Monday, August 22, 2016

The First Turning


I skipped church today, but I think God will understand.

Today was the day I have been waiting for all summer, and it wasn't just because my husband and daughter were leaving for a three day backpacking trip to a remote island, although it was an added bonus. No, today was special because the weather exhibited the first turn towards Autumn, my favorite season of the year.

I love summer for about two weeks, and then I am ready for the heat, the humidity (terrible for a curly-haired girl), and the bright sunshine that washes out every color, all to go away.


This morning I woke to change in the air; the humidity had disappeared overnight, the temperature was the perfect 68 degrees, and the breeze...oh how I have missed the breeze. Throw open the windows and let it in.


After listening to my husband and daughter go through their packing list for the tenth time, I kissed them both, extracted promises from both of them that they wouldn't kill each other, and sent them on their way.


The next three days were mine. Well actually, mine with Scout and Findley, but the worst they do is bark. Scout was still snoozing downstairs, the life of the aged golden retriever, and well earned. I coaxed Findley into his walking harness with the promise of a car ride and off we set for a walking trail that I had discovered this spring. A trail we can't do in the summer because it is too sunny and too hot.


Today was perfect, a refreshing breeze blowing through the wildflower fields, an amazing cloud display, and not a bead of sweat anywhere on my body.


It took a little time to settle into our pace on the wide paved path, but finally Findley became content with looking for sticks to carry in his mouth, and I could tune in the voice in my head. The voice has been missing the last few weeks, lost amongst the busyness of the final weeks of summer. I could slow my breath and truly see the things around me. The vibrant purples and yellows of the wildflowers, and how the breeze made them dance. The breeze carried the smell of rotisserie chicken on the grill, bringing back pleasant childhood memories of my dad making chicken on the grill for Sunday dinner.


The two hour walk brought more peace than church could have today. I think God will understand.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Hummingbird and the Jackhammer

"And curiosity is an impulse that just taps you on the shoulder very lightly and invites you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look a little closer at something that has intrigued you."         ~Elizabeth Gilbert


Many of us are probably familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert's speech on The Flight of the Hummingbird and Passion versus Curiosity. Finally, somebody was saying that is was ok to not have a burning passion for one thing, it was ok to be interested in lots of things, it was ok to be curious and to follow that curiosity, much like the flight of a hummingbird flitting from one flower to the next, in the end cross-pollenating everywhere it goes.  

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

My husband, largely due to his job, is a "have one focus, one destination and get there as quick as possible" kind of guy, a jackhammer. Opposites do attract.

In Toronto I think we balanced out hummingbird and jackhammer personalities very well. I was in charge of the wanderings and curiosity during the day, and he was in charge of the  research and destination for our breakfasts and suppers. 

Monday, our first full day in Toronto, he steered us to Over Easy, a diner around the corner from our hotel, delightful omelettes. Over breakfast I unfolded our downtown Toronto street map, and picked a road for us to start our hummingbird flight on. 


Shortly into our walk I spied the above church tower through a break in the buildings. I knew my curiosity would lead us there, and what a marvelous turning of the head it was. St. James Cathedral and it was open for self-guided tours. 


I felt something move inside me in that church, looking at the exquisite stained glass windows, touching the wooden pews, worn from generations of hands passing along the wood. These details are lost in today's modern buildings. Awe-struck wonder is what I felt.  I don't fully understand my fascination with old buildings, and may never, but that feeling of awe is enough. 

The Distillery Historic District

My curiosity led us to The Distillery District, with only one directional hiccup, that caused a bit of a debate and to which I will admit I was wrong. This is the only time you will see those words printed on this blog.

Our family has a wonderful relationship with the distillery at home, so we were excited to try some Canadian spirits. Unfortunately, there are no distilleries in the Distillery District. Although the area is very touristy, I loved it. The old buildings were delightful to photograph. Artist studios were located in one of the buildings. I was particularly drawn to the work of artist, Jodi Wheeler. I had an engaging and informative conversation with her about her photo transfer process. 


