Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts

Saturday, April 18, 2020

significant, but not radical

This week, my niece Abigail and I made signficant changes to our hair:

A buzz cut for me, and a mohawk for her. Abigail, it turns out, was inspired by someone she'd seen online. I was just done with the shaggy stay-at-home mop my pixie cut had become. 

This is, of course, not the first time I've been frustrated by my hair. For years, I've joked about shaving it all off, and I've written about my hair angst on this blog before

While these new haircuts are significant changes for both Abigail and me, the degree to which other people treat them as radical is......not okay. 

The social norm that tells women and girls that we should have long hair, that our hair needs to be full and thick in order to be beautiful, that we should tame our hair with clips and ribbons and headbands instead of ball caps and buzz cuts, that a woman's hair is an indicator of her worth and a signal of her virtue is patriarchal bullshit. It's a holdover from a bygone era when rules also kept women from voting, holding credit, and owning businesses. 

When rules are shitty, break them. Every person gets to choose what they do with the hair on their bodies--shave it, grow it, curl it, straighten it, dye it, adorn it with ribbons--and all options are actually open to all of us. 

One friend said, 'You're a braver woman than I!' And I thought, 'I was not motivated by bravery, more by frustration and opportunity.'

But if I'm being honest, I should also say that I did this now because I have no one to impress, no reason to worry about not looking 'professional.' I'm not expecting any invitations to job interviews, my current students already expect me to do unexpected things. I've been frustrated with my hair before, and I've talked about doing this before, but I never have. I did it now because the stay-at-home order made breaking society's shitty rules safe. 

I don't know that I'll keep buzzing my hair after the world reopens. Next time, if there is a next time, Sofia and I think we should probably use the #2 setting instead of the #1, for sure. What I do know is that I've made a significant change in my appearance, and sometimes it still surprises me in the mirror. 

It also surprises me that other people see this choice as a radical one for a woman in the twenty-first century. I was not intending for this haircut to be an act of protest, but it certainly has become one. 

Nota bene: When rules are shitty, break them. But also be prepared for the consequences. The world is actually much colder when your hair is 1mm long. Hats are a good thing. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lent: wilderness

Most of the time, I love my city life. I love the density of human beings and bookstores and groceries and coffee shops. I love the sidewalks and bikeways. But sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Sometimes, a ramble in the #wilderness is the only logical choice.

this post is part of Rethink Church’s photo-a-day during Lent 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lent: led

Yesterday my world literature students and I were discussing Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” so I gave them each a labyrinth on a piece of paper and told them to trace their way to the center and back out. Every time I teach this lesson, it’s interesting to watch them discover the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. This time, one student exclaimed, ‘There are no choices! Just one path, and every time I think I’m getting close to the center, it sends me away again!’

Indeed. In a labyrinth, the only choice is whether to keep going as you are led.

this post is part of Rethink Church’s photo-a-day during Lent 2020

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Erin says that I'm part selkie. And she's not wrong.

It took me aback at first because if asked I would have said that my superpower should be flight, not the ability to don a sealskin and live underwater. But she's totally right.

If there's water nearby, I need to get as close as possible. On the particular weekend pictured above, I had flown to Chicago and dragged her to a state park resort along Lake Michigan north of the city to celebrate her thirtieth birthday. And she let me.

At Rustic Lakehouse, I set up my bed and desk in the dining room because it had the best view of the lake with two entire walls of glass, and when I think of leaving Lovely Apartment in favor of a row hose with a back garden, I'm brought up short by the thought of losing my view of the tiny ribbon of the Potomac River that we can see from the balcony.

I recently traveled to Acadia National Park with friends, and as we were planning, I was mostly interested in hiking the woods and mountains. I knew, of course, that this is a coastal park, and my friends chose for us to stay in Bar Harbor, so I was certainly aware that some time with the sea would be part of the trip.

But I wasn't prepared for the way the salt air rushed through my lungs and into my soul.

Jim and I had been hiking through the woods for a bit and emerged unexpectedly onto this sand beach, and I was overwhelmed.

As I walked ahead of Jim, the landscape filled my awareness--the sound of gentle waves in a sheltered cove, the tang of salty air, the cold breeze off the water moderated by the bright sun.

I stood like this for a while, boots sinking into loose sand, palms and face raised to the sky.

Jim called it an act of praise, but to me it felt like coming home and greeting a beloved sister. Lake Michigan and the Potomac River are like distant cousins.

When we're done hiking, we're coming back here, I said. And I'm putting my feel in the water.

And we did.

The water was so very cold and so very important.

I need to learn to take my love of salty water into account when planning my life.

Monday, February 11, 2019

color, revisited

Five years ago, in the winter of 2014, I was dipping my toes back into the world of color after having spent six months wearing only black.

I still wear a lot of black.
Photo credit me.
It's easy and convenient and camouflages flaws. (Also, in those six months, I invested in some really nice clothes, and it only makes sense to keep wearing them. )

This winter, though, I've been noticing just how much color has found its way into my wardrobe.
Photo credit me.
Those are the shiny blue inner lining of my dress coat, the green leather of my purse, the rainbow of my mittens, the blues of my hat, the red paisley of my skirt, and the purples of my scarf on the most frigid teaching day of the semester to date. 

