Ramblings and Photography: Autumn in California

A two week holiday with my family in California was just what I needed after a long and tumultuous year of happenings and changes. Next time I won’t be away from the love of my life for this long (thankfully FaceTime exists), but all in all this holiday was seeped in love and happiness as the main reason for my trip over here was to see my brother marry the love of his life in a beautiful ceremony in the rose gardens in downtown Sacramento.

Two days after I arrived, the weather as warm as a summer day (minus the humidity) in NYC, I watched my little brother and his now wife vow to be together forever while putting the hand-picked rings they had chosen for each other on each other’s fingers. Even in late October the many rose bushes were still in bloom, and the lilac trees were full of pretty butterflies, the precious animal that is always so dear to my heart for so many reasons. Close family and friends of the couple were there with us, including some family from England that I hadn’t seen for years. There were lots of tears of happiness and sadness when thinking of those not able to join us in the celebrations (I am still going to blame the pregnancy hormones for the amount of times I have cried in the past few weeks though). Dylan is the first of us three siblings to get married and I am so happy to be there, and so happy that his unborn niece or nephew was able to somewhat participate in everything.

I have been very much more aware of the season change in California this time around, more than I have been in the past. Despite the warm weather the leaves on the trees are turning yellow and red and orange, and littering the lawns and the roads with their colours. The wind blows cooler and harder than it does normally, and the temperature has dropped from the summer temperatures that I felt on my first days here. It is still warm though, and not the freezing notes that NYC has dropped to during my time away. Ten days ago the sun was beating down on us as we walked around the pumpkin patch looking for witches and ghouls and random Chucky figures that were hiding out in the corn fields; yesterday while walking around a parking lot in downtown Sacramento that was decorated in Dia de los Muertos altars I had to wear a hoodie and grabbed a hot chocolate to warm up, waiting for darkness to roll in earlier due to the time change.

There are so many places in this area that I still haven’t seen, in all the years that my mother has lived here and all the times that I have visited. Mum and I went on a day trip to the Sacramento Delta, starting off at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksdale, driving along the Sacramento River, over some of the many bridges spanning one side to the other, right up to the semi ghost town of Isleton. We had a most delicious lunch in a small diner where a few locals lined the counter, watching television while eating their lunches, and then snapped images of the buildings that were once lived in and are now abandoned, waiting to be renovated or to fall down in disrepair. An old man in overalls stopped us on the street and told us to wait until nightfall so that we could see the bats swarm from one of the building…

That would have been pretty magical to see, but we had to move on, a few miles back down the road to another semi ghost town called Locke. A town that was built by Chinese immigrants and then abandoned when the work on the delta and bridges and railroads tapered off. More old houses, falling apart and left, waiting for someone to come back and lovingly restore them to their former glory. Houses filled with stories and memories and dreams and nightmares…

I always love to walk around Old Sacramento, no matter the weather or the season. The old wooden board sidewalks and the saloon buildings make me think of cowboys and whiskey and horses and gunfights and a world different from today’s. And then the juxtaposition of the old buildings and steam trains and steam boat on one side of the river and the glass and steel edifices on the other side. Old and new; now and then. One of the coolest costume shops I have ever been to, Evangeline’s, is in one of the old buildings and just strolling around made me think about all of the cool ways I will be able to dress my baby up for Halloween next year. This year’s Halloween was spent with good friends and their children, watching them trick or treat around the neighbourhood, laughing at their excitement every time they gathered some chocolate or candy to put in their bags. Next year I will be doing the same with my child, although I doubt he or she will remember her first Halloween for very long. It will all be for my own personal pleasure of dressing up my child like a little monster on a holiday that I really love.

And then yesterday, last but not least of the California adventures, I stopped downtown to see some of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations on J Street downtown. I love the tradition of setting up altars for departed loved ones, and there were many to look at. Lots of flowers, dressed up skeletons, pictures of people’s deceased family members and friends, sugar skulls, personal items and other memorabilia. I told my boyfriend that next year we will be making a similar altar, not just because I love the idea, but also because I think it’s important that he or she be imbued with her Mexican heritage, as well as his or her English and French heritage. It’s actually going to be loads of fun mixing everything up and celebrating all of the different holidays there are to celebrate. 

And now it will soon be time to head back to NYC, prepare for a cold winter and navigating said cold winter while heavily pregnant. I am determined to enjoy this winter and the upcoming holidays as much as I can in the city, as who knows where I will be next year? Maybe enjoying another autumn in California, close to my family… I do have to say, this time round, when I was flying in to San Francisco I felt my heart lift with the feeling that I was coming home. That is usually the feeling I get when I'm flying into New York...

