simple is always better, the camera edition

Olympus OM-1

Olympus OM-1

It’s been a funny summer for me, camera wise. And yes, I know we’re full on into fall, at least here as I write this in New England, but mentally, I feel connected to summer in my camera-brain. Both of my Hasselblads, my main body and my backup, have been acting up, and I’ve been forced to drill down to shooting just 35mm for the time being. A challenge for sure, but I always contend that the creative spirit thrives under strict parameters, so here’s hoping that stays true.

OM-1

OM-1

Shooting my friend David’s Olympus OM-1 has reminded me of the joys of these simple, unadorned 35mm cameras, and if you’re new to film photography, I thought I’d share some of my impressions of a couple “starter” cameras that can make the leap into film photography not only less daunting but also compelling and fun.

I’m quite enamored of this OM-1, a fully mechanical 35mm SLR camera. While it does have a battery to power the light meter, all of the functions are manual and there’s no way to view the settings once you’ve decided on them. Shutter speed and aperture are changed on the lens, not the camera body, but ASA/ISO (If you choose to use the in camera meter) can be changed with a knob on the camera’s body. The light meter, my favorite for rookie film shooters, is center-weighted and revealed by a simple needle in a bubble. Not a lot of futzing around with exposure values.

Perhaps most importantly, this camera just feels good in your hands. It’s compact yet sturdy, and the shutter is satisfying. Things like that are important to me!

OM-1

OM-1

For me, as always, simplicity wins out with the OM-1. It feels like a camera. Yes, the knobs and settings may be in a different place from your DSLR, but once you adapt to that change, it’s a pretty intuitive beast. Manual focusing, which is a major issue for me given my less-than-stellar eyesight, feels straightforward and relatively easy. Paired most often with a 50mm 1.8, you’ll have lots of latitude with light to play with, making those first forays into film photography feel relatively pain free,

K-1000

K-1000

I will never, never, never not love the Pentax K1000. Much as I’ve fallen for this OM-1, the K1000 was my first love, and you never really get over your first love, right? If the OM-1 is simple, the K1000 takes that simplicity to a whole new level. The dials feel even more basic, the meter even more straightforward.

K1000

K1000

The K1000 feels even more basic and compact than the OM-1, and while not quite like a toy camera, you can’t help feeling like it comes almost close to being somewhere between real and play as far as cameras go. Again, in my book, the simplicity is the charm. It’s really hard to mess up with these guys. All manual, from focusing to metering, the dials force you to think about your settings and think about your shots. It’s no wonder that this camera was found in in student darkrooms in schools across the country.

K1000

K1000

If I have one complaint about the K1000, it’s that for me, the focusing can be a bit tricky (curses these old eyes). Between the two, I’ve found the OM-1 slightly easier to focus, but that’s me; your experience may be different. Regardless, the simple dials, the simple metering (a needle in a bubble, like with the OM-1) and the solid compact nature of the camera make it another great choice for someone who’s starting out in film photography.

Whether you’re a digital shooter already or just coming to photography and choosing film as your medium, there’s a lot to be said for simplifying your gear and focusing on other aspects of your craft. Keep the bells and whistles out of it while you really learn the craft. The simpler your camera, the more time you can spend on the important stuff like light and exploring how film reacts to it. Working with a simple framework pushes us creatively, and that’s never a bad thing

frequent fliers

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One of the greatest pleasures I’ve experienced over the past year since Cal left for school was the amount of travel I’ve managed to do. Hopping on planes, trains and cars from Santa Fe to Wales certainly wasn’t something I set out to do, but as I looked out into my first year of empty nesting (what a phrase!), I knew that saying, “yes", was something I wanted to make an effort to do. More often than not, saying, “yes,” meant saying yes to travel too.

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Travel can be so richly rewarding, but it can be uncomfortable and frustrating and downright nightmarish too. I often get asked about bits and pieces here and there that I use for packing and managing my trips, so I thought I’d share my top five favorite things that have helped get me from here to there over the last year.

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  1. I have to start with my Red House Book Bag tote. I bought this in Burlington last year and it hasn’t let me down let. All their bags are amazing, hand stitched, waxed canvas with leather handles, but the Book Bag suits my purposes perfectly. It’s cross body, so it’s easy to wear and I feel like my things are safe. No matter how full it gets, it lays flat against me, and I can stuff everything from a camera to my kindle in it. I joke that it’s like Hermione’s bag from Harry Potter, you never know what all will come out of it. Plus it comes in a ton of gorgeous colors that go with everything.

