Tuesday, August 30

the imaginary photos

walking in ontario, taken by tim

Last winter, I put a roll of film into my old Pentax camera. Every so often, I would find it and snap a picture. I have about 6 cameras going at any one time, so there was no rush. Last week, I got to the end of the roll, all 36, and when I went to roll the film back I discovered that it had never caught. The whole roll had been an imaginary undertaking.

For some reason, I wasn't really bothered. I can, in fact, still remember some of those shots that weren't shots. One was a single mellow golden window lit in the very top of a dark house, in the blue hour of dusk. Another was a white plane contrail in a deep pink sky, the black fringes of trees just showing at the bottom. When I take film shots, I really make sure it is a shot I want. I walk about and arrange the composition exactly. I notice the colors, the light, the details. I absorb the place. In the end, I don't even really need the photo.


Saturday, August 27

battening down the hatches

tim last week at the cabin

We are battening down the hatches here as we prepare for the mighty storm to arrive. The neighbor across the street, I can see from my studio window, is tying his grill down with a rope. Right now a pleasant sideways rain is falling and the wind hasn't really picked up yet. There won't be a sunset. In preparation for a few days indoors (with maybe a few rain-walks), this morning I went to the pond and watched turtles.

They will probably not mind the winds.

Tim is talking about starting the wood stove, just to take the chill off, and is presently working on the backsplash over the kitchen sink. I'm ensconced cozily in my studio, which received a major tidy-up after coming home from vacation. There's nothing like spending a week away from things at home to make me realize I can let go of some things I was holding on to.


Thursday, August 25

hops harvesting and a hurricane

harvesting the hops

Tim harvested the hops yesterday. He puts on his ipod and listens to music, pulling the vines gently down and plucking each pine-sweet hop one by one. It's been raining buckets and in between times we've managed to go to the woods by the river and run on the trails there. The water is flooded and the color of caramel, and the lowest branches of the trees are submerged in it. An occasional duck floats by looking like it's having a grand time, and I like to look for wasp's nests, now empty and unfurling.

altered books

altered books in the studio

We're expecting a hurricane this sunday, and as long as nothing crazy happens, I'm rather looking forward to it. I love nothing better than a really good rainstorm. It lets me feel free by limiting my choices. I can't walk the dog, run errands, or return the library books in a torrential downpour. It is intimate ~ we are all cozied up warm and dry inside the house, and the garden is getting watered to boot. Perhaps the electricity will go out and we'll have to light candles and eat all the ice cream in the freezer.


a new studio corner,
pastel drawing by chris witkowski

I was able to get outside tonight and watch the sunset, something I've been trying to remember to do. In the mornings I've been waking up earlier and spending a quiet hour in the brilliance of the back garden, with the umbrella raised and the cat on my knee.

morning in the back garden


Wednesday, August 24

the makings of the perfect vacation

We spent the evenings while making dinner listening to canadian radio, which is so much more interesting than american, perhaps due to the accent, or the intriguing shows on native peoples, or the stations from montreal. I made my gramom's cake and two loaves of bread in the tiny kitchen listening to a french station I loved and the fact that I couldn't really understand much was trivial.

We experimented cooking with coconut milk, hiked to a bluff overlooking a beaver pond, counted 8 snake sightings during the week, and the raccoons ate the trash on the last night.

This is just the kind of vacation that we love. Lots of reading, relaxing, being outdoors, animal-watching, primitive living, good cooking, me toting a camera around, and hopefully a nice road trip to take us there.

I've been enjoying reading about your vacation experiences in the comments of the last few posts. What do you typically do on vacation? What makes the world seem perfect for you as you are away from home in a special place?

Just wondering.

x brooke


Tuesday, August 23

everything is linked

For me, part of the need to go away is the need to come back home to my familiar haunts and my too-familiar self, and see them afresh. Sometimes something has to change, and if I can't do it myself, I get to where the surroundings will do it for me.

Some places are better for this than others.

I have seldom read a book without hoping that in the text there will be some message, some form of self-awakening, that will help to enlighten me in the manner of my living.*

I watch my daily life for signs. A little head nod from the cosmos.


The last evening at the lake, loons called far away, miniscule black grains of rice on flurried waters, then a long hooting and they were flying right over me, twenty feet up, and I could see the white feathers dotting their belly. Each moment is so quick it is all I can do just to keep up, to think ~ this is happening.

The leopard frogs jumping in dots and dashes, the piece of wasp paper in my path, the hummingbird wiping its beak right-left, right-left and stretching in a feathery shudder. Snakeskins on the jumping rock, the heron landing in the tree in front of me with a delicate crash, the sunset creeping in like a striped tiger. Milkweed puffs floating like pearls.


Autumn rain on the grasses sounds like hail dropping on frozen snow. Everything is linked.

*derek tangye, 'the ambrose rock'
**taken by tim

Monday, August 22

Sunday, August 21

on the lake

watching donovan swimming

This little ontario cabin is one that my family has been going to for ages. I found one of my grandmother's patchwork potholders there, from the years when she used to bring her sewing machine with her. The cupboard was filled with pyrex mugs and little aluminium drinking cups just like we use for camping. I kept finding things that made it seem like it was already home.

The great blue heron was there, and the turtles, and the kingfisher. At night we sat down on the dock and watched the gibbous moonrise and listened to the ever-beautiful call of the loons, while the beaver slapped his tail at us.

