Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Today, It Takes All Kinds of Kinds

Why not every day, huh?

Amtrak allows each passenger to bring two carry-on bags. I am not wasting one on technology.

I almost did. I had to have some way to carry our two cell phones, my work Blackberry, my digital camera, two chargers, and potentially one of our two laptops to Seattle, didn’t I?

Next week, we leave for our first vacation in four years. To be fair, the trip in 2009 was actually a work conference for me with a couple of extra days tacked on for sightseeing. Which makes our last real vacation a trip to Vegas in 2001. My husband was there to play in the International 8-Ball Pool Championships. I went along to celebrate my 35th birthday at the largest margarita bar on the Strip.

I have trouble both relaxing and disconnecting. Between my two jobs, I’m plugged in nearly all the time with voice-tracking my show, answering email, working on projects, maintaining a website, and monitoring half a dozen social media sites. I’m rarely sans technology.

The train trip from Minot to Seattle will take 27 hours.  Plenty of time to get caught up on work and if I did manage to snap a picture or two, with all that hardware, I’d have the technological means to post them instantly and update my status and tweet about how great it is to take a break from it all.

That’s what I was thinking. Right up until my friend Kathy said, “Take lots of pictures so you can show me when you get back.”

That’s how vacations used to be, before cell phones and digital cameras and social media. You spent the time seeing new places, trying new things and enjoying the company of the people you were with. Then you’d come home, drop off six rolls of film and wait a week to see if you caught that perfect sunset over the ocean or a frame-worthy picture of the family by the Disneyland sign, with all eyes open and everybody smiling. Or something even better, a memory you didn’t even know you were capturing. It was the anticipation, the waiting, that made the excitement of the trip linger even after it was over.

We’ll be boarding the train with one cell phone each, a digital camera and the universal charger. What will I do with all the quiet? Scribble in my travel journal, talk face to face with people, and snap a picture or two. Who knows? Maybe if it works out, I won’t have to wait so many years to do it again.

Here are my favorite “surprise catch” photos from the years when I took regular vacations:

Sunrise over the bay in Corpus Christi

Sunrise over the bay in Corpus Christi

Giant ants at the Denver Botanical Gardens

Giant ants at the Denver Botanical Gardens

Steam clock in Vancouver, which for some reason always makes me think of Dr. Who.

Steam clock in Vancouver, which for some reason always makes me think of Dr. Who.


Sunrise silhouette in Santa Fe

Sunrise silhouette in Santa Fe

And the obligatory "family posing by the sign" shot. Apparently, I wasn't very patient back in those days, either.

And the obligatory “family posing by the sign” shot. Apparently, I wasn’t very patient back in those days, either.

What’s your favorite vacation memory and did you capture it on film?



Episcopal Church at Fort Thompson

Episcopal Church at Fort Thompson

Near the clutch of churches
in the center of town,
no one sleeps past 7 a.m.
The bells that peal
from the four brother belfries
summon both saints and sinners.
Joyful Baptists, solemn Lutherans,
Prayerful Methodists, commanding Catholics.
Melodies distinct yet harmonious.
In the brief moments before the ringing fades,
In the breath between sleep and waking,
It doesn’t matter to which you belong.
Just that you believe in something.

Nod to the Del Vikings for inspiring the title to this week’s post…

It took me eight years to run out of pictures. Today would have been my mother’s 70th birthday and I can’t find a single picture of her that I haven’t seen a hundred times already.

They stop at Christmas 2004, the year before she died from cancer. That’s one of the things you don’t consider when someone dies; there will never be more pictures of them. Sometimes another face takes their place in the line-up and sometimes those left behind just huddle closer for the camera to close the hole. Either way, the photographic evidence of their existence just…stops.

The camera loved my mother, at least the back of the camera because that’s where she usually was. The willing wielder of Polaroids, Instamatics, Minoltas and Sureshots. The camera-toting chronicler of holidays and road trips, family gatherings and the mundane moments of our everyday lives.

My sister and I, acting like we like each other, 1970's.

My sister and I, acting like we like each other, 1970’s.

“Come on, stand closer and act like you like each other,” she’d direct as we posed on street corners and mountains, by road signs and historical markers, on the rocks by the Atlantic, on the sand by the Pacific, in my parents’ living room for graduations, my grandparents’ dining room for birthdays, and in front of 39 years of Christmas trees.

It’s no wonder it only took eight years. My collection of photos with her in them is small though the archives of those she took are immense. I never have to wonder where I’ve been or who I am because she laid it out for me in photo albums and picture frames. So today I’ll start over with a fresh eye to a familiar face, beginning again with one of my favorite pictures.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Here’s looking at you.

My mom does Bogie in her dad's favorite hat.

My mom does Bogie in her dad’s favorite hat.

Cottonwood Jail

The whole of Cottonwood (they number 12) are watching as I turn off the highway onto the gravel. Along the dusty path, buildings are scarce: a handful of houses, empty school, vacant grain elevator. A church slumps at the edge of town, peeled and pained by the prairie winds. Crows and turkey buzzards perch on its pinnacle, the steeple aslant.

I turn at Main Street and though it would be quicker to cut the corner and cross the barren lots, respect keeps me on the abandoned road, strewn with tumbleweeds and washouts. My four-wheel-drive skirts the ruts and comes to rest at the Cottonwood Jail.

The barbed wire fence holds me at bay but I walk the ditch as close as I can get, skirting the boundaries of trespass. The sun blazes overhead, puff clouds dotting the blue straight up for miles. The wind ruffles the yellow prairie grass and raises a howl from the darkened shack. The spectre of a former occupant, the last unfortunate led from his cell, across the dust to the square, up the steps, over the boards, under the dangling rope? Retribution awaits, its shadow hovering over the pine planks.

My camera quick draws from wrist strap to hand and I shoot into the sun, striking shadows with floating faces. I shiver in the heat, and retreat to my car, glancing both ways across the wide open field, feeling the weight of the watching. I make for the highway without looking back.

On the steps of the church, in the shade of the steeple, a pair of wizened cowboys watch me depart. Spitting the last of his chew into the dirt, the younger says to the other, “Puttin’ the jail sign on that old chicken coop was the best idea you ever had.”

“Ayuh,” says the elder, squinting across the prairie beneath the shade of his gnarled hand. “Those tourists eat that shit up.”

At the crest of the sledding hill...





The sledding hill glowed in the waning moonlight

awaiting the day’s complement

of sled runners and Spongebob moon boots.

An older man came walking through the pines

carrying a saucer in his leather-gloved hands.

He stopped ahead of my inquiring dogs.

“Thought it was a perfect time to try that hill,” he said.

“How was it?” I asked.

He grinned.

“Great. Fast.”

Then he marched down the Gulch trail, whistling in the darkness.

I watched him go,

wishing I’d thought to ask for a turn.

The truth of man’s existence revealed…on a Soo Line railroad car:

Who knew philosophers carried spray paint and hung around railyards?

I did. Because I looked. What’s the best rolling poetry you’ve ever seen?