We had lunch here. I would highly recommend the bratwursts. We were too early for the tour.

St. Lawrence Market


I saw a photograph of the outside of the main St. Lawrence Market building when I was doing that tiny bit of internet research on Toronto before we left, I knew we would have to go there.


Unfortunately the first day we tried to go they were closed - Closed Mondays.


So we went back on Wednesday. 120 vendors of every imaginable edible delicacy, including ostrich thighs. We were there early, shortly after they opened, so it wasn't busy yet. I can only imagine later in the day what a zoo it probably is.


I am the only olive lover in my family, I was swooning with delight at all these and would have liked to sample every one, but I doubt they would have mixed very well with the pancakes I had for breakfast.

Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres



The best slight turn of my head happened Tuesday night after dinner at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe'. My husband had heard about the restaurant from a fellow that he works with, like I said, always doing research. We decided to take a walk along Yonge street to see the sights at night and people watch. We approached a beautifully preserved theatre and I had to stop and take a few shots with my phone.


Then I noticed this sign on one of the windows. I knew what we would be doing Thursday at 5 p.m.

Lobby off of Yonge Street
The history of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre is a long and fascinating one, spanning nearly 100 years. It not only chronicles the magnificent design, architectural and entertainment highlights of an era, it also reflects the evolution and growth of our heritage and culture.


Winter Garden Theatre

Built in 1913, the complex was the Canadian flagship of Marcus Loew's legendary theatre chain. Designed by Thomas Lamb as a "double-decker" theatre complex, it contained the Winter Garden Theatre, constructed seven stories above the Elgin Theatre.


Elgin Theatre

The two theaters were of distinctly different personality: the Elgin was all gold leaf and rich fabrics, a formal theatre of plaster cherubs and ornate opera boxes. The Winter Garden was a botanical fantasy, its walls hand-painted to resemble a garden, its ceiling a mass of real beech boughs and twinkling lanterns. 


Winter Garden Theatre

With the decline of vaudeville, the Winter Garden closed in 1928. It remained closed for more than half a century, becoming a time capsule of a bygone era. The Elgin, with its grand domed ceiling, continued as a movie house, gradually slipping into disrepair with the passing of each decade.


Winter Garden Theatre

What a restoration treasure these two theatres are now. To read more about the history and restoration work click here. This hour and a half tour was the best $12 I have ever spent. If you love old buildings and history, and find yourself in Toronto, you must go on this tour. 

After the tour, the hummingbird and the jackhammer walked hand-in-hand back to the hotel to get ready for one last magical night in Toronto. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Curiously Wandering Toronto


The sound of a trumpet pierces the early morning hour. Wait a minute! A trumpet! I open my eyes and hit the button on the side of my Fitbit - 4:30. Seriously! Who plays a trumpet at four-thirty in the morning? Knowing that sleep is now lost, I slip out of bed and tip-toe off to the bathroom. Too early to get up, I return to bed, settle myself on my wedge pillow, arrange the soft white sheet carefully over me, knowing I will be pushing the button on my Fitbit every fifteen minutes for the next hour and a half. Six o'clock a slightly more reasonable hour to get up when on vacation.

I love to travel, but I am a terrible sleeper away from home. Who am I kidding! I am a terrible sleeper, even at home. Too often on vacation, the beds are too hard, the room too hot, the fan too loud, or the neighbors next door decide to have an alcohol induced discussion at midnight. None of those things are a problem here in our studio suite on the sixteen floor of our historic hotel. One King West situated on the base of an old bank building is located on the corner of King and Yonge Street, on the edge of the Financial and Old Town districts in the heart of downtown Toronto. No, the problem here seems to be an early morning trumpet player. This might, slightly, be my own fault. When my husband noticed that one of the windows was ajar and wanted to close it, I told him to leave it open, I love hearing the street sounds. Sometimes you get more than you bargain for.


