Forever Bicycles

I’ve always felt like there’s an exact right time for things, and that this right time is exactly when those things occur. It isn’t a time I can know in advance, but I know it when it arrives, and it usually feels like an irresistible force of nature. Tuesday was that day for going to see Forever Bicycles, finally. . . . . and I say finally because I remember reading about it when it was first installed and thinking how I wanted to go see it.. . . . then just last week I saw an article about how the sculpture was fixing to be taken down. I thought it was a permanent thing, and I was shocked to realize it had been in place for 2 years! Had I really been putting it off for that long?

Ondu & Tri-X

Ondu & Tri-X

So Tuesday was the exact right time, with Wednesday being the day they would begin dismantling it. (Presumably, that is happening right now as I write.) It’s often difficult for me to motivate myself to drive into Austin, especially it if involves going somewhere that doesn’t have a parking lot or close street parking that I know about. This procrastination has grown over the past few years. However, part of my new journey is to try and rekindle a positive relationship with the city that called me out of my youth and has since morphed into a heaving, hectic, often downright mean and impersonal beast, so I resolved to make the effort and make the best of it. I packed 3 cameras, of 3 different formats, and we hurried out the door.

Ondu & Tri-X

Ondu & Tri-X

The first plan - poorly researched by me - was to take the metro rail to the downtown station. We arrived at the wrong time and didn’t have an hour to wait for the next train, so we drove instead and, miraculously, ended up parking at another place I had been wanting to visit for months but couldn’t make myself drive in for: the new public library. Along the slightly intense route to said parking spot, gingerly following posted P for Public Parking signs, I saw a lot of things I would like to photograph another day. Funny how things develop like that.

But my destination that day was not with the street; rather, it involved walking next to the water on the hike & bike trail where I used to run with a jogging stroller years ago. It sits below traffic level, so it was cooler and (running / biking / doggie traffic aside) far more peaceful. I didn’t realize you could walk under the Congress Ave bridge; it was nice to hear the bats chirping above. I also didn’t realize there was a kayak station and boat house type building there, right smack dab where we needed it by the sculpture.

Ondu & Tri-X

Ondu & Tri-X

The walk gave me a chance to make other photographs, with my Ondu 6x6 Pinhole camera. It’s been getting a lot of use lately, although it may well sit dormant for a while soon. I was ridiculously excited to see this guy on the edge of the path, although sadly he was frightened into the vegetation, and his shell, by runners before I could get my camera loaded. Way to not do it in advance, Amy.

Ondu & Tri-X

Ondu & Tri-X

Ondu & Tri-X

Ondu & Tri-X

In addition to my pinhole camera, I also lugged along (grateful thanks to my boyfriend for carrying the bag!) the Noblex Pro I was recently gifted by a member of my caving family. Learning to load it has been an interesting adventure, but I managed it (mostly) correctly this time and ended up with some images of the Bicycles that I am pretty pleased with. The first photograph is partial, due to the first image on the roll getting cut off as a result of my not loading it quite right. The last photograph below is a multiple exposure, which might or might not have been intentional. . . . .

Pinhole photographs of the sculpture. . . .

We sat and had refreshments for a short while before our walk back, along which I made other pinhole photographs that are as of now still resting as latent images inside the camera. Those will come later. For now, my heart is resting happily knowing that it was the right time to go, and I am thankful I was able to make the effort.

Mother's Day

I wrote a completely different post for today, and agonized over the wisdom of sharing its contents. It wasn’t very positive; it clearly came from the deepest place of my frustration and dismay over how mothers get treated by the world, including often by the people closest to us. It’s at times like these that I realize how much work I still have to do in order to leave my recent pain behind me. “They” say that if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, but really if other people are unhappy somehow it all ends up being mama’s fault. Round and round we go.

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I made a completely different set of photographs to accompany those other words. The roll of film was almost entirely a failure, mostly because I used the wrong camera for what I had hoped to achieve. That failure made me step back and rethink things. I don’t really like mother’s day, not as a mom; I adore the day as a daughter, and I recognize how much it means to my own mother as well as my own daughter. When I get down to the nitty gritty of why I dislike the day, I feel ashamed.

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So what do I like? Being a mother. Of all the vocations I have tried on for size, this one is by far the best, and the hardest, because it engages my entire being and is constantly throwing me curve balls. What began almost 12 years ago as a crazy intense wild fun ride has blossomed into a new dynamic: a young woman coming into her own, finding herself, dealing with her own sets of challenges, navigating life. Our relationship has changed drastically lately, and I find myself with almost as much growing and adjusting to do as she has. 42 years old and trying to figure out a new direction for my life now that most of the time I am about as useful as an old sock.

