Colleen, I’m feeling blue. Ethereal, but a moment, delicate, fragile, gossamer, tenuous – life. We are here for a moment in time. My photographs depict some of those moments passed which will never be here again. Suddenly, things change. You realize how utterly delicately we interact. Loss is part, parting inevitable. I have been lucky to have experienced loss in small quantity. I am no stranger to love and loss. But, I have been largely spared. Hug your loved ones tight. Love them, tightly.
Colleen came with three cats from West Virginia – Patch, Elle, Willow. We got Spice and Feather a year or so later. And then came Ray and Nutley in 2018. Patch left us in 2021. Peas and Tillie came last year – because I had an empty food bowl. That would be eight happy cats…. And just a year later Ray is gone. It took a while but the tears finally came. I don’t cry. I never did – too much. I was between the medical side and the emotional side of my personalities.
For fun, we did group shots of our family about once a year. It is poignant to look back now. Adding and subtracting, we have cats. Colleen laughs at how Spice, or was it Feather, one of them grabbed me in the pet store and said they were coming home with us. Tryouts! Each time we went to get pet food, it was tryouts amongst the rescue kitties. You win some. You lose some. Ray and Nutley proved adorable. Tillie and Peas are crazy. All are loved, the ones we have, and, the ones we’ve lost. No platitudes, please. I am no stranger to love and loss. It is never easier from one to the next. I cried today as I remember those we have lost. Seven cats again. Colleen said it best, “It feels very empty in the house with Ray suddenly gone.”
The only reliable way to tell Ray from Nutley is the colored dark fur on the back of Nutley’s neck. After that it was their tendencies and habits. Ray liked to “chew” on his brother. Everyone likes being in a basket or a box. Cute is cute. When you are being cute it is hard to tell one twin from another.
Twins are hard to tell apart. It is a small difference in fur coloring or pattern that distinguishes Ray and Nutley. Face on, they are pretty much alike, though they are hardly interchangeable. Nutley was so-named because of his insane antics. Ray, was the solid crazy cat who never hesitated to explore the world around him. His escape attempts into the outside world are legend. We had many a merry chase. Somehow he knew his way home and we always hugged him upon his return from his brief adventures. Cute? Yes!! Photogenic! His big liquid eyes gazed straight into my lens as though he knew it was his cue. Twin? Twins? Gee! Sometimes, there’s just no getting it straight, just like telling this story.
Nat King Cole sang: There Will Never Be Another You
Ray and Nutley joined our family on July 3, 2018. Kittens. A nest of baby swallows were just learning to fly. Ray was named after Colleen’s cousin Mike. They were our sixth and seventh cats. We calculated that Mike (Ray is his real name) would not mind so much feeding a namesake when we were away. Ray came with the worst URI (upper respiratory infection – cold) ever! Soon seven – count ‘em! – seven cats were sneezing. Imagine a cat sneezing without covering their mouth. Appetizing!?!? Everyone recovered from their cold. We have not recovered from Ray’s loss. He was such a part of all of our lives. Even my other cats are empathic. They cannot communicate verbally. But, their actions – reaction to Colleen’s sad crying – reflect an understanding and empathy of profound loss. Me? I simply did not realize how much Ray was integrated into our daily life and routines. He was involved, tangled, in every activity. He had an outsize personality – a strong silent leading cat. Colleen recalled a long list of antics that humored us endlessly. He was a true loyal cat whom we loved and who loved us. I know I am inadequate to impress you with words how much we are missing him. Too soon, too soon, you left us.
I had camera envy. Leica. Just released, new model. It’s the Rolls Royce of cameras. Exclusive. Precise. Expensive!!! $$$$$ How about $9000 worth for this newest model. I have never used one though I got my father in law’s (old) Leica after he passed away. Use it, shoot with it, no, the most I did was hold it. The manual focus rangefinder is too fiddly for my grab shot style. I shoot on the run. Rapid fire. Much of the time I trust the camera to auto focus auto expose my subject.
So I gotta ask… what is photography to me? oh boy! Philosophy. This is gonna get boring fast. I’m shooting the world around me. I’m not seeing an iconic monument or glorious sunset every day. My candid shots are not fine art. I am not on the line to get the money shot in sports or any commercial. This is about fun. Envy? Camera envy? Not really. Not practically. I can have a lot of fun with $9000, that does not include having a Leica. I would cringe to leave it lie on my dashboard as I drive awaiting a stray shot thru the windshield. TMI! I am happy. I am happy in my out of focus and blurred shots. The world and my situation is/was never perfect. I get what I get. And, if not, I move on. There are undoubted shots I would have liked to have captured. I capture things unexpectedly because I have a camera in hand. So, $9000 will make me happy, happier, happiest? Better, more better, most better? Here is where it gets tricky. Do I need a better camera than an iPhone?
A sheep is a sheep – all the same to me, just different colors, with or without horn. A spinning wheel? A loom? Venerable. Costly. Slow (to make clothes by hand). I get my clothes for sale $10 a shirt. That is simply sinful thought. To not appreciate the process is to ignore history and how we got to this point in time; this is narrow minded thinking. Shearing, washing, carding, spinning, weaving… yarn to cloth to clothes.
The Golding wheel is the Bentley of spinning wheels. Art. It is not how you get there as much as how you look getting there. Any car goes when you add gas. Eh? Computerized looms? It has a niche, though, it’s oddly out of place with hand craft. You go to the sheep and wool festival to – meet Golding and son, see the sights, see sheeps, and to see people. I get photo ops. Sheepishly, I have newfound respect for the handicraft. No, Colleen, (I get it now) a sheep is not a sheep. There are differences beyond appearance. And, no, a Golding wheel is not in our future. Hey! You don’t have to spend $10k for a Golding! Maybe I should not have checked $ on the internet. Price increase! – $30k for a stained glass Golding wheel!! I still cannot differentiate sheep breeds. (A sheep 🙂 is still a sheep.)
I have a parochial view of the Midwest. Biased. For sure. I have been thru but never been there. Passing thru is all I wish to partake. Yarn Barn – a destination. ?! Colleen knows it as in tourist destination – for spinners and weavers. Yawn! With newfound knowledge and interest I am looking at spinning wheels in a different light. Schact and Ashford – hallowed names in spinning wheels. Ho hum. They are sold but not made in the store. But to touch and feel…. Ha ha. We did not buy a wheel. And, I did not get a haircut. It is like antique stores. You never know what you may find that you did not need until now. Me? I’m gettin’ back in the car and takin’ Colleen. Need her? You bet!!
I have recounted our courtship and marriage before. Claddagh ring and Celtic knot – Colleen’s ring was made in Ireland, mine is of titanium. Symbolic? Colleen’s symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love. Mine is a knot without beginning nor end – unity and eternal life. Titanium (was) – the material of spinal fusion screws that dominated my later neurosurgery career.
Dog year – it varies but, is considered equivalent to 7 human years. Our relationship is barely a year old. Baskets, beer steins, antiques, and cats are sprinkled liberally about our lives. We make elaborate baskets but nothing so woven as these from the museum. We have a real toaster oven. We did discover civilization as we got older. We have a fun and loving marriage. No, I do not know how a squirrel got inside a squirrel-proof bird feeder. Once in a while, I look back. Did I shoot that picture?
Cameras? Colleen reads spinning and weaving – looms and spinning wheels. She follows new products and pines for that next new… wheel. Me? Cameras. I read the reviews and follow the innovations that make things easier/better to get the “shot.” Lately, there have been a host of new equipment releases. Nothing is shattering or a game changer. Ha ha, no wheels, no cameras. There’s nothing new to note. That is there is no camera pining around here for me. Colleen and I both recall having our very own Gilbert microscopes when we were younger. Telephone? We had one when an operator answered when you picked up the receiver in the days when our phone number was four digits. Singer sewing machine? Typewriter? Today – I live near the beach, have eight cats, and attend opening receptions at the museum. I don’t have a new camera. But, the ones I have do quite nicely. Looking back and now, I believe Colleen and I have very nice memories past and present. I am especially happy to say she is my present wife.
The pandemic is over (?). We went to a family event. The cousins have not met in two years – since 2019. I was still reluctant. But… pot luck. What to make? Our oven decided to go south. I did not know what temp I was baking. And the first coconut custard pie was lost to a serious burn. The mushroom strudel fared better. I got raves for the (second) pie. And, the cousins met for the first time in a long time. We have/had all been in touch. But it was an icebreaker to meet in person without masks. … all this on the night of the start of the Ukraine war. Memorable.
I’m a hobbyist – photographer. I do not collect cameras. I have cameras – more than one.
Don’t ask. We spin. Forget weaving for the moment (too many pictures). We have (spinning) wheels. We do not collect? Well, sort of. There are a few old ones not currently spinning. The rest are in active use. Even the old winder – weasel – is in use. Weasel? Yes, as in “pop goes the weasel” – a term used/derived from the button which pops when you have wound off the yardage of yarn you desire. There are different features – castle, Saxony, single or double drive, single or double treadle… Do we need ‘em all. Do you care? Colleen uses them. All. I do, now. Fun? Fun!! There is a certain “zen” in spinning. Oh! Did I mention wooly winder? And?? Spinning wheels go back over 1000 years. We have followed in a long hallowed cherished tradition. Neat!
Me? Spin? … in self defense. We have so much stash – fiber waiting to be spun – it would be impossible for one (or two) people to spin. So, I, too, have wheels in rotation. Name the wheel? Model, manufacturer? No, real names, Colleen has given real names to the wheels she uses. Ahem, … my cats have names.
I can hear Carol – “…enough cats already” And, “eight is enough!” I’m shooting the same things over and over as when I was diving the Red Sea. Enough fish… hey! I have a camera near at hand. This is the subject material that presents itself to my lens. I am lazy. We don’t get out enough. My bad. Colleen wants to go around anytime anywhere. We got a lot of “going around” to make up for. When do you see a bed pan with a chimney? The moon is not an easy subject, but, it shows up. Telephone poles always seem to be close by when you want to shoot the perfect sunset. I love my cats, too. They are just too cute sometimes. So, what to shoot? I hope travel restrictions end soon. We would like to go again. I am, indeed, a lazy photographer. I shoot what’s available. No doubt. But, I do try to shoot each and every day. Hey! It’s a hobby, not work. Happy and hobby have lots in common.
The end point is spinning yarn. A sheep fleece is processed from shearing to spun yarn. You start by sorting and picking it. It has lanolin (grease) that needs to be washed clean. Along the way Colleen took locks to weave into a rug. I combed (carded) the rest and prepared it for spinning. Yarn is the product. Weaving comes next. I know way more than I ever intended to learn. It’s craft. In my wildest dreams I never expected to spin fiber. Fun? I sheepishly replied, “Yes!”
At a certain point folks don’t want a big deal made over their birthday. It is a reminder of getting old. Ginny? Well, to change the subject quickly, she kind of looks thinner. No more talk of age. Then again, I would be remise to forget her birthday. Right? Just to be certain, I composed this post way in advance. Glue? Ginny is the glue that holds this group together.
It was a close call. We almost got cats number 9 and 10. They were beautiful cats. Colleen put her foot down. No more cats!! No picture. Alas! A new wheel? Can you say Kromski? It’s old looking. But it is recent vintage passed off as an old wheel in demonstrations. It was at an estate sale. It was ugly (a lot of dust and squeaks). It looks so much better in the pictures. And it was even better when I spiffed it up. Yes, we got another wheel. Colleen got it. I’m using it. So, you know how that goes. She got me a wheel. Me! I now have double drive wheels rotating thru different stations to occupy my time. And I am (spinning)! It is, indeed, a good looking wheel. And, no more cats! Darn!
Basket class. The running joke: who made which basket? Guess? The kids are always right. How do they know?? We had a good time. it has been a while since our last class because of Covid restrictions. Ok! This was largely unplanned. We made baskets of our own creations. Wow! Colleen added beads. It’s really a great looking basket! Me? Party! It made us both giggle to look at the party colors. The added frills were fun. Hey! We can make baskets ad lib. But, I still like the classes. It’s a social thing.
