January 4, 2021
For a beloved woman; you are dearly missed.
Marj Heinrichs. My mother's sister. My dear aunt. When I think back and try to frame up a single story of such a legend, my mind becomes hopelessly tangled. ONE STORY? Impossible.
In the past decade of life lived without Marj, I cannot possibly count the number of times I have asked myself "How would Marj do it?". I have asked myself this question while sitting in a dim garage amoungst a non-responsive crowd of farmer-hatted farmers drinking bad coffee in a small town homemade Tim Hortons. I have asked myself this while trying to soothe other people's children as well as my own. I have asked myself this with bated breath, my camera poised and ready, waiting for that incredible moment when a tiny life emerges from its life-giving mother. I have asked myself this while holding up the heaving dress of a drunken bride puking her guts out behind her reception tent. The weight of my camera around my neck reminding me all the while that my job is to capture the story of the person to the best of my ability. Just as Marj did / would have. I think the "it" in question was her twinkle and cheeky grin. Immediate comfort and trust. Those fantastically funny teeth flashing before you like a blinking neon sign: Go ahead, tell me all of your secrets. She never promised she wouldn't tell. That wasn't the point. It was the moment shared where you felt safe to share, to exhale, let your hair down and then laugh about it with someone who GOT it, who appreciated the vulnerability of the expulsion of information, who celebrated the courage in one's sharing. It was so easy to spill the beans to her. Marj delighted in the wicked, wild and wonderful lives of those who she cared deeply for. I was lucky to be one of those many people.
On my twentieth birthday, we happened to find ourselves in side-by-side stalls of a public washroom at a nice restaurant chosen to celebrate the occasion. I have no idea how we cut to the chase so quickly, but for some reason I felt compelled to share with her that I had received my first Brazilian (as a grown up gift to self) that very morning. "No wonder you are walking so funny!" she yelled and then shrieked with laughter. And then to my surprise she banged on my door and demanded to see my new look. I doubt she had ever seen a Brazilian wax job before?! I showed her :) No mortification was felt, no shame, just pride. My Aunty Marj had an incredible way of celebrating the follies of life. Laughing in the face of disgrace. Softening the blow with a good belly laugh was her way.
In the spring of 2009, I hightailed it to the bush of Northwestern Ontario to try my hand at treeplanting. It was an enlightening ten weeks to say the very least. While I was toiling over rough land like a low bent grasshopper, I imagine Marj was carting vats of chilli one direction and frozen hunks of moose meat homeward from Pickle Lake, Ontario where she was working at the time. Lucky for me, one of her return trips from Northern Ontario coincided with the end of my summer contract. She agreed to scoop me up from the bush camp I was working out of and drive me back to Rosenort where I could recalibrate in the cool comfort of my mother's house. As soon as I entered the vehicle she spun around and yelled at top volume despite having her friend Lucy in the front seat, "Oh my God child, CLOSE YOUR LEGS. You stink to high heavens". I was mortified but then laughed hysterically and promptly fell asleep in the back seat. Happy, safe and stinky in the care of a second mother.
That same summer, home from the bush and rather idle, Aunty Marj decided to put me to work and "hire" me to help her stain her rather large deck surrounding her swimming pool. I was happy to help. We toiled together all day under the July sun, painting furiously in our bras and panties. I loved how she was happiest in the beating sun. She welcomed the heat and always seemed sun burnt to me. When she would heat up just so after a good work stretch, I remember her flopping into the pool casually without a sound or announcement. Like a seal. She was satisfied with our work and "paid" me at the end of that gruelling day with a large, novelty-like cheque made out to Marj Heinrichs for the sum of 150 dollars to Dollarwise, a dry-cleaning company. Ummmm, thank you? She had generously signed the back and in retrospect it was a perfect payment as I had an enormous collection of silk dresses and fancy party clothes that I wore and dry cleaned in high rotation that year. Classic Marj! What a woman.
Helluva woman, I tell ya.
Many more tales to come. These were just a hysterical few I had at the top of my head while reflecting fondly. When Marj's eldest daughter Jen reached out to me to contribute to her Story Queen collection of short stories about Marj, I was in a strange headspace. An old friend of mine had just past away suddenly, I was deep in the process of packing up my household in Winnipeg in preparation for a big shift to rural life in Carman, Manitoba. I also wanted to contribute something PERFECT and kept coming up short. Grief kept washing over me as I would sit down to drum up a story and it really made me think about the last decade and how I spent my time in the wake of that giant, giant loss. I think I completely shut down and stoppered all Marj related grief to the best of my numbed ability while living in Montreal for that first year after her death. It was the simplest option. No one knew her out there and being so far away from family meant there was no one to shoulder the sorrow with. It was easier to put the sadness in a box and take it out tenderly from time to time to explore it, sit with it, weep and long for a fallen spirit and then put it away until I was ready again. And that is okay. But eventually, I moved home and faced the music. Grief never goes away. It changes form over and over again like a tumbled rock. These days, I keep it close as one would an admired stone on a sacred shelf. I look at it often, take it down, hold it and admire it. I think Marj would approve.