My husband and I are here to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. Toronto is quite the departure from our usual relaxing country vacation. I decided as we embarked on our thirty-first year together, we should push ourselves out of our comfort zone, see some new sights and work on discovering places together. He loves to do research on places, and know where he is going. I prefer to lace up my shoes, walk out the front door, and set off down the sidewalk, seeing what catches my eye as I wander along.


Already pushing us out of his comfort zone and knowing that I wanted to be able to celebrate our thirty-first anniversary together next year, I did do some research before the trip. There were a couple of places that I wanted us to visit, just as we had when we did a brief stay in Toronto twenty-seven years earlier. Casa Loma was at the top of the list, me being the lover of old, unique buildings. When I did some internet searching I found the City Pass which included entry to Casa Loma, CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley's Aquarium, and the Toronto Zoo, all these places for $58 US dollars per person. Even if we only made it to four out of the five, we had already saved quite a bit of money. I printed a map of downtown Toronto that I could easily fold up and put in my pocket, not entirely trusting that the Travel Pass plan that I had signed up for on my iPhone with Verizon would actually work, and then there would be no Google Maps. I also printed a map of the subway lines, although in the end we walked everywhere we went, Toronto being an easily walkable city.


We arrived in Toronto on Sunday afternoon, a smooth drive into the city and located our hotel quickly, thanks to Google Maps. The one dilemma we had was finding the valet parking for the hotel, not knowing it was behind the hotel, on a side street. So we first parked in a public parking garage and walked to the hotel, instead of driving around endlessly. After registering, we walked back to the garage, drove the car to the proper area and handed it off to the valet, always a weird feeling to hand someone you don't know your car keys and walk away.

Once unpacked, clothes stowed in drawers and hung on hangers, no living out of a suitcase for the next five days for this girl, I was excited to get out and explore. Neatly folded downtown street map shoved into my pocket, camera slung across my body, we were off to the waterfront. I grabbed our City Pass paperwork before we walked out the door, just in case we happened to wander down to the CN Tower.


Coming from Michigan and living within a mile of Lake Michigan, it takes a lot for a body of water to impress me, and honestly Toronto's waterfront felt lacking. So many people wandering around, all looking at the screens on their phones. I think my husband and I were the only ones without our phones in hand. It was also kind of dirty. We hurried along. Sighting the CN Tower, we made that our new destination.


CN TOWER

The City Pass helped us skip some of the line, but we were still eventually herded into lines like cattle. Having been to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the differences in the structures were quite apparent. Less space on the enclosed viewing platform, a much smaller open air viewing platform. A small section of glass floor at the CN Tower than people felt compelled to sprawl out on for lengthy periods of time.


Still, a delightful view of the city of Toronto, although looking back we probably should have done the CN Tower later in the trip so we could look at all the places we had been, as opposed to not knowing the places we were yet to go. I recommend visiting the tower once, but once is probably enough.


What caught my photographer's eye and history lover's heart was Roundhouse Park across the street from the tower. A 17-acre park that contains a preserved locomotive roundhouse which now houses the Toronto Railway Museum.  We never made it to the museum, that leaves something for next time.


Also located in Roundhouse Park is Steam Whistle Brewing, a brewery that sells only one beer, which is hard to fathom for somebody that comes from Beer City USA where the average is 40 different brews on tap. We did make it to the brewery the next day, at least I didn't have to ponder what to order.

By this time it was getting late, and we still had to eat supper. We wandered back to the hotel amid the traffic and horn honking...

**The rest of our wanderings of Toronto coming soon...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Good Marriage


July 19, 1986 finds me exactly one month into my eighteenth year of life, I am standing on a green carpeted stage in my $150, off-the-rack, chin to toe, polyester and tulle wedding dress. Carefully pinned to my head is a swooping, wide-brimmed polyester and tulle Southern belle style hat. Next to me stands a fresh-faced boy of nineteen dressed in light gray tails. Sweat beads up on both of our foreheads and trickles down the sides of our faces, tunneling under high collars and continuing its downward descent. The nasty beads of moisture don't come from nervousness, but rather from the stifling humidity inside the small country church.


