Our Buddy

IMG_1572

 

There are dogs and then there are dogs.  Those of you that have ever been blessed with the company of a dog understand that throughout a lifetime some of them stand out.  Their personalities are a total fit and they form an unforgettable bond.  Buddy was just such a dog.  After 14 years of making us laugh almost every single day we had to say goodbye this past Saturday.  It was difficult yet not unexpected.

Buddy was our last family dog coming to us when my daughters were in junior high and high school.  He was part of all of their circles of friends and enough of a character to remain in their memories even though they hadn’t seen him for years.  He was the athlete, the clown and the sweetest animal I have ever known.  He moved through the transition of a family of 4 to one of just 2 adults.  He remained my youngest daughter’s best friend, she was his person. He was always part of coming home.

I’m in the same camp as Jon Katz when it comes to the end of our dogs lives.  I believe Buddy’s job was finished here and it was time for him to move on to the next.  We have dogs come into our lives with just what we need at the time.  They have a job.  They are the ones that get us through particular trials and contribute to the joys we have in our lives.  When their job is done they move on.  I like to think of Buddy’s spirit moving on to another family where he can entertain kids and adults with his antics and loved for the gentle spirit that he was.

We knew it was time on Friday and our vet came to the house Saturday afternoon.  Buddy hated going to the vet more than any animal I have known and we wanted to do right by him.  He died in Cait’s lap, his favorite spot for many, many years, giving us a peaceful closure so important to saying goodbye to someone you love.  He will truly be missed.

Thanksgiving Reflection

141126 Back Forty Snowstorm

I woke up this morning to the silence of a house without power.  It wasn’t unexpected.  Around 5:00 I decided to get up and stoke the wood stove, try to get things together for coffee without a coffee maker.  As I walked down the stairs the lights came on, the furnace fired up and within minutes coffee was hot in my cup.  Ahh, little gifts.

The anticipation of this holiday always keeps me awake the night before.  It’s a throwback from childhood when family gathered at the house for food, fun and the Macy’s parade.  Most of these relatives I only saw once or twice a year.  I loved being surrounded by people who loved me, what child doesn’t?

While lying awake I considered all that I was thankful for, an exercise that I do fairly often.  It keeps things in perspective.  Albert Einstein once said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  I try to look at everything as being a miracle.

The thing that continues to come into my head as both a miracle and something I am profoundly thankful for is my ongoing reunion with Scott.  It’s been difficult to wrap my head around having a son that is back in my life.  Left as an infant, returned as an adult.  Bone of my bone flesh of my flesh.  Someone who has been with me through most of my life’s journey in spirit yet I was the only one that knew it.

My daughters bringing him into the fold – slowly, cautiously at first then with open arms.  They speak of him with love and amazement at the similarities only relatives have.  My husband helping me work through the demons that have followed me from one lifetime to another.  My friends that continually point out what an amazing story this all is.  A miracle in many, many ways.

Look around you today, take notice of those miracles – those little gifts.  The beauty of the snow, the birds that grace our feeders, the fox tracks through the yard.  Look at the smiles on the faces of those you love. Treasure those messages from those unable to join you for the holiday.  Remember those that have gone before you that made the traditions you celebrate now.

Everything is a miracle.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Birds and Snow

141126 Birds (2)

You can always tell when the weather will be bad by the number of birds on the feeders.  The chickadees demanded I put them up about a week ago while I was doing a walk about.  I relented figuring it was cold enough so the bears might have entered into hibernation.

Yesterday the activity stepped up and we all knew it was because a storm was coming.  They are much better forecasters than any human being (that and the joints were screaming).  This morning the snow started in earnest at about 9:00 and it went from nothing to blizzard almost instantly.

The birds continue to come, all varieties now, loading up.  Their feast for the holiday.

We have people travelling from all over.  Some are beginning to arrive, some I’m hoping will wait until tomorrow with the snow coming down the way it is now.  They predict up to 12 inches and at the rate it’s falling now I wouldn’t be surprised.

Here’s hoping everyone stays safe this coming long weekend and enjoys time spent with friends and family.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For the Record

003 j.semanie©josephs

There are times you do things that are uncomfortable for the sake of family and history.  For my entire life I was always the photographer.  I took the photographs because I always hated the way I looked in them.  If I took the photograph I would never have to be in it – for me a win win.

