Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 24

This past week was the fourth and final week of Ali Edward's Lens of Joy class. To say that I have enjoyed this class would be an understatement. This final week the lessons were on self-portrait work and storytelling with photos. I have a great desire to add more of myself to my stories so I have been anxiously awaiting these lessons. Even though I have always taken photos to support the stories I write, Ali's lesson on Storytelling with Photos has reshaped my view of combining stories and photos. Her approach is to take photos, lots of photos of your life and then tell the stories from the photos instead of the way I would normally approach it; story first and then photos. I think that Ali's approach is firmly rooted in the fact that she is a scrapbooker and memory keeper.

I use to be a scrapbooker so this concept is not foreign to me, just long forgotten. As I started blogging and developing my writing skills, the writing took center stage and the photos were taken to support the stories I would write. Ali's approach has made me go back and look at some of the photos I have taken over the years in a whole new way. What stories does the photograph tell? Many times there are multiple stories within one photograph, layers of stories. This concept is carrying over into new stuff that I am shooting. I thought I would share the layers of stories within one recently taken photograph.

This photography was taken this past Tuesday at a coffee shop in Saugatuck, Uncommon Grounds. When I look at this photo there are so many stories that I see.

I could write about what brought us to the coffee shop in the first place. Mallory is home for Thanksgiving and we love to do stuff together when she is home. Scout, our golden retriever, had a bath and haircut scheduled for that morning at 8:30. We didn't quite make it there by 8:30 but close enough. Mallory is not a morning person and the ability to get up and get going is especially hard for her when she is home sleeping in her comfortable bed. This coffee shop is only about ten minutes from Scout's haircut place, so we figured we would have some Lattes and scones for breakfast and do some writing for the morning.

I could write about how I was brave enough to even take this photograph. There were other people in the coffee shop but not too many, so I set my Canon on the table across from us, set the focus as best I could and then set the self timer. Of course the camera makes a beeping noise as it counts down each time I took a shot and I am running back and forth to press the shutter and get into the shot. Note to self, next time bring the remote. This was huge for me because people were watching and trying to figure out what in the heck I was doing.

I could write about our hair. Curly hair, while it may seem delightful to those of you with straight hair, it definitely has its curses. Finding a stylist that knows how to cut curly hair is also very challenging. We finally found that stylist. We both are in process, the stylist having to do some drastic changes to fix past problems. Mallory has not had her hair cut since August and won't until she is home again for Christmas break. Her hair is getting so long, but our stylist thinks it will be Easter before her's is where it is suppose to be. Mine, because I am here and can get it cut more often, our stylist chose to fix the problems faster and more dramatically. Cutting it very short to get all the crazy layers closer together and eliminate them faster. I had just spent the whole spring and summer trying to grow my hair to say I was disappointed in the gigantic step backwards would be an understatement. Crushed would be a better word. The first butchering was in September, I had another cut in October. It is finally getting to where I feel I have some hair again. At my appointment in December we can finally talk about where she sees my style headed in the future.

I could write about how the focus is sharpest on the chair in the middle instead of on us, but that really doesn't bother me. Ali teaches it isn't about perfection it is about capturing the memory.

I could write about how even though it looks like I am writing, I am actually holding the pen upside down.

I could write about the lady who is in the background in this photo. She was using burlap to create holiday decorations for outside the coffee shop. One of the other customers commented to her how they seem to be using burlap for all kinds of decorating these days. How the big thing is to cover chair seats with burlap, he thinks that would be very uncomfortable to sit on. As he says this he turns around and sees that four of the five chairs at the big round wooden table in the center of the room have burlap seat covers. Oops. The decorating lady says that's okay, nobody sits there very long anyway. Another customer sitting in one of the comfy overstuffed leather chairs by the front window pipes up "Just don't wear shorts when you sit there". Right, definitely don't wear shorts, which won't be a problem for at least another six months here in Michigan.