We certainly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into on that ninety degree day thirty years ago. We were anxious to get the ceremony and the reception over with so we could get to our hotel in Grand Rapids for the start of our weekend honeymoon trip. Our first destination when we got to the hotel wasn't what you would think, it was the pool, so we could finally rinse the sweat from our bodies.


When a friend a recently asked what our secret was when I told her we were going to be celebrating our 30th Anniversary, I told her in all honesty - It's a lot of hard work. The mushy hand holding of the honeymoon year quickly wears off, and that is when you have to dig deep to constantly find things you can share in together.

Raising a child together doesn't make things magical, that is when the really hard work begins. You each want the best for your child, but often that "best" is not arrived at in the same manner. My advice to any married couple with young kids - no matter what, find a way to have a date night once a month, and don't talk about the kids while you are on the date. Your marriage will be blessed because of that stolen time together. That is one thing I wish we had done better.


Last week we celebrated our 30th Anniversary. Instead of going to our comfort place of beautiful, rural northern Michigan, we chose to step out of our comfort zone and spend five days in the very alive city of Toronto. We spent our first real vacation twenty-seven years ago there. The only things we remember about that trip were that our car broke down on the way there, we went to Niagara Falls first, when in Toronto we stayed somewhere downtown near the Maple Leaf Garden, we had no credit card, and according to Glen, we walked three hours each way to Casa Loma.

This trip was a bit better. We didn't go to Niagara Falls first, our car did make a strange noise but didn't break down, we stayed downtown just off of Yonge Street in a beautiful hotel, we do have credit cards, and the walk to Casa Loma only took 1 hour and 5 minutes according to Google Maps.


It was good to go to a new place, working together to figure out what we wanted to do, and how to get there without killing each other in the process. Glen was an extremely good sport as I dragged him down side streets to photograph doors on old buildings, and into Catholic churches to photograph stained glass windows and church pews, and even stalking colorfully dressed ladies sitting on park benches. In return, I tried a mussel, drank a whiskey he selected for me, tried new beers, and returned to diner style restaurants every morning for breakfast.


I think I taught him a bit of what the world looks like through my eyes, and he taught me a bit of what the world looks like through his eyes. After thirty years it is still a good marriage.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Conquering Fear


"You must do the thing you think you cannot do"
 ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Last Saturday I did the thing that I was certain I could not do - a family portrait session.

My friend Jill has been asking me for a few years to do some photos of her family. One of her sons lives in North Carolina so the window of opportunity is not open often. I always declined, stating that I don't shoot people. I like landscapes - things that don't move and aren't concerned with how they look in a photograph. But Jill never gave up, having more faith in me than I had in myself. This year when she asked, I finally said yes, which probably surprised her as much as it surprised me. I knew it was time to conquer one of the last big things that scared me in photography.

I told her though, if we were going to do this, I was going treat this like a professional portrait session. I had Jill over to my house a couple weeks before the session so we could view poses from the board I had been pinning to on Pinterest. Once we picked poses, I did a screen shot of them and put them in a folder that I then emailed to her so she could continue to review and share with her family. I have no idea if this is how a professional portrait session begins, but I know this is what I would want if I was the client.


The day of the session dawned overcast, cooler, and windy. Two out of three isn't bad. The wind was the problem since we were taking these photos at the beach. I kept praying for the overcast sky to stay, we weren't taking these until later in the day, and if the sun came out I would be shooting into the sun. Of course, shortly after lunch here comes the sun, and it was still windy. Because of the wind and the high water level of Lake Michigan there is very little beach to stand on. In the shot above, they formed their line and then backed into the water. I am perched on the side of a ten foot dune drop off to get the shot. You learn the most when you have challenges, and I definitely learned. I still have a lot more to learn before I begin to feel comfortable in this arena.


