Tag Archives: Photography

Bucket-Listing Jamaica…

I can’t fit it all in.

Flashes. Snapshots. Moments swish past:

The chatty family at breakfast–who shares an understanding of the role of stress in caregiving those with special needs. How did Alicia do on her conference call, I wonder?

 

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One intrepid couple dared to bring their bikes into The Grand Hotel. Said vehicles were immediately booted and left as a warning to other would-be brash parties.

Biking hither and yon, a velocipede pedestrian torquing her camera like an unwieldy bolo tie at every scenic vista. I’m kind of suprised I didn’t garrote myself with my Canon by accident.

What I have learned thus far:

  • Strangely, the police station is not open for tourism. They were polite, but firm. I’ll just have to count the windows and make my best guess.*
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Is it me, or does the police station look more like a church or school house?
  • Ditto for the hospital.  Though, a very nice nurse did mention that patients could be airlifted via helicopter, saying, “When in doubt, we ship them out!” She was also very pleased to tell me that the medical center was one of the few “free standing emergency rooms” in the state. Now, to Google exactly what the significance of that is so I will be duly impressed…
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The modernity of the lone island medical facility is no doubt highly reassuring to its patients.
  • The airport is a parking lot for planes…planes with highly trusting owners. Apparently a 12-and-a-half-million dollar jet called a Citation Sovereign + landed there just a few weeks ago. I speculated that the ‘plus’ stood for that extra half million. I wonder if they left the keys above the visor?
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Planes could literally drive up to the Airport Office to check in.

People on vacation are willing to talk to strangers–probably in greater detail than they would anywhere else. Especially the newly weds.

Congrats once again to the couple from Holland who showed me their wedding photos and chatted in the shade by the Arch Rock waiting area. I’ll make sure to check out Kollen Park the next time I’m visiting Holland. May you live a long and happy life together, may all your worries be in your past.

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One is not allowed to leave Mackinac Island without proof of visiting Arch Rock. It is just not done!

Seriously, for such a small island, there is an inordinate number of hills. And rocks. And horse hockey.

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It is hard to take a bad photo of The Grand Hotel. It is possible, however, to nearly be run down by a horse and carriage while doing so. So, be warned!

I managed the tour of the Grand Hotel, getting some good photos and ideas for the finale–yet to be written–but what I really gained was an appreciation for the staff. The many kind people who work there–as well as a mother who took time to chat with me while her son ‘shadowed’ an employee in the program in hopes he might work there himself when he graduates from high school.

This mom had worked there in the summers of her youth–right around the time the hotel was last renovated. She confirmed that the wallpaper was original, they have no ‘servant stairwell’ (cross that one off the list), and that the wait staff, musicians, and bartenders were housed in buildings down from the hotel, back in the day. The building women stayed in was the John Jacob Astor house which is now called The Grand Cottage. The men were housed elsewhere–possibly in a building called “The Twilight” which is a forest green house down the hill, take a left, and the first on the right. (You can’t miss it.)**

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A small portion of the infamously long grand porch.

Slipping in and around busy bartenders, waiters, flower vendors, and the myriad other people working the hotel, I was routinely helped, with courteous, generous insistence.

My favorite stop had to be the Tea Shop. The Jamaican clerks were all natural charm and chatted about tea choices and even laughed when I read off a menu item identifying the contents of a $130 cocktail available in the nearby bar.***

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Image of the 125th Anniversary Cocktail stolen from TripAdvisor–I couldn’t afford to order the drink myself!

I finally asked how I could say ‘Hello’ in the patois of Jamaica. A painstaking effort was made to help me try and say it right: ‘Wha Gwahn’, is what it sounded like. Which could almost be a contraction of ‘What’s going on!” I also practiced the appropriate reply: “Arri, mon!” (Perhaps, ‘All right, man?”) Strangely, the language seems even harder to speak when stone cold sober. Go figure.

I ordered my tea and wandered off to drink it, forgetting entirely to pay. The assistant apologetically brought this to my attention–as if they were at fault for wanting payment!

Tea with Me
The author – who gussies up for the occasional selfie!

The young lady and I chatted for a bit. I told her about my son and asked her about autism awareness in her native land. She told me that everyone knows about autism because a great lady wrote a book about her son and it became very well known. I only wish I had taken down the name of the book! Antonette concluded by saying, “Don’t be afraid to bring your boy. Jamaica will be a great place for him. It’s all love!”

How can you turn down an invitation like that?