There is art in form. Art is not always in museums. Photography is art? Platitudes. There is a fine line between art, photography, and journalism? Is nature art? Antiques are automatically art? Modern art? Does price define art? $$$$ For a shopping cart with zip ties – $10,000. Paying for concept or for a few packs of $1 zip ties? Oh yeah! Does that sound outrageous? Does it make it all the more valuable? I ain’t no critic. Artist, journalist, photographer, gadfly? Egad!! – (word) first used in 1673, how do they know stuff like this? Do you look funny eating?
A portrait starts with the eyes. My cats are cooperative in illustrating my point. Hooded eyes need a bit of flash. Black cats are particularly difficult. Their black fur is hard to highlight and contrast. And, who figured dust would show too! Then again, cat nip shows, as well. Focus on the eyes is a key component. Gazing directly into the lens is helpful. For cats, put the camera in front of the cat; don’t wait for them to look your way. The icicle is a non sequitur. And, Colleen’s initials are CAT, once upon a time when she was a maiden.
Good equipment will only get you so far. I needed more experience. Lessons would have helped. Me? Nah. Too much ego. Just press the shutter, and, there you are! It did not help that I developed my own slides. So I accumulated a lot of rolls to process all at once. Therefore, feedback was severely delayed. Hence, my mistakes tended to continue. It was, using the wrong settings for a good long while before you realized the mistake. Lokking back, it appears I was lucky to have survived my msitakes. Oh boy! stupid! Really stupid! Parsimony. Film cost $$. What digital has taught me. Almost every shot is a double. Redundancy is de rigueur! Oh boy! The things I simply did not know to do. Oh well, the most important thing is to be self-critical and learn. My regret, it took decades to be aware of my mistakes. It’s just one more thing to do differently if there were a do-over.
This is the catch phrase of terrorism in our country. Well, I am looking at and reading about atrocity, killing of innocents, and destruction of property. They are bombing civilian areas. Even if you spin it around as a Republican might, death and destruction of cities and innocents is hard to explain except as a war crime. Enough! It is like a classic “Bully” movie. The cowed population cowers until the hero saves the day. We are the ones who need to step up. Please. Please! “Thoughts and prayers” inadequately stand up to rockets, shells, and bombs. A man who can say, “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.” deserves to be saved.
I was infatuated by Kristina. She was niece to a famous neurosurgeon. Cool. We had a brief travel encounter heading toward Oslo. I never saw her again. It was her decision. Better for me (much!!). Strange girl. I had back pain. She opened her handbag and took out a bottle of mixed assorted pills, found a couple and handed them to me. ??? Oh, she said, I know what they are by their looks. I took ‘em. Trust! It’s wise she did not hook up with me. After all, history says that if you wait, you will meet Colleen once more. Oh! Thank you! I laugh, though. We stopped along the way to Oslo, spontaneously knocking on a random door to a mansion, and getting a tour from the mistress of the house. That is definitely not my usual, or, maybe… You may smile (or not) to see the weaving, which Colleen can undoubtedly comment. Warp, weft, pattern, they are all discernible to the eye of a weaver. Me? I am very happy in the place I am in, right here, and, now. I am with a very smart woman, indeed!
Colleen wants to do one – river cruise. I’m spinning old slides today. Spontaneously, nuts, I was in Norway for a birthday party pretty much precipitated by a dare. Harald turned 65 and threw himself a party inviting an international cohort of neurosurgery colleagues as well as everyone in/from his valley home in Unset. Unset? The entering/leaving sign was two sides of the same board. Replete with belly dancer, the party was a success. I was placed in a farmhouse room with a bed and multiple looms. What did I know then?? Not a thing. Old? Barn loom? I have a different eye nowadays. Colleen has educated me.
And, who covers their haystacks? Green roof? Yup, they have the first real green roofs I have/had seen. It is a fond memory. And, never, ever, accept a birthday party invitation without finding out the location first. Ever! Harald is still chuckling about how he set me up.
Colleen is tired of me for apologizing for our cozy home. We are definitely not minimalist. Our tendency toward exuberance is everywhere in the beer steins we collect to the refrigerator magnets. We have eight cats. I will add the Willow’s picture is a reminder of wide angle distortion, once more! I took old bobbins and made them into pens, not once but, as you see, many times over. Baskets? Ditto. One detail I will note: Colleen can weave! This cloth is being woven on a barn loom that dates back to the Revolutionary war. Wow! She can weave!! I like living large!