“Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons.”
―Willa Cather, My Ántonia
As my girls head back to their second year of college, the memories of my family’s past summers are making me exceptionally nostalgic this year. Last week I walked Cape Cod’s, Town Neck Beach in Sandwich before heading north to Vermont.
So much flooded back to me…oh, the remarkable nostalgia of middle age.
While admiring the rocks, I got an idea for a photo series and a way I could honor this time of transition.
My memories feel both permanent and somewhat elusive, they can come and go as the tide shifts…just like these rocks do every six hours.
New England Patriot’s recently retired tight end, Rob Gronkowski once remarked, “I just like the beaches in summer, man.”
I wholeheartedly agree, Gronk.
Do you possess some form of heartache, pride or even a sense of neutrality, depending on how things turned out for your ancestors?
While researching the stories of female homesteaders on the upper plains one dominant trait surfaced again and again.
Women are remarkably capable of creating something out of nothing.
Leaving all things familiar to take a chance on a new life for themselves and their families was an enormous sacrifice, requiring great courage. So often they were very young women, ages we still consider to be children by today’s standards.
It seems that perhaps we all possess some cellular residue from the migratory ventures of our ancestors. This courage is exhibited (and often maligned) every day, all over the world, as people are forced to leave their homes.
They’re not fleeing for the heady chance to “prove up” 160 free acres as the homesteaders did. They’re most often trying to stay alive and feed their children, a brave migratory gamble in hopes of a better life.
My twin daughters are graduating from high school on Thursday, June 14th at 10am and nostalgia along with a handful of other complex and occasionally irrational emotions are settling into my midlife psyche. For so long photographing my girls was my muse, something creative I could do all the time. However, as they got older (and had cameras in their pockets) I photographed them less frequently together. I have plenty of travel and birthday photos, but I can see now as the years progressed, they increasingly grew into their individuality, less of a unit and I followed their lead. Now, every photo has to be “approved” which I can understand for a 17-year-old coming-of-age in this era and about to graduate from high school.
Here’s to honoring nostalgia however it surfaces in your life. I know for me, it’s helping the transition to an empty nest to take a look back. I’m less anxious that I could’ve been a better mother and prepared them more by seeing these photographs through a slightly different lens. A pleasant byproduct of middle age wisdom, I suppose.
When my three kids were young, to offer a little grace at the end of those seriously ass-kicking days, I would ask myself:
“Did you love them more than you were pissed off at them today?”
The answer was always the same. I can live with that.
There are so many photographs to sort through, here are a few of my favorite black & white shots of Lucy and Willa.
I’ll post my favorite color images next.
Memory…is the diary we all carry with us.
Above is my original painting. It was in a show at a restaurant that used to be downtown Burlington, Smokejacks. The light was low so I designed this series to show up in the soft light. This piece also was also in a show at the Herrick Elevator in South Dakota.
I thought I could stretch the life of this painting by playing with it and layering the moon. The farmhouse and flora in these images are photographs I shot around Burke, South Dakota. I guess as the snow falls in Vermont I’m dreaming of a quiet and spacious rural landscape.
Every year I have such grand intentions of how I’m going to show my love to my family and friends and every year I fall a short of my intentions and beat myself up a bit. I’m no longer going to miss out on the little moments of the season because of things I DIDN’T GET DONE. That’s bullshit.
This year, I’m forgiving, no celebrating myself for all of the great ideas I’ve had and didn’t accomplish. It’s those little moments with our loved ones, people in line at the coffee shop, grocery store or our bartenders for that matter that make the holiday special anyway. I’m going to be jolly and generous like Santa out in the world, that just sounds fun, right?
So now it’s December 19th and I’m putting one package in the mail for a very special little girl who will more thrilled than anyone on my list to receive a package. I will tell the people in my life I love them and not think twice about what I didn’t get done. Tonight, a Christmas lights drive with my family and spaghetti at our favorite family joint.
Have a very Merry Christmas and be ridiculously kind to yourself this year.
I know it’s only July 27th and there’s a lot of summer to still be lived & enjoyed. However, this morning I felt like some of my summer 2016 memories are beginning to blur.
blur/verb—to make or become unclear or less distinct (Merriam-Webster)
I want to slow it all down. I really want to be a good steward of my memories.
How exactly do I go about doing that?
- I journal. Every night I write down 3-4 things that were great about my day. This will help my great grandchildren try to figure out what the summer of 2016 was like for me…but it doesn’t stop the blur.
- I try to breathe, savor, soak it in…all of the stuff “Oprah” tells me to do…it still blurs a lot of the time. Perhaps I’m trying to hard.
After I layered these photos and saw my daughter jumping into the clouds and a beach sign on a South Dakota gravel road I realized that I have to accept that this is the nature of our memories. Even if we can’t recall everything with great detail and clarity our memories are always a part of us. They may surface again one day and they may not. I guess, just like everything else in life the path of least resistance is: ACCEPTANCE.
Here’s to a bunch of sweet summer memories…all blurred together.