Her manager called her back to duty, I hope she wasn’t in trouble for taking so much time with me. If he only knew the kindness of such a gift. The thought that somewhere, out there, is a world full of people who would welcome my son with open arms.

It’s all love indeed.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*As dedicated a writer as I am, I wasn’t willing to get arrested to achieve my goals.

**Maybe you can’t miss it, but I certainly did. It is only gravity that keeps me from wandering off this planet by mistake.

***Maybe you’d prefer to save money and make the 125th Anniversary Cocktail at home? A quick search online reveals a bottle of the 100-year Grand Marnier Centenaire costs only $116.00, the 150 Anniversaire Grand Marnier comes in at $219.99 a bottle (Kaching!, and edible gold leaf–strangely enough–is the least expensive ingredient. It’s available, of all places, at Walmart for $76.45 for a pack of 25 squares. Don’t believe me? Check it out here:  Gold Leaf at Wally World.

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And bonus points go out to anyone who noticed what is particularly strange about the bicycle depicted in the close-up of the wallpaper. I didn’t see it the first dozen or so times I tried to upload the pic from a location Where the Wifi was Iffy. (Which once I wrote that down, looked like a book title for a modern day sequel to Where the Wild Things Are.)

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Alone he walks,

His cape a tattered wave of blue,

To meet the sunlight and the shadow as equals

Laughing as leaves fall, making spirals in their descent,

Through elegies of air.

 

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So still he moves,

Leaning into a soundless void.

Planets in their orbits spin

And yet no shift in his equilibrium shows

That he is out of synch with a world

Built for words.

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Images from a recent walk with my son, I was inspired by the drape of his blue blanket to wax poetic. Happy Halloween everybody. Nanowrimo begins tomorrow. Do not expect great things from me until December.

 

Signs Along the Way

Sometimes, you just need a little encouragement. Welcome to a journey I’m calling “The unintended road trip on the serendipitous path of lung-wrenching discovery.”

*

It is the Fourth of July and the crabby son needs quelling; so into the car we hop. My child barks directions: “left,”  “straight,” “more” from the back seat. We drive south along Highway 196 headed nowhere in particular–when someone suggests ice cream.*

Saugatuck Tea Co

We brave the lovely town of Saugatuck packed to the gills with red-white-and-blue spangled holiday goers. Quirky shops nestle along the Kalamazoo River. While the pre-teen scarfs gelato as if  I hadn’t fed him in weeks,  I manage a quick interlude at the Saugatuck Tea Company. Decorative teapots and art-inspired mugs lure shoppers in. A huge Russian Samovar painted in bright, enameled colors squats in a corner behind a room divider–the space manages to be bright and airy despite its modest dimensions.

In addition to tea paraphernalia, one entire wall offers loose-leafed teas with elaborate names like ‘Dragon Tears’ and ‘White Monkey Paw.’ I exchange words with the proprietress. She waves me to the wall of glass jars and lets me sniff the various contents. When I mention a favorite tea I purchase from a rival gang Teavana and how expensive it is, she suggests I get the list of ingredients next time I’m there and she can try to reproduce the results.

After smuggling my score out of the store in an attention-getting paisley bag, my child and I meander. With no great plans, we are unbound by expectation. It is very carefree and relaxing. I suspect this is what leads to the eventual cacophony epiphany to come.

We pass the gazebo in Wick’s Park and I can’t help myself, I have to stop and photograph the beautifully painted cinder block building that houses the public restroom. Who wouldn’t want to pee here?

Then, it is along the water to the nearby point of local interest–the chain link ferry.  I brought my son here many years ago, when he was just a little guy. In a fit of nostalgia, I drag him to recreate the experience.

Saug - Ferry 1

College students busk for tips, joke with passengers, and lure small children into photo ops turning the hand crank that churns the small boat across the river on a rickety chain. It is a swift journey and we are deposited on the other side to seek the experience that will make our day: the climb to Mount Baldhead.

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As we leave the small boat, the crew encourages us to: “Be careful as we disembark.”  And in passing, they say, “Oh, enjoy the 302 steps up! Don’t worry, it doesn’t get hard until the last two!”

Saug - Vertiginous Climb
No, the photo is not distorted–it really is that steep…and sideways.

Join me in the ascent. And like the experience itself, I will let the view speak for me…mostly because I am wheezing and turning magenta as I make my way up the vertiginous climb.