I could write about how Mallory and I recently got new phones. Updating from the iPhone4s to the iPhone6. As you can see in the photo she is on her phone probably trying to ignore the fact that I am running back and forth between our table and the camera. She is a bit addicted to Instagram. She loves to follow creative people who post about food, theirs dogs and their adorable kids. She and I had a conversation about social media and how if you are looking for a job in a creative field, Instagram is another piece of your work portfolio these days. Mallory would love to find a job where she could use her writing and photography skills so she knows her Instagram gallery will be an important piece of her resume'. Check her out on Instagram @northwoodjane. She has a lovely, simple style. She is blessed with oodles of talent and great window light in her bedroom at school.

There are at least another three or four stories that I could write using this one photograph. It was amazing what came to the surface as I started peeling back the layers. This is definitely a method I want to continue using both with my future work and as I look back at past photographs. Peeling back the layers to see what stories the photographs hold.

Friday, November 28, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I find it extremely unfair that the one day in two weeks that the sun is shining here is the one day I have to go to the eye doctor for an exam and my eyes are dilated. Thankfully my appt. was in the morning so by mid afternoon I could see well enough to go out to the beach with my iPhone and get some shots. This one is of the ice on the railing along the channel.

Find No. 2

Another lovely from the beach. I love what the wind does to the sand and the skies were awesome that day.

Find No. 3

Scout really should have been a dog clothing model.

Find No. 4

Evidence to support my theory. See how patiently he is sitting.

Find No. 5

I hope everyone in the United States had a lovely Thanksgiving. This is my daughter's colorful creation for the children's table.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 23

It seems I have come full circle. I am back at the coffee shop where The Coffee Shop Chronicles began. Just as on that first day, there is snow outside.The wind is blowing and the coffee shop is warm and friendly.

The only differences are there aren't the mountains of snow in the parking lot, yet at least, since this is the first snow of the season. Here at the lakeshore we haven't gotten as much snow as those further inland have received. This is also November not January. It is hard to believe it has been almost a full year since I started the Chronicles. It has been a good year, filled with interesting people and great eavesdropping experiences. I have explored lots of coffee shops and found that I enjoy being a coffee shop critic, maybe that can be a future career. I love sharing my first impressions of a place with you, the reader. Now if only these coffee shops would read what I write and fix the things I find annoying, like bad Feng Shui.

I have grown as a writer and a story teller thanks to the Chronicles. No matter what you chose to do in life the only way to get better at it is to practice and practice a lot.

I arrived at the coffee shop at twenty minutes to eleven.

A late start due to darkness and the need to snow blow the driveway before I left the house. I wanted to get Scout out for short walk before I left. With these short hours of daylight I have to wait until after 8:00 a.m. for it to be light enough for us to walk. Once we were out, Scout was moving fast so what was going to be a 15 minute walk in a wind chill of two, turned into a 40 minute walk in a two degree wind chill. I must admit near the end of the walk, at the fast pace we were moving, I was sweating from all the layers I had on. My hands are always the first thing to get hot, which is odd since my feet are almost always blocks of ice. So the mittens came off and got tucked into a pocket.

As we were returning home a tiny patch of blue sky appeared and the writer in me got excited as I marveled at the tiny spot of blue as it appeared, peeking out as if to say "Hello, do you remember me?" Then the wind blew and the tiny spot of blue was covered by a thin wispy veil of pale lemon drop yellow, which was then in turn swallowed up by an angry sea of winter gray. If I wrote nothing else that morning I was happy. Oh the little things in life.

As I entered the coffee shop I was greeted by the warm, friendly smile of Brenda the order taker. This was going to be a good morning. There were two young college guys in line ahead of me. Note to self, this might be a good place to bring Mallory. The one was definitely a regular since Brenda knew his name. They placed their order to go. Bummer now I couldn't study them or write about them. Once they had left I stepped up to the counter to place my order. A grande Chai with a Oatmeal Muncher Cookie. I knew I was going to stay here for lunch so I chose the cookie over a muffin.

The great discovery over the last year is that I love writing at coffee shops. Whether I am writing a chronicle or working on a writing project. There is something about them that is conducive to writing. I guess the biggest thing, at least for me, is that there are no household distractions; no laundry that needs to be washed, no floors to be mopped or vacuumed, no meals to make. Mallory and I were discussing this just the other day. She too feels that the only place she can do homework now is a coffee shop which can prove to be expensive for a college student. Thankfully she does have an on-campus job and she doesn't spend money on anything else except groceries, so if a latte or mocha a few times a week helps her be productive as she brings these college years to a close, so be it.