I miss her deeply and try to honour her fierce spirit every time I raise my camera to my eye, nuzzle and undress a new baby tenderly, enjoy a glass of red wine, laze in the beating sun and flop into a cold pool soundlessly. Like a seal.
Soar on Eagle Woman. I have a feeling my daughter will carry a little piece of you in her spirit as she crosses over to the other side. Wishing you were here to capture the joyous occasion of her arrival!
Until we meet again, cheers and much love!
September 21, 2020
1. What is helping you feel safe, supported, and grounded these days?
Heading out for a walk with my husband and son after my partner gets home from work. Meal planning. Reading fiction in the tub by candlelight. Chatting on the phone with my mom. Reading and responding thoughtfully to letters I receive from far flung friends. The slow and deliberate process of baking.
2. What do you remember about the moment or day when you realized life was going to change because of the pandemic?
My son and I were visiting a friend and her children that day. She was teaching me the art of Sourdough bread baking. The lesson was timely and we both knew we wouldn't see each other for a long time. It all felt quite sacred and tinged with fear.
3. When did you first begin to feel calm or settled after life changed because of the pandemic?
4. What have you been enjoying about parts of your new reality because of the pandemic?
5. What has been the most difficult?
Feeling cooped up at times and generally uninspired to create despite the endless stretches of free time. Feeling frustrated by / sorry for my only child who is starved for the company of other children. It has been strange and difficult not to be able to embrace or share space with loved ones.
6. How have you been coping with what's been difficult?
Reading, running and cycling have felt enormously freeing.
7. If you could zoom out and watch yourself move through these past several weeks, what words of compassion would you have for yourself?
Be patient and gentle with yourself and others as you navigate this new normal. This too shall pass.
8. How would it feel to receive those words of compassion?
9. What is one hope you have for yourself moving forward?
That this time spent with my child will make me appreciate the privilege I have as a stay at home parent all the more. Not to mention make me appreciate the village of mothers I have in my community!! I miss my village.
May 13, 2020
|Brownie box camera; bathroom mirror self portrait edition. Fall 2015|
|Woman with found / precious Mother teacup. Fall 2015|
|Montessori Meg reads to her niece Arlo and nephew Atlas in the bay window nook at Granny & Grandpa Pet's farm. Spring 2016|
|My brother in law Conrad takes in his childhood landscape. Spring 2016|
|Benny Bird explores the darkroom while his mom fills up a five year old roll of film. April 2020|
Ahhhhh, nothing quite like trying to load up a stubborn roll of film that has been sitting wound like a spring inside of a 60 year old camera for the past five years! That process took all of my patience and grace to finesse that cranky old roll into the take up reel for processing. But look! Sweet discovery. Baby Arlo in the photos above will be turning FIVE in two weeks. Time flies! I especially love the shot IDP snapped on his mama's old Brownie camera in our bathroom mirror on Home Street. Fresh faced lovers. Time to grow my hair out so I can braid it like that once more.
Brownie box camera / Tmax 400 (can you spy the imprint of the paper backing on the film? I can :)
Winnipeg and Morden, Manitoba 2015-2020
April 15, 2020
|Rebecca and her twelve week old daughter, Hooper.|
|Hoop resting in mama's arms as mama looks on.|
|Melissa and Esme, with Beetle in the background.|
|Brooke and baby Hooper as photographed by Brooke's five year old son Rhodes. Good catch!|
|Benny and I with Brooke and Hooper, photographed by Rhodes.|
|Cousins in the tub at Granny and Grandpa Kroeker's house.|
|Ives and his mom Nikaela discuss his schoolwork.|
|Beatty-Pet gang eating power-up PB balls on their back porch. Rebecca and her young, Evey, Atlas and Arlo.|
|Tony finesses the details as we prepare to capture the Tony Chestnut SS20 collection.|
|Lane takes in the space as we dip into the flow of the shoot. I love the sight of her dad's Magician's Hat on the floor, off to the left.|
In pools among the rushes
April 14, 2020
|Oh the joy of a new playground to explore under the warm sun!|
|Gus knows were all the best playgrounds are.|
|Happy to be reunited with my bud.|
|Boy runs free while dad reflects at a standstill.|
|Happy as a goose in shit at Deer Lake.|
|Toothy grins for these vacationers.|
|Typical brother antics! Leo and Gus :)|
|Love this troupe of characters. Best hosts!|
|Wandering and observing the goings-on of East Van.|
|Portrait with mom at Deep Cove.|
Here are a few photographs captured during our quick trip to Vancouver to visit the Seftel clan back in February. This was the best decision we have made in a long, long time. Didn't realize how dearly we needed to get away as a family until we arrived in Vancouver and I felt the sun warm my cheeks. Benny blossomed like a flower in those five days. Kid needed some Vitamin D! We had a blast with Gus, Leo, Matt and Colette and were thrilled to visit some of their favourite places together.