My son quickly leaves me in the dust. He prances ahead a spastic, loping blur of red–I am struck by the fanciful notion that for once, the sun/son rises in the West. Hypoxia sets in very quickly it seems.

As if climbing a sheer-faced cliff, the higher up I get, the less oxygen there seems to be–despite the valiant effort my lungs make imitating a wounded bellows. I get dizzy by the fourth flight and feel as though the signposts are talking to me***:

Cautionary warnings mark the trail, if only you know where to look:

Saug - Tears Ahead
At first, I thought, “How nice. Tears ahead-zero!” then I realized…it was a drawing of a tear.

 

Saug - Post - Watch out for Ticks
With artwork like that, how will anyone tell a tick from a hollow raisin with bad hair?
Saug - Warning Prepare to Die
My name is Iniego Standish, You killed my father…

 

I pause frequently to admire the view/find peace with the inevitability of death.

Saug - 97 Steps
A 12-step program sounds much easier in comparison.

Before long, the signs of the prophets speak their words of wisdom–no subway walls required:

Saug - Keep it Up
Try not to infer sexual innuendos as you go.  It’s hard…see…but try.

 

Many have come before us…

Saug - L & E 2015
We marvel at cave drawings–why not this?

Some found love to hold and keep them strong–quite recently it seems:

Saug - Hanny & Maddie
It’s been less than a week, I wonder if they are still together?

Some return with their love to mark the passage and constancy of their union:

Saug - Yes We Did It
Remember what I said earlier about not finding suggestive interpretations: “We did it!” At least their initials are not S & M.  That would have just nailed it.

Some are a bit defiant about it:

Saug - Janna and Todd Were Still Married
Note: It is 2016 and they have been silent for three years. One hopes it is not the end of love for Janna and Todd.

Step-by-gasping-step, life lessons are revealed…though the truth is somewhat debatable:

Saug - I have never Left any of you
“I have never left any of you” is crossed out to read “I have always left of you.” Personally, I’m going to agree with the one who has a better grasp of the present perfect tense.

Some who wander the path share their pain with the world:

Saug - I may be sad but I m not weak
A brave girl, that Summer Weersma.

She has a lot in common with a fellow traveler:

Saug - I beat breast cancer

 

And then, there is the impetuous voice of youth speaking to the ages:

Saug - Dick & Balls
We may  never know all of life’s mysteries, but at least we know someone has much love for “Dick & Balls.”

The stair treads pass slowly. I pause more frequently and try not to feel as if one quick shove would send me over the edge. The signs urge me on….

I reach the top victorious where my son hands me his lemonade to open. I stagger over to admire the view which is truly spectacular–if somewhat buried in the surrounding trees.

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I get mere minutes to enjoy the splendid view before my child hares back down the path as if gravity has no greater significance than a propellant to urge him onward. I am more cautious–and cognizant of how difficult it would be to get a gurney up to retrieve my broken ass if I fell.

Saug - Back Down Again

There you have it. Wooden aphorisms mark a trail for the intrepid explorer to follow. You can be your own Magellan–circling the world to find answers to life questions. You can take the wisdom of others–picking and choosing to see what fits.

You can wear your epiphanies on your chest–much like my son’s perspicacious porcine persuasion.

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My son’s love of bacon has led to a variety of pork-related t-shirt slogans. He no doubt has bacon epiphanies.

 

Or you can wander off the path to make new discoveries and record them in out-of-the-way places to be discovered or not as the universe sees fit.

As for me, I follow the signs that speak to my heart:

Saug - Gelato

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*It might have been me.

**I now have ‘connections’–so, if you need some prime, illicit loose leaf, you know who to call.

***Actually, I did not see most of these signs until I was making my way back down. Call it ironic hindsight.

A Farewell to Kitsch

Saturday, we over-nighted in Bear Lake – a tiny town 22 miles south of Frankfort, Michigan—the place my son randomly picked on the map that, surprisingly, did not have any hotel rooms available the night before a three-day holiday weekend.* Some people might thrive on the uncertainty of housing and the joi de vivre of impromptu journeys–it gives me hives.  Fortunately, we found succor at the Bella Vista Inn. As it turns out, the relief of making the 2 ½ hour journey was to be compounded by Fate wagging a playful finger in our direction.**

Bella Vista Hotel - Bear Lake
My son can mess up a hotel room faster than I can take a picture!