The coffee shop is quiet today. All the schools have a snow day, so the moms that were hoping to get out to the coffee shop are now stuck at home with their bored children. And the older folks are just plain smart and staying off the roads.

The one couple of interest was a college age couple that were sitting across from me. At first I thought that I was witnessing a break up conversation, and she was the one doing the breaking up. She seemed cool and very much in control of the conversation, he seemed much more agitated. In the end though I think they were just having a serious relationship conversation and she prevailed. I don't think they were breaking up because after their conversation they each went to the bathroom, refilled their coffee cups, came back to the table, pulled out their laptops and homework, put in their earbuds and settled in to study. If they did break up it was the weirdest breakup I have ever seen. Although when I got in line to order my lunch, he was right behind me and only ordered for himself, so who knows.

With no more interesting characters to write about, I pulled out my other writing. I have been working through the writing exercises in this book, Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. I give all the credit to Amy Duncan from Four Corners Design for recommending it to me. Seriously it is so good, if you are struggling with what direction you want to go with your life and especially your creative life these exercises give so much clarity. I am on Exercise Eight. In what imaginary environment would your best self emerge? I wrote about our future house including in great detail about my art studio. It will be big, with high ceilings, lots of windows for natural light. Heated floors will be a must, because I want to be able to work out there all year round. Separate workspaces for my writing, my photo processing and photography still life set up. A little mini kitchen and a cozy leather couch for reading and naps. An area for the dog and his dog bed.  It was fun to do this exercise and I could see everything quite clearly in my head as I wrote about it. The overall theme I picked up on for my ideal environment is Space & Comfort. It was a fun daydreaming exercise. You should give it a try and see what your ideal imaginary environment would look like.

I hope to write a couple more Chronicles before the end of the year, but with only a little over a month left before the end of the year that time might go very quickly. There are some projects that I need to finish, and some others that I need to lay the foundation for before 2015 starts. I can make no promises. I truly want to thank you for joining me on this writing journey. It has been a lot of fun sharing my observations with all of you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Curiosity About Candy

It is amazing what floodgates of memory can be opened with just one little find at the beach.

I found this little piece of abandoned candy on the stairs to the top of the dune when I was at the beach last week working on a class photography project.

It might be a little hard from this photograph to tell what kind of candy this is. It is one lonely little Smartie.

I haven't had Smarties in years, but when I was a kid I remember riding in my Grandma's big green Chevy Impala with the white vinyl top and going to the service station where I always got a roll of Smarties. Back in those days there were still full service gas stations. Which means to you younger ones my grandma would pull up to the pump and an attendant from the service station came out to her car asked if she wanted it filled up, and then proceeded to fill her car with gas for her.

I remember folding down her half of the large bench-style front seat and climbing into the back, then off we would go to the Texaco station next to the library where the attendant would fill her up. After my grandma paid for the gas, the attendant always gave me a roll of Smarties that I would safely tuck away in my little white wicker purse to be enjoyed after perusing the children's books at the library. My favorite series was by Marguerite Henry about the horses of Chincoteague. I would sit in the wooden children's carousel with my books and open my little white purse, take out my Smarties, carefully open the wrapper and place them one by one along the ledge at the bottom of the angled desk surface. Slowly sucking and savoring each flavor, never crunching or chewing since that made too much noise for the library. My favorite flavor was and still is grape.

Finding that little Smartie on the steps at the beach brought back all those memories. It also made me curious about Smarties. So I did a little research.

In the United States, Smarties are a type of tablet candy produced by the Smarties Candy Company, formerly known as Ce De Candy Inc. They have been in production since 1949. Smarties are produced in Union, New Jersey and Newmarket, Ontario.

After World II, the Dee family bought gunpowder pellet machines and repurposed them to make candy. This gave the candy its resemblance to tablet-style pills in shape and texture. 