All my warmest things are colorful things, so the chilliest, and often grayest, days are also, for me, the most colorful.

Even in moderate weather, though, the colors remain.
Photo credit Taylor.
Here are the same mittens and scarf with a raspberry jacket and many-flowered hat

Photo credit Jim.
And the same scarf and jacket plus a deep teal skirt. (I also had the mittens, the flowered hat, and the green bag this day, you just can't see them in this photo.)

Unlike five years ago, I don't have anything deep to say about my relationship with color these days, but I am enjoying color in all its forms--soft colors in the sunrise, 

Photo credit me.
the sharp colors in the landscape,
Photo credit me.
 and the riot of color in my closet.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

a glimpse of devotion


They are an odd collection, but fit for the purpose, though not all intended for this use. Insight comes to us in a variety of places.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

looking east in the evening

There's a particularly quality to the light in the eastern sky at sunset that I never appreciated before now. It's a hazy blue-and-pink-side-by-side kind of light. Sometimes, but not always, it blends into lavender and lilac.

Rambling Farmhouse was in a generous clearing, and we could watch the sun climb up through the trees to the east in the morning and sink down into the western treeline in the evening. It was frequently glorious. It was not unusual for me to walk outside just to see what the sky was doing. The first summer Adam owned the house, we kept a ladder next to the garage and spent many evenings on the roof watching the sky.

I don't remember ever looking away from the main spectacle to notice the other side of the sky.

Lovely Apartment is full of windows, but only facing east and north. Occasionally, I think about going up to the roof garden, just one flight of stairs above, to watch the sun set to the west, but I've come to enjoy the subtle beauty of sunset in the eastern sky.

Friday, June 16, 2017

a glimpse of fruit

Had I stopped to think about it, I would have realized that of course strawberry plants have flowers. Everything that makes fruit has flowers. I'd never seen one before today, though.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

a glimpse of calm before

Today is the day we elect a new president. Whomever we choose will be an historic choice, and the world watches with bated breath as the new day dawns. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

a glimpse of bounty

the bounty of the balcony 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

a glimpse of community in the city

A little over two years ago, already knowing that I would be leaving my life in Michigan to start again elsewhere, I posted a glimpse of community in winter.

Today was a day a lot like that day: crisp and clear and snowy-but-not-snowing.

As we skied through the neighborhood, we chatted with other folks out enjoying the snow and starting the cleanup.

And then we met up with a hundred or so neighbors and had a snowball fight on Penrose Square.

Most of the people there are people I don't know, of course. At first, it's a bit odd to play in the snow with strangers. And then you (I) relax, and it starts to be fun.  

And then, I saw all these people that I do know!

All of these beautiful people also walked to Penrose Square for the snowball fight today because all these people live (or had Snowzilla sleepovers) close enough to Penrose Square to walk. How amazing is that? Even when driving is impossible, all these people I love are close enough to get together. That's pretty amazing.

The isolation of the property on which Rambling Farmhouse and Rustic Lakehouse sat was one of its positive features for Adam. He wanted to have land that was his, space that he could use however he wanted, whenever wanted. I'll admit that it was nice to be able to host large gatherings like a wedding or an apple butter production party in our own back yard, but it was also isolating. Visitors were generally a plan and a commitment. 

While I do miss having acres of skiing and skating right outside my door, I like not being responsible for land on my own. I like sharing my green space with other people. I like that looking up from the shovel to chat with me on my skis made strangers smile this morning. I like working together to shovel out our cars in the parking lot of my building. I especially like that on the way home from this neighborhood snowball fight, we stopped at the neighborhood grocery store. On foot. 

My community looks different now than it did at the end of 2013, and I miss the faces in that other post like whoa. This new community is pretty amazing, too, though. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

a glimpse of family

At the aquarium today there was a manipulative that taught about how objects moving independently of one another may appear to be coordinated if they are following the same rules (as in the natural laws of physics), and this appearance of coordination is heightened when the objects look alike. The manipulative used black spheres on strings, but it was teaching about fish and schooling behavior.

I was visiting the aquarium with assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins spanning three generations, and we moved through the space with a minimum of coordination. But we all had the same goals:

1. Enjoy the fish.
2. Be with each other.
3. Keep track of children.
4. Avoid toddler meltdowns at all costs.

Sometimes we were all together in a clump, showing each other the same thing. Sometimes, we were spread out into smaller clusters. At the end, we left the aquarium, as we had arrived, in small, nuclear-family groups.

This evening we sat around looking at old family photos. Over and over again, we collectively marveled at how much we all look like each other, each of us resembling different others of us at different times in our lives.

Most of the time, we are fragmented into clusters by geography and the quotidian demands of our individual lives. Every once in a while, though, we gather, and there is some critical mass of natural law that helps us hang together.

Photo courtesy of Alison Griffin.

In those brief moments, we are a glorious school of fish dancing individually together.