Bear Lake is a blip of a town, but that is part of its appeal; it isn’t intended as a huge tourism destination. The lake is placid and shallow fairly far out. Kiddos can splash in the water by sandy beaches. Gnarled trees of indeterminate species grow along the lake’s edge. The trunks dip and bend toward the water as the earth crumbles away in gradual increments.

Bear Lake

We’d navigated our way to the tiny motel and decided to walk across US 31 to admire the lake. Our access beach was a sliver of sand in a small crescent carved out from the neighboring trees. But it was sufficient for a quick dip. I opted to stand and watch while my son dabbled in the water. Now that he is older and can swim a bit, I’m less afraid of imaginary undertow currents taking him to Davy Jones’s locker.*** I snap a few quick pics with my phone and upload a selfie-free greeting to all my peeps on Facebook. My son scampers around in the water, barely bothered by his mom’s admonition to “Pull up your shorts, your butt is showing!”  (Time for a new swimsuit, I guess the elastic is blown in this one.) We stop at the gas station/store/pizza joint on the way back to our hotel to grab some dinner. I’m standing in line waiting for a sub sandwich when I get a phone call:

Vacation Reenactment Players present:

Peculiar Coincidence or Celestial Serendipity?

*BrrrrrrrRing* (Honestly I don’t know what noise my phone made, my son changes the ringtone daily.)

Me: “Hello?”

Caller: “K…where are you?” (Names abbreviated to protect the clueless who think this will keep serial killers away.)

Me: “M? We’re at Bear Lake.”

Caller: “I know. I saw your picture on Facebook.  We’re at Bear Lake.  Where are you exactly?”

Me: “Uh…” (I stop to look around for the name of the gas station.) “We’re at a BP across from the Belle Vista Inn. The kid is getting some pizza and I’m waiting in line to get some dinner.”

Caller: “We’re down the road at a campground. We’re grilling hot dogs. C’mon over.”

Turns out it was walking distance from us. This is the kind of adventure you can’t plan.  (Okay, maybe you could plan it, but it would then lack romance—or whatever the parenting equivalent is!)

Pizza and sugary drinks in hand, we followed her directions to what had to be the smallest campground I have ever seen. It was a slice of beach carved out behind the town, lined with camper trailers and crawling with dogs and children.  Friend M was corralling her herd—she has three, which is enough for a herd in my opinion—with equal parts humor and no-nonsense parenting. She could write a book about it if she wasn’t so busy. We exchanged chit chat and delighted in the coincidence that brought us together.

“I grew up here. My grandfather planted trees along this lake.” She stops, looks around and points to a nearby tree. “He planted that one.”

There is pride in her voice. You can tell she is happy to be from a small town and has pleasant memories.  I’ve often wondered what that felt like.

She offers us canvas chairs at her parent’s trailer.  It is a cozy niche just down the road a ways from her childhood home. There, the grandparents are doting on a precious little girl who has decided to wear a batman mask, it slips off repeatedly as she toddles around. It is a bit incongruous with the pigtails poking out on either side of her head. Everyone is laughing or joking about Bat Girl.  I have a feeling I’ve accidentally wandered into a Norman Rockwell life tableau, except that M’s husband is on the road and she isn’t sure when his hectic schedule will bring him back into the family orbit. I comment on the peacefulness of location and she nods.  “This is my oasis—I can relax here.” She hands me a cream-flavored, alcoholic ginger ale. “I could stay here all the time.” Taking a sip of mellow intoxicant, I’m finding myself in agreement.

During the visit, her children are in constant motion—her son is off at the little playground beside the beach. Her daughters are crawling in and out underfoot. M is the serene center of a frenetic buzz of activity.  We stay as long as my son will tolerate and M hands me a plate of potato salad for the road. We hug before parting and I thank her for a wonderful time.  She smiles and says, “We’ll be coming up for a long week around the 4th of July, if you want, you could rent a tent space and join us.”

I’m touched.  It is a generous offer to be included in a family trip. (With a special needs child, it is especially nice to be invited anywhere.) I may question my sanity when I take trips with my son so far from home, but it is moments like these that make it worth the effort.

The rest of our weekend is a blur of touristy moments:

Frankfort, MI

Frankfort has a beautiful grassy park and nearby playground for kids to run around on.  My son looked especially appropriate in his yellow slicker standing on the mock prow of the playground ship.

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Obligatory kitsch tchotchkis.

 

Portabella and Pesto Sandwich - Crescent Bakery
Portabello, Pesto Panini–you can’t say it without drooling, can you?

In town, many shops devoted to the American spirit for shopping and dining abound. The Crescent Bakery & Cafe served about the best pesto/giant mushroom panini I’ve ever eaten. If I hadn’t forgotten my purse and had to schlep all the way back to our car, we might have avoided a major meltdown moment! One caveat if you dine here—it’s a popular place and the service can be slow, which is a bad combination if your son is starving to death before your very eyes. (Cell phones pay the price for such inconsideration.)

Phone Destruction
Farewell Good Friend

 

The death of his favorite entertainment hits my son hard…even though he was the one to throw it in a fit of hunger-induced rage. After lunch, we mourn with ice cream served up at the ever-so-festive The Scoop—a local joint that serves up Moomers Ice Cream.

Scoop Cropped

We are surrounded by candy and sugar on all sides—it is very cathartic. It is also just about the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

 

 

Ludington, MI

We drive to Ludington to spend the night at a Best Western.  Despite being tired from the day, I decide to take the internet’s advice and hit the popular local restaurant: The Old Hamlin.

The Old Hamlin Restaurant

Above the door as you walk in, the sign says “Family Restaurant Since 1926.” They must be doing something right because the place was doing pretty good business despite the later hour. The décor suggested its roots might be as a Greek diner—the dusty murals and ancient faux wood roof tiles suggested a warmer climate. Old Formica tables and naugahyde padded seats welcomed weary travelers; the furnishings’ sturdy qualities matched its customers perfectly. The food was the standard eclectic American Diner fare—good and plentiful. And as a local had suggested, the homemade bread made it worth the trip.

Dinner at The Old Hamlin

Stuffed to the gills, my son and I walked to visit the beautiful nearby Lake Michigan shoreline and enjoy Stearns Park where my son dragged his paper and crayons to every single piece of playground equipment to write numbers in a new, exciting location while his mother climbed sand dunes to get a picture of the lighthouse against the backdrop of the sparkling waves. It was reassuring to learn I wasn’t too old to enjoy a good sunset. (Although I wisely refrained from investigating the skater’s park nearby—one hip replacement is enough for now.)

Ludington Lighthouse Sunset

We walked a bit and discovered another sandy pleasure—beachside cuisine.  At The Sunset Side Concessions, I was momentarily tempted to order Deep Fried Oreos, when my better senses prevailed.

Despite having eaten enough pancakes and bacon to sink a battleship, my son happily gorged on yet another scoop of ice cream (What is a holiday without overindulgence and stomach aches?) before returning to the Best Western, splashing in the pool, and then conking out for the night. (If you are tired out reading this, imagine how exhausting it was to cram all this into a weekend!)

Best Western of Ludington
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like a home away from home!

Sunday heralded the end of our vacation. After barely making it under the wire for breakfast, we packed and visited the lake shore one last time before heading home.

Ludington Lighthouse.jpg
Apparently to be called a “Lighthouse”–you have to be able to live in it!

I managed to lure my child to visit the light-not-a-house via a long walk down the concrete breakwall to the Ludington North Breakwater Light. It was tricky going as he desperately wanted to fling himself down the slanting embankment to investigate the giant, no-doubt-slippery rocks framing the walkway. At the lighthouse–sorry, I can’t break the habit–I was dismayed to discover that, this far north, The Square™ is a tricky device that doesn’t always work if the wireless connection is iffy.  I’d spent the last of my cash leaving a tip for the hotel staff—and on the electric massage chair in the lobby. (The only way to travel.)  The volunteers graciously let my son pell-mell his way up the stairs to take in the view. Since they couldn’t get the credit card taker to work, they handed me an envelope trusting in the honor system to see payment received by check later that week. What a gift that was to a weary mom and an overly excited child.

Ludington Lighthouse View

We snapped a few pictures—my son insisted on photographing the graffiti—enjoying the sun and the boat wakes creating liquid contrails and a mock surf at the water’s edge. All in all, it has been a postcard-picture perfect visit. As the tourism ads voiced by Tim Allen would say, “It’s Pure Michigan.”

Don’t you wonder if Missy & Bob are still together? I like to think they are!

*

So that was our Memorial Day Extravaganza. Mostly unplanned and as spontaneous as I can ever get with my oh-so-special life. I hope you enjoyed tagging along; you’re welcome anytime.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Did you catch the sarcasm in that one?

