m not usually here on the lake for more than a short weekend in this in-between stage, so it might really be the first time I’ve let myself wander aimlessly in the woods, no time frame or rush, seeking out mushrooms. A whole afternoon of it, in fact.

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I never realized quite how much fungus happens in the woods right now. I mean, it’s everywhere. White, yellow, beige, pale salmon-y pink, red, brown, pearlescent, moldy-looking (for real, I came across one type that looked like it was covered in a white mold). Growing on trees, from the sandy ground, from moss, from life and from decay.

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coral-like fungus

It’s like a world that I bet plenty of people go their entire lives not knowing anything about. I’m so glad I get to see it.

I’m not going to attempt to identify any of these. I just like taking pictures of them. And looking at them in their natural habitat. And smelling them (they were particularly pungent yesterday).

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eyeballs*

And it’s interesting, but once you see one on the forest floor, usually there are tens, hundreds maybe, just nearby. Of the same variety and/or different varieties. And it’s easy to wander off the path as you see one just there, and then there, and then farther over there…

And then you look up and realize you have no idea where the path is and your heart starts to quicken just a little bit and then oh, nevermind, there’s the path right there. Not that you were concerned.**

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Anyway, I know these woods, but I won’t pretend to know anything about mycology (except that mycology is the study of mushrooms).

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So I’ll leave the identifying to people who know what they’re talking about, and hope you enjoy my photos of mushrooms in a western Michigan forest.***

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*No, not really eyeballs.
**Maybe for a second.
***If you’re reading this and you know about these things, feel free to comment and identify any of these.

Chevrolet Brookwood in pine forest

I’m never not happy when I hold a camera up to my face and look through its viewfinder. It always, always makes me feel alive and invigorated. Even if I’m photographing something for the millionth time (ahem, Lake Michigan), even if the light is crap or my subject doesn’t cooperate or not one single photograph that day ends up being technically or in any other way good or meaningful.

Truly, honestly, the process makes me happy.

Today I went for a drive, hoping to capture the essence of this season along the nearby country roads, especially hoping to see something new or at least see something a new way. I slowed as I passed an apple orchard where something caught my eye, and pulled over along the empty country road. But what I saw didn’t look like anything special through the lens, so I turned back toward my car. And that’s when I noticed something just off the road on the non-orchard side. I had parked next to a pine forest with neat rows of mature pines, but something glinted–like chrome–near the forest floor.

So I tiptoed in to see.

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She was just off the road, really, so I barely trespassed. I couldn’t help it–she called to me.

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She’s a Brookwood, a station wagon made by Chevrolet in 1958, ’59 and ’60. Not a car I know anything about or for which my heart skips a beat, but in her pine forest resting place, oh I fell for her. She matched the colors around her but had a voice all her own, a quiet serenity, a weird juxtaposition.

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She had bullet holes in her side, one door hung open as if awaiting a ghost rider who would be hopping in any minute. There were spiderwebs where windows once were, and pine needles decorated her rusted and disintegrated innards.

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I want to know the story. What puts a car like this just feet off a back road at the edge of a pine forest in rural Michigan? How long has she sat there? Does anyone remember her fondly, visit her even?

It’s a story I’ll just have to make up. She deserves one.

Fungi everywhere

Or, it’s all about the fungi.

At least it is in the woods right now. Okay, wait. It’s also all about the spiders and frogs, too, because I walked through webs aplenty (and tried not to think about hitchhikers) and every time I stepped foot near the tiny lake in the woods, the frogs practically knocked each other out trying to get out of my way.

I have that effect on frogs, I guess.

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“I’m just going to stay really still and pretend she’s not there. She can’t see me, right? Right???” –frog

So, getting back to the fungi.

Once you notice a deep red mushroom on the forest floor, or a bright white one illuminated just right in a little patch of sun that sneaks through the trees, you just see them everywhere.

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double whammy orange

If I was a really good naturalist, or even a good blogger, I’d have dug up the names of these different kinds of mushrooms for you. But I’m just a girl with a camera in the Michigan woods, sweating in the late summer humidity and heat, talking out loud to myself, dropping cameras*, tripping over branches and getting bit by mosquitoes and deer flies. Geez, isn’t that enough?

Actually, it occurred to me just this evening that I have a good excuse for not knowing the mushroom varieties. My mother taught me all about the growth that you find in the Michigan woods earlier in the summer. I’m not sure she cared so much about the mushrooms, but in any case by this time in the year we’d be back in the city getting ready for school, our time at the cottage over until the next year. So there’s that.