So I made a new set of photographs, with the “right” camera this time. I made them as I sought to figure out my feelings about the here & now as I experience it. I want to honor my own mother, my grandmothers, all the women whose blood I share who have come before me, I want to honor the potential of motherhood in my own daughter. I want to honor all the women I know who are mothers, and all the mothers I don’t know. We all share a similar journey.

We do what we do out of love. We store up treasures in our hearts, and regularly take hits that break them in two; we bind them back up with hope, and we wait.

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I read very recently about how the woman who pushed for Mother’s Day to be an official holiday ended up regretting what it became. To borrow from the email where I read this: “She was successful in her campaign, but in 1923 she filed a lawsuit trying to stop a Mother's Day festival, arguing that she ‘wanted a day of sentiment, not of profit.’” Surely there’s enough pressure surrounding our daily lives without having every shop, radio ad, and TV commercial make you feel like you’re supposed to be doing a lot of getting. I don’t see motherhood as being about what you get; surely it should be more about what you give. I get to be a mom, and (for now) to be with my child on that day; surely that is enough!

I’m looking forward to seeing my own mom this weekend.

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I hope I - we, because her granddaughter is part of this chain too - get to honor her in person for many, many years to come. I hope every mother who reads this knows her value. The world might not acknowledge it much, but those of us who share the road with you lift you up.

All photographs except the last one, Ondu 6x6 camera and Kodak Tri-X . That last one is Hasselblad 500CM

Day at the Museum

At the beginning of April, when my daughter was out of town, I went out of town to visit my friend.

This might not sound significant, but it was remarkable for me for a number of reasons:  I rarely am able to spend time with my friends, I rarely go away for weekends, and I hadn’t seen this particular friend for over a year.  There’s nothing quite like mothering an adolescent to make you feel a bit bogged down by routine & schedule, as well as the Least Important Person on Earth.  A glorified chauffeur, assistant, chef, servant, and whipping post, yes, but not particularly significant beyond that. But while the cat’s away, this mouse got to play.

We went to see Sally Mann’s A Thousand Crossings.  This was also remarkable for in that for once I actually managed to see an out of town show that held some degree of meaning for me.  (I know very little about Sally Mann, although I often get the feeling that this isn’t something I should admit. I was ready to join the Club of Those Who Seem to Know.)

While I am glad I got to see the exhibition, just the wonderful experience of visiting the Museum of Fine Arts with my friend would have been enough.  Austin doesn’t have anything like it, and having been spoiled rotten for a number of years living in places like London and New York (within walking distance of the Met), I really miss having a big museum to visit regularly.  I had forgotten what a heady thing it is. Setting aside the works of art, which are terrific of course, I always find the museum buildings themselves to be so visually stimulating, with beautiful light reaching into nooks & crannies, and the people are always so artfully placed by time and circumstance into that light.  

Photographing inside a museum’s doors would be enough for me, even if I wasn’t allowed to look at anything on the walls.

But really the icing on the cake was being there with my friend.

Moni at HMFA (1 of 1).jpg

(Who hopefully won’t hate me for sharing this photo)

All photos Canon P and Kodak Tri-X

Don't Wait

April 15 was a day of joy in our house:  a 40th birthday. It was a day of sorrow beyond our walls, as the rest of the world watched Notre Dame burn.  I found out about it on social media, and could hardly bear to look at the news. I love Paris - it’s been many years now since my last visit, but my memory is that it is a joy just to be there.  I’ve been waiting for the day I could take my daughter to see the city. . . . waiting for her to be older, waiting until I had plenty of money saved up. I am done with waiting.

We started talking about it a few years ago.  Soon, we will go to Paris. Two summers ago, we didn’t really travel at all; I can’t recall the reason for this but it must have seemed like a valid one at the time.  I promised my daughter that we would go on a Big Trip, something amazing, the following year.

We didn’t.  In the months between, everything changed for us, so when that promised season rolled around all we had was a week or two here and there, with most of that being spent preparing for the next school year.  A trip of any significance would have eaten up whatever precious days she had to spend with friends, something I didn’t want to take away since I know how much it means to her, even if it would have been for a fun reason.

