July 25, 2015

Eastern Time

To market, to market to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again; jiggety-jig. 

Whoosh! Home at last.

With Ni at the wheel, the old faithful Toyota rolled into Wolseley around eight this evening. I hung out the window like a happy hound, tongue wagging, energized simply by staring at elderly couples lick their ice-cream cones and families eating watermelon on their stoops. Neighborhood normalcies of summer. What a novelty after nearly three weeks on the open road.

Naturally, sleep has escaped me (while the Sleeping Giant sprawls across the heavenly bed). This is no surprise. It always takes me a little while to adjust to such change in rhythm. We have been a going concern for the past 18 days. Driving like we stole it and never staying in one place for too long (much too much to see!). I sit window-side wrapped in a cold sheet drinking cold water that came from the kitchen faucet with hardly any effort at all, happy to reflect in the present, now on the other side of travel.

On our first night on the road heading toward the East Coast, I had a hell of a time settling in to the routine of sleeping while camping. Instead I plunked down beside the beautiful Wolf River (near Nipigon, Ontario) we happened to be tenting next to and listened to the silence of the bush engulfing me. No light save for the occasional firefly. This past year spent in school training to become a teacher of Montessori while working full time and completing six weeks of intense practicum work left little time to sit still for long. So I sat there, still as can be alongside the river after the inaugural campsite fire had burned down to coals and promised myself to BE IN THE MOMENT on this particular journey (to the best of my ability). It felt good to make a clear intention to really soak up the majestic, ever-changing landscape from Manitoba to Newfoundland and back. Canada, you outrageous beauty you. I feel so grateful to live in this seemingly unending, jaw-droppingly breathtaking free country.

I photographed to my heart's content in between blazing through book after book on the road, making meals in the most hilarious of locations, swimming once and hanging my head out of the passenger window to really get a sense of the province we happened to be exploring each day. (Ontario smelled of pine, pulp and clearcuts whereas Nova Scotia smelled of sun-dried fish and sea kelp). I didn't shoot nearly as much as I was prepared for, but then again it was an entirely different kind of journey than what I was anticipating. I guess I was content to shoot with my mind's eye for the most part. It was not a relaxing trip in the traditional lounge-ones-day-away type way, but rather an exciting, rolling showcase of striking landscape and roaring water filled with quiet surprises and romantic gestures I had no way to prepare myself for. No amount of roll film could capture all of the looks and laughter exchanged in that cab, in the land. It felt like a damn crime to crop out a single thing with my 6x6 frame every time I fired the shutter. Time to move up to a larger format methinks, no bones about it.

A wise woman in my life often says, 'It is not the destination Madge, but the journey!'. We journeyed! I remember one evening slipping into the water at Eskers Lake in my navy suit and thinking to myself, "I am really living". After clambering up onto a floating dock at some point to watch Iain navigate his way into the cold water in his underwear before plunging back into the lake from the dock, I realized we had never been swimming together before. What a sensation! It was a real hoot to meet in that cold lake as lovers for the first swim. He laughed at my ever graceful doggy paddle (sorry ma, all of those swimming lessons did me no favours) and we got a real kick out of each other dripping wet on a private corner of an abandoned beach.

Together we climbed rocks, boulders and cliffs. We hiked in Gros Morne National Park like loaded pack mules and swore and sweat our way through vulnerable moments.  One evening, we drank a bottle of wine at the very mouth of the Bay of Fundy only to laugh hysterically when we realized our path was submerged under a quick rising tide at dusk. I have never trusted anyone more to guide me through an unfamiliar spruce forest in the dark than I trust Iain. We will always be children of the Prairies; it was obvious as we stood absolutely in awe of what we would see each day the further east we drove.

While many photographs were composed during this particular time away from home, there is one that stands out in my mind. I have yet to process any of the contrast rolls spent but I pray the physical shot of Iain dressed in turn-of-the-century Victorian evening wear, cane in hand and a beautiful Bowler atop his head comes out of the bath alright. I shot this particular portrait around eleven in the morning on an overcast day in a woman called Suzette's photo studio. She was busy in her darkroom, processing the glass plate Ambrotype portrait we had just experienced firsthand. Before ducking in, she invited us to "muck it up" in her upstairs studio. So we did. We played and Iain gave me all of the time and space I needed to soak in the energy of that special place. There really are no words to explain this particular photo experience (especially as a subject in front of a 100 year old 8x10 box camera) but let me just say it changed my life and sent a gust of wind straight into the flame of my biggest dream which is to someday open a proper portrait studio. That's all there is to say about that for now. In the interim, I have much work to do this coming long, dark season in my own darkroom, forever catching up on contact sheets and printing, endless printing.

Suzette, you have no idea what you did for my soul that day. Your work will take a place of honour in our humble home. Thank you for unknowingly affirming so many questions I had that day just by doing what you are passionate about and letting me into your darkroom process.

Sleep beckons now. Photos to come to pick up where I have left off...


Here is a small series captured somewhere off the beaten path between Quebec and New Brunswick. Pitstop for a gourmet lunch of KD and Coors, plus an impromptu self-timer Christmas card portrait on the banks of a wide river.

Olympus SP rangefinder / Delta 400

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