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.
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.
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!
A recent surgery required that I not lift anything over 10 lbs for 2-3 months. During the first week of my recovery that was fine; I hadn’t been inspired to stray too far from my bed, much less bring a camera with me. But then my real life started seeping back in… a walk to the back deck required a telephoto lens to help identify a bird, my little container garden was offering up the lush orbs of my better looking than tasting purple cherry tomatoes, the deck spider’s web was bedazzled in mist and security light …. I relocated my camera bag.
It is a short distance to carry my camera bag from the top floor to the back deck, but per doctor’s orders, I reviewed the contents for possible editing: extra cameras out, extra lenses out, tripod gone, extra batteries out… no wait I need those, and so first one then another slid into my pants pockets (pocket stuffers can’t count as lifting, can they?) The concern was ignored that fatigue might see me tossing the pants and batteries alike into the hamper upon my return to rest.
From there I road shotgun with my husband just glad to see something visible beyond our plot of land. He carried the bag to the car and waited within for my mini excursions to tire me out. I wiggled out of the car in my new more cautious gait with a single camera and my battery. Foolishly I’d culled even my phone and edged into the woods on a broad short trail. Prizes winners? Probably not, but at least I’d have something to enter into the Middleton Stream Team competition.
Days in bed meant I missed the cut-off for the Topsfield Fair Farm Photo contest, but that would not prevent me from checking out the beautiful backdrop of early autumn at Smolak Farm with an eye to next year, plus I still had a couple of days to switch out my Fine Arts photography entries if I captured something I really loved. Then like a donkey chasing after a carrot on a stick, I edged from one heavily laden antique apple tree to another absolutely perfect display of apples that was just out of range of my one lens.
Between the Middleton wetlands and the farm fruitlands, I probably walked a mile over uneven terrain, up and down modest inclines, knowing full well the next day would, by necessity, be a day of rest…. but I’d be back out the day after that with one camera, one all purpose lens and as many batteries and memory sticks as I can jam in my pocket. Can’t wait until the sun shines again because adding a flash just isn’t in the cards right now.
My first camera was a Kodak Brownie that I received as a gift when I was probably 7-8 years old. My first photo (and there are very few left) was of our rescued cat, Snowy, a tough as nails white angora with gold eyes and a toy poodle for a best friend that had been given to my dad in lieu of payment for some legal work he did. I pretty much loved them all equally.
That camera gave a shy kid something to do that didn’t require a lot of talking and kept me out of the awkward and dreaded position in front of a camera. “Smile.”
I’ve been taking pictures since then except the one week in fifth grade when our class went to Camp Union and my mother graciously sent me off with her Polaroid Swinger instant camera, a roll of film but no instructions. I never figured out how to load the film and ruined the film in the process. I’m sure some fantastic sights were seen at Camp Union but without any photos, all I can remember about the week was that the thick and sweet Koolaid-style drink (or was it Zarex) they exclusively offered at every meal made me throw up so I spent a lot of time dehydrated before I worked up the courage to ask for water.
Lessons learned. Never drink Koolaid, and always know your equipment and have back up. I carry at least one and usually two cameras with me at all times, even when the cameras were those new fangled disposables (some worked underwater). Don’t laugh at disposables – I made my first sale (well barter really) with one of those. My photo was a swan for a young girl obsessed with the birds and an obliging and crazily talented mom from whom I received a sunflower watercolor study. Thinking I got the better end of that deal, the painting still hangs in my home.
As an adult, I talk a lot more, and really love writing. And my husband, Jonathan W. Campbell, and I share many hours competing like mad to get the best shot on our photo excursions. Some years he’s the top prize winner, other years I am. But always he is my go to person for advice on editing and printing. The skill I share in return is my ability to recognize a great photo opp out of the corner of my eye travelling 70 miles an hour down a highway. He’s not always willing to stop on a dime, but more often than not, we can loop around in some semi safe manner and have at it.
When the viewer becomes the viewed….Cameras themselves are fascinating to me, and without meaning to, I’ve let them edge me closer to hoarding status. I’ve picked up several at yard sales, flea markets and consignment stores, usually looking for a price tag of $5 or so. Their design says a lot about the era in which they were created, even if I’m not well trained enough to identify the design style.
I owe a lot to my camera – it helps me explain how beautiful this world is without, for the most part, hunting for the thousand words on my keyboard.
Tattersall Farm in my city of Haverhill, MA at 542 North Broadway needs to occupy a lot more of my time. I photographed there basically as a fly by, stopping to preserve my mood after a kid missed the bus to the high school or on my way to hike trails elsewhere, or to check out the community gardens.
This photo retrospective reminds me there’s a lot to see in any season. Disclaimer – My initial thought “well, maybe not spring”, shifted when I wrote a recent article for Haverhill Life Magazine on the trails here. I was delighted by the surprise of single daffodils peeking out above the grass and dandelions to mark the trail across the field.
With hiking trails, community gardens, wild flower areas, arguably the oldest living oak on city property, heritage apple trees, a daffodil lined path, and bobolinks, tree swallows, turkeys and hawks arriving for their photo ops along with a few deer, even the barren trees offer a beauty worth sharing.
If you are interested in purchasing prints of these images contact me through this blog. Prices range for matted prints: Up to 90 sq inches $50, Up to 150 sq inches $80. For larger sizes or to license photographs for digital or commercial usage, please call for a quote.