I love photographing new places and when I was in Philadelphia this summer I was able to convince Mary and Vinny to get up early on a Sunday morning for some cute shots down the equally cute Elfreth’s Alley in historic Philly. Mary and I met through mutual acquaintances in our professional fraternity and became friends only about a year ago but she’s someone I hope to have as a friend for life! This weekend was my first time meeting Vinny and I could quickly see why Mary loves him so much! While I’ve been to Philadelphia multiple times, I’ve never really explored the city outside of the same music and sports venues, so they toured us around all day on Saturday, somehow having enough energy to do these photos BEFORE coffee on Sunday! Elfreth’s Alley is the nation’s oldest residential street - yes people still live on it! - so we had to be mindful of shooting right on people’s front stoops. Enjoy these adorable photos - I still can’t get enough!
Well, I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog and it’s been a pretty different 4 months for me so let’s just jump right in. Actually, let’s backpedal to January briefly. No, farther back to October 2018. This was the moment, while hiking in Pennsylvania, that we decided that we were tired of waiting “for the right time” and were ready to move to Vermont. Obviously we didn’t pack up immediately and go, but it started us on the journey that has led us to today. The winter and spring were full of traveling and house work, among our daily jobs, to an exhausting level, leading me to the decision to quit my job in July. It was an excruciating decision because I loved my company and the people I worked with, but if we were serious about moving I needed the time to figure out that transition.
So that’s what I did! I was also able to have the time to go to Philadelphia for the Alpha Rho Chi strategic planning session, go down to Chincoteague Island for the Pony Swim, visit my parents for a week in Pittsburgh and go to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, see friends in DC, and start to really feel physically well again, having some time to breathe. It did seem like the process of moving was going nowhere, though. Job applications that went unanswered, house not selling. Through the process of my morning journaling I thought about that predicament of time versus money. There always seems to be one or the other. What I really needed to do was BE in Vermont to be able to meet people and make connections, but since I wasn’t working, how could I afford to do that? Then it came to me, from somewhere in the depths of my brain I remembered - WWOOFing. Where you trade your time and work for room and board on a farm. I signed up on a Thursday, reached out on Friday to several farms, and by Monday had a phone call with a farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and set a date to go. Two weeks later, in mid-August, I was driving north.
For three weeks I lived and worked on a homestead 30 minutes from the Canadian border, helping care for the goats and chickens, working in the garden and compost, and learning as much as I could about the land and the soil and various garden techniques and herbalism, while doing tons of baking and exploring the region. I jumped in glacial lakes, spring-fed ponds, and freezing cold brooks. I attended the 50th anniversary party of a commune and saw the famous Bread and Puppet Theater. I met more people in three weeks than I have on my own street in over 5 years.
When my time came to an end, I journeyed south, camping in a state forest where the rain pounded on my car all night, keeping me awake, hiking Camel’s Hump, and voyaging over to Burlington where I met some fellow landscape architects, hung out with my cousin and listened to her band, and dealt with a cracked car radiator prior to picking Todd up from New Hampshire then going to the Grand Point North Music Festival.
I was home for just two weeks before taking off on a roadtrip back to the northeast, including New York City, Long Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. Four states, three job interviews, one wedding, a bunch of cousins, new friends, old friends, trains, buses and ferries.
Now that I’m truly back again, I’m working on those next steps and trying to enjoy as much of Baltimore as I can. I doesn’t feel like it’s been nearly 4 months since I left my job; I’ve had so many experiences since then and photographing and freelance designing and planning for the next phase have kept me incredibly busy. My mentor gave me the task of writing down everything I have done in this time, and I am pretty amazed by all I have done. I’ve managed to complete a bunch of bucket list items too.
I’ve got a bunch of posts planned (since I’ve shirked blogging for many many months) and will reveal more of my future soon!
(Galleries groupings: July, August, September, October)
Do you have any events or places you’ve dreamed about your whole life? The Chincoteague Pony Swim on the Virginia shore was one of those for me. I started riding horses when I was 7 and have been obsessed with everything about them for the subsequent 25+ years. The Assateague Island beach on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is the only beach I’ve ever actually enjoyed - few people, more horses and mule deer and birds to observe. The Swim is on a Wednesday in July, and I’ve never planned enough in advance to be able to take time off work to go, so when I left my full time job in mid July I realized I definitely had the time to go this year.