  2. As long as we’re on bags, I have to recommend my Fjallraven backpack. I’ll be honest, I’d poo-poohed backpacks for a long time. Cumbersome and hard to get to; I just didn’t think they were for me. But months of carrying totes and years of shoulder injuries, not to mention one nightmarish shoulder surgery, had me changing my tune. This summer I treated myself to the Greenland, and it was a complete lifesaver on my recent trip to Cornwall. I hate carrying a camera bag, and this holds my Hasselblad, a laptop, film and my Kindle. It’s perfectly sized for overhead bins, and the color choices are the bomb here too. Total bonus.

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3. No list would be complete without my Blundstones! The epic day that Annabel from Bleak House and I trekked across Hampstead Heath in search of my Blundstones will forever remain one of my favorite travel memories, and there’s a little bit of that trip in me each time I put them on. Blundstones are the perfect all weather footwear. Heavy treads make them great for walking in all conditions. They’re waterproof and they slip off and on easily with one hand. If anything, mine have gotten more comfortable in my second year of use with them, and I look forward to blustery winter days knowing I can pull them out of the closet.

4. It seems like a little thing, but I really love my wireless earbuds. I grabbed these at the airport one trip because my headphones accidentally got packed in my checked bag, and I found I liked them much more than my AirPods. AirPods hurt my ears and the JBuds sit much more comfortably. They have a long battery life, long enough to make it thorough a flight across the ocean and the line at customs. I’m not sure I’d be able to navigate all these journeys nearly as well without music. I have travel playlists and sleep playlists and playlists of music suggested by friends. It’s a thread of connection in my life when journeys to new places can feel so disconnecting.

5. I was going to end with something pretty, like my Pyrrha necklace or my Atelier bracelet because I think it’s important to keep pretty things around you. And especially when you travel and are feeling off kilter, I think it’s to have things that feel quintessentially you, but this is a list more of practicality than romance and because of that I can’t leave off my packing cubes! So boring, I know, but so, so essential. Sadly, I am not by nature a neat person, and travel only serves to illuminate that fact. But packing cubes keeps my stuff organized and safely tucked away. This is essential when you’re sleeping in guest rooms or on sofas. They come in various sizes and I generally pack “big clothes” in one, jammies and undies in another, and so on. They’ve been key to my survival on the road. Run and grab a set. Your suitcase will thank you and your hosts will too.

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Perhaps I should end on something philosophical, but the truth is, travel is such an individual experience that what works for me, what ignites my spirit might not work for you. If I could say anything, it would be this though, if you have a chance to do it, do it. If you have a chance to go, just go. Yes things will help you, just like the things I’ve listed here have helped me, but the truth is, the best travel gear you could have with you is your own open heart.

i am, i am

August, 2019

August, 2019

The summer of 2018 was a time of great change for me. Cal was leaving for college, and in so many ways I felt like I was waking up from the deep sleep of intense motherhood. My sense of the world around me was shifting, as was my place in it. Books took on a greater depth of meaning. Song lyrics held layers of ideas. Solitude filled with thought and contemplation. Time spent with friends and family formed new threads of connection and kinship. It was as if I began to learn myself anew.

August, 2018

August, 2018

Around the same time, I was asked to join a group of women involved in a monthly portrait project called The Story of Me Project.. Each month, several talented photographers gather images of themselves along with words that resonate for them and share them on Instagram and on the group’s website. It seemed like the perfect time to embark on such a reflective experience. I was reflecting a lot anyway, right?

September, 2018

September, 2018

My initial thoughts surrounding this project were very Virginia Woolf-like in nature. To explore self-portraits not through my person, but through the things that populate my day-to-day life. Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife this fork…

I did not think I wanted the camera turned toward me.

October, 2018

October, 2018

By about the third month of my project, however, that began to change. As I explored more and more the idea of self, I became more and more willing to actually view myself. And then viewing myself made me more willing to explore methods of capturing myself on film. Ultimately then I became more willing to step from behind my camera, or at least stand both behind and in front of it, and share these images.

November, 2018

November, 2018

I’ve talked in other posts here about how there’s great strength in a willingness to admit your vulnerability, and nowhere is that more true than when you are making and then sharing a self portrait.

December, 2018

December, 2018

I’m not the greatest at long-term projects, but this one has captivated me. There’s a constant creative hum, just beneath the surface, that continually asks, what next? Some months, emotions feel too raw, too near the surface to even show your face to the world.

