Thursday, October 30, 2014

Inspired by Curiosity

Last week the lovely Donna Hopkins had a couple of very intriguing things on her Friday Finds post. They got me thinking about the subjects of passion and curiosity.

I have always thought you needed passion to be good at something, that passion drove you. I would say that I am passionate about photography and writing, but that depends on the day, my mood, the weather, etc. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, in a conversation with Oprah sums it up perfectly "Passion is rare; passion is a one-night-stand. Passion is hot, it burns. Everyday you can't access that." This is certainly true for me, I will write one good story and then not write anything mildly good for another two weeks. Or for many weeks I won't even pick up my camera, but then I will take one trip to the country have some good barn finds and be head over heels again.

So I have a fickle passion for photography and writing, but what about all the other things I love? I can't have passion for them all. That is where curiosity comes into the picture. Without curiosity I would have nothing to photograph or write about. Curiosity is the subject finder.

So I sat down and made a list of things I am curious about:
  • History
  • Old Buildings
  • Barns
  • Travel and Exploring
Looking at this list none of them were a big surprise, I see them all appear in my work, they fit my personality and all tie together well. But as I was out walking with the dog, I thought some more on the subject and suddenly random things started popping into my head, things I am curious about...
  • Aston Martin cars
  • Ireland
  • The Mystery Machine

Aston Martin Car - I saw a car that looked like an Aston Martin while we were walking. I don't know anything about the car other than it has appeared in James Bond films. Yet I was curious about it, I love old cars, especially to photograph, so I did a little research when I got home from the walk.

Founded in 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin as Bamford & Martin LTD, the company has developed into an iconic brand synonymous with luxury and elegance. 1914 saw the birth of the name 'Aston Martin' following one of Lionel Martin's successful runs at the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, England. Within a year the first Aston Martin had been built and registered with the name, and an icon of the automotive world was born.

The firm became associated with luxury grand touring cars in the 1950s and 1960s, and with the fictional character James Bond following his use of the DB5 model in the 1964 film Goldfinger.
                                                                                                     source: Wikipedia

Ireland - A girl I follow on Instagram @local_milk has been in Ireland the last week and has been posting wonderfully tempting photos. Every place she went intrigued me and made me want to be there. The plan is to go for my 50th birthday which is just under four years away. Lots of research is going to be needed but I can use her photos as reference points for places I would like to visit.

The Mystery Machine - I saw a van when we were walking that reminded me of The Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. The van I saw was bright yellow and not the psychedelic colors of the real one, but it got me curious about The Mystery Machine. There was not a lot of information about the van itself, but there is a good Wikipedia read on the Scooby Doo series here.

I have decided to start a Curiosity Journal where I can record things that make me curious and do some research on them. Research is a writer's friend.

I will go one step farther by saying that curiosity needs to incite action, otherwise it remains just an idle curiosity. I am not saying you need to take action on everything that interests you but you must follow through on some. Take for instance the Aston Martin, they are not plentiful were I live, but there is a great vintage car museum only an hour away that could incite my curiosity of old cars and give me a subject for my passion of photography. I also want to watch Goldfinger, it has been a long time. Ireland will come in its appointed hour, until then I will gather ideas of places I want to go. The Mystery Machine may incite nothing more than watching a few Scooby Doo episodes and reliving my childhood a little, but that could lead to a great blog post.

So in the spirit of needing a change, I will be sharing on Friday Finds a few things that make me curious each week and the actions those curiosities incite.

What makes you curious? I would love to hear.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 21

I have always had a slight obsession with barns, but after being up north for vacation a couple of weeks ago that obsession may have taken over my life. I look for them everywhere. That is what happens when you vacation someplace that has spectacular specimens of cobblestone foundations, weathered barn boards and crimped tin roofs on every country road that you travel. As I pass them in the car they call to me "Sarah, stop the car, get out, raise your iPhone and capture me in my timeless beauty". Yes, I am pretty much head over heals in love with barns.

Barns are not plentiful here at home. It's not that they don't exist, it's just that I have to drive farther and more out of my way to find them. So as I passed one on my way to my new coffee shop destination, I heard that voice from vacation saying "Sarah, turn around, go back, get out of your car and raise your iPhone". I am getting much better at listening to that voice because I did go back and I did capture it.

Then I remembered another barn that was close by, I might as well go capture that one as well.

I didn't feel bad about delaying going to the coffee shop, on this my second official work day. Photography is my work just as much as writing is. I have finally come to terms with that idea, I am meant to do both. So with the second barn captured and then a portion of another barn safely stored in my camera roll it was on to the coffee shop.

I wasn't exactly sure where the coffee shop was except that it was located on Main Street. Glen and I lived in this town for the first seven years that we were married. I knew that Main Street wasn't that long, so I was confident I would find it. What I didn't expect was for it to be on the partial second half of Main Street next to the flower shop, but that was where it was. Easy access parking was available right in front of the shop.

I had no intention of writing a Coffee Shop Chronicle on this day. I had some other planned writing to do. I mainly wanted to scout this place out for a future edition. I really should know by now not to go with preconceived ideas about what I am going to write because they NEVER work out. Part of being an artist/creative of any sort is learning to be open and trust the process.

I arrived at the coffee shop at half past nine.

Having visited enough different coffee shops by now, I have a mental checklist that I go through when I visit a new place, first impressions are everything.

Feng Shui: Very good. I walked in the one and only front door. Walking through the front door a clearly defined path led me to the delectable treats glass case and the clearly labeled Order area.

After a short pondering I decided to deviate from my usual Chai Latte and try the Whopper Latte in the Grande size. Stepping up to the order area I requested my Whopper Latte and then asked what the delicious looking muffins were today. The choices were; blueberry, pumpkin or white chocolate and raspberry. Raspberry sounded like it would go good with my Whopper Latte so that was the winner.

Presentation: The muffin was removed from the case, placed on a real plate. I was asked if I would like that warmed? Yes, please. The warmed muffin was then removed from the microwave and presented to me with a real fork. Lovely.

While I was selecting my muffin, an eager beaver woman in her 60's moved into the order area. Even though it was obvious that the order taker was helping me. She had her punch card out on the counter as well as her money, obviously anxious to get her morning coffee and be one punch closer to her free cup. I still needed to pay for my muffin and drink. It was a bit awkward maneuvering around the lady and her punch card. I like my personal space and she was in it.

Warm muffin in hand I looked for a place to sit. I saw a four seat table towards the back of the shop but then thought better of it given my past coffee shop experiences. I chose instead a two seat table that was between the order and pick up areas, perfect for people watching and eavesdropping. The order taker said she would have my drink done shortly, since I was close to the pick up area I knew I wouldn't have to go far. But that sweet order taker brought it right to my table when it was finished. So far this shop was getting a grade of A+.

As pretty as I think those fancy designs are on the top of lattes, I prefer my drink in a to-go cup. Then I don't feel the pressure to drink the whole latte within the first ten minutes of being there. I like my drink hot and I like to nurse it for a while. My Whopper Latte arrived in a to-go cup.

I settled in, arranging my muffin, my latte, my coffee shop notebook, and my pen for their customary Instagram photo. Even if I am not going to write a Chronicle the picture is mandatory.

It became apparent quite quickly that I had, at long last, found my ideal coffee shop. It was also apparent that I wasn't going to get any writing done because I soon became part of the story.

This place is the Cheers of coffee shops. The girls behind the counter are female versions of Sam and Woody. They know everybody and what is going on with them. Friendly banter exchanged on both sides of the counter. I was drawn into the story when a very social gentleman, he easily could be the coffee shop Norm, sat down at the two seat table across from me. We faced each other with our two tables in between us. He was obviously a regular and the topic of his weekend was of great interest to the coffee shop girls.

His wife had had a piece of her mixed-media work in the ArtPrize Competition, so they asked how that had gone and what else he had done for the weekend. He stated that he and his wife had gone to a burger joint with another couple on Saturday night. One of the coffee shop girls remarked that she was surprised he had gone to a burger joint. She figured his tastes to be more hoity-toity than that. She expected him to go to a place where the waiters came with table crumb sweepers between each course. This is where I jumped into the conversation. I knew that this coffee shop gal was my kind of girl when she used a word like hoity-toity.

I confessed early on that I went to coffee shops to write and that I wrote about what goes on at the coffee shop. Mr. Hoity-Toity says "Well now I am nervous about what I might say."

The coffee shop girls, Mr. Hoity-Toity and I engaged in more friendly banter until the girls were pulled back to their coffee duties. Mr. H-T and I continued on though. He was only too happy to suggest coffee shops where I could write that had interesting people. I gathered he visits a lot of coffee shops. I found it funny for a man who prides himself on getting a lot of personal information out of people, how much he told me about himself. I know where he worked for thirty years. How long he has lived here, how many different places he has lived, what he does for a job, although that sounded a bit mysterious. That he never answers his phone, although he will respond to texts and emails. That he only mows his yard twice a year, and that he does the cooking and has dinner waiting when his wife gets home from work.