The wild ponies of Assateague Island are pretty famous. There are other places along the east coast that has them as well, but this is the only place where the swim is done. Since they are not a native species to the island and there are no natural predators, the ecosystem can’t sustain huge numbers and too many would trample and eat all the vegetation, ultimately starving the ponies and destroying the fragile life of the barrier island. So every year, the Chincoteague Island Volunteer Fire Department rounds up the herd and brings them across from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island to check their health and auction off some of the foals to new homes. The event both helps maintain herd and island health as well as provides money to the CVFD. Starting over the weekend, the “Saltwater Cowboys” round up the herds, vet check them and corral them on the south end of the island. Any ponies that are too old, too young, pregnant or injured are trailered across and the rest partake in the famous swim.
I got to the park and ride on Chincoteague around 6 am Wednesday morning, staying overnight on the Eastern Shore instead of driving down from Baltimore, because I’m not crazy enough to wake up at 2am. The townspeople are accustomed to this event and were great at directing where to go. The bus dropped us off at the main park and from there I walked over to Pony Swim Lane, then waded into the marsh where the ponies come ashore. The marsh gets DEEP and my duck boots hardly helped after I sank several feet into the muck. I made friends with some fellow Marylanders as we waited nearly 4 hours for the ok. To make the swim as safe as possible, they wait for slack tide, the lowest point of the day, which on this day took awhile due to the wind. Finally just before 10am the flare went off and the ponies started their 4-minute journey. Like a thoroughbred race, it’s a quick event. They clambered to shore where they hung out for an hour or so to give them time to rest.
Once the crowd has thinned and the ponies are rested, the Saltwater Cowboys round them up again and take them on a short parade through the town from the beach to the corral at the fairgrounds, where they will stay for a few days during the auction.
It was amazing to see the tenacity of the ponies and the skill of the cowboys during this event. While they are used to seeing people, they are still wild animals. I definitely cried - being able to be a part of something I had dreamed about for so long.
This winter has been one of the busiest I have ever had. Usually winter is (or is supposed to be) a time of rest, of hibernation, of slowness, but 100% not the case this year. I wanted to blog twice a week this year and I haven’t posted anything in nearly 2 months. But I’m letting myself off the hook because I’ve been home 3 weekends and gone 5 since the start of February, so I think that definitely warrants a pass and a reminder that I can’t do everything. There’s a reason I was sick for 2 months, having run myself completely into the ground with no time to rest.
So instead of resting or sharing my writing or photography I traveled. First to State College then to Tallahassee, St Louis, Pittsburgh and Houston. State College was for hockey, and a visit with my family and our friend Tim, where Penn State decisively won over Minnesota, and then an early drive back to Baltimore for the Maker’s Market at Union Craft Brewing with Bam Co Create where Todd had his first craft show and I made friends photographing the other makers.
My first time visiting Tallahassee was for a workshop with the Alpha Rho Chi chapters at FAMU, where I spent a day with 2 other national representatives reviewing a variety of topics with the students there. We did the same thing the following weekend at Washington University in St Louis. I spend a lot of time in my role as Director of Finance communicating with students, but it’s less frequent that I see them in person, which is so much more fun and rewarding. The creativity and talent of these students blows my mind and makes me incredibly hopeful for the future, particularly of the design fields.
I stayed an extra day in St Louis to visit my friends Kim and Mark, who moved in the summer, and we attempted to fit ourselves down the insane multi-story slides at City Museum and visited the gorgeous Cathedral Basilica of St Louis. The following weekend completed my 4-weekend travel run with a trip to Pittsburgh to hang out with my parents and check off a bucket list item by seeing Phantom of the Opera which I’ve obviously been singing ever since. Of course, no visit to Pittsburgh is complete without going to the Strip District for coffee, tea and cheese, and was also able to catch an exhibit of early 20th century Paris street photography.
So I rolled into March trying to do too many things at once, still being sick, taking a large format photography class at MICA, preparing for the Alpha Rho Chi Convention in Houston, and a whole bunch of other things I can’t actually remember because I feel like I’ve barely paused to reflect. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here. I really try to avoid using the word busy, but that’s what it was. So busy that I felt guilty when I did stop and do fun things like go to a friend’s party, take a macrame class, see Walk the Moon, and photograph an artist friend. We’ve been trying to do work on our house, including replacing the shower and now fixing the leaking roof so it feels like I’m living in a construction zone most of the time.
