I missed out on being a team player. I sculled my single rowing shell from childhood to adulthood. I started to row when I was young, the same age my kids are now. By the time I was in 8th grade, 5 am was my regular wake-up time as my older brothers and I would head down to the boathouse. While the sport has a solitary side, we found companionship at the rowing club. We trained in a fiercely competitive environment where Olympians were bred early on. We stuck together to endure the difficult training sessions. I was one of the first women to be part of this club. I never had women around making it difficult to truly gauge my performance against other women. My high pony-tail would be in stark contrast with the muscled men that lined their shells up next to me on the starting line. I would do my best to technically out row the stronger men. The men dictated the character of the place. With that, came grunge. There were no shiny exercise apparatus like we see in today’s gyms. Wooden planks acted as bench rows, scrap wood boxes were used for plyometrics and the place was cold and dank. It was here that I would learn to cuss despite my mother’s objections. I have spent most of my adult life, trying to reverse some of the less than lady-like habits learned from the rowing world. While my parents would have rather me stuck to tennis, I had different ambitions. I wanted more than anything to make the Olympic team. We would head out to the cove and discover our limits as we would race head to head on the 2000 meter course. Sometimes it could be a very lonely experience to quietly execute 12,000 meter workouts of technique work. Each workout had some purpose in getting us one step closer to becoming an elite athlete. The days were always marked by the weather conditions. During the warm months, you would row as the sun glistened; oars making swirling patterns on the water as you cut through it. During the winter you would often feel the crunch of ice as you skimmed through it, breaking a path through its thin veil. Dry skin would prevail during these months, causing cracks and bleeds on my knuckles as the left hand crossed over the right. It was during the cold months that you would find your inner fortitude. It was in the old boathouse that I would grow up so differently than my kids are doing today. The challenges this sport brought were so much harder than anything school could throw at me. In some ways, I wish this upon my kids because my life's most teachable moments came from the heart of this challenging sport. I have few photos of the place I spent most of my young life. But the memories in my head sustain its every detail. Pictured is one of my best days as a rower winning the Canadian National Championship. To get to this day, I would endure a million catches and finishes trying to find balance, speed and endurance. I would row until a career ending injury changed everything. Interestingly enough, I was hit with an oar from a boat coming in the opposite direction. My back would never be the same as my broken boat began to sink. Another boat came to fish my mangled shell out of the water and it would be here that I would meet my husband. In life, when one door closes, another opens. As my back floundered, he would help heal my broken spirit and together we built a new dream for the future.
Snow came for a brief visit this morning. The unexpected luxury of kids sleeping in, led to a quick outing around some of my favorite local haunts. Despite the small amounts of snow, warm temperatures made it feel heavy draping our little world beautifully. There is a feeling that you’re the only one on earth when breaking through newly fallen snow cover. It’s solitary and the world feels pristine. You could be in 1712 or 2012; timeless when the earth is tethered by a snowy grip. Then in the distance modern day beckons as I hear plows signaling that it’s time to go home and get the kids on the bus. A morning captured in snowy perfection feels like a good day lay ahead.
It’s hard to know what’s the next step in your business when some of your best customers can’t give referrals. I find some of my greatest joy comes in photographing animals. They are beautiful and unpredictable. Through the lens, it’s clear to me that they have pure souls (except for my brother’s old cat). Animals can breathe life into spiritless landscapes. A human, in the presence of animal, can often seem more human. With ease, animals have the ability to make the world into my studio. No, they don’t pay the bills, but they create a real picture, one that is indelible and timeless. I’ll never underestimate the miracle they truly are.