Then we got on the subject of photography. You know that look people get on their face when you have happened upon that close to their heart topic. That look was all over his face. He was old school film photography, having had a dark room in the past and taken classes at university. He has not embraced the digital age other than a small pocket size point and shoot camera that he uses for work. He feels that digital and digital processing take away the pureness of photography. I asked what he enjoyed shooting. He told me unusual things. An assignment that he had when he was at university was to go to the downtown where he lived and shoot things. He chose things like wooden poles with all the left behind nails from past event posters. The best was when there was still a fragment of the poster still attached to the nail.

I guess that means that I like to shoot unusual things as well.

It was nearing eleven o'clock and I really needed to go to the bathroom, so I made packing up motions, along with the excuse that I needed to get going home. Otherwise this conversation might have gone on all day. He said he needed to get to that mysterious job as well, so we said good-bye and parted ways. I went to the bathroom and returned to finish packing up my unused notebooks, iPad and  books.

As I was ready to depart I became engaged in conversation with one of the coffee shop girls, the one that I would liken to Sam from Cheers, and the one who had originally said hoity-toity. As it turned out she is the owner of the coffee shop and was very intrigued by my Coffee Shop Chronicles and wanted to read them. I dug a business card out of my wallet that has my blog address on it and gave that to her. Since it was quiet in the coffee shop at the moment we continued talking. My inkling that she was my kind of girl with the use of hoity-toity was spot on. We could be sisters, similar age, although she would be the older sister, finally that responsibility would be lifted from me. We had similar feelings about a lot of things and similar challenging relationships with certain people. It is always a liberating feeling to talk with someone who gets you so completely because they have been there too.

I told her I would definitely be back because this was an awesome coffee shop. I might not get a lot of writing done but the conversations will more than make up for it. She said maybe next time she would be able to share a latte with me, or she says "Do you like wine?" Does a cat like catnip? "Yah! I love wine." She says "Well then maybe we can share a glass of wine sometime?" Sounds like a deeper interesting conversation lies ahead. I sense we have a lot to learn from each other.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

Glen and I had lunch with his parents this past Sunday before their annual sojourn to Arizona for the winter. We had Chinese. The top fortune was the one I found in my fortune cookie and the bottom one was Glen's, I like them both.

Find No. 2

I found country gravel roads always have the best finds on them...

Find No. 3

The gravel road find, a lone tree and a country fence.

Find No. 4

I found some hydrangeas still in bloom.

Find No. 5

A mysterious find inspired by a coffee shop conversation.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, October 12, 2014

One Perfect Day

Most of our married life I have been the decision maker for the family. Nobody else wants the pressure of deciding on something and then it being the wrong decision. I have grown very weary of that role. So for most of our recent vacation to the Leelanau Peninsula, I let Glen make the decisions about where we were going to go for the day. Either that or we would mutually decide on something.

But there was one day where I knew exactly what I wanted us to do. I had been planning it since we were last up here in June. The plans were derived from things we had talked about doing in June but never got the chance to do. I knew we would enjoy doing them together.

The day needed to be nice, overcast or partly cloudy would be ideal. Not full on sun since a lot of the day involved photography outside, and I knew we wouldn't get going in time to catch the morning golden hour.

Wednesday presented the perfect conditions, starting out overcast and becoming partly sunny in the afternoon. The temperatures were lovely in the low 60's. Wednesday also preceded three days of forecasted rain, not very nice when you are on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the United States and the Autumn colors are starting to emerge.

We began the morning exploring the historic farms on the southern side of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We have explored the northern historic farms a fair amount because they are closer to the condo that we rent. We had Susan Tuttle's new book Art of Everyday Photography along as our field guide. Glen tends to believe things more if I read them to him out of a book versus me telling him what he should do. He has come so far in his photography from a year ago and I saw huge improvement this trip. He always had a good eye, he just needed to work on the technical stuff.

First stop was the Tweedle School...built in 1895 and served the little farming community until the schools consolidated and the building was converted to a residence.

This school is a bit too close to M-22 to get a nice full view shot, so instead we concentrated on the details.

But what really caught my eye as we wandered around the old schoolhouse was the barn next door. So of course I had to go explore...

I do love barns with all my photographing heart...

Two different views of a similar object... first mine...

Then Glen's...

This is my favorite shot of his from the whole day, not because he didn't have other good ones, but this one speaks to me. I love close up, detail shots. I love the angle and I love the mystery of this piece when taken out of context.