IDP's Olympus sweet 16 cam / Delta 400
Vancouver, BC; February 2020
February 14, 2020
|Pearl blouse in peacock.|
|Pearl workshirt in pewter. Pearl trousers in peacock.|
Lane D.G. for Tony Chestnut FW19.
A series of photographs from a single roll / a series of looks I felt inspired to capture.
HUT K / Winnipeg, MB; September 2019
Kiev 60 / Portra 400
February 10, 2020
|Work clothes drying in the sun. Near Roseisle, MB; August 2019. Canon AE-1 / FP4|
"Did you love her so much, then?" My sister Reinette, with her high cheekbones and her glossy curls. My sister the harvest queen, lipsticked and crowned with barley, with a sheaf of wheat in one hand and an orange in the other. That's how I'll always remember her, you know. That clear, perfect picture in my mind. I felt an unexpected prick of jealousy close to my heart.
"The same way you loved him, perhaps," said Paul calmly. "The way you loved Leibniz."
The fools we were when we were children. The hurting, hopeful fools. I spent my life dreaming of Tomas, through my married days in Brittany, through my widowhood, dreaming of a man like Tomas with his careless laughter and his sharp river-colored eyes, the Tomas of my wish--you, Tomas, only you forever--Old Mother's curse made terrible flesh.
"It took a little time, you know," said Paul, "but I got over it. I let go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home."
"Home." My voice sounded strange in my ears. His hands over mine felt rough and warm as an old dog's pelt. I had the strangest picture of us both, standing there in the failing light like Hansel and Gretel, grown old and gray in the witch's house, finally closing the gingerbread door behind them.
Just let go, and the river brings you home. It sounded so easy.
"We've waited a long time, Boise."
I turned my face away. "Too long, perhaps."
"I don't think so."
I took a deep breath. This was the moment. To explain that it was all over, that the lie between us was too old to erase, too big to climb over, that we were too old, for pity's sake, that it was ridiculous, that it was impossible, that besides, besides--
He kissed me then, on the lips, not a shy old-man's kiss but something else altogether, something that left me feeling shaken, indignant and strangely hopeful. His eyes shone as slowly he drew something out of his pocket, something that glowed red-yellow in the lamplight. . . .
A string of crab apples.
I stared at him as he drew the necklace gently over my head. It lay against my breasts, the fruit glossy and round and shining.
"Harvest queen," whispered Paul. "Framboise Dartigen. Only you."
I could smell the good, tart scent of the little fruit against my warming skin.
"I'm too old," I said shakily. "It's too late."
He kissed me again, on the temple, then at the corner of the mouth. Then from his pocket again he drew a plait of yellow straw, which he placed around my forehead like a crown.
"It's never too late to come home," he said, and pulled me gently, insistently toward him. "All you have to do . . . is stop moving away."
Resistance is like swimming against the current, exhausting and pointless. I turned my face toward the curve of his shoulder as into a pillow. Around my neck the crab apples gave off a pungent, sappy scent, like the Octobers of our childhood.
We toasted our homecomings with sweet black coffee and croissants and green-tomato jam made to my mother's recipe.
An excerpt from Joanne Harris' beautiful novel, "Five Quarters of the Orange" page 305-307.
|Old girl crosses over. I snapped this out the back seat window of our car. Near Roseisle, MB; August 2019. Canon AE-1 / FP4|
January 14, 2020
|Third time momma to be captured at 28 weeks on a crisp day in early October.|
|Mother / daughter.|
|Chad with his young / Kelsey and young Amelie stroll through the bluff. Rosenort, MB; October 2019.|
|Uncle Mike reads a new book to Benny after bath time. Winnipeg, MB; November 2019.|
|Crystal and Rusty ham it up in their back lane. Winnipeg, MB; November 2019.|
|Dad & son / Son & mom in the sun. Winnipeg, MB; November 2019.|
|Benny / Lue. Winnipeg, MB; December 2019.|
|Sophie's portrait at the Forks / Sophie & Will. Winnipeg, MB; December 2019.|
|Sophie, Will & Benny at the Forks / softie but a goodie. Winnipeg, MB; December 2019.|
Diptych review caught at the tail end of the year. I loaded the half frame camera in early October and processed it the first week of December. A 36 exposure roll of FP4+ took what felt like lightyears to fill (72 frames). Fun to slow it down and completely forget what I shot. Need to start carrying a tape measure by the looks of my soft focus. Too shallow, too deep. Find the depth, Madge.
Yashica 72-E / FP4+ processed as 400