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Phoebe is 22!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It's still one of my favorite photos of her, holding up a wild turkey's wing feather that she'd found. Why do I love it so much? Because she isn't asking whose feather it is. She already knows what bird it came from; you can see it in her eyes. Phoebe pays attention. 

She brought me a tiny white bug what had hitched a ride on her white shirt while she and Liam were picking blackberries. First, who sees a bug that tiny on a white background?

Who decides it's cool and brings it all the way to the house for Mom to flip out over? Phoebe does.

It's a nymph of an ambush bug, and it grabs small bees and flies with those mantislike front pincers. And I'd never have known it was out there without that girl. We will find more ambush bugs when the goldenrod comes into bloom, and we'll photograph them then. Goals!

This is a blessed summer, having both kids home, and I'm conscious of treasuring every moment with them. Phoebe and Liam are my twin flowers, my well-tended, well-fed, nicely branched plants, my pride and joy.

It's been a little strange to wave goodbye to them most mornings as they go off to work, but it's been nice, too, seeing them launch gently into the waters of serious employment, leaving me without a car all week. That part, I like. If I can't go anywhere, I have to paint! And paint I do!

Nobody dresses up scrubs like the Divine Miss P! And when they decide to really dress up, look out! For most of his childhood, Liam despaired of ever being taller than his sister. She had to kick off her wedges for the uneven grassy lawn at the wedding we attended recently, and you can see he achieved his dream and then some.

The wedding gave me the chance to observe my kids interacting with their cousins, big and small.   

Maddy is camera-shy, but Phoebe talked her through it. Talking about it afterward, Phoebe said ruefully that she thought that, in her younger cousins' view, she may have made the mysterious crossover from kid to adult. Well, she is turning 22!  She noticed that she had to work a little harder to get their confidence this time, having not seen them since Thanksgiving. But she's ready for the challenge, and she's happy to do whatever it takes to enter their world. I love that about her, too.

Not many 22-year-olds will get down on the grass on their stomachs in a white dress. Honey badger don't care. She's got the stain-removal chops to deal with the aftermath.


Little things I love about having Phoebe home: Hearing her sing as she completes her obsessively meticulous laundry rituals, with bedding and dainty underwear, socks and tops in perfect sequence, organized by color and category. She won't let me do her laundry; I might hang it up wrong. It might dry crooked.

I love seeing all the flowers I planted, over and over, finally come into bloom so she can make her luscious arrangements. I fought the chipmunks and rabbits so hard for every single zinnia, salvia, Coleus and Achimenes, and it's finally paying off as the plants get too big for the rabbits to nip off at ground level.

She makes these bouquets and leaves them where I'll find them. There's little I love more than seeing her spook around the yard cutting flowers. I don't have photos of that because, like her mother, she's rarely dressed appropriately when at home in summer. The joy of living without neighbors!

May 2017, arranging peonies with her tiny assistant.

We collect roadside bouquets, too, without ever picking them. Here's a perfect setup of chicory, Queen Anne's lace, and dock seedheads. Add an old barn and we're in heaven.

It's knowing that Phoebe loves everything about living in the country so completely; that she makes the effort to get out and soak it all up, that makes her such a joyful human being, such a joy to be around.  Don't miss the sign. Sign broken, message inside...

We go out in the evenings to see the sunset. Much depends on what the clouds are doing, whether we climb the tower to look at the show from above, or head out to the hayfield to soak up the light from below.

Phoebe always leads the charge, urging everyone to look at the light of this hour.

In addition to serious aesthetic appreciation, there is fooling around, jazz hands flying...

Big Phoebe, takin' charge. Liam, flyin' apart. Strange stuff happens when you move with the camera on Pano Mode.  We about kill ourselves laughing. You might want to click on this one to enlarge it.

Phoebe inspires me, moves me to greater heights of physical endeavor. Without seeing the glow on her when she came in from running as a freshman in high school, I might never have started punctuated loping myself. And now, she emboldens me to tackle the enormous Appalachian foothills and gravel roads on our bicycles, and I enjoy almost every minute. I went most of my life thinking that nobody could ride bikes in these monster hills. 

This one's so steep, and the gravel's so loose, we have to push our bikes up it for almost a mile. I'd be tempted to hate that part, but with my girl at my side, it's a party and a workout, too.  

Phoebe helps me see that you have to push up some hills to get to the joyride on the downside.  

You have to work to get to the light.

 To the cool green spaces that make your heart say ahhhh.

We chase the golden light of evening, whenever we get the chance. If Phoebe knows anything, she knows that you have to show up for the good stuff. This ride ended with a red fox bursting out of the roadside grasses and floating at incredible speed right in front of our bicycles, right by the Three Graces. And on last night's ride, a bobcat crossed in front of her. They tend not to do that when you're sitting on the couch at home.

Because surround sound will bring you into our world, I've got a one-minute clip of Vespers on Campbell Run, July 7, 2018.