A little over a month ago I decided that I needed to have a family portrait taken – for many, many reasons.  I think everyone needs to do this, if for no other reason than a record for future generations.  I have uncovered photographs in my attic clean up of my great grandparents weddings, or them with their siblings and mother.  Photographs taken around 1900 – over 100 years ago – that give me a little glimpse of their lives.  For me a gift.  Having this portrait done was my gift to grandchildren and great-grandchildren yet to be born.  A little piece of my life.

There was a lot involved with this whole plan on my part.  First and foremost was the photographer.  I messaged an old friend with the request.  His work is something that I have admired for a long time and he was one of the very few I trusted with photographing me. (It’s all about me you understand, I knew everyone else would look great).  I’ve known Joe since the early 80’s, there is no one I would trust more with this photograph.

It was also important to me to have Scott be photographed with us.  Although he is a new-found member of our family he is one that has been fully embraced.  It was also important to me as part of the record that he be involved.  My only regret about it is I have to tell people who he is – over and over.  In years to come he will just be my son and my daughters’ brother.  He is one of us, he just came late to the party.

The appointed hour came and we met Joe of Josephs at the appointed hour at Forest Park in Springfield, MA.  We have a history of photographs in this park and it seemed the perfect setting to me (even though Joe thought Fort Pelham Farm was where it should be – another time maybe). We had a great time.  Joe was entertaining and comfortable in his work.  He also did an amazing job and it was everything I hoped it would be.

I looked at 176 proofs today.  What I was struck with is how old I am.  In my head I will always be around 27 but in the photographs I am an older woman.  I know it’s me but I’m shocked in a way at how old I really am.  Having my adult children around me just brought it home.  They all have lives quite separate from mine.  I see little glimpses of them as children but my days of parenting children are sadly over and have been for quite some time.  It’s all a little bittersweet.  The record has been made, we all look like we still love one another.  I know at this point that the likelihood of this happening again is pretty much nonexistent.  That’s okay.

I can take these photographs and enjoy them for the moment that they captured.  A beautiful fall afternoon, warm with a slight breeze, spent laughing with the people I care about the most.  Maybe 100 years from now someone will find a few photographs in the attic and glean a little about the people in this little family group.  I hope it just shows them how happy we were on this afternoon and that we care about one another.

 

 

Throwback Thursday and Some Thoughts on Cleaning Out

540707 Alix-Martin Wedding (14)

The date was July 7, 1954, my mother and father’s wedding day.  This photograph, of all of them, is my favorite.  All the players are there, both of my grandfathers are looking on with smiles on their faces.  I recognize aunts, uncles, cousins, grands.  The photographer for this event was AMAZING.  Every shot was beautifully composed, exposed and printed.  This was back in the day of Speed Graphics and 4×5 sheet film, hand processed, hand printed.

The main reason for this post today is I’m waxing nostalgic about my mother’s wedding dress.  I threw it away yesterday.  I’m assuming that will be the most painful thing I get rid of and it wasn’t without trying to keep it, honest.  The dress was disintegrating, things had lived in the bag, it was stained.  I brought it to my sister’s house just to have confirmation that I was doing the right thing (there really wasn’t an option).  While there I took the scissors to it and cut off the train of tulle with the had applied lace and folded it to keep, the rest went into the dumpster.  There’s no going back on that one.

I’m taking solace in the fact that we do have those amazing photographs and those are really more important to me than a mouse and bug infested piece of satin and lace.

 

How We See

Amanda's hands and chick

My chicks are a month old now and a far cry from the cute, fuzzy little creatures they were in the first week.  The day after I arrived daughter Amanda spent some time in the room with the chicks and I took this photograph of her hands holding one of them.  It was around nine at night, maybe later and the chicks were sleepy and welcomed the warmth of her hands.

When I loaded the photo onto the computer and opened it in Photoshop it looked nothing like this.  In fact I had no idea it would turn into one of my recent favorites until I began to play with it.  All of the photographs I took of people holding chicks had to be converted to b&w because of the red heat lamp in use over the chicks enclosure. A big part of it was having a cooperative subject and I attribute that to Amanda having spent the last 28 years being photographed – a lot. She waited, holding that chick until I went into the house and got the camera.  And it was a one on one situation.  After some cropping and playing with levels this it turned into something I love.  It speaks to me of the kindness and tenderness that is Amanda, and I would recognize those hands anywhere.

