Monday, October 27, 2014

Someone's Home

I have to make rules for myself, like don’t pull over along the side of the road to take photographs unless there is a safe place to stop and park; and don’t enter abandoned buildings by myself.  Well, this morning I cheated a little bit.  I have been mildly obsessed with this abandoned farm house for nearly six years.  In summer it becomes overgrown and is lost from view and in winter it stands out among the dormant trees, blatant and bare.  In autumn, it begins to emerge, and this morning I saw it in full for the first time this season.  It is visible again. 


So just to be clear, there was a safe place to pull off the road, the vestiges of a driveway, and I did not actually go inside.  But I did approach it closely and walk around until my protective conscience overtook me once more.


As I approached the structure and began to see inside, which is completely exposed, doors and windows long disappeared; I realized that I had no expectations as to what its inner portion would reveal.  And even though I had not imagined this space, its decay took me by surprise. 




A decaying house was at one time someone’s home; it is in this that I am captivated.  Home, comfort, safety and success, hard work and rest; home is shelter.  A structure that marked achievement, now it marks things that are past, it has become a record rather than a respite. 



Intimate like a chair to the form of the body is the space of the home to our soul.



Akin to chairs, houses are my structural obsession.  Home is the container in which we live out our most private and intimate moments, and it holds the succession of regular moments that come together to form our private life experience.  The experience of home is the one most influential in our early lives, and the place that we long to establish as we grow.  As adults we make the transition from being inhabitants of a home into the proprietors of home; the makers of experience. 



And while home can mark triumph it can also mark tragedy.  A decaying home speaks to the loss that home can be, safety compromised, dreams disappointed. 



The exploration of something abandoned feeds the wanderlust in me and a desire to experience meaning in place.  When I look at this place I want to see its glory, I want to assume glory was once here.  And yet I don’t know.  So ultimately it leaves me to my own mind and my own questions.  It becomes an open book that invites new stories and a platform for new meaning. 

With gratitude,
Joanna



Friday, October 24, 2014

Door County's Washington Island {Favorite Finds Friday}



This week I have to interrupt my Friday series on the Driftless to share another favorite in Wisconsin.  Five years ago my husband and I fell in love with the Door Peninsula, Door County, Wisconsin.  It has become our family's summer vacation favorite, and it is truly one of my favorite places on earth.


The Door Peninsula is a narrow piece of land that jets from mainland Wisconsin into Lake Michigan.  On it's west the sheltered waters of Green Bay are separated from the vast expanse of Lake Michigan extending north and east of this modest shaft of land.


Door county has a strong agricultural history, still present, it provides a refreshing backdrop to a waterfront speckled with cozy towns, expansive views and stunning state parks.  


This summer we discovered a place new to us, and oh.....

Washington Island rests seven miles north of the Door Peninsula and is accessed only by ferry boat(and airplane).  It is truly the icing on the cake.


We first visited in July of this year.  In mid summer the weather was temperate and comfortable; the island lush and simple.  It has a decidedly rural feeling, complimented by thick woods and of course stunning waterfronts.  


The term 'island time' is not a quip here.  This place truly invites, and in a sense forces, one to slow down.  No reason to drive fast, there is not that far to go.  Walking and biking on the roads is common.  It is as if on any given day there is exactly the right number of things to see, and the perfect amount of time in which to see them.  There is not a feeling that you have to squeeze everything in, there is just the simple and pleasing experience of discovering what is around you. 


Last week we were privileged to spend another four days on the island.  This time we were met by a stunning autumn hue; red, orange, yellow, highlighted by lingering green and a fresh blue sky.   Each turn of highway 42 was a new invitation to splendor, splendor that ushered us up the peninsula in anticipation and delight. 


The final surge of anticipation comes when boarding the ferry boat at Northport Pier at the tip of the Door peninsula.  


The nearly half hour ride aboard the ferry is the final invitation to let go before reaching new ground.


On these shores there is relaxation, reflection, activity and quiet.  History, agriculture and art.  There is time to wander and sit.  Even with small children we were able to keep a slow pace. 

  
I am a lover of Wisconsin.  It has a rustic authenticity that resonates with my love of the land and journeying through it.  It has a topography that congers the one I grew up in.  There is something about it that satisfies my lust for nature.   


This place is a feast for the eyes and the soul.


Until next year, Washington Island, thank you for the discovery.



With gratitude,
Joanna

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Pause to Appreciate





Autumn, in many of its parts, is beyond bloom now.  And I notice myself feeling a sense of melancholy at the reality of its passing. 