I am not one to harbor regrets, but I feel it keenly now:  I wish we hadn’t waited. I wish I had thrown responsibility and whatever excuses out the window, expedited passports, booked tickets, seized the day when we had the chance and the luxury of copious time.  That time is gone now. Maybe I can still take her to Paris, maybe she can still see Our Lady’s gorgeous facade, maybe she will be old enough to remember it when she is grown. Maybe from here on out I will make the choice not to wait.

Paris = old (21 of 21).jpg

This takes me to something I just recently came upon, from a college friend who is a Yoga teacher, therapist, and mentor.  Thanks again to social media (have I ever mentioned that I love Instagram?), I get to see her posts that include daily thoughts, inspiration, etc.  In the one on April 17, she brought up the notion of “get(ting) to yes,” which refers to a practice advocated by Richard Rohr.  It hit me that this is what I have been rolling around in my head while I’ve been thinking of the idea “don’t wait.”  During my daily run, as I made decisions to not put off travel plans any longer, I thought about the word Yes, that Yes was what I was after, more Yes, less Maybe, and far less No.  Obviously not everything should be an impulsive SURE WHY NOT! (eating candy at 11pm, for example, or eating fried food for the 2nd time in a week), but when it seems like a good idea, then yes, why not?  I do believe in the goodness of timing in life - everything has a season, everything happens at the right time - but I have an active part to play in that as well. Often a road can go either way, depending on my choices.

So my heart tells me:  less waiting. More yes.  Let’s go to Paris.

All photographs included here are from the last time I was there, in 2004.  All made with film in a Canon Rebel. Most I have not shared before.

Trail of Faith

There’s something to be said for the “religious” nature of travel.  The uplifting of the spirit in the presence of breathtaking natural or man-made wonders. The affirmation that comes from putting yourself in a place where you feel whole, renewed.  The releasing of everyday cares and letting the experience itself strip away layers of stress.

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For the purpose of today’s piece, I am not necessarily talking about this, although all of those things certainly come into play.  The road trip we made last year came at a time in my life where I was broken. Recent life had left me struggling with feelings of vulnerability, inferiority, and loss. In the face of the series of events and realizations that had brought me to that place, there was nothing more productive for me than to throw every semblance of control (which I had never really possessed, anyway) out the window and hit the road: no plans, no maps besides the one on my phone, no agenda, no destination.

I have very few expectations when I travel in general; I prefer not to even have a plan.  Besides photography and the joy of new discoveries, one of the best things about a trip for me is going into it wide open.  However, the last thing I expected, when we decided to load up the truck and head west the next day, was to encounter God. I feel like that is a ridiculous statement for me to make since I usually encounter Him in some way on an almost daily basis, but I had no idea what lay ahead.  The Turquoise Trail, for us, became a trail of faith.

Most of the places we visited had been there for a long time, and they differed from the countless roadside churches we passed in the south on our last trip to North Carolina.  They were worn with many decades of prayer. Exposed in the desert sun, baking in the landscape like beacons, compelling us to pull over. A message from a friend told me we were “too close to El Chimayo not to stop,” so we did.  

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What we found there took us both by surprise.  I’ve been Catholic my whole life, and have visited other pilgrimage sites in the past (again, more by chance than by my own design), but I had never seen anything like El Chimayo.  A quick search on the phone when we managed to have a signal told us it was the “Lourdes of America.” We looked at everything. I watched Walt touched the Holy Dirt; I was speechless when I walked out of that tiny room and saw the crutches that had been left behind.  

The Niños Chapel was too much for me; I took a quick look and was so overwhelmed that I had to go outside, where I stood in tears for a few minutes. It was a profound and emotional afternoon for both of us, and an important part of a trip that ended up having a lasting long-term effect on our lives. (If you’d like to know more, please visit the shrine’s website)

Along the way, I experienced a new grace - or maybe not new, maybe one I had just forgotten, one that needed to be dusted off and brought back into the light. It occurs to me now that the state I was in at the time is precisely where I needed to be in order to receive. Pride, and the illusion of self-sufficiency, closes a person off. With every new day, every new place we visited, every opportunity to pass on kindness to a fellow traveler, I felt it. Each step of the journey was another candle lit along the way.

Peace followed me back home from the road.  I knew that no matter what, no matter if life took everything away from us, that things would be ok.  I brought the light back with me, and have worked to keep it burning. “Give me oil in my lamp.. . . . “

All images are part of my ongoing series Into the West; all are film.