January, 2019 Photographer: Ashleigh Coleman

January, 2019
Photographer: Ashleigh Coleman

And in other months, I seek the clearest reflection possible, even when it comes at the hand of another photographer.

February, 2019

February, 2019

March, 2019

March, 2019

As the year moved on, I sought out more intricate images. More complex ways to tell stories. Because of the old film camera I use, I can’t capture my images with a timer or a remote, and I’ll admit, I love the inherent challenge that those constraints give me. I’m learning what makes a good reflected image and when a window reflection, no matter how tempting, just won’t work.

April, 2019

April, 2019

Sometimes a shadow or a reflection catches my eye, and I know that I’ve got to shoot that month’s image. And other times my images are more planned, the result of something I’ve seen or a quote I’ve read.

May, 2019 Photographer: Annabel Bird

May, 2019
Photographer: Annabel Bird

June, 2019

June, 2019

Each month brings new challenges, ones I’m embracing in ways I never expected. Honestly, sharing my face in so many ways is a challenge I never expected to embrace! What I have loved about this project is how open it keeps me. I feel connected to music, literature and my camera, not to mention myself, in ways I never have before.

July, 2019

July, 2019

And so here I am, at the end of one year and the start of another. Cal’s departure for college began my year of “yes,” and and pulling that thread on the idea of self portraiture was part of saying yes. Yes to new things, yes to new challenges. Yes to myself. I don’t know what’s in store for my next year of self portraits, but I’m interested to see how they evolve and I evolve. Ready to keep saying yes.

journeys over arrivals

Uppsala, Sweden

Uppsala, Sweden

If you have been following me in this great space we call the internets or in any other for some time, you know that in 2015 my family, namely my son, experienced a significant mental health crisis. We were traveling when things that had scarcely been hinted at before gathered at a peak and tumbled over the edge into a boiling, bubbling cauldron of fear and anxiety, nothing short of terror for our small family.

Tranholmen, Sweden

Tranholmen, Sweden

It’s been a long four years, and as you know, Cal is healthier now; we’re all healthier now, and rather than putting those days behind us, they inform so much of my present. Not a constant hum, but in ways, big and little, that pop up and surprise me.

It happened this week when a friend of mine posted some pictures from her recent trip to Chicago. While she bemoaned missing some of the must-sees, she acknowledged that she was definitely more present on this most recent trip than in the past. As soon as I read that, my mind went straight back to our ill-fated trip to Sweden.

Stockholmen, Sweden

Stockholmen, Sweden

We had so many great recommendations for our time in Sweden. The Abba Museum. Gamla Stan. The Nobel Museum. The Royal Palace. But as soon as it was clear that Cal was essentially non-functional, then all that went out the window. He was ultimately diagnosed with profoundly severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and when we were in Sweden, his every move was marked with extreme anxiety. It is a quite literal statement to say he could not walk down the street with out his arm wrapped around one of us.

Tranholmen, Sweden

Tranholmen, Sweden

So we stopped trying to do things. We sat in cafés and city squares and watched the world go by. We worried and fretted and wondered how we’d navigate the next few days not to mention the rest of our lives.

Kent, England

Kent, England

But something else happened too. We had some fun. We told stories and ate good food and watched the sun go down late, late, late, late. We took a ferry to a tiny little island and we sat together there and Neel and Cal ran out of gas in a tiny little motor boat. We missed the ABBA Museum and the Royal Palace, but even in the middle of the scariest time of my life, we made some memories.

Tunk Lake, Maine

Tunk Lake, Maine

I travel a lot more now, both here in the US and over to the UK, and I realized after reading my friend Jackie’s post that our time in Sweden changed how I feel about travel permanently, for the better.

Devon, England

Devon, England

Gone are the days of rushing from museum to historic site to recommended restaurant. Gone is the dash to fit everything in and the worry that we’ve let someone down if we don’t make it to the spot that they suggest.

Instead, we make haste slowly. We have favorite coffee shops and find restaurants to return to time and again. We linger in neighborhoods and get to know the places we visit. We may not make it to all the must-sees, in fact, for sure we don’t, but we’re more present in the places we visit. More present in the moments we’re sharing.

Tranholmen, Sweden

Tranholmen, Sweden

OCD took a lot away from my family, mostly from Cal, but time and again we find things crop up that OCD has gifted to us. I’d wager to say that new way of spending our travels is one of them. We slow down on road trips. We stay in one spot. When I’m in London, I’ll happily hit up the same pub over again even if it means missing out on a visit to a significant historic site. To me, that’s where the memories are made.

that soft underbelly

I’m in week 2 of my Composition Class, a class I love to teach, and I have an amazing student with me, back for a second series. He’s in his mid-seventies, and he simply wants to get better at photography. This student, a successful, retired businessman with a family and a slew of grandkids, decided at the age of 55 that he wanted to learn the trumpet. So he went back to college and got a degree in trumpet.

He now plays at weddings and at his church, claiming he’s not as good as he wants to be, but he can play. And that was his goal all along.

So I’ve been thinking what an extraordinary act of bravery it takes to do something like this. I’m sure Charles, my student, doesn’t feel particularly brave, but I think he is. I think all the students who come to my classes are brave. It’s a vulnerable place to be, to show up somewhere and admit that you don’t know something and that you’re ready to learn.

Each week my students bring printed photos to class, the good and the well, works-in-progress, and they put them up on a giant felt board for me and their classmates to discuss. It’s a terrifying process really. We see carefully curated Instagram feeds and well-coordinated web pages, and we want our work to be perfect, right off the bat. There’s something about being creative that means we bare our souls to the world, sharing our deepest secrets in the work we make. It’s a vulnerable place to be.

But what if being vulnerable means tapping into what makes us most powerful? What if it means letting go of fear and realizing that by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we actually let ourselves become stronger?

When I was last in London, I went with Annie and her husband to swim at the Mixed Ponds in Hampstead Heath. We biked there. They asked me if I was fine with cycling, and after the barest of hesitation, I said, “sure!”

I was not.

Truth is, the cycling tapped into many of the things that make me uncomfortable. Speed (except when I’m in my car). My struggles with left and right (don’t laugh). London traffic (!!). As I plugged away in a too-high gear, I kept reminding myself that it’s important to do things that make me uncomfortable. But here’s the thing. Not everything that makes us uncomfortable is powerful or some great lesson, and for me, cycling to the Ponds was not.

For me, the lesson came later that evening, when after another brief hesitation, I answered honestly when Annie and her husband asked what I thought of cycling to the ponds. I hated every second of it. The truth is, I don’t love cycling (crazy, I know). Also, do you know they drive on the left hand side of the road in England? Yes! That was a little daunting. And I’ll be completely frank here, I didn’t like looking stupid.

I didn’t like sounding stupid either, when I told them how uncomfortable I was, but after I said the words out loud, I felt better. Stronger, somehow. As if owning where I wasn’t comfortable made me step more fully into myself.

I think all these steps are an act of bravery. All these ways, big and little, that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Whether it’s sharing our images in a class or online. Whether it’s swimming in cold water for the first time. Whether it’s saying yes to new things or no to things you don’t like, being willing to open yourself up, well, it opens the world up to you.

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Sometimes the very act of putting your face in front of the camera or your words to the page can be that big act of bravery that shows your most vulnerable side, and I’d wager to say that’s when we get to be our most creative. When we reach in and allow ourselves to open up, that’s when things start to get interesting. Put it all out there? Reveal who you really are? That’s when the magic happens.

The truth is, I’m not always the greatest at this. I hesitate too often. I’m regularly reluctant. Who wants to look like an idiot? Well, not me. But as I’ve been telling my students this week, when we exercise these muscles they get stronger. So I’m up to keep trying at least. I’ll keep getting in front of the camera. I’ll keep admitting I don’t like biking. I probably won’t learn the trumpet, but I will keep singing. (I could write a whole blog post about signing and being vulnerable, but I’ll save that for another day.) And I’ll keep trusting that vulnerability will reward me in return.

Twenty Three Stops on the Piccadilly Line

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I’ve developed just the best tradition with my friends in London of how to say farewell when it comes time to leave my favorite city. We meet for breakfast at Dishoom in their Kings Cross location and gorge on bacon naan and kejriwal, a spicy cheese toast that defies description. It’s a sad parting for me, but who knows? Those guys are likely celebrating my departure.

I usually take the Heathrow Express from Paddington to catch my plane, but since I was at Kings Cross, I hopped on the Piccadilly line, which has a cheaper (albeit slower) Tube service straight to the airport. As we calculated how long my trip to the wilds of Airport City (disclaimer: not a real city), Annabel said, “Twenty-three stops. You should write a blog post about 23 things you love about London.”