I think a sense of longing is inherent in me; longing for transition – a desire for the mystery in anticipation.  

But the arrival of the season is like the answering of a question, and the mystery is solved.

The arrival begs contentment, presence, satisfaction; seeing more than looking, and pause.
  
A pause to appreciate more than anticipate.
 

With gratitude,
Joanna

Sunday, October 12, 2014

nature's gift


Inspiration is nature's gift, calling us to ourselves.

The sweet resonance of our soul's delight.

Know it by its sensation,  like a spark igniting, your heart expanding, a mother beckoning you home.


With gratitude,
Joanna

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Place to Sit


I have long been enamored by chairs; something about their formal intimacy, their potential for comfort, their infinite variety.  In art school I created a large body of work around chairs which included paintings, sculpture and the deconstruction and manipulation of functional chairs.  I still have one of those pieces hanging on the wall in my home.  Since that time I have continued to collect chairs, every place I have lived has been replete with places to sit.  My favorites come from a thrift store or other secondhand source. 
I am most attracted to chairs that show their age through the evidence of their use.  Worn seats and arms, tattered upholstery, chipping paint; they invite their own salvation. I love giving them another life.  Sometimes that life is merely in my imagination.  I currently have a collection of chairs in my workspace still lingering, still waiting for a clear purpose.  I move them around, stack them; sometimes I take one apart and play with its pieces.  I cannot pass up a worthy candidate; if feasible, it comes home with me. 



Chairs and other random opportunities to sit have also long attracted the lenses of my camera.  So when our photo walk in Stephanie Levy’s autumn session of her fabulous Creative Courageous Year e-course was introduced as chairs, well what more do I need to say…


The collection here is a combination of photographs taken during a day spent in Chicago last spring; a morning at the Autumn Pioneer Festival in Belvidere, Illinois two weekends ago; and images taken of the collection that has moved through my own home studio...because really when it comes to chairs, I just can't help myself.


I often find that as I photograph, my thoughts on what I am looking at begin to run away with me.  The chairs are rich fodder for me.  They have been with me for so long, always a step ahead. Beckoning, waiting to be collected in one form or another.  They have a physicality that I have long been attracted to, and in their reference to rest or pause, they represent a facet of the human experience.  And a personal experience that will forever color my refection upon them.

A chair is so formal, so structural, so intimate to the human form; a mimic of our need to rest.  Rest, always I think rest first; but it is not only rest they represent, they are work and travel and interrogation; they are nourishment and confinement.  It is the confinement of a seat that I have come to recognize more poignantly.  A place to sit, a location that requires you to give over to it, to relinquish your strength unto it; to trust it will support you.

Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, personal photograph

Little more than half-way through my pregnancy with my twins I was, upon the direction of my doctor, confined to sit.  They call it modified bed rest, modified because you can move beyond your bed to a chair, a seat.  You can walk, but not very much. 


For ten weeks I sat.  This was not restful.  When I left the house, which was not very often, I was in a wheelchair.  Never had I known walking was something I took for granted; and took for granted so deeply, I wasn’t even aware it was an ability I should appreciate.  Never had I known how strenuous sitting can be. 


For several months after the birth of my boys and my return to my feet, I took note of my upright movement.  Walking was something of a novelty.  I appreciated it.  It had meaning.  And sitting had new meaning too.  It was not something taken for granted, but not really something cherished.  It meant something beyond my control, something I had to heed.  Sitting had become protection, my return to walking freedom.  But I retained a fear of the potential in each.  I have a distinct memory of walking through a parking lot by myself for the first time.  It was in that moment that I learned of the power of appreciating my steps, in the impact my sitting had had. 


Nearly three years later, that memory still vibrates through me whenever it comes to mind.  Sitting and walking, they are now mutual parties to exhaustion and appreciation.  Stark reminders that nothing is to be taken for granted.   


Of course there is plenty I still take for granted, and movement more than stillness falls among them these busy days.  But, among the things I do not take for granted is the ability to move back into the world with creative intention.  A little bit of space and energy to move around in my creative mind, to accept its existence and appreciate its experience.



So I suppose I have found richness in the collision of my worlds.

The world of sitting in theory and reality; an object and its infinite variety and layers of meaning.  And variety is one of the things that attracted me first to this form; large, small, comfortable, weathered, gorgeous and merely functional, spindly yet strong and oh so familiar, oh so necessary as friend and foe. 


With gratitude,
Joanna