Ingredients in Smarties candies are dextrose, citric acid, calcium stearate, artificial flavors and color. There are 25 calories and six grams of sugar in a roll of Smarties. Smarties are gluten free and vegan. 

The flavor of each color is as follows; white is orange cream, yellow is pineapple, pink is cherry, green is strawberry, purple is grape, and orange is orange. 

It is a good thing that a roll of these little darlings is only 25 calories since I bought a big bag of them for this photo shoot.

What about you? Do you have memories of going places with your grandma in her car? Or memories of a favorite childhood candy? I would love to hear your stories.

*Smarties information source: Wikipedia

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Wider View

Admittedly I am a photographer who loves the close-up shot. Little details call to me. I could probably shoot exclusively with my 60mm macro lens and be completely happy.

But...and there always is a but, this fall I am learning the importance of the wider view. In landscape shots you want a wider view, but I am not a landscape girl...or am I? On our vacation up north earlier this fall I fell even more in love with the rural landscape and especially old wooden barns. It was a great vacation in so many ways but one of the best things that happened is that I finally found an artistic style.

It all started with this photo. Let me say this artistic style applies mainly to my iPhone photography. When I use my Canon dslr I still prefer macro shots.

That is until I started Ali Edward's new class Lens of Joy. Ali is a big proponent of the wider view, including more in the photo to help tell the story. And yes the wider view does tell more of the story.

I think I got away from the wider view when our daughter was little. I got so tired of all the clutter in the photos. Clutter on counters, clutter on the floor. I just wanted cute close cropped in photos of my precious daughter's face. But after recently looking through some photographs from my own childhood, I appreciate those extra things in the photos, they add to the story. There was the Christmas wrapping paper from 1969. There was the red and white metal child size table set that I wish I still had. There was my favorite teddy bear lying discarded at the edge of the frame in favor of shiny new presents.

Christmas with my presents around me says more than a posed shot of me in front of the Christmas tree. That clutter from my childhood evokes memories, good memories. Things that I reminisce about now when I see them at an antique store.

Mallory will probably look back at photos of her and have those same feelings; favorite but forgotten toys, things that evoke happy childhood memories.

It seems I have two sides to my photography. There are the artistic creations that I make with my iPhone and all those lovely apps. Then there are the photos that I take to support the stories I write. I am realizing that those story telling photos need to have a wider view of the world.

I also have a strong desire to work on self-portraiture and those definitely need the wider view. They need to show context, to show place and to have space. I don't want close-ups of my face, so space is vital.

One place I am good at getting the wider view is the beach. Maybe that is because I have such a connection to the water and the shoreline. And so many design elements present themselves here: Line, Shape and Form, Texture, Simplicity, Perspective. All things a photographer looks for.

I took time Tuesday morning, before the rainstorm, to go to the beach. Our homework for Lens of Joy this week was to pick 3-5 design principles and practice them.

Along with practicing those design principles my goal was to focus on the wider view, and see how capturing the wider view influenced the story of place.

I enjoyed the photographic process so much that morning that I can see me doing a year long study/project on photographing at the beach. Maybe that will be my goal for 2015. A whole year of weekly shooting beside the water.

I live a mile from Lake Michigan so that shouldn't be a problem. The problem will be winter. But maybe this project will be the motivation I need to get out and shoot every week in spite of the weather.

The question is, where to document this project. Maybe this is finally the right project for a Squarespace blog. It would be great to see my progress in both photography and writing on a specific topic all in one place. Hmmm...I really like this idea.

This is certainly not where I expected this story to go when I started writing it, but this is what writing does, it helps me come up with new creative ideas. Things that will require action and now that it is written down I am much more likely to take action and create this project. So stay tuned for the unveiling of my new project in January.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Curious About Childhood Art

Antique stores are one of best places to stir up curiosity.

My friend Jill and I had an adventure day last week Friday. It had been quite a while since we had done one of these. It was my turn to plan the outing. I had one clear objective, I needed to find one particular vintage camera for a story I am going to write. I had heard of an antique mall nearby where one of the vendors had a great collection of vintage cameras. I knew Jill would be on board for a trip to an antique store, we find the best treasures when we are together. And this day was no exception.

As we were perusing the booths we saw things like; vintage thermoses with built in handles, I have a new obsession with vintage thermoses, Elton John style pearlescent glasses with built in dangling earrings, and vintage Barbie dolls. Then we came across this...

I was beside myself with joy as many wonderful memories can flooding back of lying on the living room on a wintery Sunday afternoon, in front of the warm fireplace, the black and white Zenith television casting sports images in the corner while I made beautiful, colorful creations with my Lite-Brite. I realized standing in that antique mall that this was one of my first connections with art and probably where my love of color first stemmed from. This memory had to come home with me.

Lite-Brite is a toy created by Hasbro in 1967 that allows the user to create glowing designs. It is a light box with small colored pegs that fit into a matrix of holes and illuminate to create a lit picture. Using the colored pegs the user can create designs from imagination or by following templates. There are eight peg colors: green, blue, red, orange, pink, violet and white.

I love this statement:

Lite-Brite allows the artist to create a glowing picture by placing multi-colored translucent plastic pegs through opaque black paper. The light from an illuminated light bulb is blocked by the black paper except where the pegs conduct light. When lit, the pegs have an appearance similar to that of LED. 

The idea of being called an artist already at the age of seven is magical to me.

Over the years Lite-Bright was offered in different forms including a flat-screen version, a 3D cube, and a FX edition that spins and plays music. The Lite-Bright LED Flat Screen currently sells for $10, comes in several colors, is LED lit, and is portable, running on 3 AA batteries. The Lite-Brite 3D cube is a LED-lit 4-sided cube that allows children to play with friends or save 3 of their designs. The 3D cube is called Lite-Brite Four-Share Cube, currently sells for $20, and is also portable, running on 3 AA batteries. The FX edition is no longer available.

I am little bothered that everything has to be portable now days. But of course in this day and age you can't have a five year old plugging something into an electrical socket. Danger! Somehow though we all survived just fine and I doubt there were too many emergency room visits because of an electrical shock by a Lite-Brite. I am super glad they don't make the FX edition anymore. I mean do we really need something that spins and plays music? I love simplicity and that is what the original Lite-Brite was all about, it was you, the artist, creating colorful works of art.

I wish I could go back and say to my seven-year-old self, keep on making colorful creations because one day you will be an artist who creates beautiful, colorful photographs with a camera and writes inspiring stories with a pen.

*Lite-Brite history sourced from Wiki-pedia

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Autumn's Fading

Every day is one day closer to winter. That bone chilling, dreary time of year when I am stuck inside more than I would ever chose for myself.

Isn't that a cheery way to start a blog post? Unfortunately it is the truth. It is the truth that propels me out the door and into the world every day that it isn't raining or snowing. I want to capture as much of Autumn's fading beauty as I possibly can.

You will know by now, if you happened to read last week's curiosity post, that I have a new adventure companion. Scout, my youngest golden retriever. The week after we lost Riley and everybody had returned to college or work, Scout and I were alone. It was sad for both us being home surrounded by memories of Riley. So I decided to get us out of the house and go do some exploring. That first day we did a nice long hike, the weather was a balmy 75 degrees. Almost too hot for hiking but being the end of October I really wasn't going to complain.

We were gone a couple of hours. It was the perfect start to our exploring. A couple of days later we went on a longer trial run. I wanted to see how he would do going someplace and having to sit and wait while I took some photographs. I chose a Covered Bridge and Park a little over an hour from our house.

This park also had a great historic barn. This was where Scout's patience and sitablity was tested. He still did great, although he never wanted me too far away from him.

We had lunch at the roadside park which inspired last week's post. Then we did a little more back roads exploring and returned home. Four hours out and he still did great.

So this past week I decided we would go big and be gone for most of the day. We left the house at nine in the morning. I figured to make the day the best for him we would need to break it up with some hiking and some car riding. Our first stop was a nature preserve that is about a half hour from our house. It has nice hiking trails and a beautiful boardwalk over the water.

We worked on our selfies. We still have some work to do on these.