I (almost) always try to do what Annie tells me to (she’s far smarter about my life than I am), so here we are. Between Kings Cross and Heathrow Terminal Three, 23 stops and 23 things I love about London. Annie wanted to be Number One on the list, but I’m hoping the fact that I’m following her orders so explicitly will compensate. At each stop, starting with Russell Square, you’ll find a thing I love.

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

RUSSELL SQUARE: I love that London is a city of parks and neighborhoods. One of my favorite places to walk in the city is Hampstead Heath, where within minutes you can be in such deeply shrouded forest that you’d never know you were within the environs of one of the world’s largest cities. St. James Park is cradled in the lap of Buckingham Palace and Westminster and not to be missed, but I loved wandering Clissold Park with my friends Jenna, Emma and Ralph, and I’m anxious for my friend Janet (and Mills, of course!) to show me around the Hackney Marshes.

HOLBORN: I’m just going to say it. I love the Tube. I love the tiles. I love the escalators. I love the advertisements. I love the maps and its relative efficiency (Ask a New Yorker how things are going when you’re stuck a few extra minutes due to that signal failure on the Northern Line.). I love that there’s poetry on some of the cars. I love the typeface and contactless payment at the turnstyles. I love how egalitarian it is and the fact that it serves everyone from parents with babies to school kids to working stiffs to dogs. I love seeing people get on with groceries and bouquets of flowers and books and headphones and PRIDE flags and even their dinner. Even when it’s crowded and hot and sticky, I love it all. London’s Underground is the world’s first underground passenger railway and it carries up to 5 million passengers a day, and I love it when I’m one of them.

COVENT GARDEN: I love that the concept of a High Street lingers in many neighborhoods. The term High Street has evolved from Middle English (where “high” means “important’) to denoting the main retail area of a neighborhood. This is where you go for all the most important shops and businesses. From what I gather, after its heyday in the 19th century, High Street culture has taken a bit of a hit of late (haven’t we all?). Still, coming from a land of endless mallscapes and suburbia, I love the spill of cafes and shops along the street. I love that you can pop into the butcher and Waitrose and then for coffee afterwards, maybe grabbing that book that caught your eye on the way home.

LEICESTER SQUARE: I love the walking culture that living in London affords. You can’t get to the Tube or to the High Street without walking there, now can you? I love that any commute I make includes a ten or so minute walk to the Tube station. I walk everywhere when I’m there, and it’s just not a lifestyle I can replicate when I’m in the US.

Kenwood Ladies Pond

Kenwood Ladies Pond

PICCADILLY CIRCUS: Oh man, how I love the Ponds. I can walk to the Chesapeake Bay and be swimming there in less than five minutes, but there’s something so, so special about slipping beneath the still, glass-green water of the Ponds. Maybe it’s the trees looming overhead, or the ducks floating past. It’s for sure the color palette. Bottle green. Burnt orange. Sepia brown. All call me to nature. In the Ladies Pond it’s for sure the community of women, but I spent my first time in the Mixed Pond this summer, and that same sense of joy can be felt there. As I hung out on a buoy, legs dangling, I could hear first-timers call to each other, “this is amazing! we should do this every day!” Yes, you should.

GREEN PARK: Okay, it sounds like a little thing, but I love Banham locks. Found in all the homes and flats I stayed in (so they must be everywhere!), these locks are substantial and easy to use and, to put it simply, satisfying. My best guess is that they’re the UK version of the US’s ever-present Yale Locks, but I like their door handles, I like how sturdy the locks are and how intricate the keys. Long live the Banham Lock.

HYDE PARK CORNER: Why is it that even the street names are charming? Granted, Hyde Park Corner is a roundabout and a Tube stop, but still. England’s Lane? Blackfriars Street? Pickwick Place. St. Bees Close. Say it out loud. See if you don’t like it.

Daunt Books, Marylebone

Daunt Books, Marylebone

KNIGHTSBRIDGE: Ahhh, the bookstores. I’m not sure I’ve left yet without buying a book, which, much as my suitcase may protest, seems entirely appropriate. This is a picture of Daunt Books, in Marylebone High Street (see what I did there?), an Edwardian bookshop that specializes in travel books. Also beloved is Hatchard’s, which has been selling books since 1797 and is featured in my beloved Mrs. Dalloway. On one of my next trips, I want to get to Heywood Hill, where Nancy Mitford worked. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle (we’re BFFs), but nothing, not one thing, beats losing yourself in a bookshop, and in those London comes up trumps.