I took a short detour on the way to the super market tonight. The trip brings me into Middletown. My lack of culinary savvy makes the supermarket trip daunting. Once I get beyond the short list of milk, eggs and butter, I’ve got nothing. I wander the aisles wracked with guilt as I remind myself that the Poptarts and Oreos are evil. To avoid the inevitable internal dialog, I pulled into the old mill area. Looking for solace as the sun set lower, I couldn’t help but think of the lack of photographic nutrition I have been experiencing. I feel desperate for some good material, but even today I was coming up empty handed. I looked at the old mill. The sun gave it a nice late afternoon glow, but it was missing the enticements that warmer weather brings. I clicked on the close-up lens and crouched over hoping to find something interesting. A homeless man who eyed me suspiciously startled me. I was in his territory. I wanted to photograph him as he looked for 5-cent cans strewn about but I felt silly snapping pictures as he was trying to survive. Trying to be respectful of his privacy, I turned from him only to come face to face with a decaying skull of some creature. Jumping up, I got caught in prickers. Cursing under my breath, I knew it was time to go. My supermarket trip was calling, like it or not. I wandered through the cavernous building getting the obligatory task completed as I wondering how Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart make it look so easy. As I wheeled the squeaky cart out the door, I came face to face once again with the homeless man. He smiled a toothless smile and asked me if I had gotten any good photos. Startled again, I gave him a smile and told him that just being out there makes me feel good. I wish I had thought quickly enough to share some of my food with him, but he was already gone. I left feeling connected. While I have some lack luster photos to show for the outing, my mind can only picture this man that brought the early evening into focus. In the end, I realized that today’s ordinary miracle was for my eyes only.
I never realized how dangerous a gift as simple as a puzzle could be when put in the hands of a goal driven, high achieving man. Nothing say’s “I love you” like a 750 piece puzzle on Valentine’s day. I learned quickly that an Ironman doesn’t leave his puzzle unfinished. Way back when we first met, we drove from California to New York in 51 hours. This would be the first time I would witness my husband’s penchant for distance challenges and the need to finish them quickly. This puzzle would be no different. For a short time we were taken out of the rat race only to be placed in a different race of sorts. I should have known this as soon as the plastic wrap was torn off and the pieces were dumped on the kitchen table. He was assembling before I had even turned over the pieces. We puzzled our way through dinner, never taking a break. One billboard after another was pieced together until an image of Times Square slowly emerged. I took on the corner that no one wanted...all black pieces that seemed to elude interlocking. Four hours later, bleary-eyed and numb, we had jig-sawed our way into oblivion. Each of us would run or hands over the bumpy picture proud of our accomplishment despite the fact that it was four hours of our life we would never get back. Perhaps we assembled it so quickly knowing that if we didn’t get it done tonight, it would never be done. If only life could lock together so perfectly and have no missing pieces. So now he wants another puzzle. With all the shiny objects trying to claim our attention these days, I may oblige. We just may be ready be ready for a 1000 piece monster. Bring it on.
I recognize this expression. I have seen it at the end of many an Ironman race.
Click above photo for larger image
It’s late and I am eating chocolate. Valentine’s day is upon us. Anything that has any health benefits in the cupboard has been replaced with chocolate and luckily, it won’t last long around here. Thankfully, Valentine’s Day doesn’t constitute a season like Christmas does. It takes only a few days to work off the calories unlike December’s tsunami of a holiday. This year’s edition of the Valentine photo proved no easier to accomplish than past portraits of the kids. However, chocolate saved the shoot as they devoured the contents of the heart shaped box one by one. We learned with a nibble that no one likes strawberry creams except for Miles, who was happy to indulge. Valentine’s day is a Hallmark holiday, and maybe that’s why it seems appropriate to create an old fashioned paper correspondence of the one’s you love. Happy Valentine’s Day to all.
Photography creates a constant yearning. With every living moment that passes, the photographer considers the next shot. I dabble in many photographic things. My inability to sit put helps me to discover the world one genre at a time. I love portraiture and landscapes and the unexpected detail in everyday things. Over the past weeks as winter seems to drag on, I’ve taken to various events to keep the camera and my mind focused. When you mingle with large crowds, you never know whom your going to meet. Fascinating personalities inspire. Funny this would come to light in a spelling bee. Everyday people in their alter egos swarmed in for a fun night at CVEF’s spelling bee. Seeing your politicians dressed as Elvis, Devils and Tory Judges warranted many a glance. Jen Huddleston, one of Middlefield’s prized citizens, pleased our dulled winter senses in her portrayal of a gum chewing super-spelling redneck. Bombarded with words, (few which I knew how to spell), the brave spellers battled round after round. Ironically, the word that would end it all was misspell. Not a tricky one, but when in put in the hot seat, one could see how it could be mispelled. Once again, we were reminded last night of life’s little pleasures in a small town. CVEF (Coginchaug Valley Education Foundation), an organization that has enthusiastically helped fund Go Far, does an excellent job at highlighting the positive and bringing out the best in people. Here are some shots from the evening. On a sidenote…why do auditoriums have the worst lighting ever?