I remember watching “The Wizard of Oz” on TV every year and noticing that as I got older, I got more confused by Dorothy’s quote near the end, ” if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further (NOTE: should that have been ‘farther’) than my own backyard because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with”. I remember immediately going on the defensive in my mental debate, “What the heck, is that telling me… that travel isn’t important, is that saying I won’t find happiness outside of my own neighborhood. Why my husband is the result of a long distance relationship?” It sounded like a lot of hooey.
Ultimately I came to the conclusion that “my own back yard” isn’t a step off the back deck. It’s ourselves. Our heart’s desire starts within our hearts; we have to work on our own issues before we can begin to open up to what the world has to offer. And that sounded profound and good, and I was satisfied with my interpretation, except I was still getting hung up on the part that she “never really lost it to begin with.” So I did what any sane person would do with a decades old conundrum – just focused on the backyard and all it has to offer.
We’re having up to 4 snow storms in under two weeks (one alone swamped us with 18 inches of the stuff). Between the snow and the pandemic, I’ve been feeling a bit more trapped than usual, feeling sorry for myself because I just can’t get out and explore new places for my photography. So today, as the plows honked their horns at 8 a.m. to evacuate all vehicles from the condo parking lots, I took my camera and ran…. around town, well, small city actually – Haverhill, Massachusetts. I gave myself an hour and a half off and looked for every joyful thing I could find within the confines of my 35 square mile city and the 90-minute deadline.
These are the photos of what filled my heart in Haverhill today after the second of four storms. They aren’t all award winners, but they are all heart elevators, at least for me. I hope I can share my joy with you.
Haverhill, though a small city with 65,000 people over 36 square miles, is a very connected city. And if you’re a feature writer for a few monthly magazines (in this instance Haverhill Life), you get to know a lot of people because you always want to tell their stories. But it was my husband, Jonathan Campbell (who is also a photographer on land and by drone), who approached a local non-profit media outlet, WHAV, that featured me in a media that was not one where I worked.
It was very gracious of WHAV media owner Tim Coco to surprise me with a call about my participation in the Walter E and Elizabeth C Cummings Gallery in Beverly, MA. I like that about our small city, too, some people like Tim, are above the petty competition that other “competitors” might feel. So I hope readers will support and follow WHAV.net, too.
The article includes an invitation to visit the gallery and though its about 45 minutes away, Tim said he hoped to drop in. (How nice!) The gallery showcases really superior work from 11 people who share a a connection to gallery owner David Cummings. David recognized that there was a lot of talent among high school friends from our other home town, Lynnfield, MA. And when pursuing a long-held dream to focus on his art and create a gallery, he came to the realization that starting his gallery with people he knew, trusted and appreciated for their art was a strong idea. And voila a charming gallery was born which leads you wondering, what was in the water in Lynnfield that produced so many people who pursued art?
There is always some date in February when the urgent call of spring renewal defeats the leaden desire for inaction, baked goods and pasta. And when I heed that call, I am compelled to spend some time outside walking and engaging with like minded plants and animals. February 23 was the day this year, when I needed to and had the energy to slug off a long hard winter hibernation.
This is what I saw.
Can you identify my garden plants from their sprouts?
One bird’s love song is another birds dinner bell. The hawk was waiting for dinner to be served. The barn bird had a nest hidden beneath the loose shingle. You can see the buds on the trees in the hawk photos.
It was nearly 60-degrees when I went strolling. Many neighbors shared the roads and pathways with me. Ultimately I put in about 3 miles and was energized more than tired by the excursion.
There are white birch in the woods behind my house, but this one is the one that ventured farthest from the other clusters and closest to our property. And well, pussywillows, need I say more. The barn is the home of many wild birds and once I saw a raccoon had made its home inside as well, but that was when the farm grew more corn.
During a tour of Chris’ Farm Stand, one of Haverhill’s many large tracts of agricultural space, for an article I was writing for a local paper, I noticed that despite the absolutely packed schedule of the day with tentacles of mayhem trying to drag me/pull me into stress and chaos, I felt calm, and what was that sensation…. happiness. Being outside with a farm dog to pat and the explosion of growth in the fields, provides me with a serenity and clarity that little else can. And this is in Haverhill, just a couple of miles from the urban center of our small city, a city more often thought of in terms of its bustling downtown than the agricultural expanses that actually make up more of the city than the downtown area does.