SOUTH KENSINGTON: Dogs. Dogs in pubs. Dogs in estate agents. Dogs on the Tube. Dogs in the park. Dogs under tables at outdoor cafes. Dogs sitting next to you on banquettes. Dogs in taxis. Dogs on trains. Dogs so welcome that it’s surprising and off putting to see a “Dogs Not Welcome” sign, as if perhaps they could have phrased it more politely.

GLOUCESTER ROAD: It’s not for nothing that London is one of the world’s biggest cities, and that size is reflected in its diversity. I love walking the streets hearing countless languages and seeing countless nationalities. A diverse culture is a richer culture, and it shows.

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EARLS COURT: I love pub life. Not that I’m always hanging about in pubs, mind you, but Annie and I did a fair amount of our work this past week in pubs (there may have been some rosé involved), and I love the relaxed come-as-you-are-stay-as-long-as-you-like vibe that pubs have. Sure, we have our coffee-shop culture here in the US, but can you get an order of chips (fries) and a pint at Starbucks? And each pub is unique, with different vibe, different look, and doggies welcome. There’s a lot to love right there.

BARONS COURT: I love London’s Blue Plaques. Started in 1866, the Blue Plaques are placed on buildings of historical significance. London does an amazing job of blending its vibrant modern life (I’m looking at you Shard and Gherkin) while honoring its storied history, and I get a little thrill each time I see one of these plaques on a building I pass. “Sylvia Plath Lived Here.” “Dylan Thomas Lived Here.” “Charles (Freaking) Dickens Lived Here.” Literary, historical, political, you name it, those figures are represented. You’re breathing history when you walk down this city’s streets, and those plaques help you remember that.

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill

HAMMERSMITH: Little known fact, when I was 14 I traveled with my family to London, and we stayed near Primrose Hill. So coming to see Annie and her family feels a little like coming home. Can coming back to a memory be like coming home? That’s how it feels. I love the tall grasses and the view from the top, day and night. I love the dogs that run up to you and the people that picnic on the green. I love the winding streets that surround it, and it might, just might be one of my all time favorite places in the world.

TURNHAM GREEN: The history of curry is complex, and although it’s considered the food of the Indian subcontinent, what we know of as curry is truly a British invention. The Portuguese first tasted these stews in the late 1400s and took their name from the Tamil word kari. And no matter how you feel about the Byzantine moves of the British East India Company, once they wrestled control of India from the Portuguese, they charted a course through history that connects India and Britain for good and for ill. The good? The abundance of Indian food in London and Indian restaurants that thrive today. I’ve already mentioned Dishoom, but if you get a chance, hit up Bombay Bustle. Next on my list? Darjeeling Express.

ACTON TOWN: I get far fewer headaches in London, even with all that rosé, but I am allergic to the London Plane tree that populates the streetscapes. So while I don’t love the London Plane, I loved learning that this tree, believed to be a hybrid between the American Sycamore and an Oriental Plane, was planted en mass during the Victorian era because its hardy nature could withstand the rigors of the Industrial Revolution. And get this! One of the best places to view the London Plane is Berkeley Square, one of my favorite places I visited way back when I was 14!

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill

SOUTH EALING: Recognize this street? Go watch Paddington 2 and see if you don’t. I love the rows upon rows of terraced houses that populate London’s streets. Italy gave the concept of the terraced house to London in the mid-1600s, but its true building boom took place during the, you guessed it, Victorian Era. There’s a lot to say about building codes and architecture, but true terraced houses can be seen straight through, from front to back, with windows on either end. I love that they exist as houses still or are converted into flats and that they are an integral part of London’s landscape.

NORTHFIELDS: I love that there are places you go to for things. Easter candy at Selfridges. Underthings (how Victorian of me…and among some of my best purchases!) at Marks and Spencer. John Lewis for housewares and suitcases. Men’s suits in Savile Row. Liberty for gorgeous fabric and prints.

BOSTON MANOR: London has a knife violence problem. The mayor of London has, rightly I think, linked this to poverty and has set up youth initiatives to combat knife violence, and on one of my walks from the Tube I pass a giant bin for disposing of knives. What London does not have is a gun violence problem, and I love waking up and not learning of more deaths by guns in my community. Just last week, five people were shot in two days in my city alone.

OSTERLY:
I’m more of an appreciater of gardens than a gardener, so I love the front garden culture of London’s streetside homes. Many a walk from the Tube has been enriched by spindly, long-legged rose bushes, by verdant trees, wandering wisteria and lush lilacs. Thank you home gardener, thank you.

