A few weeks ago, I visited a tiny but beautiful exhibit of Uta Barth’s photography at the Art Institute. Uta, as I learned, is a homebody, and she’s fascinated by the panes of light that move across her house. She stays inside for long periods of time, painstakingly tracking the progress of light on film; it seems that her sense of time is just different from most other people’s. Below, you can see the kinds of subtle, lovely things that catch her eye.
Photos by Uta Barth
In shooting my first roll of film in four years, Uta Barth’s obsession with light served as my guiding inspiration. I pulled out my trusty Canon Rebel G whenever I noticed a flash of summer sun lolling around inside my house or just along its outside perimeter. Since light, it seems, reads especially well on film, I was especially grateful for Uta’s influence this week. A few shots from inside my little world:
An overgrown backyard as the sun sinks…
The salvaged piece of stained glass that hangs in the living room window…
The remaining half of a plum torte, lit by the morning sun…
And the light in the hallway, just as I left for work.
I bet you’ve got all kinds of sunlight lighting up your home, too. So this week, try to notice it, record it, swim in it. It’s never going to fall in exactly the same way again.
A few weeks ago, a storm blew through the North Shore—the kind of storm that makes you feel unsafe to be driving, because of all the hundred-year-old trees that have started falling into the road. My mom’s house lost power, as it is wont to do whenever the wind starts whipping. As the sun inched westward, its internal temperature climbed steadily toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a child of divorce, I will say that this was pretty much the first time that I was thankful to have two houses (although the double Christmas thing hadn’t been too awful). My father had recently moved to a new city (Washington, D.C., actually!); since his electricity remained uncompromised and the renters hadn’t quite taken over yet, I decided to move in temporarily. Everything necessary was there: an air mattress, Koko, my laptop paired with one perfect DVD—Ever After, obviously. Also, a bottle of bourbon. We camped out in the living room, right by the only window air conditioning unit that was left.
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I haven’t been writing for awhile, because to my mind, there hasn’t been much to write about. Here I am, back in that familiar land of childhood, and not much has changed about Wilmette—some shops close where new ones open, but the rhythms are always the same, and probably always will be.
But living at home after a period of independence is a slightly different animal than a pure regression to childhood. I live my life somewhere between the North Shore ‘burbs and downtown Chicago: I sleep on an air mattress in my old bedroom, but I earn my own salary (even if it’s smaller than I’d like). And, damnit, I make plans with my downtown friends to dine at Penny’s Noodles after work, because it keeps me sane. Once my roommate finds gainful employment too, we’ll join those city-dwelling friends. Till then, I’m finding ways to bridge the gap between my childhood and my future.
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As we roll through July, and the office empties out with coworkers gone fishin’, I’ve been forced to come to terms with a certain unfortunate fact: I’m not going on vacation this year.
Since I’m only three months into work with my new employer, I haven’t been gifted with any days off yet (I’ll have to wait for the six-month mark till that happens—and what a glorious day that will be!). It could be a whole lot worse, since I’ll end up with eighteen days of paid leave once the year is through—um, yes please? But as Tom Petty so eloquently put it: the waiting is the hardest part.
Weekend trips are out, too, as I recently passed my beloved old Bridget Honda on to a new owner. Again, no complaints: I’m elated that $4.50/gallon gasoline, car insurance premiums, and repair bills aren’t draining my bank account any longer. It means, however, that I won’t be leaving Chicagoland for a very long time, as enchanting a land as it may be.
When you have no time, no transportation, and no resources, you dream. So allow me to fantasize a bit about future vacation days, will you?
Photo via Kristina
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I haven’t seen Failure to Launch, but I’m going to hazard a guess about how the film portrays Matthew McConaughey, whose character is thirtysomething and still living with his parents. He’s probably unambitious, career-wise and otherwise. He’s probably not interested in carrying on a long-term relationship, or taking care of anything that requires caretaking. He probably plays a lot of video games—am I on the right track?
The fact is, there’s a lot of cultural baggage that comes with moving back in with your parents. (That movie I was just talking about? Look at its title: failure is the first word. Failure!) So when I moved back in with my mom two months ago, I was trying to resist ascribing the adjective to my own situation. I’ve successfully held a full-time job and become financially independent, but I still needed a temporary safety net after moving cross-country. So I stepped back through the doors of my old house, and tried not to wince while doing it.
But you know what? Even though I can’t wait till I get my own place in the city, it’s been really nice here. And I’m not ashamed to admit that.
My mom buys fresh flowers every week to brighten up our white kitchen table. She has coached me through job-search woes and general transition-related malaise, and then celebrated my recent job-search victory as if it were her own. She has oh-so-graciously let Koko into her home, despite a lifelong fear of cats. When she sensed that I couldn’t afford to go out during my spell of unemployment, she treated me to a day out in the city so I could feast on some iconic Chicago foods: Ann Sather cinnamon rolls, Polish sausages, slices of fruit pie from Hoosier Mama, and pierogi and cabbage soup in the Ukranian Village. At home, she makes a roast chicken every week for us to feast on. And she tells everyone she knows how excited she is that I’m here.
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