The month mostly wrapped up with the fraternity Convention in Houston, which was one of the best I think I have been to yet. !t’s always an intense weekend, as one of the people who has to be “on” the entire time, answering questions and presenting and photographing, but it’s also when I get to see lots of old friends and make some new ones. I came home both over-stimulated and over-tired to a full week of work deadlines, but I’m nearing a break in the rush of it all….
So in this last mad week of March I’m getting ready to see a play with a friend tonight and rest and run errands this weekend. I finalized an essay for Quiet Writing which was published today - maybe the most honest things I’ve shared publicly - on moving from living half-heartedly to wholeheartedly. You can visit Terri’s site here if you’d like to take a read.
Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me over these past several months! I’m used to the idea that a bit of craziness is just my life, but looking forward to a bit more down time soon.
Photos (L-R, T-B): Walk the Moon; with Mom at Penn State hockey; Todd’s booth at Maker Market; wine time at Reagan National Airport; with the Seshait Chapter of Alpha Rho Chi at FAMU; with friends in Tallahassee; obligatory visit to the Gateway Arch in St Louis; Todd at work remodeling the bathroom; photographing an artist friend; my happy place - with my camera; with some of my favorite people at the Alpha Rho Chi convention in Houston; the old and new board members of Alpha Rho Chi
Two weeks ago I took my first trip to Dallas, Texas. I’ve been to Texas many times before - Houston, Austin, San Antonio - but not up to the place that perhaps coined the phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas.” It was…different. Everything really is bigger - roads, buildings, my anxiety…
The reason for my trip was for the biannual board meeting for the professional fraternity, Alpha Rho Chi, I am a member of and volunteer for. We rotate around the country for our meetings and this time went to Dallas where another one of our members lives. Dallas is far from my first choice of places to visit, but we don’t particularly choose our meeting locations for sightseeing, since it’s about business first and foremost, and most of the time is spent in a hotel room, making plans, reviewing policies and discussing goals. There was a high school music conference going on at the same time in our hotel and mid-day on Saturday we heard something in the atrium that made us pause our business and go investigate. On the third floor balcony, surrounding the interior of the hotel by 360 degrees, the student choir was singing hymns, their conductor on the ground floor, their voices echoing through the 12 stories, a perfect acoustical design, while guests came out of their rooms on all levels, memorized by their harmonies.
We finished out work in the early evening on Saturday, and heading downtown from Richardson, where we were staying, to see a bit of the cultural district in the West End. At Pioneer Plaza, my friend and fellow board member, Hao, graciously agreed to model some of Todd’s bow ties, so we had a mini photo shoot among the native grasses in the garden where great Yucca stabbed me in the legs and bronze Longhorn Cattle statues looked on. From there we wandered to the John F Kennedy Memorial - a monument that from a distance looks like a giant Lego block. Designed by architect Philip Johnson, it is described as “an open tomb, that symbolizes the freedom of John F. Kennedy’s spirit.” The closer I got to it, the more powerful the feeling it invoked. Inside, you are all at once surrounded and unbound, tethered to earth by the monumental concrete and connected to the heavens as you look skyward.
We admired the rest of the historic architecture of the area, including the Dallas County Tax Office and County Records Building and walked to the Grassy Knoll, the spot by Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was assassinated; a white “X” on Elm Street marks the spot.
After a dinner of homemade tacos and playing with a yellow lab named Marley, four of us headed to the Uptown district to go out (not just stay out) AFTER my bedtime to go dancing at the Round-Up Saloon. If you have never been to a country and western bar and dance hall, you need to stop what you are doing and find yourself one. I have never seen men dance so well in my life and I left determined to learn out to at least line dance and maybe two step a bit more. At some point in the last decade I lost a bit of self consciousness and stopped caring what others may or may not think about me and decided to dance because it makes me happy, talent be damned.
I’m not sure when or if I will go to Dallas again in the future, but I’m glad I got to see a few things while I was there. My next Texas trip is in less than 2 months, this time back to Houston. Onward!