In order to see the full set of photos from all of the adventures above click on the link HERE, or the link under the screenshots below.

California_Autumn_2013 (143)California_Autumn_2013 (45)California_Autumn_2013 (53)California_Autumn_2013 (46)California_Autumn_2013 (1)California_Autumn_2013 (79)
California_Autumn_2013 (49)California_Autumn_2013 (99)California_Autumn_2013 (22)California_Autumn_2013 (24)California_Autumn_2013 (118)California_Autumn_2013 (108)
California_Autumn_2013 (115)California_Autumn_2013 (137)California_Autumn_2013 (105)California_Autumn_2013 (71)California_Autumn_2013 (69)California_Autumn_2013 (117)
California_Autumn_2013 (32)California_Autumn_2013 (140)California_Autumn_2013 (139)California_Autumn_2013 (7)California_Autumn_2013 (29)California_Autumn_2013 (113)
California Autumn 2013, a set on Flickr.

Photography and Nostalgia: Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2004

Me, Grenoble 1998Auntie Dot in Melton 1994Zoe in Manton 1994Dylan in Loughborough 1994Koss and me, Oakham 1994Koss and Zoe, Oakham 1994
Zoe, Simon and Koss, Manton 1994My room, Sassenage 1994School courtyard, Grenoble 1994Rebecca, Champollion 1994Alice and me, Sassenage 1994Me and Karli, Sassenage 1994
Me, Grenoble 1995Worshipping the Docs, Grenoble 1995Rebecca, Grenoble 1995Cannibal, Pascal, me Grenoble 1995Andrew, Grenoble 1995Goth Jade, Grenoble 1995
Pascal, Grenoble 1995Shannon, Grenoble 1995Cannibal Corpse back patch, Grenoble 1995Spontaneous mosh pit, Grenoble 1995Karli in my Sepultura t-shirt, Grenoble 1995South of France, 1994
Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2005, a set on Flickr.

A few months ago I purchased an amazing little tool called the Wolverine Photo Scanner (see link below for more details if you are interested). The tool scans negatives and slides into .jpg format photos that you can then load onto your computer and post online. So for the past few months I have been scanning all of the negatives I have managed to save over the years and over the multiple moves from country to country and apartment to apartment. I finally finished uploading and labeling them all this week as I had a bit more downtime than usual, with it being Christmas and all.

The photos are a mix of moments in time, taken between 1993 and 2004, mainly of people and places in my life at the time. The amount of nostalgia felt while labeling all of the photos was intense, as there are moments that I had forgotten about, and moments that I will never forget as long as I live. Some people come and go over time, others remain around, however far away you may live from each other and however many months pass between conversations. The photos are all mixed up, as I didn’t have the heart to sort them by year, so you may find an image from 1994 in our old house in Sassenage, France right next to one of me and my volunteer friends in Kibbutz Evron in Israel in 2003. I feel as if this entire set is a snapshot of a decade and of the changes and non-changes that may have happened over those years. I thought about making a playlist to accompany the set, but it would have taken many hours and would have been too long to accomplish before the end of the year. Maybe a project for 2013?

Before I post an obligatory piece about 2012, I felt a real, old-school nostalgia piece was needed, not only because I feel that it helps me to collect all these images in one place, but also because a lot of my friends are probably going to appreciate seeing these, especially as at the time none of us had cell phones and cell phone cameras, and I was usually the only one who would take photos during our random nights and days out…

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them. Bob Dylan

From our house in Sassenage, through the apartment in Ile Verte, Grenoble right through to my first apartment alone with my best friend and roommate Maud, my home was always the main meet-up place and place to hang out for me and my friends over the years. Cooking up pots of pasta and sauce and smoking hash in the Ile Verte, listening to metal into the early hours before going out to explore the huge graveyard down the street; making mulled wine and listening to The Cure on vinyl at our place on the 5th floor at 5 Rue Crépu in Grenoble; standing on the balcony and belting out parts of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to our neighbours at 4am; playing tarot around the table talking about the world and how we could change it…

