The Mundane and the Magical

Oops. More than two months have passed since I published my last post. I hesitate to characterize those months as "interesting." I've been mostly at home, cooking meals, watching Netflix and applying to jobs. But, there've been some brights spots.

Back in September, I visited New Hampshire for the first time to attend the my friend Laura's beautiful Sandy Island wedding. (I wrote about Laura's departure from DC -- and my subsequent devastation -- back in 2011.) I wasn't brave enough to swim in the cold waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, so I stuck to taking pictures.


I reunited with best friends, all of whom I met at Georgetown eight years ago and many who have now scattered to various parts of the country.

Last but not least, I snuck in a little family time.

Nothing quite matches the joy of gathering with friends and family. And nothing quite punches you in the gut like that gathering's end.

Back in St. Louis

Now, I'm living the life of a retiree, minus the life savings. I work sporadically, think too much about home decor and largely plan my schedule around my dog Spencer and his "needs." He needed an organic hemp collar since his nylon one gave him a neck rash. He needed a seat belt leash, because his enthusiasm for car rides is unnervingly boundless. And he needs to get in a good run at least once a day. On rainy days, this annoys me. But, it's ultimately good for him and for me and my mental health.

Most often, we play catch in the patch of grass and weeds across the way. Sometimes we attempt to go running. Spencer is most inspired, though, by Forest Park, particularly the soccer fields which -- at 11AM on a weekday -- are ideal for going nuts. He speeds and sprints, cutting left and right, occasionally joining a running group. He doesn't always come back immediately, but he always comes back.

On weekends, we try to step up our game with a doggie play date or a trip somewhere special. Last month we went to Laumeier Sculpture Park, a magical 105-acre park outside of St. Louis. If Missouri has one thing, it's space and I've been delighted since moving here to discover all the spaces here dedicated to art and weird stuff. There's a giant eyeball, a row of 55 steel marine buoys and a 65-foot red sculpture (seen right) made from salvaged steel oil tanks. Even Alex, not one to seek out art on her own volition, was wowed.

Me, Myself and I (and Spencer)

Working the night shift really prepared me for the isolation of moving to a new city where I hardly know anyone. I haven't met any friends yet, at least not the kind I can text or email to hang out. I joined a few MeetUp groups and sought out some local Pop Culture Happy Hour fans, but it's still coming along. I feel like I'm constantly selling myself -- to potential employers, to potential friends -- and exposing myself to repeated rejection. I will do whatever it takes to have both of these things, but that doesn't mean it's not exhausting.

In the absence of friends, I look to Spencer and my camera. Both are excuses to get out of the house and explore. A few weeks ago, I took some pictures of all the decaying properties I noticed near my apartment. I live in Central West End, largely thought of as one of St. Louis' "most successful" neighborhoods, but it still shows signs of the city's slowly recovering population shrinkage. The northern part of the neighborhood has a lot of unused and boarded up properties, including this basketball court.

I am by no means a good photographer -- I don't have professional editing software and therefore don't shoot in RAW--  but I'm learning. Photography has been an amazing distraction to focus on while the rest of life works itself out. I like the trial and error of it. I like that I can do it alone. And I like that there's infinite ways to improve over a lifetime. The St. Louis Photographers MeetUp group is absolutely incredible. I joined hoping to learn a thing or two and maybe make a few friends. Considering the majority of the group is over 50, the friend thing probably won't work out. But, I'm learning more about photography than I have since first getting my D-SLR, and I feel inspired to get out there and take more shots.

Speaking of which, Alex loves being photographed.

She may not be my most willing subject, but she is my most available. Here she's studying for a test while I play with my speedlight.

Alex puts up with a lot, and I know it. She let me rush into getting a dog, whose poop she picks up as often or more often than I do. She is the victim of my bedtime bully alter-ego, who steals blankets and pummels her with a flailing limb. And, most importantly, she is usually the only human I to talk to every day. I'm the first to admit that's a hefty weight to deal with. I try to make it up to her by streamlining her life as much as I can--  cooking, cleaning, laundry, the little things.

And it IS the little things that make me happy. When Alex likes something I cook, a nice walk, a song discovery, a good phone call or Gchat sesshion. Cliché, but what else is there? (Money, shhh.) Life is amazing, but it's also a slog. At times, I feel like I just graduated from college again, sweaty-palmed and desperate for a chance.

Hopefully I'll have good news regarding friends and a job in the near future. In the meantime, thank god for Alex. Thank god for Spencer. And thank god for old friends (far away as they may be), sisters, cooking, art, books, music, television, parks and bike rides. Without these, I might go crazy. For now, I'm staying sane.