Category Archives: photography

Broken Places

View From A Scout #2

Somewhere in the middle of the country in 1977. Photo by Joe McBride

My earliest memories are of camping. Camping, as you may well know, is not really my cuppa. I think it skipped a generation as my oldest child enjoys it just fine. Camping is actually the only memory I have of my parents when they were still married that doesn’t include arguing. My dad loved to travel and he loved not spending a ton of money so, to him, camping made sense. I don’t think he went camping again after he married my stepmom and certainly not after he started having so many health issues but it was a large part of his young adult years.

My memories were of a different campground than the one pictured and we were there because my dad was working for a trophy company at the time and he was bringing the trophies for the BMX style races. I cannot tell you how surprised I am that I haven’t found pictures of that yet and I can’t help but wonder if those are maybe in my mother’s things in my grandmother’s house. Maybe someday I’ll find them. I remember that they were cool and fast and scary but not much else. I was too busy playing with the plastic squirrels in a fabric log.



A broken and abandoned house somewhere. Photo by Joe McBride

My dad loved history. He devoured every book he could get on Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin. He loved living out west with its pioneer spirit and history. We spent a lot of time in museums and gardens and going off in search of the history of places. Part of history is examining all we leave behind. In some ways, that’s what I’m doing with these posts, examining the history I didn’t know, didn’t see for myself. I’m learning a lot. I’m learning that I am maybe more like my dad than I knew. Broken places have always interested me too. I like to tell the story and he liked to capture the image of their brokenness. Two ways of finding reason and beauty where there is chaos and ruin.

There is great beauty to be found in the places we’ve left behind. Fading siding, jagged ridges of the glass that clings to its glazing in otherwise empty frames, and places where you can see the fingers of nature as it asserts its claim on the space. There is poetry everywhere. My dad was never one for written poetry, except cowboy poetry, but his poetry was visual. I wish I’d appreciated it sooner. I wish he had too for that matter. He just enjoyed taking pictures of the things that interested him and he was good at it. I don’t have a lot of pictures that my mom took but I’m finding a couple as I go through my dad’s slides. Someone had to take the pictures of the Scout as he maneuvered through the mud and, given the dates on the slides, that job belonged to my mom.¬† Bonus.


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2018 Is Just About Over

And I am so glad but it’s not quite done yet.¬†Before it does finish out, there’s still a few days and during those few days, Hunter’s Crossing, Christmas In Bear Ridge, and Eldercynne Rising are all currently on sale on Smashwords starting at $1.25. It’s the perfect time to give my books a try if you haven’t yet!

By the end of every year, I’m glad to see it go. Part of it is that I look at the new year like a great big shiny new notebook that still smells like clean paper. It’s clean and new and shiny and has all the potential to be the best one ever. Sometimes the previous year was just really that awful. It happens but not nearly as often as it seems in my end of year posts. This year maybe wasn’t as productive or successful a year as I’d like to see but a lot of that is my health – I’ve spent a chunk of the year struggling to type, I had a pretty big bump in my depression this year that I don’t think I’m really out of just yet actually, and I’m finding that the medication is working a bit less effectively lately so I’m hoping January brings some changes and some relief. It’s nowhere near as bad as it what but sometimes, at the end of the day, it’s all I can do to crawl into bed and even my very light down comforter is so heavy on my feet that I can’t find a comfortable place.

I did write two books this year – one of them being Christmas In Bear Ridge and the other I’m working on polishing up but I hope next year sees the sequel to Hunter’s Crossing coming out. I did start sending out poems and short stories again, which is nice. I had one big acceptance for a DnD expansion book that was a LOT of fun. I wrote some poems this year that I think are better than anything I’ve done in a long time and I should be hearing back on soon.

I lost my Cas this year and I miss him a lot but I’m comforted some that he came home to me to say goodbye instead of doing what cats tend to do. As sick as he was, he came home so I would know and so I could help him. That means more than I have words to explain.