Haverhill is home to over a dozen farms that provide everything from Christmas trees, sunflowers, and raspberries, to eggs, meat, produce, and honey. So it is no wonder I had plenty of choices when it came time to enter the Topsfield Fair Farm photo competition.
And while the chance to share a side of Haverhill that is often overlooked was reward enough, I was pretty dang excited to harvest a crop of ribbons for my efforts. I entered four photos; won three ribbons, including one first place and two honorable mentions in a crowded field.
So I’d like to salute Haverhill’s farms, sustaining me not just through their food, but also through their beauty (I won $10!!! for my first place ribbon.)
The photos of me with my entries were taken by my supportive husband, Jonathan Campbell who knows how to show a girl a good time at the Fair – Learneds Blueberry cobbler, a quart of Leavitts darkest maple syrup, and a willingness to judge (in our own amateur way) the flower entries and dahlias. (c) Jonathan W Campbell
Here are my copyrighted photos of my entries: Tattersall Farm – Farm Equipment (1st place), Chris’ Farm Stand – Farm people (Honorable mention), Kimball Farm – Farm Animals (Mark and Mike) Honorable mention. The photo of draft horses Mark and Mike at Kimball Farm was selected by the readers of my Facebook page, The Heartbeat of Haverhill. Good choice readers. Thank you! I may not have won a ribbon with my fourth entry, but I was so impressed with the beauty of Turkey Hill Farm Christmas trees that I entered an image into the landscape category, and also included that picture in my The Heartbeat of Haverhill calendar last year. All photos (c) by Alison Colby-Campbell
I also entered two framed photographs (beautifully and expeditiously framed by Ideal Frame of Haverhill) into the Fine Arts competition, no ribbons there, but was so pleased to see my friends who love photography, arts, quilting, and knitting did grab some top honors. And not surprisingly some of my favorite farms took home ribbons for the wonders that they grow.
The Farms of Haverhill, Massachusetts provide a balm to stressful lives. If you are looking for good food for the body, heart, and soul, check them out. (I am definitely missing a few, add names in comments.)
Chris’ Farm Stand Known for: Poultry, eggs, veggies (especially corn and tomatoes), CSA and activities. Vendor at Haverhill’s Farmers Market
Crescent Farm Known for: Ice cream, cider donuts, Northeast Tractor Pull competition, supplying silage to feed the Richardson Dairy Cows
Fays Farm and Orchard Known for: pick your own and already picked apples and peaches, cider. Vendor at Haverhill’s Farmers Market
A recent ride along coastal Maine showed me the resiliency of Mainers. They acted like petulant adolescents shouting “You’re not the boss of me” to Mother Nature. And Mother Nature shouted back “you will accept perpetual winter because I said so.” An obviously poor retort from someone who IS the boss of us all. A chink in the armor so to speak.
And MN, as we like to call her, stomped two feet of snow on them in mid March to prove her point. But the depths of snow slithered back from the salty shore, and the temps edged above freezing and tangoed with the 40s. Warmth than cold, cold then cold, then warm-ish.
And the adolescent inhabitants of the planet in the area of Maine shouted back, “We do not subscribe to your norms of weather and dates. It’s a beach day when we say it’s a beach day!” And off they went with buckets and pails to build their ephemeral castles of sand. She blew the sand back in their faces.
Others took advantage of her raging fury to look for treasures among the stones heaved from the depths.
More Mainers joined them at the shore and brought their canine friends to frolic on the ocean’s edge.
And Mother Nature pummeled the water in anger, promising harsh retaliation. The sea frothed up like Neptune’s cappuccino.
And the people shouted back, “Hold my cup.”
And the stoner Snowy Owl looked out from on high, got distracted a bit then giggled.
Mother Nature fumed, “What’s so funny… you want more Maine winter?”
The owl, temporarily obsessed with his own pretty toes, didn’t answer right away.
Slowly he remembered that a question had been asked and the smile crept back…
He said…. I am vacationing here from the Arctic Tundra. It’s definitely beach weather to me.
And Mother Nature, her fury spent, released spring upon the land, and she chuckled in her wicked way, as she realized they thought she caved in to their demands. She shouted back “Be careful what you wish for” and in spite set loose the sand fleas, no see ums and mosquitoes to populate the beach in numbers far greater than people worldwide.
She regained her composure. She wielded control. For she possessed a very particular set of skills; skills acquired over a very long career. Skills that make her a nightmare for people like you and me who visit the beach in Maine. And the great white shark moved farther north along the coast.
About this story. The story was inspired by a trip along the Maine coast on March 23, 2018, that is when everyone of these photos was taken. The trip wound its way along backroads through Kittery to Kennebunk, to Old Orchard Beach, then worked from Portland to Harpswell, Bailey’s Island and then back through Brunswick, before heading home.
The owl was at Sohier Park in York where one can view Nubble Lighthouse. The surfers and stand up paddle boarders, treasure seekers and castle makers were in or about York and Ogunquit. And though Great Whites have traveled to New England of late due in part to warmer waters, I have not seen one yet, and I am still figuring out if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Very very honored to have been commissioned by State Rep Diana DiZoglio to create a photo collage. As Diana explained – she wanted to share the beauty of the Merrimack Valley communities she represents: Methuen, North Andover, Lawrence, and Haverhill. And she wanted mostly winter scenes and as many as she could fit on her card, so I was thankful the weather cooperated and I was able to get a few more images with snow before she printed.
The final collage was similar to the image attached though dimensions were changed and I removed the watermarks (my name).
Someone nominated me for the B&W Challenge. Unfortunately I cannot remember who, but I am sure it was a lovely person and I would like to tell her (I do remember it was a woman) that I am honored you want to see my photos in B&W.
I have been nominated before and stressed every day for seven days about which exact photos to post and who to nominate that would see the nomination as a challenge rather than a burden, who has the desire to explore with a camera, and whose photos I would love to see, and finally someone I felt would actually follow through. I followed the rules, precisely, in round one: one photo every day, one nominee every day, no explaining your photos, and no people in the image.
ROUND 1 BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE
This time I am going ROGUE! I will post all seven black and white photos at once and I will nominate anyone who wants to be nominated without specifying names. I will participate but under my own rules so that I can free up my week from anxiety.
ROUND 2 BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE
Don’t forget I encourage you to challenge yourself. I nominate anyone who would like to explore their world in a rainbow of grays and whites and blacks. Remember the rules are: post one black and white photo a day for seven days and nominate someone else to do the same every day. No explaining your photos and no people in the images.
But here’s the thing, only you can decide whether those rules are worth keeping.
PS: What’s black and white and read all over – doesn’t work as a joke anymore, especially not in writing, but it was nonetheless the inspiration of my feature photo – The New York Times Building. Yup it’s a riddle from a different era when papers printed exclusively in black and white. And were read from cover to cover.
Jon Campbell & I were invited to exhibit some of our photos at the Ipswich River Watershed Association 40th Anniversary event. The reception is at IRWA HQ on Sunday Nov. 5 2017 from 1-4 pm at 143 County Road Ipswich. The Watershed includes 21 cities and towns and the Ipswich River with its 45 tributary streams cover an area of 155 square miles. Both of my photos were taken in Middleton, one of only three communities that rests 100% within the watershed.
“End of Season with Picnic Table” was taken on the Ipswich River in Middleton. What appealed to me in this image was that it looked like a black and white photo until the brown leaves and matching picnic table pop off the page. That snow topped table in relation to the only partially frozen river, instilled in me a certain wistfulness. Winter hadn’t quite taken hold yet, and I had in the back of my head been hoping for one more day of Indian Summer. This scene made that hope seem pretty much hopeless. Finding this photo again in November, was especially poignant as we head back into the season that robs us of dining outdoors options. With effort, I remind myself there is a plus side – it minimizes bugs and ants.
“Misty Trees” was taken in Middleton along the Cuchnea (SP?) trail abutting Prichards Pond. It is one of the few photos of mine that stops me in my tracks every time. It is a photograph that I miss when it’s spent too long in the deep archives of my photo collection. It was never a big prize winner in local photo contests but it continues to speak to me, and I find, a few other people who are drawn to it. I’ve framed it three or four times now, but this new frame is the best of the lot. “Misty Trees” earned an honorable mention in the Middleton Stream Team Competition, and at the competition I learned that within a few days of my taking this picture the area (a tree farm) was clear cut. No one will ever see this image again except through photography.
Exhibits require the very nerve wracking process of updating my bio. Ugh, so much less fun than taking pictures. So I put together the panel below in the hope it said enough.