Walking through the streets of Grenoble with bottles of wine in our hands; sitting on the steps of the FNAC and the church waiting for something to happen. Trips up to the Bastille and nights spent drinking in bars until we were drunk enough to go dance in a club up in the mountains; Paris with Maud and dancing to Bauhaus in a basement bar; electro-goth nights in Grenoble and Lyon; Nick Cave in Lyon in 2001 and standing speechless in front of him, because what on earth can you say to someone you adore without sounding like an idiot? Months and months spent on a kibbutz in Israel, making new lifelong friends and drinking cheap Russian vodka, dancing on tables until 5am and getting up at 6am to go to work in the kitchen. Walks and naps on the beach in Nahariya; talks around bonfires and an 8 day trip around Egypt with $150 in my pocket. Visits to my family in Sacramento, California, meeting up with old high school friends and realizing that some things never change. Little Luna cat as a tiny kitten, still the same little Luna as she is today, 12 years older. Working in the pub in Empingham, England; hanging out in the graveyard and talking for hours; walking around Rutland Water and waiting for the next big thing to happen…

There are so many moments I could write about, so many moments I have already written about and made into chapters of a book that I may or may not finish one day, and I love having a visual reference to these moments in time and to the people I shared these moments with. There are about 400 photos in the set, and there are some people and photos missing because I somehow lost the negatives along the way, but the ones I chose and/or found really portray a great view of our lives at the time.

“Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart.” - Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Photograhy: California Garden

Yellow to RedYellow LilyWebVegetablesTomatoesSunlight on the Rose
SunflowersSquashSquash FlowerSoft LilySmiling FlowerRose and Bee
RedRed VelvetRed and YellowPurplePlumsPink Roses
Pink LilyOrangesOrange LilyOleanderHydrangeaHerbs
California Garden, a set on Flickr.

Back to colour today! My mother has an amazing ability to take any garden and turn it into a beautiful area full of colour and comfort. I first saw this new house in California when she moved back here about a year and a half ago, and it was pretty bare apart from the pool, some grassy areas, trees and oleander bushes. When I came back last July she had already done some work on it, but now, a year later, the place is looking stunning, all types of flowers everywhere and a huge vegetable garden in one section, with everything you really need to survive (beets, lettuce, carrots, zucchini/courgettes, radishes, artichokes, beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes etc etc). If you also include meat as a staple, there are a bunch of wild turkeys strolling around the place, and unless they get eaten by the coyotes they are fair game if you can catch them.
The garden is part English, part French, part American, part Secret Garden. Oh and did I mention that there is a little creek running alongside it and the property is surrounded by trees? Pretty paradisaical for a city property! I love coming here to relax and rest.

You can see more about the actual gardening process on my mum's blog HERE.

Photography: Sacramento Cemetery

Sac Cemetery 25Sac Cemetery 1Sac Cemetery 2Sac Cemetery 3Sac Cemetery 4Sac Cemetery 5
Sac Cemetery 6Sac Cemetery 7Sac Cemetery 8Sac Cemetery 9Sac Cemetery 10Sac Cemetery 11
Sac Cemetery 12Sac Cemetery 13Sac Cemetery 14Sac Cemetery 15Sac Cemetery 16Sac Cemetery 17
Sac Cemetery 18Sac Cemetery 19Sac Cemetery 20Sac Cemetery 21Sac Cemetery 22Sac Cemetery 23
Sacramento Cemetery, a set on Flickr.

I have always loved cemeteries. When I was a child in England we used to pretty much live in a cemetery, and that's where I would play with my sister every day. As a teen the village cemeteries used to be our meeting points, the places where we would hang out and smoke,watching the time go by until we could go and have a drink at the pub. In France we lived down the street from the large city cemetery and would go there at night to see if we were scared, and usually end up getting chased away by a guard (or what we imagined to be the guard). Apart from the beauty of many of the tombstones, there is also something so peaceful and restful about a cemetery, somewhere where you can hide from the bustle of the city and where time seems to stop for a while.
I love old cemeteries, where the dates go back to centuries gone by, where moss has grown over the gravestones, and where you can imagine stories of families long gone.

Yesterday I went down to the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, where the founders of the city as well as the first settlers are laid to rest, and also the governors of the state of California. There is something special about seeing beautiful, well-preserved old tombs amidst large California pine trees and palm trees. What caught my eye the most where the array of statues on the tombs, dotted all around the cemetery, warriors and weeping women, swords and cloaks, standing proud under the California sun. I've been working on getting that same over-exposed, black and white print look on my digital camera that is always much easier to get on my old manual SLR film camera, and it works especially well when the sun is so bright. Perfect for an old cemetery in my opinion, but I think for the rest of my stay here in California I will be going back to colour for a while - I want to make sure I get many shots of the contrasting dried-brown hills and the lush flowers of the oleanders that grow everywhere.