Friday, June 26, 2015

pinch me

Sometimes when I walk past the door inside the apartment, I forget that I'm in an apartment. The stack of locks and the light from the hallway peeking around the edges are somehow coded not-home.  More than once, I've caught my mind whispering, 'Gosh, we've been in this hotel for a long time,' like the ghost of a thought that almost isn't.

And yet, all my things are here.

All my books, all my yarn, my cello, my photos, my spinning wheel, my dishes, my broom, my tax paperwork for the last ten years, my clothes, my bedding, my bills, my teapots, my computer.

All of it.


In the place I picked.

Sometimes it feels so very right, and sometimes it feels unreal.

Like playing house.

Sometimes the sky is too beautiful for words.

And I feel so blessed to have found this apartment in this building on this floor on this side.

The Netherlands Carillon and the bugle calls at Fort Myer make an unexpected and pleasant counterpoint to the urban din of quotidian traffic and emergency sirens.

Yet, even as high as we are on the eighth floor, the overwhelming sound throughout the day is the birds who make their homes in the trees that reach higher than my windows.

I definitely didn't expect the birds.

Someone pinch me.


Monday, April 27, 2015


A brief drive along the coast to the west of the city of Algiers took us to Tipasa and Cherchelle, the sites of Roman ruins. 

I have to say that I was not enthused when Stuart told me about these plans, but I was willing to go along for the adventure.

Photo courtesy of Taylor Walters Denyer.

I had forgotten how powerful it is to walk the paths trod by people two millennia ago... think about how those people used these spaces... marvel at how much the ancient city's structure is still apparent... ponder the lives of the artisans who created this beauty.

This city was built right up to the edge of the Mediterranean, and I was ecstatic to be able to dip my fingers in the water. 

Photo courtesy of Taylor Walters Denyer.
These women were also visiting the ruins, and they requested that Taylor and I pose for pictures with them. Unlike many people who have seen us out and about, they didn't ask our names or where we were from. They didn't use us for English practice or even try to speak to us in French. They just touched us gently and mimed their request.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Walters Denyer.
The young man with them took many more iterations of this photo with different combinations of them and us. It's a bit odd to be cast in the role of Exotic Foreigner, but I was happy to oblige.

In hindsight, I am so glad that we went.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Today's adventures took us outside the city of Algiers and up a twisty mountain road in the Atlas Range to a national park at 5,000 feet.  It was a long ride, especially for my poor, prone-to-carsickness tummy, but it was totally worth it. 

There's always something amazing about climbing higher than the clouds. 

I love the wrinkly ridges snuggled up close to one another.

The exposed rock faces reminded me of those visible in the Appalachians in Pennsylvania, although there was greater evidence of regular rock falls than I've ever seen there.

It's the height of spring in Algiers, and these lovelies grow everywhere along roadsides.

On the way back, we stopped at a scenic overlook that included monkeys. They just wander down the hill and wait for the travelers to share food.

This snap is washed out, but I wanted to show you this mother and her baby hanging underneath. It was the baby's job to stay attached as the mother moved around the rock face and gathered the croissant and cacao nibs on offer.

The image of Atlas, the defeated Titan, holding the weight of the world on his shoulders kept spinning through my mind as we rode through his mountains today. With it came Ayn Rand's image of Atlas shrugging, thereby shifting the foundations of life as we know it. 

Our hearts broke at the news of the earthquake in Nepal earlier today. With so many buildings shattered and lives destroyed, it would be easy to lose hope, but today we had driven on roads congested because of the work of rebuilding after earthquakes in this region, and yesterday we had seen scaffolding supporting earthquake-damaged buildings in the casbah. Resilience wins and life continues even when Atlas shrugs.

Friday, April 24, 2015

further in and further up

I've been thinking a lot about perspective since I arrived. Algiers is one of those cities in which private life happens behind layers of walls: rooms inside apartments inside buidings inside courtyards. From the street, the city looks plain, forbidding even.

the street from my friends' apartment

entering the casbah, or the old city

Upkeep on the casbah's buildings is a constant need.

a mosque in the casbah

The courtyards offer beautiful tile-work and gardens as well as the privacy in which to enjoy them. We had a lovely lunch here yesterday while the birds punctuated the calls to prayer from the neighborhood mosques.

The greatest creativity appears in the interior, private spaces. Today we walked through a historic palace in the casbah which now houses art exhibits, and we joked that one could enjoy the visit even if only looking at the floors and ceilings. 

inside a palace in the casbah

a wooden door inset in a marble doorway

fountain inside the palace in the casbah
My friends' apartment is, of course, not as ornate as this palace, but it shares the openness of design with high ceilings and large doors as well as marble floors, which are pleasantly cool underfoot.

While in the casbah, we also climbed to the top of a house, which offered another shift in perspective. the confusing warren of streets have a sort of beauty from above.
the casbah from one of its rooftops

the port and admiralty

a mosque complex near the port

the most inland sweep of the bay

The day's sights were punctuated with surprises, too.

Pack donkeys collect the trash in the casbah.

A mama cares for seven (we think) kittens. 

A glance down a side street reveals a mosque.
Further anon.