**Not THAT finger, thank you very much.

***One flavor of paranoia—imagined parental fears.

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Yay, you actually read this far BONUS: Crayon Disaster Number 3

The ill-fitted swimsuit of the above story met its demise later that week in a tragic crayon-related incident. Totally not on purpose.  Who checks the pockets of a swimsuit?

 

 

The Art Starts Here

“Shto takoy istkustva?”

This is one of the hardest questions to answer, not the least of which is because it is transliterated from Russian. It asks: “What is art?” I ventured forth one night to consider this while exploring that regional delight: the hometown art fair.

Art Mural
 

Hands-on Art: If you look in the lower, right-hand corner, you will see the first two tiles placed by me and my son. We used up his patience waiting for the cement to set up.

 

Yesterday, I took my son to the Art & Chocolate Walk in Grandville, MI. Families gathered to share tidbits and admire local amateur artists’ works alongside school children’s efforts. I will say now, I am no arbiter of art; I have not studied at the Sorbonne, nor could I tell you the effect Prussian blue had on the impressionists. What I can tell you is viewing art at the speed of sound is a blurry challenge. (My son is not known for his love of art–unless it is of the deconstructionist variant and it involves either indelible ink or an expensive piece of technology.)* Destructive self-expression aside, my son preferred gobbling the candy and cookies to exploring the meaning found in artistic media–regardless of what form it took.

Copper Man

Among the exhibits under flapping awnings and propped on rolling stages was the very popular human statue.  Parents would lead their unsuspecting child up to the copper-hued sculpture, asking their opinion about the work, only to hear the children yelp, “It moved!” followed by a spate of giggles when the work of art waggled a brush at them before returning to a frozen stance. Is this art? I can’t say. What I will say is the kids liked it and the man did a great job. He was up there the entire time I visited the fair staying in character–except when he broke the third wall–to the delight of onlookers. That shows talent in my book.

Art 17
Owls were the popular patronus of several artists–but this one by far was the most fierce creature.

The art exhibits were cleverly spaced throughout the local business establishments. The chamber of commerce committee that dreamed this up earned their pennies.

Art 3
This piece was among my favorites for its achingly honest child’s reflections on what makes her ‘hart’ mad or glad.  “My hart is mad wen my Dad brns pancakes.” “My hart is Mad when my bad is mest up.” and “My hart is kom  wen I grime my horis.”  Truly spoken, every word. I am only sorry my arm was jostled taking the picture, but I had to share these heart-felt sentiments.

There is something odd, at first, about squeezing into a dress shop or past floor tile samples to view whichever school group or work was displayed, but plucky people managed it. After you grabbed your treat and had your card punched, you could wander through the stock to find the exhibits–it was surprisingly fun.

food 3
The Art of Cookies – a very popular exhibit for my son.

 

We zipped through one store where grandfather clocks competed with chiming glass-and-mirrored wall clocks which signaled the changing shifts of visitors to the small table of glue and paper efforts by the local elementary students.**

Art 1
You know, somewhere, there are proud parents putting stuff like this up on refrigerators across the nation swearing it is the most beautiful art they’ve ever seen.  And in doing so, it becomes the truth.

To some, this marketing of community businesses through parental pride might strike a mercenary note, yet I couldn’t help but admire the effort it took to put this on. Someone organized the local shops, the schools and teachers, the musicians and artists to contribute–time, money, energy and enthusiasm.   Behind each cardboard easel you’ll see a deeper purpose–to nurture budding talents and to give pride of place for children who can go somewhere, point to a piece of work and say, “That one’s mine.” while the world looks on.

Art&Chocolate - collage 2

Everywhere I went, in the brief moments of admiration for some truly talented youngsters, I saw moms and dads escorting siblings and taking candid shots of performances and works by their children. Some children were shy about it, others wore smiles so wide it is hard to imagine a frame large enough to fit all those teeth.

Art 6
This piece was hanging, appropriately enough, in a bar.

Where does art comes from? What inspiration springs from the soul and dares to express itself in song, sound, or acrylic paints? When does it actually happen?

Art 4
What I liked about this, you can see children on the edge of becoming. The pretty princesses are turning into young women who have deeper feelings that can’t be captured with a sparkly tiara. (The boys, however, are still superheroes riding giant hover board shoes and wearing shades.)

Was there a budding Renoir or Matisse among the earnest, dramatic and sometimes cute artwork? From what I could see, yes. I was astounded at what was produced–either as a collaborative effort or even a derivative style, it was still very much art to me.  Perhaps it was the nascent, newly-birthed foal version of art, just finding its shaky legs and looking for its mother to lean on, but it was art.

