one april day

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Slowly, gradually, in step with my surroundings, I’m coming out of hibernation mode and starting to believe it might really be spring. Our March vacations have come and gone–a little later than usual this year, and (not surprisingly) somewhat chillier, but we usually have snow during our school’s break, and at least this year we were spared that…until the day school was supposed to resume, when a storm gave us a bonus day off. Since my boys’ spring breaks were a week apart, I had time with each of them at home, plus a chance to drive out and see Evan in his first college role (the butler Merriman in “The Importance of Being Earnest”). Lily and John came for one night, we drove out and wandered around Kenyon, and Westerville was sunny and charming as always. 

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Yep, it’s a late spring this year…

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Ben held forth at the stove, even on the last night of break when the power went out (wind, not snow this time).

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Evan’s friend Steven believes that the university should buy this old theater and use it as an annex to the department’s facilities. Have to admit, their idea is appealing! 

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Since I can’t take rehearsal pictures for Otterbein productions, I had to settle for a picture of strike!

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Oh, Kenyon…I never get tired of the crows on the admissions building (and I love the rest of the campus, for that matter). 

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Couldn’t resist including a negative of the snow that greeted us after our return from Ohio. Bad visual pun. (I actually enjoyed the winter, unlike most people!)

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We took our senior seminar to Lynchburg to visit the house (now a museum) of African-American poet Anne Spencer. Such a wonderful gift–her family has preserved the house, and her granddaughter gives the tours. I would love to go back and take pictures, and plan to visit the garden again when the warm weather really arrives. 

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Artifacts in the house make it look as though the occupants just stepped into the next room.

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Spencer’s granddaughter describes the photographs that cover the walls of the poet’s writing studio.

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The Spencers’ “phone booth,” with walls covered in hand-written phone numbers.

 

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I especially loved these hand-cut pictures of the grandchildren, mounted on wood and posed like little statues.

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One of us was thrilled to see yet another spring snowstorm….

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And one of us was not.

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The ground is so wet that a warm spell led to beautiful fog. 

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And we’re ready for spring to arrive at Red Hill!

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now and then #10: married

2013_Lil_twirlA few years ago, in an early “now and then” post, I included some pictures that my dad had shot and said they were probably the last pictures I’d publish that I hadn’t taken myself. Well, so much for that prediction; these images from my daughter’s wedding last August are so harmonious with some of our old family pictures that I had to include them in some pairings. Since I’m long overdue for a now-and-then, I feel justified in doing a long one now! Lily and John’s wedding pictures were taken by their friend Sebastian Orr, whose website is here: http://sebastianorrphoto.com/weddings-and-events/, and also by our friend Caitlin Morris, who used a vintage Hasselblad to make the image shown above.

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The first wedding-dress image was taken when Lily was four years old; my sister Susan sent her the dress as a birthday present. She was self-conscious but awkwardly delighted when wearing it, and we posed for a series of portraits that I shot with my twin-lens Rolleicord on our funky wooden deck. Back then, with a new baby (Ben) and a fairly new job teaching photography, I didn’t have my daughter’s eventual wedding on my mind.

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The picture of Mom, on her parents’ stairway in 1954, was taken right before she left on her dad’s arm for her own wedding, a mile away at the Congregational Church in Norfolk, Connecticut. The pearls and headpiece she’s wearing were the same ones Lily wore at her own wedding 59 years later. In the photo above–a bit less formal, right down to the bare feet–Lily is standing in Beth Neville Evans’s studio for the final fitting of her dress.

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When Lily’s and John’s wedding pictures were uploaded, this one struck me so vividly as an echo of the same image of my parents walking down the aisle. Mom and Dad looked a little more subdued, but the feeling is the same.

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2013_WeddingBubblesThe black-and-white image above was taken on a camping trip to Sherando Lake, probably in 1996 (Lily and Evan were almost two and almost 11). I was happily stunned by the symmetry of this image from the wedding after-party, also in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Montfair Camp Resort. Same faces and gestures, 17 years later. Nothing shows patterns more than family photographs.

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doin’ what comes naturally…

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It really hit home yesterday that I’ll never have a kid acting on our school’s stage again. Gulp. A year ago, I was photographing Evan as the King of Siam, and while I take pictures of professional productions as well as our school’s shows, somehow this milestone clobbered me a bit. We’ve missed a lot of school lately (snow, exams, snow again) so the cast was working very, very hard yesterday (from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a Sunday) just to prepare for the upcoming opening of “Annie Get Your Gun”–this was their first dress rehearsal.

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The leads truly lit up the stage, and I’m confident they’ll be ready for opening night; more pictures to come, but I wanted to put up a couple now for luck.  I always love seeing a show for the first time through a lens instead of stuck in my seat. Seeing a kid’s eyes glow, watching them relax into a role and allow the character to emerge, is heightened when you’re photographing the show. Break a leg, guys!

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first tracks

 

Oliver barrels through the snow.

Oliver barrels through the snow.

There’s nothing more fun to watch than a happy dog playing in fresh snow. With his long legs and seemingly waterproof coat, Ollie is in dog heaven on days like this; as a bonus, he’s discovered that by loudly barking in the vicinity of the feeders, he can startle a flock of birds into flight and then joyously “chase” them as they scatter, a game he’ll repeat over and over (thank heavens we don’t have close neighbors). It’s been a cold, wet, noisy, happy morning.

Under the thistle-seed feeder.