I have another favorite photo of Phoebe, one that embodies her spirit. She's on a dock in Panama, drinking in the experience of being in a place that she loves, so far away from home, yet at home. She'll deploy that indomitable spirit as she wings away to the Canary Islands on a Fulbright fellowship this September. She's never taught school before, but she'll figure it out as she goes, and she'll use the Spanish she's polished for years to make her way in a whole new world. I can only sigh and look on in awe and anticipation at what this girl will accomplish.  Happy birthday, dear Phoebe, happy birthday to you!

Photo by Cayla Carson. Note she is holding the only peanut butter she deigns to eat: All Natural Schmuckers.

Behind the Vows

Sunday, July 8, 2018

I'm still swooning in the sultry heat and the soft hazy last of June light of my niece Claire's wedding to Cam.




I'm just going to lift this from Farm Forward, so you can ponder what's packed into this angelic creature. Brains and ethics and a keen sense of what's sustainable, sensible and kind.

With a background in food systems, public health, and environmental ethics, Claire directs Farm Forward’s outreach to institutions, food retailers, and food service companies to improve the welfare of farmed animals by aligning institutional food policies with consumers’ values. Prior to joining Farm Forward she managed the Food Systems Policy program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and was a U.S. Borlaug Fellow in Global Food Security. Claire has written extensively on issues related to animal agriculture, institutional food procurement, and labor in the food system. She earned her MSPH in Human Nutrition from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2014.

Sealing it with a kiss, or three.

Together, Cam and Claire are going places, on land or sea. Cam not only knows everything about sailing; he and Claire know about brewing too. Look for Forward, their artisan brewpub, coming in Eastport, MD; follow them on Instagram @forwardeastport 

I'm so proud of my niece, of my sister and brother-in-law for raising three amazing women, and I'm thrilled to have been there with Phoebe and Liam to witness this wedding.

After the ceremony, I was delighted to turn my lens on my grand-nieces and nephews. Kids love a wedding, especially one with plenty of room and soft grass to run around on. Here are BigBasket Flower Girl Cait, raven-haired Clara and her sister Maddy.

Oh look! My kids, with Max, Maddy and Clara! Later in the evening, when it was too dark to take pictures, Max tore up the dance floor with his Michael Jackson moves.

Needless to say, watching Liam and Phoebe interact with their cousins is always a delight.

Charlie tackles sweet Will, who fielded the roughhousing with good humor.

The kids helped fold up all the chairs, and Will and Charlie led the charge.

Sometimes it's bewildering to be so much smaller than everyone else.

Especially when your mom keeps slipping away from you! Ben, Cait's little brother, holds back a wail as he searches the scene for Christy, who's occupied with bridesmaidy duties. I'd like to raise a salute to Will and Tyler, for their long, good service as dads, doing their level best to keep young mothers Christy and Courtney free to enjoy their sister's wedding.

 I fell deeply into watching and photographing the kids. Kids, after all, are most of the reason for the binding legal agreement that underlies all the flowers and vows. They are why we promise to have and to hold, from this day forward, with all that "til death do us part" stuff that I find creepy, which Cam and Claire jettisoned altogether. Hear hear! It's hard enough to stand before 200 witnesses and promise the rest of your life to another person without bringing The Grim Reaper shuffling into the gathering.

Kids are worth all the plans and the machinations to keep two human beings together, for as long as it takes to launch them.

 Charlie may turn out to be the naturalist of the bunch. He's intensely interested in birds, herps, insects, fish...and his great aunt Jules is standing by to help.

A leg lifting contest.

Maddy, running. What's better than Maddy, running?

Answer: Clara, Cait and Maddy, running.

And cartwheels, with Cait in awe, and Amy studying a flower.

 As night fell, the girls got their dresses good and dirty making sand castles on the bank of the Severn River.

And as the sun set over lavender water, the two wedding photographers took Cam and Claire out to the end of a dock. The osprey nesting just off the dock was none too pleased, and she circled, complaining bitterly, as memories were made. 

I love this meta-shot of the process! Such a private, intimate moment...a ticked-off osprey flapping, creaking and chirping just overhead...hold that pose! So romantic. Such is one's wedding day--a mix of the sacred and mundane that still takes your breath clean away, and leaves you wondering what hit you.

I poached the poses at a great distance and a much less interesting angle with my 300 mm. telephoto. Here's what they were getting (again lifted from Instagram, with thanks to Jenn Manor Photography.

Photo by Jenn Manor Photography.
I would imagine that professional wedding photographers have a name for people like me, who imagine themselves photographers, but often wind up blocking your carefully set-up shots. I'd love to know that name. Tools? Goobers? Anyone?

I had a ton of fun being That Annoying Photographer, and I spent most of the next day selecting, cropping and editing the best photos for a decidedly nonprofessional wedding album for the newlyweds and my family.  I decided to share the love with you, too.

I hope you'll join me in wishing Cam and Claire best of luck in all their endeavors on land and sea.

 Crape myrtle snowfall. No rice was thrown at this wedding! Rice is food, and Zicks don't throw food.

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