Art 21
Art is:  A giant snowflake. A happy robot in the city. A building leaning into a boysenberry sky. A tree…no, a boat…no, maybe a ship with a multi-colored umbrella braced by the setting sun. Or maybe art is a sleepy giraffe being woken up by an owl who is obviously throwing a noisy party.

All artists start somewhere at a place of beginning, staring at a blank canvas and wondering how they can speak to the world through a charcoal pencil. How does a child scribbling one day turn into a world-renowned artist? At one point, someone put a pencil or crayon in their hand and told them, “Draw me a pretty picture.” This, this is where art starts.

*

I wanted to include some of my favorites, so scroll below to see what I could see in the short amount of time my son allowed me. 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*His first work is entitled “A Study in Red” because he squirted red food coloring all over the cream carpet in the living room. It never quite washed out. I hope the new home owners aren’t standing over the Rorschach-esque designs speculating whether a murder took place.

**If I confuse which grade of art was placed where, forgive me.  By my fourth piece of dessert my concentration suffered from sugar overload.

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The Art Starts Here

 

Art 2
I don’t know why I liked this one so much, I just did.  It is bold, it is bright, but it has hidden subtleties and I can feel myself leaning in to absorb it even now.
Art 8
Totally eye-catching toys; it was the first thing that called to me through a window. I had to maneuver to find it…and the more I looked at it, the more I liked it.  The composition seems simple, but the shadows and whimsy perfectly captured that feeling of childlike exploration I felt while viewing the exhibits.
Art 5
I don’t know exactly what Seva Terburgh was hoping to convey, but what I took from this is people need to stop poking and petting babies. They don’t like it. The media was marker and watercolor…done by a 9th grader, people!
Art 7
I’m really enjoying this fish collage! Swimmingly done! Kudos to Emma Gardner, grade 9.
Art 10
Sophie Diekevers created this ink pen piece. I found it very disturbing, and not just because a 10th grader is this talented. Do you know hands are considered one of the hardest things to draw? Look at those hands, will you?
Art 9
Calla Heald, a 12th grader with a puckish sense of humor and a massive talent for wielding an ink pen like a master.
Art 12
I really like the art teacher who came up with such a dramatic piece. I admired every dragon and decorative tin wheel I saw.
Art 16
Who says a rooster can’t be a masterpiece?  Look at the effort this took!
Art 19
If I had to pick a Best in Show, I think this piece–done with charcoal and graphite–would be in the running. Might I point out the artist, Jessica Abraham, is a 12th grade student at Grandville High School.
Art 14
This one covered the entrance wall of a local restaurant: The Rainbow Grill. I bet no one left that place without first ordering ice cream.
Art 11
Ultra Modern Art.

Proof of Happiness

 

Photo Circa 1967
This instant photo sort of captures that certain je ne sais quois of mornings around the breakfast table at my house growing up. (Note the bottle of ubiquitous ketchup-required for all American meals.)

Instead of sitting to write my manifesto novel for Nanowrimo, I have been looking at old photos on my laptop. I’m calling it ‘organizing’ them, but what I am really doing is procrastinating wallowing in nostalgia. Some photos are incomprehensible. Why for example did I need to take a picture of my son’s gloves with his library book? Possibly for later identification when one or both got lost? The majority of the pictures, however, besides capturing the whimsical or inconsequential impulses of a shutter bug, seems to feed an insatiable need to record the best moments of life: the trips taken, the milestones celebrated and the triumphs achieved. The purpose of photographic evidence stems from a need to document a life well-lived. But what if it is an illusion? What then?

Old Photos007
The Christmas We Beat the Tree with a Broom to Remove the Needles. (We were kids, that’s why.) Hey, Cousin Todd. Remember this one?

I have been that relative. You know the one. The person who carried a camera to all family events, insisting on posing people or worse, snapping natural pictures of people unawares with their mouths open shoving a too-big piece of cake into their pie cake-holes. We are a much-reviled breed of enthusiasts* With the advent of digital cameras and cell-phone pics, we are much harder to spot. In fact, we may now outnumber those irritating people who hate getting their picture taken. Take that you privacy freaks.

Old Photos005
You can see the joy of parenting just oozing from my father’s face. It’s as if he is warning of what happens when you gamble with your dna.