My favorite thing this year was the look on my oldest child’s face when the tour guide opened up the very real secret passage in the House of Seven Gables. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone as excited as he was in that moment. He was a child again for that quick climb up and it was absolutely marvelous. It wasn’t a thing that could be bought or repeated but it was the most amazing moment.


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Filed under Books, goals, Health, photography, Writing

Camping in New England

Big Agnes Big House 6 Tent

The last few days, I’ve been away. I’ve been camping of all things. There’s a lot I want to unpack about that. Camping is not something I actively enjoy but it is something I will do if it means I get to see the ocean or go places that I love. It is one of the things my husband likes to do on purpose, just for camping. This year it was a bit different than it’s been in the past as there were more things to take into consideration, mostly my rheumatoid arthritis.

I struggle to get up off the floor so sleeping on the ground wasn’t really going to work for me which meant we had to get a cot. Getting a cot meant we needed a bigger tent. Thank goodness for REI’s garage sale! We got a great deal on the Big Agnes Big House 6 which fit the four of us with two cots (and two people over 6 foot tall) very comfortably. I slept in a sleeping bag, on a yoga mat, on a cot and when I had the right temperature bag, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t sleeping in my bed but it was definitely workable for a few nights.

The American side of Niagara Falls was interesting and beautiful and crowded. Our first campground was in New York. Mostly an RV park where people must come pretty regularly for the season. One RV was even getting a newspaper delivered if the post outside was any indication. It was really cute and well maintained though. After that, we headed off to Winter Island Park in Salem, Ma. If you’re reading this, I really need you to buy my books and have your friends do the same. I want to retire in Salem. Maybe open a bookstore or just write more books. I love it there. It feels like I could belong there. It’s marvelous up there. And I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly city in my life! There were bowls of water out on the sidewalks, every fourth person had a dog with them (and my oldest took pictures of ALL OF THEM).

Moray Eel at Boston Aquarium

We hopped down to Boston and did part of the Freedom Trail. I could not manage to do the whole thing. If you have mobility issues – do yourself a favor and get the trolley tour. Walking it is very hard and those cobbles are beautiful but hard on the feet and joints. We did the Aquarium first and then Faneuil Hall (both the market and the museum portion) before heading to the Old North Church. We finished off at the USS Constitution which was super neat. We had some great food – bacon wrapped scallops, fried calamari, crab cake BLTs (seriously!). We had some terrible coffee – instant Starbucks isn’t any better than regular Starbucks, somehow they make everything taste burnt to me! but the Alpine instant stuff from REI really wasn’t bad.

I bought less than I expected and certainly less of the sorts of things I expected. I did find a Funko Ludo and I love him so the marvelous husband bought him for me. And a silver raven skull necklace. I’m having a thing for corvids right now – especially ravens and crows. Perhaps I’m in transition, perhaps they’re being my muse. Whatever, it’s a thing in my life right now so it made it all the more special.

Winter island lighthouse

We also went through the House of Seven Gables. Let me tell you, there has never been a face so full of joy and wonder as my oldest son’s when they opened up that particular staircase. I live for moments like that. Oldest child had some preconceived notions of some things and was mostly using Fallout for his touchstone but it’s pretty interesting watching the kids learn stuff. The youngest child wasn’t really interested in that part but maybe someday he’ll figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to forget any time soon.

We drove through our old stomping grounds in part so the oldest boy could take a look at Wesleyan in Connecticut and in part because it’s quite the walk down memory lane for us. We even made it to our first apartment building. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the boy ended up in New England. It’d be a great excuse to visit.