A little tired out now, Scout laid down on the backseat. We then set off for our destination, a road side park in New Era about an hour's drive from where we were. Once there I took the photos I needed for my story while he rooted around under the outdoor grills searching for any possible leftover delectables. Since there wasn't any place near by to get something to eat for me, we continued on with our exploring.

We found ourselves in Fremont for lunch. I knew of a nice little park next to Fremont Lake where we could eat. I stopped at Subway on our way there. It was a little chilly by the lake but we (I) was dressed for the weather. He was so happy to finally eat his lunch then he sat patiently beside me while I ate mine. I was hoping to get a few selfies while we were there, but it was a little too windy and cold to linger long.

After leaving the lake I knew the exact back roads route I wanted to take to get us back home. I had done this adventure last year and knew there was an old abandoned schoolhouse where I could stop and get some photos. I was so glad to see that it was still standing. You just never know with places like this.

I had debated about taking this shot because the light wasn't coming from the best angle, but I am so glad that I did. It is my favorite from the day.

I decided on one last stop before we went home. Eastmanville Farm which has some lovely hiking trails and some glorious red outbuildings.

After hiking those trails, Scout was plume tuckered out. Back in the car he promptly laid down on the backseat and fell asleep.

We arrived back home about four in the afternoon. A full day of it for sure. He was one tired adventure dog that night.

This week has potential for snow to be falling so I doubt we will get out, but I am hopeful for another adventure or two before the end of the year.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 22

You, as the reader may not realize how wonderful it is to me, the writer, to read the words "This was your best story yet." But there is a flip side to that as well, "This was your best story yet" are also the scariest words I can read. Because eventually the bar can't go any higher without taking a step back.

I tried to write a chronicle last week but I also tried to write it at the place where the last "best story yet" was written. Of course the cast of characters wasn't the same, it was kind of slow in there that day due to a nasty, rainy day outside. But the truth be told, my heart just wasn't in it. Our family had suffered a great loss the previous week. We had to put our oldest golden retriever down due to failing health. He was Mallory's dog, and thankfully she was able to come home from school for the week to spend some time with him before we had to say goodbye. He had a larger than life personality and is greatly missed by all of us.

So instead of writing a chronicle that day I worked on some other writing projects and was productive  in that regard. After I left the coffee shop it had stopped raining so I decided to do some country back roads exploring with my camera. I felt more refreshed when I returned home than I had been in quite a while.

For this week's chronicle I have returned to The Sparrows, an adorable coffee shop that I visited last spring. You can read the chronicle from that visit here.

I arrived at the coffee shop at five minutes to nine. It was a dreary, rainy day outside, so the warmth and comfort of the familiar coffee shop was inviting as I stepped through the door. To my delight Miss Willow was behind the counter. She still had the sweet, soft voice that I remembered but the poor darling was also experiencing a case of the hiccups and trying to deal with them as delicately as possible. She joked that it was so hard to focus on what she was doing while she was trying to get rid of them. Still she prepared my chai latte perfectly, paired with a chocolate chip scone. They have the best scones here.

At this coffee shop I don't feel bad sitting at one of the lovely round, worn wood tables that seat three or a cozy four. None of the tables are that big, all inviting intimate conversation rather than interaction with technology. Even though they do have wifi available and some people were there alone and on their laptops, technology didn't overwhelm as it has other places I have been.

I brought my daughter Mallory here once this past summer, she is also a big lover of coffee shops and this place is very much her style. That day it had been very quiet at the coffee shop, located near a few different local colleges the student crowd was gone for the summer. Mallory knew I was coming here and curious as to what kind of guys frequent this coffee shop. Her style would be to meet a guy at a coffee shop as opposed to a bar. Sadly on this day there were very few guys here and the ones that were here were more professor age. There was one cute guy but he was already there with a girl. Then I noticed one young man at a table near one of the big front windows, he must have snuck in when I wasn't looking. He could have potentially been cute but it was hard to tell what was hiding under his ginormous bushy beard. Maybe he is a hunter since deer season is fast approaching and he did have on a Carhardt Jacket. Probably not Mallory's type though since she is not a fan of Bambi killers. 