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perfectly illuminated

And, I always get giddy when I see these:

Indian pipe! Also called ghost flower, ghost plant, or (barf) corpse plant. It’s sort of a fungus but it’s not. It has no chlorophyll, hence no green, but it does turn pink once it’s fertilized.

Anyway, if it’s late summer where you are, and you have a woods nearby, I implore you: get some bug repellent (or don’t, and wear some long sleeves and pants, regardless of the heat), go into the woods, and see what you can find. It’s kind of spectacular.

 

*I should have some film developed from this venture in a few weeks. I picked up a Minolta X700 and put a roll of Fuji 800 speed film I had hanging around in it, seemed a perfect speed to test in the low light of the woods. I dropped this camera in the woods, actually. And, I accidentally popped the back open while rewinding the film (it stuck, it was near the front of the roll, hopefully minimal damage). Sigh. And I also brought the Olympus Pen with some black and white film in it; but I’m never sure about metering and focusing with this bugger. So, surprises await.

Sky drama

I’m a sucker for a dramatic sky. There is no shortage of this on the shores of Lake Michigan, which is fortunate for me. I cannot get enough.

I was in the water, and then lying on the beach in the sun, watching this interesting cloud formation as it moved toward the shore. You can see it in the lower right of this photo just hovering above the lake.

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It looked like a long finger of a cloud, but with smaller tendrils shooting off of it. It changed shape as it moved and ended up diffusing. The cooler air this little system brought in eventually forced me up to the cottage.

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I have to leave here next week, which is always bittersweet. Of course there are things in the city I want to do, but the longer I stay here the more I think about what it would be to give that up. Could I live here year-round? I think I could.

It’s just simpler here.

I’m a lot of things

But I’m really not a gardener.* I’m a big fan of gardens, however, and especially a fan of the people who tend to them.

I’m in awe of those who seem innately to know what to do with plants and earth. I have no issues with getting dirty or digging in the dirt, but I need a lot of direction. In fact, put me to work in your garden if it means you’ll grant me permission to wander at will (just hold my hand a bit, and be patient with my questions).

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yellow daisies?
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this might be yarrow…

I guess if I stayed in one place I could probably learn to tend a garden, but until then I will appreciate other people’s gardens.

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lamb’s ear in fading light

I could sit in this particular garden all evening and listen to all the humming of activity, watch the sun move over this plot as it tucks in for the night.

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late evening shadows under the trellis
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shadows cast over the lavender labyrinth

*I might have identified some plants incorrectly here. Again, I’m no gardener. But I’m trying to learn the names of the things I appreciate.

Necessary distractions

I don’t want to say anything today for fear of the sadness.

Can I just live in a world where I think people want to live just like me, seeing only the good and the beauty around them, loving others for their differences or at the very least assuming a “live and let live” attitude?

I can’t wrap my brain around the events in Florida last night–I don’t want to spend a moment trying to understand that kind of hate. I hope, in not giving any more of a voice to it in this post, that I will read this later and wonder what I was writing about, if only for a moment. I am neither trying to make light nor be too heavy, I’m just too sensitive sometimes for this world. And so the proverbial blanket goes over my head for protection.

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And then I drive or walk or ride my bike in search of things to shoot. Actually, I don’t think that’s a word I even want to use anymore. Capture? Or does that sound equally jarring? How about just photograph? That’s a mouthful sometimes, though. I’ll work on a better word choice, I guess. Anyway I often find myself on this particular road because of this tree. Er, former tree. I think it was struck by lightning some years ago. It sits at the edge of what last year was a corn field, and there are often crows, wrens, other birds hanging around it, maybe nesting in it. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to this tree, but I am, and I probably have hundreds of photos of it from all seasons but the deepest winter. The sky behind it today made it even more compelling.

Across the road from the tree is a grain field. I’m seeing more grains planted around here in the last several years, and some fields that used to be fruit trees or corn are converting to grain. I’m not sure if this is wheat or rye or some other grain, but I liked how it’s still young and thin–you can still see the grooves in the earth through the stalks.

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I’ll admit I photograph many of the same things over and over, and I don’t even mind that because they never look the same depending on the season, the sky, the clouds–but I’m always looking for something different, something I haven’t seen before, something I might have missed.

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Like a former school, now used for storage, and its forgotten basketball courts. I have a soft spot for the abandoned and unloved. Probably all part of that whole sensitivity thing.

Tomorrow morning I’ll send several rolls of film out for developing. For someone who isn’t great at waiting, I’ve probably made a lousy choice in this burgeoning interest in film photography. It’s all about waiting and the element of surprise, neither of which I’m particularly good at. (I say I like surprise, but that’s just me convincing myself mostly.) Or maybe it means learning how to develop my own film is in my future? Oof. Another thing.