I went back to this barn on Monday by myself, Glen had to go back to work, and captured it in beautiful golden morning light.

After exploring another close-by historic farm and driving by one other one we decided to see where the road would take us and we landed here...

Esch Road Beach, the site of the ghost town of Aral, and where Otter Creek flows into Lake Michigan.

This was my favorite place of the whole day. It was a magical place; water, sand and the guy I love.

There were a few magical moments as well...

As I was standing about here a beautiful orange Monarch butterfly floated by, the orange set against the gray blue water was so striking. Something fluttered deep inside me as I watched that butterfly drift by, buoyed by the light breeze. I knew that this was a special day, a special moment and a very special place.

Then to make it even more magical I found a heart shaped stone, which shhh, I did put in my pocket and take home. It now sits on my writing desk, I see it right away every morning, reminding me of the One Perfect Day with the one I love.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found some weeds set against a darkening afternoon sky.

Find No. 2

I found I am having fun going with Glen to breweries and sample tasting beer flights. The Pumpkin one, second in on the left, was described as the beer version of a pumpkin chai. Well it wasn't exactly a chai latte but it wasn't too bad either.

Find No. 3

I found great morning "golden hour" light but it wasn't easy and it was very fleeting.

Find No. 4

 In my back roads wanderings on my way home from vacation I found an old building with a lovely screen door and beautiful draping vines.

Find No. 5

Thanks to Amy at Four Corners Design I found two new books. Amy recommended Wishcraft and then I found another one that appealed to me as well by the same author. I started reading Wishcraft last night, so very good! The mechanics at my favorite service garage probably thought I was quite interesting reading this book with yellow highlighter in hand while waiting for my car to have its oil changed.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 20

Even though we are on vacation, my morning routine begins much the same way it does at home. Up at five or six, write for an hour to an hour and a half, breakfast, shower, and then my morning walk.

When on vacation I will often walk with my iPod shuffling through a variety of songs, mainly so I don't feel so alone. Glen made the suggestion when I was getting ready to leave the condo on Tuesday morning "Why don't you leave the iPod behind?". Well as any good wife would do I said "We'll see", as I tucked the iPod into the zippered pocket of my lightweight jacket. But he was right, an admission it pains me to make, it was better without the iPod playing. I was able to really be a part of my beautiful surroundings. I could hear the cock-a-doodle-do of a rooster nearby, I could hear the soft thump of my running shoes on the cracked and faded country asphalt road. I could hear a car approaching from a good half mile away, giving me pretty of time to stand to the side of the road, since bike paths do not exist here. The more I thought about it I knew that neither Maroon 5 nor One Republic belonged here.

As I walked along my favorite country road, lined on both sides with empty cherry trees, I had lots of time to think. I thought a lot about writing and how it has become such an important part of my life. How everything I see holds a story waiting to be told. I thought about how three years ago when I started this creative journey I was sure that I wanted to be a photographer, but what I have really become is a writer who takes photographs to support the story.

As I approached the end of the road and my turn around spot, I came upon a small white farm house with a lovely weathered wood barn. Standing there in the corral was a handsome brown and white painted horse. He caught the movement of me walking by and lift his head to watch me with his big brown eyes. I am sure he doesn't see too many random walkers on his road. I, in turn watched him, wondering what he was thinking as I walked past.

I reached the end of the road and turned around after taking a couple of photos with my phone of an Apples for sale sign that was on the side of the road. As I neared the horse's corral again I noticed he had moved closer to the front of his corral, closer to the road. Was he as curious about me as I was about him? Ever the rule breaker I was tempted to move closer to his fence, see if he would let me run my hand over his velvety nose and scratch the wiry hair between his alert ears. As I was debating this thought, a lady in yellow came out of the house and set off towards the barn, probably ready to give my new friend his breakfast. He saw her too and ambled off in the direction of the barn. I guess food wins over curiosity.

Knowing Glen was waiting for me at the condo, I picked up my return pace. We were off to the city that morning. Not quite as big as the city I went to the previous week, but still the contrast is quite strong when you compare this country life to the city life. Glen had a presentation to work on for an event he was attending the following week. Initially he was going to go to their office in the city and work there and I was going to go to the coffee shop to write. Not surprisingly, he changed his mind that morning and was now going to go with me to the coffee shop. I know secretly he likes to be in my stories.

We arrived at the coffee shop at half past ten. Mallory and I had visited this coffee shop earlier in the summer when Glen and I had been up here for our two week vacation and Mallory was doing her summer internship at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. So I knew that this coffee shop was a busy place, again very technology forward like the coffee shop from last week, but this one had a more homey feel to it. As expected it was packed with people on this steely-gray, overcast Autumn day. I wanted to make sure that there was a table available for us to sit at before I committed to placing my order.