We all had a great time, and I am hopeful that as many memories were created in the process of doing, as were created in the actual photographs. I know that they will remember me standing in knee-deep water with waves reaching upper thigh to get this shot of all of them sitting on a wooden deck that had been buried under the sand until this year. Next year the deck could be gone again, and the little ones will be even bigger. Time keeps moving forward so it is good to capture the memories and the moments now. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Unsettled


I have been feeling a bit unsettled in my photography lately. Not unsettled in the way that I want to stop doing it, but unsettled in the fact that I want to do more, I want to do different things, I want to learn and get better.


I am also finding myself turning more inward - growing tired of social media, and in particular Instagram. The constant sharing and "liking", double tapping without taking the time to really see a photograph or read the words written has worn me out.


I am finding myself drawn to my Canon 70D, the quality and abilities of different lenses can not be matched by the iPhone. I have been reading the book Canon Lens From Snapshots to Great Shots. It has made me think about what I love to shoot, what I would love to learn to shoot, what is currently in my camera bag, what I would like to add to my camera bag and what I could purge out of my camera bag.


On that note, I recently rented the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for a project that I was doing for a dear friend. I can see now why they say the "glass" makes the difference. LOVED the lens!


My husband and I happened to be away for a couple days at the beginning of the rental period, so I was able to wander by myself for a whole day with my camera while he was at a work conference. It is a heavier lens and not something I would take on an all day hike, but great for an all day wander around a lakeside town.


It is hard to put into words all that is churning inside me right now, as you can probably tell from this post, but I know when I feel like this something is usually looming on the horizon.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tagline


Coming up with the name for my blog was the easy part; Paisley Rain Boots was memorable and embodied my wandering, discovery seeking spirit. About a month after I started the blog I took an on-line course on blogging. In this course I learned, besides having an appealing name, I also had to have a tag line, a mission statement of sorts on what my blog was going to be about. I remember many morning walks spent pondering what my mission statement would/should be. Over the four years that I have written this blog, the tag line has changed many times. This was a natural progression as I discovered who I was as an artist. A little over a year ago I finally stumbled on the one that stuck - Striving to find balance between intention and discovery.


For the last couple of months I have been doing near weekly discovery adventures. Adventures that were greatly needed to get the creative inspiration flowing again. But as my tag line says, I needed to balance that discovery with some good old intention. I needed to replace a week of wandering and big discoveries with a week of an intentional destination and consistent small discoveries. So last Tuesday I made an intentional trip to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.


Every year I have the intention of visiting these meticulously maintained gardens once each season. Sadly when I looked back at my photo archives, the last time I visited the gardens was February of 2013. Seriously! They were working on building the Japanese Garden on my last visit and that opened in June 2015. I have already missed spring for 2016, but that doesn't mean I can't do summer, fall, and winter of 2016 and spring of 2017.


The Japanese Garden was my main reason to visit. I had been intending to go since it opened, finally that intention became reality.


I arrived at precisely nine o'clock, right when the doors opened. I wanted to get as many wide landscape shots as I could without people in them. Somebody's bright orange shirt in the midst of a tranquil field of green always disappoints me.


"Based on a centuries-old gardening style, the Japanese Garden emphasizes reverence for nature and contemplative experience."

The many well placed benches did give me pause to stop and sit a while. Knowing I didn't have to rush on to my next destination helped to facilitate the ability to slow down, something that I am terrible at doing.


Once satisfied with my exploration of the Japanese Garden, I moved on to my favorite garden - The Farm Garden.


Growing up in the country I identify with the farm way of life. I wish I had grown up in a house like this with a wide wrap-around porch.


The entire homestead site has bronze statues like this one scattered about.


"The farmhouse, barn, gardens and animal pens are reminders of a bygone era when the land supplied the family with groceries and income, a time when every family member helped with chores."


For whatever reason, the sight of this simple knot on the clothesline begged to be photographed and gave my heart that fluttery feeling. 


"Various vegetable gardens and flower beds are dedicated to heirloom varieties."


The day was so calm that I was able to get this fun metal sculpture reflection in the rain water collection barrel.


It was a great day to take life a little slower, wander with my dSLR, something I don't do near enough of, and to find the many surprise discoveries in a visit of intention.