30 September 2015

backwards, forwards

(last look at portland for a little while, maybe a long while)

(crater lake before me, state of oregon behind me)

(northern california magic hour from the magic highway 101)

(majestic, magnificent avenue of the giants, smallest feeling self)

(fiery miraculous sky, outskirts of san francisco)

(southern california haze from an endless I-5)

(cloudy, cloudy monument valley, great state of utah)

(sunset over navajo nation, somewhere in arizona)

(sunset over route 66, somewhere in new mexico)

(and finally, the city of atlanta) (home)

across this great country of ours, as told by one humble rearview mirror. who knew it'd have so much to say?

29 September 2015

for the seeing

"I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them."

-diane arbus

24 September 2015

atlanta + amsterdam: buildings

atlanta, left:

a favorite old abandoned building, downtown atlanta, two blocks from the alleged heart of the city, woodruff park, peachtree street. atlanta, with its propensity for tearing things down and starting over again. atlanta with its insatiable need to destroy and rebuild, deconstruct and reconstruct, this is the pattern. the blood of too many beautiful old buildings on the hands of this city I love (which I do still love, despite this).

amsterdam, right:

joyce's favorite corner building, de jordaan neighborhood, amsterdam. amsterdam, with that climbing ivy and those lovely bicycles. that history, that charm. I would climb inside this polaroid and live for a little while, if I could. if science would allow it.

(read more over on joyce's lovely, amazing blog and you can read more about this twelve-week collaborative project here)

22 September 2015

number 20

september third rolled around last year and we realized, hey-- we made it. we made it to twenty. we made it to our twentieth wedding anniversary, which is no small feat because as you know, marriage is hard, marriage is tough, marriage is not for the faint of heart. it's radical and magnificent and it is not to be entered into lightly. full disclosure: there were a few years there I wasn't sure we were going to make it.

but we made it. not without a few bruises, a few tender spots, but we made it. and we celebrated the heck out of it with a road trip, just the two of us, down to new orleans, the city where we honeymooned two decades ago. we celebrated with a room at the same tiny old french quarter hotel we stayed at back in 1994, with the wooden green shutters and the quiet mossy courtyards and gurgling fountains fat with goldfish, the small curvy swimming pool and continental breakfast (which, by the way, is exactly the same as it was twenty years ago: croissants, orange juice, coffee, newspaper). the smell of the place-- something like old wood, powdered sugar and humidity is also, somehow, miraculously the same.

and things were the same in new orleans, but they weren't. just like we're those same two kids, but we aren't. and we celebrated this, the way things stay the same (but they don't) with beignets and bike rides, followed by an afternoon swim followed by a catnap followed by street music followed by po-boys followed by moonlight. and while there wasn't a bottle of champagne waiting for us when we checked in like there was twenty years ago, there was this: a second-line wedding parade that poured out of our hotel the exact moment we arrived. a bride and groom, a cavalcade of big brass horns and people waving white handkerchiefs and paper fans and plastic solo cups and before we could get our luggage out of the car, before we even knew what was happening we were swept up in it. and we marched along side the thing, as if the parade was our parade and the musicians were playing for us. the bride twirled her white cotton parasol and the wedding party drunkenly lifted plastic cups and we thought, well, this was us. twenty years ago, this was us. minus the second-line parade, of course, but teeming with hope, floating along in that completely different plane of existence, the one reserved solely for the newly wed, those perched at the beginning of the beginning, who can so clearly and confidently see years into their spectacular infinite happy forever.

I wanted to pull that bride aside and tell her things. I wanted to tell her all that I know now, that it will be hard. that things might crumble a little bit, things might actually crumble a lot. the floor will feel shaky sometimes and there will be cracks, they will demand your attention. it will be work, real not-kidding-around hard work. you will walk through a little fire, you won't be able get around it. there are no alternate routes, no shortcuts. you'll just have to walk through it and let it melt and shape you, the both of you. but it will be worth it, all of it, and if you're lucky, if you really work at it, you'll make it. and you'll celebrate your twentieth wedding anniversary with a wedding parade that is not exactly in your honor, but you won't care, not really, because you made it. you made it. and you can't wait to celebrate the next one, you can't wait to celebrate again.

and again and again and again.

(number 20 off the list, properly celebrated)

17 September 2015

atlanta + amsterdam

the internet is a ridiculous place. a ridiculous, crazy place. but for every ridiculous, crazy internet thing, there are at least a dozen spectacular, wonderful internet things. in an instant, we are connected in impossible, miraculous ways, find commonality in similarities and differences, in the ways our stories intersect through the sharing of the work we make and the photographs we take. never has there been a better time for collaborations between artists, never in the history of the world.

in the spirit of this, I give you atlanta + amsterdam. over the next twelve weeks, I'll be collaborating with joyce (from on a hazy morning) to bring you looks at two different cities through the lenses of two polaroid SX-70 cameras. every thursday, we'll be here (and there) with different polaroids, side by side-- bits from atlanta, bits from amsterdam.  a little world travel every thursday, if you will, without having to move even one inch.

meet you back here in a week, folks. until then, the streets of atlanta and amsterdam are waiting.

10 September 2015

hashtag summer

I did not paint the rest of the rooms in the house white this summer like I said I would. I did not read the half dozen books on my summer reading list. I did not pick strawberries or blueberries or even blackberries and make all the things with them like I wanted to. I did not plant flowers or tomatoes, did not throw the big backyard party to celebrate one year back home in atlanta, did not unpack the rest of the many boxes that now permanently live in the garage, did not meticulously archive all the family photographs. I did not, I did not, I did not. there were a lot of things on my summer list. there were a lot of things I did not do.

instead, I watched ezra float on his back in the ocean for the very first time. I laid in the resurrected hammock in the backyard and watched the quiet blink of the season's first lightning bugs. I cut bouquets of black-eyed susans from the side of the highway with a pair of scissors I started to carry in my purse once I noticed those happy roadside clumps of yellow start to pop up. I watched ava ride her bike down the road towards the local library, where she volunteered every tuesday and thursday afternoon. and I beamed with pride.