Under the thistle-seed feeder.

While I wouldn’t pretend to know what birds are thinking, they sure don’t seem to care that Ollie plays with them this way, and he has never tried to catch one–he just likes to watch them fly. With brambles and shrubs nearby to the feeders, there’s a place for the birds to escape, so their flight paths become a visual pattern against the clean snow.

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We keep another feeder right outside the kitchen door, a cause of great excitement when the occasional squirrel invades. I loved seeing that when Oliver pointed at birds this morning, his foot didn’t make it over the snow (we got at least ten inches). In my newly empty nest, without that festive chaos of messy boots and sleds and wet outerwear strewn around the house, I’m finding that the real blessing of a snow day is the opportunity–almost a requirement–to gaze outside and actually attend to what I see. I may not bark at the birds like Oliver, but I’ll follow his lead and watch them.

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the snow begins

the snow begins

Real snow at last! This is the first real accumulation of the season, and everyone at school was ready for a true snow day (we’ve had some “faux snow” days already). As of 6 p.m., it was 18 degrees on Red Hill, and an hour later, about two inches have fallen. My digital and film cameras are ready and waiting…let the snow pictures begin!

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A view toward the west–new directions

2013-14_ViewFromRedHillGallery-59So yeah…a lot has changed in the last year and a half. The last time I posted here, we had a big hole in what used to be our front yard, and I had just dropped Evan off at a summer theater program in Boston after visiting colleges in Indiana, Chicago, and Syracuse en route (long route!). It was the beginning of one of those scary cycles in adult life, when you realize the roller coaster is about to begin its descent and you’re in for one of those long, bumpy, terrifying rides.

2013-14_ViewFromRedHillGallery-19The kitchen addition took longer than we hoped, but by April, it looked like this, and the way it works is nothing short of a miracle. There’s space to store, prep, clean, chop, cook, eat, and clean up in a way we’ve never had before. I can see the mountains, the woods, the birds, and the sky no matter which direction I look. In August, and again over Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had everyone home–six people, four dogs, visiting friends, and all of their belongings–and for the first time ever, we could sprawl together or retreat in solitude with minimal friction. Hallelujah!

2013-14_ViewFromRedHillGallery-6Evan was transformed, too; after thinking it over, he opted to shave his head for the role of the King in “The King and I,” his final high-school mainstage show. He brought so much energy, humor, power, and vulnerability to this role, and along with his shiny scalp, he left his mark on the St. Anne’s-Belfield stage. It was a great finale to four months of auditioning for colleges, a process that sent us on eight separate trips, including a cold, miserable drive to Ohio when he contracted a hefty case of the flu just four days before his biggest audition.

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And despite that flu–HE GOT IN! March was full of tension and snow, but it all paid off with three great acceptances including the Big Ticket to Otterbein, a school he’d fallen for hard in his sophomore year. He was mentally prepared to weigh his other options, but this was the place he felt was right, and a month into his second semester, I have to say his instincts appear to have been good. He has found his tribe.

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Two graduations–one in May, one in June–added to the sense of time flying by. At Evan’s graduation, I was sharply aware of my dwindling family; both my parents had been at Lily’s, just my mom on her own at Ben’s, and now we have no grandparents left to witness these rites of passage. We stood up sheepishly with the other parents who had accumulated 25 or more “kid years” at the school and found it hard to believe this chapter of our lives was over. I drove out to Cleveland to watch Lily receive her master’s degree in clinical counseling from John Carroll University, and we spent a couple of hours at a stationery store looking at wedding invitation ideas. Just a few weeks later, she moved with her fiance to Atlanta, and the Cleveland chapter of our lives was also closed.

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Meantime, I gradually colonized the new kitchen. Ben was back and forth between Wittenberg summer sessions, and his energetic cooking sessions made the new space feel like home. I was lucky enough to spend a week in Massachusetts at the Stanley King counseling institute for teachers, a transformative experience that provided much inspiration for the upcoming school year. I visited Lil and John’s new apartment in Atlanta, licked and sealed 125 wedding-invitation envelopes, and cut and bundled an armful of lavender to dry for table bouquets at the wedding. Most of the summer felt like preparation for the biggest tidal wave of change I’ve ever experienced.

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And to paraphrase Jane Eyre…reader, she married him. It was wonderful. (It still is.) There’s nothing like seeing your child be blissfully happy…even when she is no longer a child. I’m still stunned.

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And I guess that pretty  much sums it up. We made a new kitchen. We expanded our territory. We defied the tyranny of the so-called empty nest. Our family is growing, not shrinking, and although it may feel lonely when all my offspring are gone, their presence is here, just as my parents are still present in the belongings I’ve brought from their house into my own. I may feel overwhelmed from time to time, but I won’t dwindle. Big changes continue to happen at home, at work, and in my children’s lives, and I hope to get this little boat of a blog back into the current as I navigate new waters. Stay tuned for more ruminations from Red Hill; the beat goes on.

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now and then (#9)…construction at Red Hill

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Twenty years ago, we built the part of our house that I’m sitting in right now. When I posted the latest images of our new basement under construction, I heard back from a friend and former student who had helped build that first basement–the one that’s part of the picture above. It is indeed hard to believe that twenty years have gone by, let alone that we’re building again! Below is the new basement, being done in a very different way, but it’ll be waterproofed sometime in the next few days, a new floor poured, and then we’ll start watching wood go up. Very excited…here we go!

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