What is the source of our obsession? Why do people like me seek to pin the memory to paper? To alter and revise our lives to show only the best? Perhaps, because joy is fleeting, it needs to be recorded so that we know it is possible. That, if after enough time passes, we can believe that we were happy. We are the Kodachrome revisionists—there is no negative we cannot develop into a positive.

Old Photos029
I am the chubby little chunk in red-n-white stripes. You can just see how thrilled I am about getting a baby brother. (No idea who the guy to the right is. Ignore his inclusion in this photo. I am.)

I have boxes of pictures that never see the light of day—and probably close to a million pictures stored on my computer of people and places that I have long forgotten except when I run across them. Much like an amateur archeologist discovering a lost civilization, I am forced to sift and wonder who these people are and why they were significant enough to retain forever housed in my limitless archives?

Old Photos035
And this is the photo AFTER I have airbrushed the ink marks, random stains, and wrinkles out of the picture. It’s as good a testament of my childhood as any: This is as good as it gets, people!

Following my father’s death, I revisited our mangled childhood photos that, as children, we were apparently inspired to embellish like budding, drunk Picassos. Laden with scratches and ball-point ink pen marks, these images inspire a never-before-awakened fastidiousness in me, compelling immediate photo-shopping. (There had to be a reason I stayed up until 5:00 a.m. manically scanning and airbrushing the evidence of our crimes.)** As if I could improve on life by erasing anything that suggests it was anything but perfect. This definitely falls in the category of a bit barmy, but with as few childhood photos as my mother managed to retain despite the depredation of bored children with scissors and belatedly developed film that all came out pink, I feel it my calling to save as many of these silly moments for posterity.

Old Photos033 - Edited
This is probably the frilliest I ever looked in my life. No wonder I have a lace aversion.

So I will share with you my imperfect life. The moments where I was less than beautiful and the bizarre revelations of the hidden-camera approach to self-awareness. And perhaps, in acknowledging my flaws and letting go of perfection, I can appreciate the imperfect memories that happen when I put the camera down.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Besides the term ‘Paparazzi’ there has to be a word connoting a group of photographers! ‘Flashers’ seems to already be taken, and while ‘Soul Snatchers’ has a nice ring to it—it might get shortened to ‘Snatcher’ I don’t think it will catch on.

**I think it’s called ‘plausible deniability’.

Whistling in the Wind

This is a test…of my patience. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, what IMG_8141you would call techno-literate. I am lucky I can turn my laptop on, to be honest. I have my strengths. I love photography, so I have tackled learning how to use a digital camera and the monkeyshines that involves uploading pictures and then being able to manipulate them to fix my mistakes. (I am a GOD, with the ability to increase or decrease my contrast at WILL!) However, the problem with my skill set is that it takes me an incredibly long time to master these leaps in technology. (I still use white-out on occasion, if that gives you an idea.) No sooner have I mastered the functions of Picasa than Google upgrades its system and now all my billions of photos are held hostage on my downstairs tower-shaped computer and I have yet to figure out how to get them onto the cloud…or whatever the magic method of transition is. I suspect I will need an intervention.

So, if I am so antiquated that paper is my preferred medium, why am I entering the blogosphere you might ask? That would be an excellent question, in search of a good answer…

Hang on…give me a minute…

Uh, nope, I’m drawing a blank.

Where was I? Oh yes, blogging and why people do it. I have decided that a majority of people must be masochists or exhibitionists…or somewhere on that spectrum. Or, they have a deep-seated desire to shout in the wilderness…which is what I suspect my posts will be doing. Standing somewhere on a fault line, shrieking like a banshee, and listening to the wind whistle past. But at least I will be publishing which is the point. I think.

I have been writing, to amuse myself mostly and to keep me humble. The title of this blog (which is subject to change depending on my ability to figure out how to do it) is The Dust Season–which refers to the Trilogy I am writing by that series name. From all accounts, a writer actually needs to have a pool of readers at hand, so to speak, before he or she can even think of approaching a publisher. (Which is why I am a Luddite. I thought it was the publisher’s job to get the book to the people…but, there it is.) So here I am, hat in hand, standing on the edge of the desert trying to figure out what the hell a widget is.

If anyone happens to hear my cry in the dark, feel free to point me in the right direction…preferably one with books printed on paper and a nice cup of tea at the end of the story.

P.S.  If I manage to attach a picture…it will not be of the desert as one might expect.  I live in the Midwest.  All I have are photos of flowers and the desire to move somewhere warm during the 6-months of winter.

P.P.S. Blogging Virgin here…please be gentle.