I covered the living room floor with a mess of quilts and blankets for epic cousin sleepovers and listened to them argue about which movies they were going to watch while I jiggled pan after pan of jiffy pop over a hot stove. I hustled to get us ready for the drive-in, packed more sheets and pillows and treats in the trunk of the car than we knew what to do with, prayed for rainless nights. I hung string lights between the two big trees in the backyard, spray-painted the old metal lawn chairs bright red, roasted marshmallows till they were burnt beyond recognition, slapped (in vain) at a thousand mosquitos and played croquet with the family til dark. I sang along with mighty mo, that magnificent old organ down at the old fox theatre. I gave the kids pennies to throw in the fountains at fellini's and they wished for things. I did too.

I spent entire afternoons and evenings talking with friends-- old friends, new friends, from portland and atlanta, about nothing, about everything. I braved the smoky clermont lounge with said friends and came home with stories of strippers with vacant eyes. I picked up my ukulele again, turned a cartwheel to see if I could still do it (as it turns out, I can) and baked my mom's gooey butter cake exactly twice. I finally met dear mollie and the greene family, let dot and lola cover me with every stuffed animal they own upon our arrival, watched ezra and jude become fast friends and fell in love with aaron's mamiya rz67 the second he put it in my hands and so graciously let me shoot with it.

I swam in the ocean for the first time in years, felt the prickly underside of a sea star with my fingers, felt a thousand jangly shells wash up around my feet. I shelled and shelled and shelled and then I shelled some more. I collected more shells than I knew what to do with, learned all the proper names for them and then realized I will probably be The Old Woman With All Of The Shells. this is okay with me, really. I wondered why we have never owned a rainbow beach umbrella before now or why it took me so long to buy a big floppy straw hat. on impulse, I bought an enormous inflatable pink donut to bring to the pool and it was maybe the best thing I bought all summer. except for the actual real life pink donut that seemed to be an exact replica of the float, which we ate but not before we took a hundred pictures of it. we watched fireworks on the beach, felt them explode all around us and decided this is what it must feel like to live inside a roman candle. I drank frozen lemonade slurpees from 7-11 pretty much everyday and watched the sky turn bright pink pretty much every night and I never wanted it to end, never wanted to leave. does anyone? ever?

I surprised my dad a week before his 69th birthday with a family party, his favorite banana cake and as many candles as we could fit on top of it, celebrated ezra's 11th on the 11th (the golden birthday!) and hit the road for ava's 15th, where we stacked a dozen donuts on a paper plate, fifteen sparkler candles on top and sang to her outside a motel room in nashville, tennessee. I took her to the nashville fleamarket for the first time that weekend, just like my mom did when I was fifteen. and I saw my 15 year-old self in her at least a dozen times that day, saw my mom around every corner, went backwards and forwards in time so much so I nearly forgot where I was. at some point, it hit me. I'd have just three summers left with her before she heads off to college. three summers before she's officially off and running into the world. the realization of this nearly brought me to my knees and I spent the rest of the summer planning all the trips we'd need to take before that inevitable day.

I watched ezra at my dad's basketball camp, watched him do all the drills I remember watching my dad do with hundreds of players at camp after summer camp for so many years. I wanted to cry at the sight of it, but didn't. I took photographs instead. I spent hours sifting through stacks of books and dishes and junk with ava at a handful of thrift shops in the small town where my dad lives. we navigated sweltering, precarious aisles at our beloved olga's house of stuff and came home with more than I'd care to admit. and on the way back home, I drove through the small southern illinois town where I lived when I was little and marveled at the way it all came back to me-- the time I won a banana split from dairy queen for kickball MVP, the public pool where I learned to swim, the slide and swings at the park my dad took us to most every night, the high school where my dad coached basketball, the way queen always seemed to be playing in that big, beautiful old cavernous gym, the old movie theatre that played saturday night fever (which I was not allowed to see) and the library my mom took us to weekly, the library where I first fell in love with books. it all came roaring back in an instant and as we hopped back on the highway and headed towards home and the kids lost themselves in books and video games, I felt an ache so deep it was all I could do to keep from pulling the car over to the side of the road.

I ate peach pies and chili dogs from the varsity with the kids, thick slices of sicilian from fellini's, strawberry popsicles from las paletas, pimento cheese dogs from I dream of weenie, cheeseburgers and lemon ice cream cones from krekel's and late night waffles from the one and only waffle house. tiny cherry tomatoes from the church community garden were devoured and I believe we consumed our actual weight in peaches. we drank strawberry lemonade and blueberry lemonade and raspberry lemonade and lemonade lemonade. I wondered if there is such a thing as too much lemonade. as it turns out, there is not.

I spied ruby red cardinals and bluebirds just outside my window, monarch butterflies and the swoop of an occasional bat, too. I wondered if it's true what they say about butterflies and cardinals, that when one flies near you, it's the spirit of someone you love. I'm not sure I believe this but I held onto it this summer, because I wanted to. I wanted to believe my mom could fly near me, could be as close as just outside my window. I watched the meteor shower with ezra and thought my eyes might pop out of my head when I saw two streak across the sky, one after another. my neck hurt from all the looking up but it was worth it.

and so now I'll need to make a new list, a list for fall. there will probably be a lot of things on it I won't end up doing either. but that's okay, because now I know. the best things, the very best things are never on the list.