HOUNSLOW EAST: I love all the neighborhoods of London, urban and less so. I love the buzz of SOHO and Oxford Circus compared to the calm of Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath. All within half an hour of each other.

HOUNSLOW CENTRAL: What I really sense, at least among my friends there, is how much Londoners love London, and the UK in general. Sure commuting can be a hassle, and Brexit is their own special kind of terrifying, but to a person, the people I talk to love their city and their country and they’re proud of it and think it’s beautiful in a way that’s lovely to bear witness to.

Thomas’s @ Burberry,

Thomas’s @ Burberry,

HOUNSLOW WEST: I’m just going to say it. I love Liberty. I blame Annabel for this, but seriously. I love its dark wood walls and staircases. I love the air of luxury when you walk in the doors, the way it smells, and the lions that stand guard in front of the flowers outside. I love that novels based in WWII reference Liberty prints, and, like much of London, they can be both gloriously historic and cutting edge all at once. Unlike the miles of malls we have in the US, this is shopping with heart and soul, and I find it hard to have a better experience.

HATTON CROSS: Walk into Marks and Spencer or Waitrose and get a gin & tonic or Pimms Cup in a can, what more could you need?

HEATHROW TERMINAL 3: It takes about an hour on the Piccadilly Line to get from King’s Cross to Heathrow; how long did it take you to read this post (wink)? I love learning about London. I love it and all its quirks and eccentricities more each time I visit. I love having rooms to stay in Clapham and Primrose Hill and Stoke-Newington, if Ralph lets me. I love that there are places outside of London where friends have invited me that I haven’t even been! And that’s what it boils down to. The fact that I have such a dear group of friends, both inside London and out quite overwhelms me. Here I am, solidly (and mostly contentedly) in middle age, and these friendships, most of which are new, have come into my life to surprise and delight at me. What a gift, at this age and this stage to be delighted and surprised in such a way. Thank you dear friends. Thank you London.

The Story of Me, July 2019

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram

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“I am much inclined to live from my rucksack, and let my trousers fray as they like.”
Herman Hesse

on the open road

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I’m not completely sure how it happened, but somehow we’re managing to make our third summer trip in a row to Maine. This year we’re tacking an extra week onto our drive to get Cal back to Burlington for his summer term, and visiting Maine and our friends there was an obvious choice.

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What is it about the open road that has such appeal, especially in summer time? The lure of the American road trip finds its origins all the way back to the 1930s with the rise in use of the automobile and the expansion of the American highway system. By the 1950s, Americans were traveling those thousands of paved miles for business and recreation, and a whole industry of drive-in restaurants and motels cropped up to cater to road-weary travelers.

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For us, of late, those roads have called us north, to Maine and New England, even before Cal made it his home for college. Lobster rolls, maple syrup and tiny Maine blueberries that explode like a sweetness bomb in your mouth await us there.

Maine is more than that for me, though. And for my friends who live there and those who visit regularly, well, they get it too. It’s the stillness of the lake in the morning. It’s the dappled light filtering through the pines. It’s the beam from a lighthouse and the way the low-angled sun hits the hillside. I never, ever regret making a trip to Maine.

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I did a quick scan on the internets for “road trip photography,” and let’s just say that I came away sorely disappointed. Make sure you have electricity, pack two batteries, blah, bah, blah. Really people, we can do better than that.

I want to channel my deepest American roots with my road trips! I want Thoreau when he “sucks the marrow out of life,” but I especially want Whitman by my side.

“Afoot and light hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path leading where ever I choose.”

Those are the pictures I want to take, not ones that care about battery life or access to electricity. Let’s see if I get there.

See you on the road.

The Story of Me, May 2019

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram.


photo credit to Annabel Bird

photo credit to Annabel Bird

“We’ll gather lilacs in the spring again
And walk together down an English lane
Until our hearts have learned to sing again
When you come home once more.”

”We’ll Gather Lilacs,” Ivor Novello

The Story of Me, April 2019

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram.


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“The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little illuminations. Matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.”

Virginia Woolf

on living lightly

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I’ve been in England a week now, traveling from Heathrow straight to the Cotswolds and back to the city. I’ve met the loveliest of people and stayed in (already!) some amazing homes and pubs. I’ve taken some spectacular walks and eaten some stellar food.

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As enriching and illuminating as travel can be, it can sometimes set you adrift, and I feel aware of this fact as I’ve already slept in five different beds in three different homes in my short time here. When nearly every single experience is a new experience, it can be hard to find the inner core of yourself in the center of it all, and I knew that if I struggled with anything in my time here, it would be that.

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I’m trying to live lightly during my time here, balancing that sense of fully rooting myself to this place while being fully aware that I’m not in my space. It’s like walking tenderly through someone’s garden so you’re careful not to trod on the flowers. So I’m constantly aware of my impact on other people’s spaces. I’m trying to live as contained as possible, and that’s been good for me. Cleaning up after myself instead of leaving all my crap spread out all over the table… what a revelation!

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But I’m also trying to make sure I tend to myself in this time of flux. I’m trying to keep to my routines as much as possible. Morning writing. Daytime work. Evening reading. I’m making sure to get pockets of time alone, knowing how much I’ll need them to keep me going. And music. Keeping my music on and going has grounded me in a sense of self the way few other things have.

Are these travel tips? I hardly think so! If you want those, I’d say, pack small bags for all your little things like cords and pills and notebooks, all to put in your bigger bag, It’ll be easier to keep things organized. Oh, and don’t forget a pair of black trousers.

Today, more London. Tomorrow back to Devon. I can’t wait.

on learning how to say yes

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I have to admit that it’s pretty funny that I’m writing my first true blog post here (peer pressure works, y’all!) while my dining room table is covered in all the crap I still need to pack before I board my flight for the UK tomorrow. But really, it seems like there’s no better time to pause, draw breath and reflect for a moment about what brought me here, ready to spend nearly two months in the city of my dreams.

It all comes from saying yes. Just yes. Yes to the unexpected. Yes to the improbable. Yes to the wildly out of character.

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I am by nature a homebody. I was so connected to my space, that people used to joke that my home was the source of my power. I liked it there. But something happened this past summer, when Cal was gathering himself to head to college. I came untethered. My sense of motherhood shifted and along with it my sense of self.

All of the sudden things that never seemed possible became more so. I said yes to hikes. I said yes to going places on my own. I said yes to travel. I said yes to trusting myself. I said yes to looking over the ledge into the pit and not flinching at what bubbled away inside. I deepened my friendships and enriched my life through music and art. All by saying yes.

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If you’d asked me a year ago what my empty nest would look like I never would have dreamed that I would have said Santa Fe, the UK, Savannah, New York City, my first show, and now back to the UK, this time for an extended stay. I never would have dreamed that I would have wanted travel, travel, travel and more and more and more.

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But you know what? You learn a lot when you say yes. About yourself and the world around you. Your heart expands and your vision does too. My friend Marianne gave me an early birthday card at lunch this week with an amazing quote from Ray Bradbury. “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”

That’s me all the way. After I finish packing.

one walk, one roll, August 2018

From time to time I'll grab my camera and stuff my pockets with quotes from the things I'm reading and set out on a walk. The following galleries contain images from those walks. Just me, one camera and one roll of film. 



"Islands of light are swimming on the grass," said Rhoda. "They have fallen through the trees."

Virginia Woolf, The Waves

rock away

In August of 2018, our son left for college. These photos document the lead up to the day his dad and I moved him into his dorm.
 
All alone, nothing but the sound
Of crickets on a summer's night.
On our own, no one else around
I tell you that would be all right.
Oh baby, oh baby
Oh baby, oh baby
Rocky-a-bye baby, my best toy is real.
Nothing can hurt us, our loving can heal.
Climbing was scary, but soon we'll arrive.
It's getting as easy as being alive.
Rockin' away til a quarter to five.


Phoebe Snow, Rock Away 

The Story of Me, March 2019

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram.


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My days all look the same
And I’ve know these wolves by name
’Cause my own devils are all heartless loves
And these sea legs tend to ache
Whenever I stay in the same place
It might be good of me to go

The Ballroom Thieves, Sea Legs

The Story of Me, February 2019

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram.


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Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not
But at best I can say I’m not sad

Lana Del Ray, hope is a dangers thing for a woman like me

The Story of Me, January 2019

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram.


photo credit: Ashleigh Coleman

photo credit: Ashleigh Coleman

May the light be upon me, may I feel it in my bones
That I am enough, I can make anywhere home
My fingers are clenched, my stomach’s in knots
My heart, it is racing, but afraid I am not

P!nk, I Am Here

The Story of Me, December 2018

Each month I join a group of women who are using words and images to explore their personal stories. You can follow The Story of Me Project on Instagram.


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The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop, One Art