The next day I took this photo.

140705 Andy holding chick (2)Nothing like the one the day before.  The quality of the material to begin was not as good but wow, I have to say I love this almost as much.  This was manipulated almost as much, didn’t end up with the same result – but look at that face.  This is my grandson in his first chicken experience.  After a little coaxing he reluctantly held that chick. Not the same hands, not the same feel but something that really captured the experience for me.

Photography for me, when it’s good, is most often times a happy accident.  The first image more so than the second.  They were totally different experiences.  The hands were something I saw, captured and manipulated into something I see as beautiful.  I worked towards that image in every aspect – it just so happens it turned out better than I had envisioned.  The second was a capture of a moment and his face really gives away his uncertainty with the situation. It feels like he was just holding that chick just for the camera, otherwise he might have been just as happy to leave it quite alone (or watch but not touch).

These are the times that I truly appreciate digital photography.  I never would have achieved these images if I had been using film – I probably could have but it would have entailed hours of frustration in a darkroom and then I seriously doubt they would have turned out this way.  These took a few minutes and some mouse clicks to make it happen.  Minutes later I’m sharing them with family and friends.

It’s all still pretty amazing to me.  I do think photography has been diminished in some ways because of it.  Photographers used to be artists and technicians, you had to know your craft.  Technology has made us old film photographers obsolete, we can now reminisce about standing in a darkroom for hours trying to achieve our vision.  In the same breath I can say it has set us free – we can envision what we want, capture it and make it our own with the click of a few buttons.  The one thing that has not changed for us is how we see.

 

 

New Old Photographs

Myrta Hill (1)

For as many years as eBay has been in existence I have been bidding on and purchasing old process photographs with children and dogs.  In recent years these have become a little too pricey for me to win often.  The photograph above is one I recently purchased for a very decent price.  It’s an ambrotype in a pristine Union case.  In the case was a slip of paper that read Myrta Hill and Mrs. R. E. Smith, woohoo!  For me this is the holy grail of photography finds.  I can match the photograph with a family.  After a brief search on Ancestry I found Myrta’s family and was able to contact the owner of their family tree and send them a copy of the photograph.

I love it when that happens.  I love the investigative work that goes into this and I am all too familiar with the feeling of seeing new old photographs of relatives.  Being online with the genealogy community has given me so many opportunities to communicate with relatives that I had no idea existed.  They all are similar minded and very open to sharing what they have.  There have been instances where I have met long-lost cousins with photographs in hand and others that have emailed me diary transcripts from the mid to late 1800’s.

In the past few months, with online connections, I have seen photographs of my father as a baby and my grandparents that I have never seen before.  It’s really a wonderful experience.  With this photograph arriving in the mail I was able to share that experience with a total stranger and that is something that makes searching these little treasures out worthwhile.  I often wonder when I buy one of these what happened to the photograph’s family, especially when there isn’t any identifying information with or on the photo.  Because of the time period of my collection we are going back a few generations and in my mind I know that someone’s estate was cleared out and things put up for auction.  Either there were no family members left, they didn’t realize what was in the auctioned items or they didn’t care.  Sad.

I have been the “keeper” of family photographs forever.  Someone’s household is cleaned out the photographs come to me.  I scan them, put them in chronological order and file the originals away.  I currently have thousands of photographs from all branches of my family as well as Bill’s.  The beauty of this is in the sharing.  Being able to show other family members the photographs they have never seen.  Sharing is a little gift on my part but very often it seems like a big gift to the receiver.  I know, being on the receiving end is wonderful.

Posting will be a bit sporadic for another couple of weeks.  I will be packing up all those photographs and moving them to Rowe (hopefully their final home).  No small feat because moving them can be a real distraction.  I have to just move them and not look at them until I have time.  I expect regular postings to resume once I’m there.  Send positive thoughts for a smooth transition!

How Things Change

140410 Sunrise

I don’t sleep much these days.  I wake up early in the morning (often very early).  I squint at the clock to see if it’s too outrageously early to get up.  My rule is if it’s before 4:30 AM I have to stay in bed.

Getting up really early affords you the opportunities to see the sun rise.  It seems like I take a photograph from the same spot looking out the living room window a lot but in doing so I’ve seen some amazing sunrises.  Yesterday was a perfectly clear beginning to a beautiful spring day.  Finally!  It has been one long winter.

With spring also comes some huge life changes for me (all of my family really).  After spending the past 30 years travelling from Enfield to Rowe and back I will be moving there full time in May.  Unfortunately I will be moving there without most of my significant others.  They will continue the weekend commute.

This was not an easy decision to come to.  Dad will be coming home and I will be staying with him.  Every single person that hears about it has asked me the exact same question, exact same words “So, how is this going to work?”  I tell them all the same thing – “I won’t know until I’m in it”.  You do what you have to do.

It seems as though everyone I know my age is dealing with the same issues that we are.  We are all caring for our aging parents in one way or another. I’m not sure most of them are living separate from their spouses for days at a time but our relationship is strong and we look at it as another thing to work through. I am fortunate that my father is pretty capable at this time.  His health has stabilized.  He’s pretty sharp as well.  Throwback Thursdays could take on a whole different tone with him telling me the stories behind the photos.

I think the loss of sleep comes when I wake up and start thinking about what I take with me and what I leave behind.  I look at it as leaving things behind because I will be leaving a large piece of my life in Enfield.  Don’t get me wrong, I will not miss Enfield for a minute.  I will miss my home, my bed, my furniture, my tchotche.  This is the part that has almost immobilized me.  I wander around the house at times and think “Should I take this?”  I packed a few things and brought them to Rowe at the beginning of the week.  When it came time to unpack the box I just wondered why I packed what I did.

My life has been so different in one place or the other.  I guess I didn’t realize how different each life was until I had to think about walking away from one.  I moved to Enfield when I married Bill. My kids were born and raised there.  They are grown and I went through the empty nest thing years ago but I will be leaving the Mom part of my life in Enfield – at least the biggest part. Not sure that makes sense – suffice it to say that this will probably be the biggest change I have ever made.

Time will tell.  I was horrified when my father was in rehab and then moved to assisted living.  I couldn’t imagine my health being bad enough for someone to move me away from a place I loved and had lived in for 50+ years without so much as a discussion.  I knew that if his health stabilized I would bring him back to Rowe.  He’s counting the days, for different reasons I’m sure.

I take comfort in the fact that I will be able to garden more, walk in the woods, sit and soak in the birdsong, play with Chester.  Compensation for being put into a somewhat difficult situation. I will also be able to see the sun rise from the same spot every single day.

Throwback Thursday

1937 Holland Pond (1)

This is my favorite photograph of all the ones I have from my father’s side of the family.  A few months ago I was thinking about our connection to water, swimming and boating and thought about this image.  I went looking for it in the place I last remembered it being located and it was missing ( along with a lot of other memorable photos).  I came across them a couple of days ago – woo hoo!

This image was taken on Holland Pond in MA around 1936.  I really don’t know any of the story around it.  Who’s boat was that?  How far away was the photographer (no long lenses then)?  Was this vacation?

My father has been filling in details as photographs have been coming out from family members recently.  He told me that every year his father had vacation in the first weeks of July because the mill shut down. This is when they went to Canada to visit family and took time to do vacation sorts of things.

My father looks like one happy kid in this photo.  I recognize that smile – our children were brought up on water and in boats.  They always had that same smile while they were on the water.

1937 Holland Pond

They also took the photos with each other.  Vacation photos.  Take my picture photos.  It’s nice to see that has happened for as long as there have been consumer cameras.  Now these common photos are family treasures.

1937 Holland Pond (2)

When I go through my archives and now with new images coming to light I know that this was probably my grandfather’s 1928 Chevrolet Coupe.  My father tells me about an accident they had with it in Canada.  It’s funny what he remembers (everything).

It’s funny how things repeat themselves over and over again, generation after generation.  My parents always took vacation the last week in June or the first week of July.  We always take ours around the first two weeks of July.  Maybe it’s a regional thing because of the weather but I’m willing to bet it has more to do with your upbringing.  Just as I’m willing to bet these take my picture moments are half done out of the notion that it’s what you’re supposed to do while you’re on vacation.