Thankfully we found a two seat table under some bright recessed lights. I mention the bright lights because much of the coffee shop is quite dark, made even darker by the overcast day. For two people with less than perfect eye sight, light is essential. We quickly claimed our table, shedding coats to drape over the chairs, stating this is our table so leave it alone.

At the order counter, we were greeted by a very friendly, enthusiastic, slightly beyond college age girl. I was given choices for what kind of Chai I would like; spiced, pumpkin spice or vanilla chocolate. Well I have had the first two in some form before, so I decided to order the vanilla chocolate for something completely different. It was a bit of a surprise at the first sip because it wasn't what I was use to but really quite good. Glen and I both selected cinnamon pastries from their delectable filled pastry case. Although on our third day of vacation, I already feel like I could stop eating for the rest of vacation and still feel very full. Food overload! Yet we keep on eating, because there are amazing places to eat up here with irresistible food.

I couldn't hear conversations very well because of the sheer volume of noise in the coffee shop, and my husband informed me as he sat down and opened his computer that he wasn't going to talk so I couldn't eavesdrop on him. Funny since the only person he would be talking to is me. Since I couldn't hear I decided instead to study the people around me, working on my observation and descriptive skills.

I now know how the glaring lady felt a few weeks back when I sat at the round, five seat table all alone with my notebook. As I watched a lone guy sit at a table for four nursing a cup of black coffee and constantly looking at the small mobile phone in his hand. I wanted him to get up and move so that Glen and I wouldn't be so squished at our little table, filled with his laptop, our coffee and chai, our pastry plates, and my notebook. But like me he didn't move either. I guess I can concur with his stubbornness to move. He was an interesting fellow to watch. He would alternate between looking at the phone in his hand and then looking around the coffee shop. We seemed to be on a perfect diagonal when we looked up we would see each other. I wondered if he was lost in thought as he looked up or if he was truly seeing me looking his way. Who knows maybe he was writing about me on his phone as I was writing about him in my notebook. Now wouldn't that be funny.

The gentleman at the table in front of the phone guy was very fascinating to me. He was dressed from head to toe in bright primary color tie-dye. He had on a tie-dye handkerchief tied around his head, he had a tie-dye t-shirt over a long-sleeved tie-dye shirt, and then the very best, tie-dye pants. I didn't see his shoes but they could have been tie-dye as well. You certainly would not miss this guy walking down the street. As the tie-dye guy got up to leave I also noticed he had a large tie-dye canvas bag that he slung over his shoulder on his way out the door.

Tie-dye guy's table was quickly claimed by a nerdy looking, quick coffee sipper. He was dressed all in navy with 1950's black plastic and gold-rimmed glasses that kept slipping down his nose as he huddled over his coffee cup. He struck me as a nervous fellow, probably kept locked away in a computer closet somewhere, only getting to see the light of day at lunch time. Since he goes to work when it is dark and goes home when it is dark no matter what time of year it is. Of course the nerdy guy was on his phone too. What is it with lonely guys and their phones? He quickly finished sipping his coffee and was out the door before I knew it. Back to the computer closet he must go.

There were two cute twenty-something girls that were sitting on the same side of a two seater table laptops open in front of each of them. I gathered they were working on a design project together as they were talking about design and layout. Eventually the person next to them left and they were able to push two tables together so each had a table for her laptop.

Somedays I think all this technology is slowing killing our social skills. As I looked around the coffee shop and noticed many people with iPads in front of them, two ladies watching something together on an iPad. Whatever happened to plain and simple conversation? The only non-technology people I saw were two ladies sitting across from each other talking and one had a notepad and a pen in front of her. How did this simple form of communication become the lost art?

As I sat there and listened to all the dings, whistles and guitar strums of incoming emails, text messages and phone calls, I longed to be back on my quiet, country road alone with my thoughts and only the brown and white horse for company.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found a tranquil stream flowing into Lake Michigan.

Find No. 2

I found a husband willing to participate in my photography posing ideas. Also revealing the NEW Paisley Rain Boots. Thank you to Bogs for coming out with a new pattern this fall.

Find No. 3

We found a quaint, cozy place for lunch in Frankfort, MI. Awesome vintage tables and booths and great service.

Find No. 4

I found an iPhoneographer in the woods.

Find No. 5

I found my favorite historic farmhouse in the Autumn colors.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds