* “If you are in a beautiful place where you can enjoy sunrise and sunset, then you are living like a lord.”
~ Nathan Phillips
Sunrise, Saint George Island:
Sunset, Saint George Island:
Yeah, I had to look him up, this Nathan Phillips. He’s an actor…but he’s also right.
We were lucky enough to have this rental this past winter. The first shot was taken from the bedroom. Don’t get too excited about the ‘Ocean View’ as it was more of a bendy twisty ‘Oh-look-there’s-the-Gulf’ view that covered maybe 3 degrees of the horizon. The rest of the 357 degrees looked rather like married student housing from my UNI days. If you left your blinds up everyone out walking their dog could look straight into your home and see what you were having for breakfast.
The second shot was taken from the path shown in the first shot. You know, it was cold, but, wow..that Florida sun. It is a tonic.
More Rise/Set here:
It’s been a month since she passed.
When I was two my mother died, leaving my father with 4 children under five. We left my mother’s family, as well as my mother, behind in the firs, coastal mountains and crystal waters of Maine to join my Father’s family in Iowa. There we were split and my brothers were raised in our Grandfather’s house by his common-law wife while I was sent down the street to live with our Aunt Sue, her husband and their son. Two more boys soon joined us in that little house for a family of 6. I was a proud ‘sister’. I had love. I had attention. I had structure. I had food. I belonged. We were family.
Torn loyalties between my father and my Aunt, between my brothers and my cousins, my families pulling me in two directions was routine. It is a blessing to have family but as a child I found that whatever family I was with, a small part missed the family left behind. My Aunt and Uncle were the rock at the center of my life. An anchor in a storm of abuse, confusion and neglect. Ah but how absence made time with my brothers all the more special and Aunt Sue made sure I had time with my brothers. She claims on one such sibling sleepover my middle brother and I, in separate bunks, fell asleep holding hands and stayed that way til morning.
In ’66 my uncle pursued the dreams he and ‘Mama’ had laid out while courting and moved us all to Colorado. Suddenly, with 672 miles between us, my father went in search of a new mother for his children. He found one in a bar and in ’67 moved in with her. It was only after Aunt Sue insisted she wasn’t letting me go unless he was married, they wed in ’68. Just like that, after being mother and daughter for 10 years, we were Aunt and Niece. I moved into a dark chapter of my own life but she is the heart of this post.
My Aunt was an ornery pistol. She was drop dead, movie star gorgeous with a body of perfect proportions, lovely legs, an impish wit, and piercing green eyes. She was the oldest girl of seven and when her mother died she had to drop out of school at 14 to raise her younger siblings, two still in diapers. She was born in the depression and learned the ways of life in a harsh time. At an age her peers were obsessing about movie stars and Elvis she was raising 4 sisters and a brother while holding a part time job to help support the family.
She was 14 in the photos below. She looks her age in the left but on the right one you see the reason why men pursued her throughout her life.
She was brilliant. In her middle age she worked as a supervisor in quality control at an international durable medical goods company. Heart stents was just one of the products she oversaw in quality control. Her brains and attention to detail saved many lives. She was a liaison among the floor workers, the scientists, the lawyers and the business wonks, moving easily among them. All other staff who worked at her level had a masters or doctorates.
She never graduated high school.
She was the loving center of every community she lived in. Wherever we lived neighbors turned to her; people brought her feverish babies and children with broken arms. They brought her their problems, their loves, their petty setbacks and the joys of their lives. They were drawn to her beauty and her warmth. They brought gifts, tributes for a sovereign, little things they saw and thought she’d like. They wanted to do for her as she had done for them. In the nursing home where she lived the final years she was a favorite. When the call came, I drove straight from Michigan to Denver, through storms, gales and ice to be by my mama and the nurses cried. They cried when they saw her hold me tight. It was a testament to her, that in that place, in those last days there was a stream of volunteers and staff who came, even on their day off, to spend time with her and say goodbye.
I am grateful I was able to spend her last days and final night by her side, doing for her as she had done for me. I sang her favorite gospel tunes, I found and played music from the Carter Family to Tennessee Ernie Ford to Elvis, for her house was full of music. I even teased her for the mess she had left under her bed, soooo many candy wrappers. No mystery where I got that sweet tooth.
I read old love letters from my Uncle to her. Above, there is a photo of them in their first home. He came from a family of 9 kids just up the street from her family of 7 kids. The families played together. He was a bit older but knew from boyhood she was the one. He courted her by mail, sending letters while he was in basics and as a Marine deployed in the Korean War. He chased her passionately and persistently with sweet words of optimism for a future together. She was so very young, a child really, but with adult responsibilities. She was hesitant at first but they came to know each other through their letters. She had a family to care for at her father’s house but he was extremely handsome, charming, and offered to move close to her father and family, and so he won her over. She met him near base in California and they were married. Tragically he passed 31 years ago. She was a beautiful middle aged woman and many men came calling but she said she ‘had known love’ and wanted no other.
As she aged her two pack a day smoking habit caught up with her. She hid her COPD at first but three years ago my cousin, Bannon, her ‘premie miracle baby’, passed and she never recovered. She went downhill quickly and her illness became evident to all.
Thank you, Lord, for letting me hold her and love her and thank her. We shared our lives’ stories in those final days. It was a gift. It was horrible. It is was a horrible gift to see a declining parent through agony towards the ultimate freedom from pain.
The Three Bells Part?
This photo below was taken in 1964. My Aunt set aside the income tax return that year because she decided every family should have at least one ‘Great American Road Trip’. Ours was from Iowa to California. Below we are at our final destination, Disneyland, the ocean and the couch of California friends whose children had made the trip with us.
Three Bells was recorded in 1959 but was getting a lot of air play that summer of 1964. It followed us across the dial from Iowa to California. Fifty years later, I hear it and I’m safe, secure, and loved in the back end of a borrowed station wagon. Life was an adventure and when this song would come around in the rotation of the various local gospel stations I would call up front “Turn it up!!” and scramble over the seats to sit on her lap and she and I sang along.
Of the six of us in that photo there are only three left. Life is difficult. Life is wonderful. Life is a wonderfully difficult gift. I’m thankful to have spent much of my journey with her.
February has sped by. Twenty eight days ago in the wee hours of February 1st I was arguing with the alarm, the cat, my body. The electric blanket was seduction itself but the eclipse was “going to be soooo cool, blue moon, super moon…”…and something else I’ve lost to time.
I lost the argument and got up. When we pack for Florida we haul two cats and their catly gear (food; HUGE, no, it’s really that big, scratchpost; litterboxes; litter; dishes; toys; towels; their world), two bikes (helmets and stuff), two kayaks (and the metric shedload of stuff that goes with kayaks and makes them go) and then there is all the detritus that humans need for modern living.
The point? There truly was not a safe place for a proper lens and a nice heavy tripod. I made do with what I had. What I had was a sorry old 18-55mm kit lens and a small cooler I call backup tripod. This was my first test shot where the photographer decides settings, pouts over the lack of tripod, bemoans the equipment left at home and silently curses the other photographers who got there first. This shot says so much about how I felt that morning. I was insufferably pleased with my plan until I arrived to find others camped out.
Arty. I was in the Eastern Time Zone and as the eclipse was really getting to it the moon was heading to the Pacific. I got some nice shots of the palm, an egret, the moon setting over the bay, the moon by the palm, the egret by the palm, the palm by the bay and reflections of the egret and moon on the waters and distant towns on the horizon…. Meh. It was a kit lens. Photos were nice but Getty isn’t calling.
I rescued this morning of spectacularly average shots by stopping in at the very popular island donut shop. Rather like a donut closet. Donuts are made on premises, there is no room for stock so you gotta get there early, which we never did. There is a whole other world out there of people who get up early and go to donut shops. I always have been and remain a pour coffee into your cup of instant oatmeal and call it breakfast kind of woman.
The best part of this morning was that as the moon set the sun did rise and bath the St. George Island Light in a golden promise…promise of a fabulous day likely highlighted by a mid-morning nap.
It was a good day. I could ride the Seattle ferries all day, and so I did on May 28th.
Once again Black and White has such a different feeling than color. In black and white man becomes another shape, almost negative space, part of the seascape, not human so much as a symbol for Everyman.
In the second photo, color adds humanity. As he looks to the side the viewer eye is drawn more to the man himself, who is he? Where is he going? Is he meeting someone or looking to the future?
I would put this photo in the category ‘street’, it’s not street per se but it is public transportation. Sea lanes are ‘streets’.
Oh, for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brighetest heaven of invention!
My SO had a gig here, a basilica in Grand Rapids. While I missed the concert itself I marveled at the soaring heights of the Cathedral.
The crowning glory, I don’t think it can be called an oculus as it is not open to the heavens, yet the heavens are depicted in the dome.
I am always playing catch up with weekly challenges. I apologize for that. It has more to do with tired eyes than procrastination. Huh.