If the loons called at night, I leapt out of bed and ran to the window to listen for as long as they tremolo'd.


the reads

the smallest inchworm

Walking out of the cabin, the lake was there before us. Its moods became a part of our day. The winds brushed the cedars, the hummingbirds had their wars over the feeder, the osprey carried a fish by, the loons circled the lake.

sitting by the lake
I see a turtle's head
but it is a leaf

fish jump at night
like pennies tossed
into a fountain

the slimmest
most invisible violin

a dark shape
crosses the moon's path -
beaver night-swimming


Saturday, August 20

there and back again


the puzzle was incomplete but we loved it anyways.

just got home.
more when I'm rested.

xo brooke

*taken by tim

Friday, August 12

getting gone


Tomorrow we'll be there. Wading with unbelieving feet into the quiet warm lake and watching for loons.

Today is packing up batches of no-knead bread ingredients, and bringing the recipe for my gramom's famous lemon cake and, this evening, a documentary on manhattan's beloved red hawk, Pale Male.

Pretty sure I probably won't get much sleep tonight. We are leaving at four am. I love getting up in the dark and feeling that jolt of excitement, dressing in pretty, comfortable things, putting on a pair of special earrings and curling a purple scarf around my shoulders, swiftly getting the car packed with the piles by the door, having a last chat with the houseplants and the cat, and making a quick cup of tea to take with.

We'll bring the confused, warm-from-sleep dogs outside to jump into the back of the wagon and settle onto their plaid comforter. We'll nestle ourselves into the chilly car and turn on the news, joining the people on the radio already awake and perky, and turn the volume down low. I'll kick my shoes off as I pull down the street in the grey dawn and follow the signs a few miles to the turnpike, and then we'll really be on our way. Only two roads to follow till we hit canada.

See you when we return!

*photo by somer

Thursday, August 11

stars, loons and back-diving off the canoe

tim throws sandballs


Yesterday at the beach I continued a photo theme that I started two years ago in colorado ~

tim throws snowballs


Don't ask me why. It makes me happy. I'll see what I can rustle up to throw this week at the lake.

Things have been pleasantly hectic (I like that word) around here lately as we prepare to go to ontario for a week's vacation. This trip has been long in the works, and I'm very excited. I could write a book about my experiences in canada ~ as a child, a teenager, on road trips, with friends, with tim. It holds a special place for me. But I don't have time today to speak of it.

Suffice it to say there will be stars, loons, painted turtles, chipmunks and local ice cream. We have to bring our own water to drink and I hope our cell phones don't work. The dogs are coming. I plan on back-diving off the canoe in the middle of the lake.

Do you have any special spots you return to year after year?

xo brooke


Saturday, August 6

I collect rocks.

my rock collection

I collect rocks. When I am in a place I want to remember, I bring a piece of it home with me. I always imagine that someday I might return the rocks to where they came from. Or perhaps someone else will.

Tim collected rocks too, before I knew him (he came with a few special rocks of his own) and he would hold them and impress upon them the place of their origin, so when he held the rock later, it might tell him. I instead put the place names upon my stones with little cut-out book letters.

berne, switzerland

Rocks are what they are, certain and solid. They are strong, slow and they show where they came from. When I tumble my collection together, I see colorado meet italy, prague meet maine, california meet ontario. The white quartz stone from the first appalachian trail hike tim and I took sits next to the rock from berne where, years later, he secretly bought my engagement ring while I was at the paul klee zentrum.

paestum, italy // valle della luna, sardignia

I found that little moon-shaped rock in california's half-moon bay, walking on the seaweed-strewn beaches looking for green sea glass, about to camp in the chilly windy night along the stretch of beach thrown up against the dunes.

That tiny rock says all that to me. It's less subjective than a journal entry or a photograph. When I hold it in my fingers, it's proof that I was there.

Vernazza, italy. A salty swim in the bay, along the coast, bright blue fishing boats and seaweed clinging to the rocks, after a long hot hike. I was 28, and it was heaven.

Garden of the gods, colorado. I was 18, and my gramom and I shared a hotel room while we saw the national parks with my parents. She was 76, and we hiked to delicate arch.

Valley of the moon, sardignia. A hike at sunset to pink wind-sculpted rocks on the edge of the ocean. I wore linen pants, and a silk scarf, and I was 22.

There it sits now among its peers from california, nova scotia, switzerland. Each one holds a story.

Cheticamp, cape breton, nova scotia. Our honeymoon road trip, moose, the ice wine vineyards with crab shells under the vines, the breathing of the whales audible in the quiet air of the clifftops.

Stechelberg, switzerland. A long thigh-jellying hike down a mountain, hundreds of stairs through the woods, and a roaring foaming river at the bottom.

Gimli, canada. A solo pilgrimage to the narcisse snake dens, the last morning ~ watching gulls on the lake ice, collecting their dropped feathers, that delicious huge cinnamon bun from the little bakery.

My favorite rock is the one from the roman forum. It is very smooth, pale and unassuming. When I was studying in rome, I used to leave my apartment and walk past nero's palace, past the colosseum, and down the ancient roads in the forum. Sometimes I would tag along with tours and sometimes just walk, imagining. I would always look at the house of the vestal virgins for a long time. When I hold that little stone, trodden by the feet of thousands, I feel myself back there, finding my way down the crooked streets and breathing the air that they had breathed.