No such luck. Bios, I am told, need more words. Usually I love writing but writing about myself is such a hideous task. Ultimately I settled on this, at least for expediency’s sake. It will be tweeked again, I am sure, but I just don’t want to look at it anymore.
What started out as a means to keep personal memories alive and share the irrepressible beauty surrounding us, is taking over more of Alison Colby-Campbell’s life. A long career as a professional marketing consultant exposes Alison to composition and messaging, both of which play into the positive stories she likes to tell through her photography, her calendar, blog and Facebook page, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography, and her articles for Haverhill Life Magazine. Alison credits The Middleton Stream Team Photo Competitions with encouraging her through a series of wins to place more emphasis on her photography.
Alison and her husband, Jonathan W. Campbell, who live in Haverhill, Massachusetts, find shooting photographs together provides an opportunity for collaboration, support, and competition that stimulates and encourages artistic growth. When she puts the cameras down, she usually finds she misses the perfect photo opp, but it does give her time to care for 2 giant and surly house rabbits, a weed ravaged garden, super lengthy Haverhill Cultural Council meetings, and binge watching Stranger Things.
Awards and Recognition:
November 2016 photography exhibit with her husband at the Massachusetts State House sponsored by State Rep Diana DiZoglio
First Place and a Best in Category at Topsfield Fair fine arts competition, and First Place in Agriculture photography at the Fair, too
The Heartbeat of Haverhill 2016 Calendar was selected for a city time capsule
First Place and People’s Choice Award in the Essex National Heritage Area photo competition
Cover photos chosen for the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce (GHCC) Members’ Guide, GHCC Visitors’ Guide, and Haverhill Life Magazine
Let’s face it, we wouldn’t enter if we didn’t hope. And that is why after missing the Farm Photo deadline, all my hope was behind the two photographs I entered into the 2017 Topsfield Fair Fine Arts Professional category. And that is why I zoomed passed all the fascinating sights, sounds, and smells along the way to get to the middle of the Fair ASAP. Destination – Coolidge Building.
My pace slowed as my eyes adjusted and then darted in every direction inside the fine art section. The other entries!!! Wow, such stellar talent on display. My expectations deflated with each in the never ending sequence of awesome photos that weren’t mine. I couldn’t even locate my entries. Eventually, I found one, and then the other, neither obstructed by any colored ribbon. I didn’t win, even though I really loved my photos.
I wrapped my head around the fact there wasn’t going to be a long section in my Christmas letter about photography scores this year. But that mood dampening thought dissolved in the presence of pat-loving sheep, Volkswagen-sized pumpkins, and ice cream melting on warm blueberry crisp. Instead the future called to me in the potential to snag a few photos as the sky warmed then dimmed in a way that really showcased the fair’s neon. Is that portion of ferris wheel at sunset a potential winner? I shot until batteries died, then switched cameras until those batteries died, too, then dragged myself and my 10+lbs of equipment to the car. I’d be back again at least one more time this year.
The Fair though it spans 10-days was over almost as quickly as my blueberry crisp and it was time to retrieve this year’s best hope. One photo could not be located. Hey what?! I loved that picture; you have to find it. And then hope crept back in as I haltingly queried: “Is it…possible… it sold?” Without knowing me, I got the impression the woman assisting me had sized me up as a procrastinating non-winner, she seemed disengaged. In her defense, she probably had lots to do to tie up loose ends with this Fair and prepare for the next in 346 days. She went back to look, again. I wanted to shout after her – “I can explain. I couldn’t come to the official pick up day because my dad went into the hospital, yes I am a procrastinator but not this time… he’s doing better by the way.”
She came back empty handed and made a call. Then with a simple quiet comment let me know that the other photo had sold. What!!!! I tried to match her professional and quiet demeanor by tamping down my enthusiasm and withholding loud statements like “WOOHOO! Where are the confetti cannons, the marching band, the interviews on TMZ?” This subduing effort subsequently exploded my brain as I took an email address from her to get more information and promptly lost it even before completing the series of calls I made in the parking lot to hopefully interested family members. I sold a photo, the very first time I offered one for sale at Topsfield Fair! Whoever bought it, you rock.
I had a day to get over that excitement (okay, I’m not really over it yet) when I received a request asking my husband and me to be part of a new regional photography exhibition to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the 21-city and town Ipswich River Water Shed Association. And that just jump started my excitement all over. And my Christmas letter, as I write it in my mind, is sounding pretty good!