The loud, fast talking thirty something guy that was at the table next to me with two college age girls seemed to be tied to some religious organization. He talked about church and different community activities but all in a Televangelist kind of way. Too much, too loud. And then he started talking about what big teeth he has and how nobody can tell how crooked they are because of how big they are. Run Little Red Riding Hoods run!

Nope, nobody here I would want for a future son-in-law. Maybe I will need to visit a local Starbucks soon to see who is hanging out there. 

I started a new photography class this week with Ali Edwards called the Lens of Joy. Ali is an amazing documenter of her life, something I want to make a more conscience effort to do in my own life. I brought my camera with me to this coffee shop, I have taken photos here before so I felt completely comfortable doing this. Since writing and coffee shop writing in particular are a big part of my life, I want to document these meaningful moments. 

I also love the fact that although Ali takes a lot of photographs she doesn't consider herself a professional photographer, she embraces imperfection. A girl after my own heart. I love what Ali says here:

"I have to start by telling you that I only know
what I know. And what I know has come from
practice, reflection, making a whole lot of mistakes
and from living with a camera almost always accessible.
I'm a fan of slow learning - of adopting one new thing
at a time and practicing it over and over again."

You will probably be seeing more of me in my posts as I work on being present in my work, adding the human factor that is often missing. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Curiosity Along the Roadside

When I was a child we took car vacations every year. My parents were not people of high monetary means, so we stayed at cheap motels and ate of lot of fast food. But the one thing I remember the most is always on the first day of vacation we ate a packed lunch at a roadside park.

Also every summer we spent a day in Ludington at the City Park and Beach. I remember these trips so fondly. The highlight of those days was a picnic lunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken, then an afternoon spent playing on the beach alongside Lake Michigan. 

In the early days of our marriage we also had little monetary means so I continued the tradition of packing a lunch on the first day of vacation and we would eat at a roadside park. These days we seek out local restaurants instead, as does most of the traveling population. 

When we travel I still get a nostalgic feeling when I see a roadside park and feel a little sad when I don't see any cars at them. Is the death of roadside parks imminent? 

Then last week Scout, our golden retriever, and I had an adventure day. Obviously I can't bring him into a restaurant with me and I am not a fan of leaving my dog in the car. So we sought out a roadside park. I had stopped at a Subway to pick up some lunch for me and I had his food packed in his travel bag.

I began thinking maybe the roadside park can be brought back by us, or at least we should take advantage of them while they still exist. Scout did great, quietly sitting by my side while I ate my lunch, this is the perfect solution for us.

This week we had another adventure day planned so I began looking for a roadside park on our route where we could enjoy lunch. There is actually a map you can print out of all the roadside parks in Michigan, they are more plentiful than I would have thought.

This got me curious about the history of roadside parks, so I did some research.

Herbert F. Larson started the idea of the roadside park. History records that the idea goes back to 1918 in the early days of auto touring. Larson was then a history-minded highway engineer just out of the University of Michigan School of Engineering. After school he returned to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to manage the highway department in Iron County.

The inspiration of the roadside park idea came from a disappointed Sunday outing to a nearby Wisconsin lake county for a picnic. In 1919 Northern Wisconsin lake resorts were growing rapidly. On that particular Sunday, Larson tried to have a cookout with a group of friends. Everywhere they went the property caretaker asked them to not have their picnic on the property and escorted them off the grounds.

Larson wrote:

"In Upper Michigan we could go where we 
chose with no one to bother us."

He did not want the nearby Upper Peninsula to suffer a similar loss of the much-loved past time of picnicking. This is where he was inspired with the idea of a wide right of way road spot as a roadside park. Larson's roadside park idea quickly spread all over the United States, they were in most states by the 1920's. His roadside park idea soon attracted large gatherings and became a trend-setting phenomenon.

A roadside park will generally be found in a rural setting. Of course back in the 1920's when these were created everywhere was rural. The roadside park with the use of picnic tables is the predecessor of the modern rest area/travel plaza. 

I love the fact that a guy from Michigan created these lovely pastimes.

Do you have memories of picnicking at a roadside park? I would love to hear.

*Historic information gathered from Wikipedia

Joining Kim for Friday Finds