Monday, September 28, 2009

I just fell in love

With this picture. This is to remind me to work with it when I get back!
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Boathouses on Crooked River

Last September 13 (a lucky day, really, it was the day before my 74th birthday) I mentioned the boathouses on the Crooked River. I had been meaning to make a photo stop there, and thus reminded myself. So here's the result--no clouds though--and pretty harsh light. Picturesque, no? And somewhat falling into ruin. But the reflections are always good, in almost any light.
I have been trying all day to pack very carefully, almost ethereally, and only what I need, for a quick trip to our Yuki Teikei Haiku Retreat at Asilomar. The problem is, I'm taking only two cameras and three lenses for one of them. Then I need the battery chargers, the cellphone charger, my Kindle and its charger, a couple of sketchbooks, some pens and a watercolor set, maybe some markers or crayons, which I often don't use, but cannot stand to be without. I'm also taking some little prizes and gifts, and some duplicated handouts for the session I am leading. Then I have a New Yorker, and a Threepenny Review that just came, to read on the plane. And a little pillow to put between my knees when I sleep because of my back. I think I will also take Brenda Hillman's new book of poems, which just came. I am in love with Amazon and it is a costly love, let me tell you, but since I left the library, I really need to surround myself with books.
Yesterday, I went to Challenge Mountain and got another of the dolls that someone makes to support this charity. This one has blonde curls, a green dress with a ruffle, and natch, a pinafore. Too cute. Maybe I'll take her portrait when I come back. Trips always make me nervous; I keep waking up trying to remember if I packed whatever, or whatever . . . Do YOU take travel in your stride???
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Evening approaches

What is more beautiful than a broad expanse of water? And fading light toward the end of the day? So many things to cram in one more time before winter sets in. And all the moored boats we saw on this ride are taken out of the water and sheltered for next year. And the life jackets hung in the boathouse. Good night. . .
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Along Indian River

Along Indian River on a late summer boat ride. Wonderful evening light and my grandson here for a short visit. There was that autumn chill in the air.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sun coming up this morning

Coming up through the mist. I saw it before the fireball was visible, but by the time I grabbed the camera and got outside, it was like this, and I could only take the picture by moving so some of the sun was obscured by trees. I feel like I haven't been here long enough and it is only a few short weeks until we leave.
We did get the crabapple tree--a named variety Spring Snow--delivered today! John, from the Wilson Farms, put it into the hole that Trey dug. We are trying to think of some nice way to show out appreciation. All around town now, different kinds of crab apples hang on trees cultivated and semi-wild. There are two trees on Banwell Road with crimson globes that last on the tree for a long time. I wonder if you can plant crabapples from seeds. These trees have been there a long time and seem very suited to this area. I think I will try.
In about eight hours the sun will come up--it's rising much later now--we are far enough north that the difference is striking.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tangerines in a line

I've been away from this other garden too long. This was in February, a bit before garden clean-up time. The tangerines were still quite good and the grandgirls had a fine time harvesting them. As I get further and further away from mommy-time, I forget to think about how much fun kids find in everyday life, and how creative their pursuits can be.
It is fun for me now to visit old groups of photos and see what I can find. In film-time, I wouldn't have been able so handily to shift through large amounts of stuff. I should delete a lot more than I do. I should use more of the capabilites of my camera. I have a new Lumix and I cannot find the way to set the aperture through the menu. I know you can, the instructions didn't help me, and I need to work on it more.
I have a tendency to accumulate little tasks that I set myself. They pile up and then I do a whole bunch of them at a time after the shame has become almost unbearable. If I have agreed to write something, I should write it! I made an agreement with myself about this blog and am keeping it but poorly. A couple of other big things are pending: my mother's book and my poetry manuscript for just two. I think I'll go to bed.
Or, not. I have a fondness for what the organization books call "C" tasks--s opposed to "A" tasks, or the important goal-focused ones--like putting tangerines in a beautiful line that shows off their color and subtle variation of shape. If I have ever been interested in something, I keep on being interested in it, even if it is clear that I probably won't do much needlepoint, birdwatching, dolls and dollhouse-making, quilting, aperture or shutter-speed setting. So if there is another book on wolves, or trees, or by Frank Bidart, or Louise Gluck, or Adam Zagajewsji, or Bernd Heinrich, well. I need that, too. And let's not even talk about laying in a supply of blank books, for sketching, or haiku. . . or maybe just tugging at the memory thread with a pen or pencil in hand.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunflowers of summer

In my daughter's garden, these will stand all winter and many birds will come for snacks. But they will never be more beautiful than they were at the end of August. The roof of the her goat barn is just visible. Her excellent goat is still giving lots of milk. My husband loves this milk. Before we came, our daughter was making soft cheese and yoghurt from the milk. Now, nearly every day, she brings him some in a quart jar. He uses it on his cereal with blueberries every day.
The leaves are turning, soon it will be time to take those leaf-peeping photos. I'm hoping for good weather.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

End of Summer at Wilderness State Park

End of Summer
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
At this time of year, the woodland light increases as the leaves thin out. Before the month is gone these maple leaves will redden and fall. But now this branch arches with such a lucent greenness.
Tonight my daughter fixed just-picked corn, green beans, new potatoes and chicken for dinner. S had made a truly incredible rhubarb pie with rhubarb stalks we had frozen last year. These are my favorite suppers of the year--they remind me so much of the home garden suppers we had in the late 1940s. In what now seems like Old-Time America.

My father puts on old clothes to dig in our garden after work. He wears an old white shirt with the collar cut off, the collarband on. He rolls up the sleeves. He has a strong body and beautiful strong arms.

He never whined about working, or acted lazy in any way. He could fix anything, and did. Very lucky in fathers, I was, we--all of us brothers and sisters--were.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Morning at Sturgeon Bay

I have to thank the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society for the discovery of this beautiful northern Michigan place. I hope you just clicked on that so you can see the floating gull. One of the things that pleases me most about the parks and woodlands here at the Tip of the Mitt is the way the plants arrange themselves, reaching for light and water, in such attractive ways without benefit of human gardening. This picture is a very good demonstration of that. There is a small lagoon formed by a small sandbar; there are rows of grasses and flowering plants arranged in groups and broad sweeps. It all seems just about perfect.
There are trails through the woods here and paths along the shore. On our birdwalk last weekend we didn't see that many birds--it's hard to time the autumn migrations in advance--but there were many late wildflowers I hadn't seen before. They had wonderful names like Nodding Ladies Tresses and Fringed Gentian. And I suppose I must mention my favorite name on this outing (and it was hard to choose!) the Grass of Parnassus, of which I had never heard. Was there ever any more beautiful blue than this??

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Something to crow about!

Something to crow about!
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
The big chicken of Levering has a new outfit! He's looking good! I am very fond of big animal effigies like this and have encountered many of them on the drives across this country. But he is one of the finest and most unusual, a rooster who stands erect and wears clothes.
Tonight I am reading an excellent book about Kenyan wildlife advocate Joan Root, but I have to go to bed with it only half finished. So many books, so little time . . . as Ron used to say about women. And I don't think he was kidding.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oh, I know it isn't Christmas!

But, every day is a good day to discuss photography, n'est-ce pas? See the white thing in the lower left? it was caused by the flashcord in front of the lens catching the burst of light from the flash. It doesn't help that whoever was taking the picture didn't look at the ground glass viewfinder enough to position the tree as perpendicular to the floor, which it surely was. Our family has a lot of photos like this. I am sure if anyone had bothered to think about it, Dad could have crafted a solution which kept the cord back--he was great at stuff like that--but at this time in the life of our family, this was a problem of small moment. Going through our family snaps after my mother's death, I really began to sneer at the poor Brownie Reflex and its inadequacies. Nevertheless, I am very happy to have this picture of me in my snappy glasses and my curled bangs decorating the tree with such concentration along with my sister in the very early 1950s.

In summer, when I am taking a lot of photos, I usually treat myself to some good photography monographs. Here is a passage I found in one I got this week:

"My first photograph was of a train. I was eleven in the summer of 1943 when Boston and Maine's Number 74 came steaming around the curve into the depot at Putney, Vermont. I used my mother's little red box Brownie camera to make the picture. The following Christmas she gave me a Brownie Reflex, which had a square format and a ground glass. I am sure that little gem of a camera, in which one composed the image by looking into its ground glass, has a great deal to do with why I have been so at home using the Rollieflex and the Hasselblad, both of which have a ground glass. . . Since 1968 I have used Hasselblads exclusively for all my work. I am still convinced that my early experience with the Brownie Reflex is the reason I am completely at home with the square."
from David Plowden: Vanishing Point, Fifty Years of Photography,
New York, W..W. Norton and Company. n.d.
This $100 book is available from Amazon for $67.50. The photographs are impeccable, the reproductions excellent, and the introduction by the photographer a compact marvel of honest truth-telling about a life well-lived. If you don't want to buy it, try to get your library to get one, so you can see it!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I've been saving this thistle all summer, watching it grow, bloom and then set seed. I am afraid they will grow everywhere now! But, finally another group of finches showed up. The light wasn't as good as when there was only one ripe seedhead, and the birds have lost their bright summer yellows, but it was a great deal of fun to stand and watch through the kitchen window and take a lot of pictures in the shade. The survival of so many tiny birds is a brief great comfort to me, given the way the world is turning.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This is one of my favorite pictures of my younger son's new family. This baby started kindergarten a few days ago. Time really moving fast, seems faster all the time. Yesterday she called me up to wish me a happy birthday.
We did our second session of the senior chair exercises today, developed by the Arthritis Foundation. (I didn't have time to take any pictures. Smile.) Two pound weights, a foam ball and stretchy rubber tubing. It's amazing how much work these simple exercises are. We do eight reps of each one. People who have pain aren't supposed keep doing things that make it hurt. I can do everything, but the one where you walk your foot up the inside of your leg to your knee is surprisingly hard for me. There will be sixteen sessions; then you are supposed to have learned the exercises and can carry them on alone. We shall see. I can see how many of them will help with flexibility and strength. For the first five or ten minutes of each session I am CRAZY with boredom--I would do anything for a secret escape. Then slowly, I get with it, and soon there are only five or ten minutes of the 45-minute session left. Each time, I am surprised at the violence of the boredom. It hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Broad-brushed landscape

I keep finding things I had forgotten about as I try to keep my photos in a better order and make duplicate copies. I remember seeing this golden light appear in the distance as a thin yellow band, which widened as we drove closer. I haven't done any color increase or anything else to this. It almost made we want to stop and live there, until I remembered about the winters!
Good night, and dream of a golden landscape bathed in soft August light.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Attic Sale in Pellston Michigan

Who can deny that this is a photo opportunity?? There are a lot of cute buildings in this town which used to look like all of America, and now just looks quaint. I like quaint. I treated myself to a little stop here to take pictures in the soft overcast light on my way home from the birdwalk at Sturgeon Bay. I'll tell you about that later, after I sort the photos. I just decided that if I ever get to hold a sketchcrawl, I would bring the people here instead of to my previous preferred location, the Crooked River boathouses at Alanson. Or maybe we could do a half day at each place. . .

Friday, September 11, 2009

Three Little Butlers

Three Little Butlers
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Time for some unsurpassed photography from the past. My mother, Olga, in the center, was born in April of 1907, which makes this picture about 100 years old. I have wondered if the doll belonged to Marita, her oldest sibling. Was it just a photographer's prop? It looks too expensive to have belonged to them at that time,
Their parents, John Topham Butler and Susie Butler (both born in the US) moved back from the Mormon colonies in Juarez, Mexico, just before my mother's birth. Marita and Wendell, the other child in the picture, were born in Mexico.
The picture is sharp and beautifully lit, with light from the side, perhaps through a large window. I have read that these early photographers could use natural light this way. I consider this image a treasure, and I am thrilled to have been able to scan it.
At the time this was taken, the family probably still lived in Lehi, now part of Mesa, Arizona. Later, their father was a watermaster for the irrigation system in Mesa. My mother learned to drive one of those old Fords when she was twelve. She used to take her ten-years-younger sister with her when she went to tend a small family store at a crossroads, Many of the customers were American Indians, who would bring in eggs and produce to barter for other goods. Mother's favorite story about this was the fellow who came in and said, "Give me an egg's worth of your cheapest candy." And took it out and shared it out to his children.
The world has changed in such a way that we can no longer give our children real responsibities like those my parents' generation undertook as a matter of course. And we are not turning out people with their kinds of strength and capabilities, either. That's not all bad, but it is not all good, either.
Today, at the farm market, I got 1/2 bushel of peaches to freeze. It made me feel like I was celebrating, in a tiny way, my pioneer heritage. The peaches are on the counter now, to ripen for a day or two more. I put a pie's worth in the freezer just now.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Glowing Iris: putting things together

This is a photo of nothing taken by my granddaughter (where she moved the camera all around) combined with one from this magical iris late spring in Eagle, Idaho, and then treated with some Photoshop filters. One of my major topics of concern/obsession is something I secretly call "conservation of material." This means that I fix things that would be better thrown away and keep things ditto. Everytime I look at this composite, I will remember my granddaughter and how she loves to take pictures. And how I can let her, because my own children were the victims of necessary thrift and the expense of film. Just because digital photos don't cost after you buy the camera doesn't mean I can just throw them away. After all, as my folks used to say they might "come in handy." I decided to put a bunch of her outtakes into a folder and use them to combine with other shots. This is the first result.
My father invented a way to roll plastic grocery bags around his hand and tuck the handles in so that each bag makes a round bundle smaller than an apple. Then he would put them in a kitchen drawer; you could pluck them out one at a time; they didn't try to escape when you opened the drawer. I still do this, and stash the little bundles in an old bucket and in the corners of drawers wherever I might need one to line a wastebasket, or wrap something. As I am rolling the sack into the little bundle I remember my father--showing me this--every single time!
Tonight we went to Indian River for pizza at Vivio's. We had something called the Mediterranean: black olives, marinated artichoke hearts. thinly sliced fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It was not greasy, the crust was neither too thick or too thin, and it was delicately seasoned, but not overseasoned, with several spices. There was a hint of fennel. The restaurant is large, older, made of logs and with whole stuffed dead animals/trophys and fish. There is even half of a young elk that seems to be coming through a wall outside the rest rooms. The carpet was made to look like plank floors. It was quite terrifyingly dark inside, and there were red and white checked tablecloths. It was one of the most delicious pizzas I have ever had. Many pizza-of-the-future may suffer by comparison.
I finished an informal essay on the use of the season-word or kigo in haiku today and am feeling quite virtuous. I always prefer "having written" to actual " writing," which is why a blog is such a good practice for me. I'm hoping to do better, dear reader. Good night.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Fading spots

Fading spots
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Excellent morning light with five deer browsing just below the house. I ad to take the picture through the windows; at least on the big windows there are no dreadful stuck screens like on the upstairs windows, looking out into bird heaven. There was a fawn more spotted than this one, and three other small deer. No bucks, or spikes like last year.
Later this morning I watched a nuthatch painstakingly work a thread of wood out of the worn deck railing. Everybody was here today, except the cardinal. Someone is spilling the tiny black nijer thistle seeds out of the tube feeder--I cannot guess how. But I didn't refill today--we will let it rest for awhile. But my reward is that I only saw two immature goldfinch all day. Lots of jays, both kinds of nuthatches, the newly reliable tufted titmouse, and of course, the uncountable ever-in-motion chickadee squad. I guess the best part--I was out on the upstairs deck--was when the hairy woodpecker did a U-turn in midair when he spotted me as he was coming in for a landing. There was quite a fluttering, but I think the doves and the jay have generally a noisier flight. And tomorrow's a holiday. which to a retired person isn't much of a difference, except that there will be no water exercise class.