Young Komodo Dragon at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland

Coming home, we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. It’s a really cute but very small zoo devoted to reptiles. They have two – TWO – young Komodo dragons which just so happen to be my husband’s favorite things ever. Pretty sure he feels about them the way I do about octopus and ravens. We had a good time until the birds (where my husband and oldest son proved that they might just be Disney Princesses). My youngest son is autistic and tends to be quite literal. People kept trying to hand him seed sticks to feed the birds and he’d get mad because he thought they were trying to feed him and he’s not a bird (he also doesn’t really like to touch animals that aren’t his critters so much). I’m used to explaining to him when he misunderstands. I’m used to explaining to other people when he misunderstands. I am not used to strange women grabbing me by the shoulders and explaining, very forcefully, that they understand. My brain completely blanked and all I could say was thank you. I appreciate the sentiment greatly (especially the day after) but really, I’m not a fan of people in my space bubble and I’m especially not happy when people are touching me. I don’t know how she wanted me to respond but I don’t think I did it right, I sort of fled. Ok, not sort of, I did flee. Youngest kid and I went out to the gift shop while the other two were playing with parakeets.

Winter Island Park

The most annoying part of the trip though is the fact that we did ALL that walking, none of the snacking, and I managed somehow to stay the exact same weight. That’s some real BS right there. Sure some of what we ate, especially on the way home, wasn’t maybe the best for weight loss but still, I really thought there’d be some drop. And I still have to do all the laundry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Autism, Fun, Interesting, kids, Life, marriage, Memories, Parenting, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Knowing Enough to Know I Don’t Know Enough

Flowers in the Woods (image: Sarah Wagner)


I posted before about getting back into photography as a way to get my artsy fix without making quite the mess I make doing other things – like painting or building strange things out of fabric, starch, plaster, and glue. Well, very quickly I discovered that film is going to be a LOT more expensive in the long run than is really worth it for me and I had a little money left over from my birthday. Bargain and thrift hunting is a thing I thoroughly enjoy and I managed to find a very old first generation dslr dirt cheap. I went Pentax because my best lenses all work with Pentax. Transitioning from a Pentax k1000 to a k100d is a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be. Figuring out the lighting has been the worst and I really think a lot of that is because I wasn’t the very best at lighting to start with. It also seems that I have been using one of my lenses wrong pretty much forever.

I know enough to play with it and enough to know what it is I need to get better at. And enough to know that I need to find an adapter to make my dad’s Nikon lenses fit this camera body and the right adapter to make my longer zoom fit this body as well.

All the Ferns but none were red. (image: Sarah Wagner)

I prefer subjects related to or at least in nature and my backyard is really pretty uninteresting so I convinced the husband and kids to go with me to the local state park to hike around and let me find interesting subjects. I was pretty worried about how the body would deal with that – I’ve been doing really well lately but I know when I come back from conventions, I’m all over achy and sore. You reach a point where, in weighing the options, the reward with worth the risk. In this case, the reward was practice and pretty ferns. I got to explain to my oldest all about fiddleheads. Only one tiny shoot was still curled that way in the plants that were close to us. Some were not yet fully unfurled but no longer in that small state.

My lovely Freds!

We only did one trail and I was disgustingly sweaty and dirty by the end of it but I didn’t fall, didn’t trip over anything, and the only thing really bothering me was my left foot which never stops hurting anyway. We’re coming up on the anniversary of the first big inflammation that brought about my diagnosis and yesterday was the most physical activity I’ve been able to do since then. Dirt is so much easier on all my joints than pavement! Next time we’ll try a different trail and hope for the same.

I’ll probably share more pictures as I learn more and get better. I can see in my head what I want to do with my camera but it’s going to be a while before that really works. I do need some kind of light (I have the built-in flash and a hotfoot flash but sometimes, I need a little more for the lens that doesn’t have an aperture ring) and a tripod as my hands are a bit on the shaky side but I really do enjoy the whole process. I did when I was a kid too. I guess I forgot over the years how much fun it could be to take pictures of places and things that aren’t people. Plus, I’m a lot more observant when I’m hunting for pictures than I am pretty much any other time.



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Filed under Fun, Life, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis