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Posts Tagged ‘surprises’

Slow Walking, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, C-41 film, photo © 2007-2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Slow Walking, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, C-41 film, photo © 2007-2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In the spring of 2019, I signed up for Natalie’s online class Writing Down the Bones: Find Your Voice, Tell Your Story –– to remember who I am; to try to get back to a practice. It is slow. Liz encouraged me to take the film cameras out again. It reminds me of my roots. Photography is a practice to me. It is like breathing.

Liz returned from a photographic retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii in March. In late April, we walked the prairies and photographed the white willows at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Liz was shooting digital with the Fuji X100F and Sony A7 III. I grabbed the Minolta XD-11, the Canon Rebel EOS 2000, and a few rolls of film. A little rusty, I opened the back of the Canon Rebel to find undeveloped film inside. Whoops, light exposure! (The last time I developed found film, it turned out to be black and white Tri-X of my family from the 1990s.) I finished the rest of the roll and sent it off to be processed.

Now a photographer used to the instant gratification of an old iPhone 6s, I waited two weeks for the C-41 prints to be developed. The day they arrived, Liz and I ran out of National Camera Exchange and ripped opened the envelope in the front seat of her Subaru. There she was, Pedernal at Ghost Ranch. The way she looked over a decade ago at the four season retreat with Natalie.

Synchronicity.

I remember the group walking off to write haiku, swimming with koi in the pond, complaining about the heat. I remember falling behind and never catching up, walking alone by the cliffs and ridges, taking this photograph at Ghost Ranch. I think it’s a whiptail. Natalie would tell me I should know the names of the details around me. There was a photograph of her in the decade-old batch of C-41 prints that came back. She was walking down the road at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, headed back to her room after teaching. She glanced back at us; there was a smile on her face.

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2011-07-17 16.28.22 auto

Abe Lincoln’s Hand – 14/365, Archive 365, Fargo, North Dakota, July 2011, photo © 2011-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On a road trip to North Dakota, we stopped at Scheels, a family owned business that has been operating out of Fargo since 1928. It was a new experience for me, but not for Liz, a native North Dakotan. On the way in the door of the 196,000 square foot building on 45th Street, off of Interstate 94, I was immediately drawn to the bronze sculptures to the north. I had to sit down on the bench next to Abe Lincoln and read the note in his hand. It contained words from the last paragraph of his second inaugural address given on March 4, 1865 (read the whole speech in its entirety here):

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves and all nations.

Lincoln is a life-size bronze sculpted by native Nebraskan Mark Lundeen. He now lives in Colorado.
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ARCHIVE 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, July 15, 2012. Related to posts: In Search of Letters & Artifacts On Abraham Lincoln

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Happy Birthday, Mom, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday, Mom, Amelia & Jack in 1941, Georgia Memoir
Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.



It’s my mother’s birthday. She was born November 10th, 1937 in the eighth sign of the Zodiac, Scorpio. I miss her and have fond memories of jumping out of a giant cardboard box and surprising her last year (due to the generous and loving nature of my siblings, their spouses, and extended family).

I love this photograph of Mom and her brother, Jack. She is 4 years old. I have found that in many of the family photographs, she is often by Jack’s side. The handwriting on the back is probably my Grandmother Elise’s. I can’t be completely sure, but I think I recognize it from past letters.

To Grand Dad From Jack and Amelia
Jack is 5 and Amelia is 4

Cryptic words and numbers on the back of old photographs are as meaningful to me as the image. And I imagine a relative taking a few minutes to scribble down names, ages, places, dates, that in the future become invaluable to me in piecing together the past.

The year Amelia was born, the Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco and 200,000 pedestrians were the first to walk across it. In 1937, the first social security payments were issued by the U.S. Treasury, Wimbledon was first televised, and inventor Sylvan Goldman introduced the shopping cart. It was also the year the Zeppelin Hindenburg exploded at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the first animated feature film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood.



Happy Birthday, Mom, photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Happy Birthday, Mom, photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I have always loved the name Amelia. It reminds me of Amelia Earhart. I never thought to ask Mom if she was named after the famous aviator. Amelia Earhart’s plane disappeared on July 2nd, 1937 near Howland Island in the South Pacific. Mom was born 4 months later.

I feel fortunate to have spent time with my mother in Georgia the last few summers: visiting with relatives we hadn’t seen in 10, 20, 50 years, excavating family history, honoring the past. It made me even more aware that many of the details of our history will leave this Earth with her. I want to mine as many of her memories as I can; it has brought us closer.

So, Mom, thanks for putting up with my endless questions about the past. (Ask any of my friends, the questions never end! I guess I’m the curious type.) I’m sorry if my card is late (it takes 4 days to go by snail mail from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and I forgot the pick-up wasn’t until 1p.m.!) And thank you for all the support you have given me over the years, especially around my writing, always encouraging me to follow my dreams.

Happy 71st Birthday. I miss you today, and wish I lived closer to home and could take you out to dinner. I’m grateful for every moment together. And in the times when I can’t be near — I have my memories, enriched all the more by ones you have shared with me.



     To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  To Grand Dad - Amelia Is 4, back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

To Grand Dad (Amelia Is 4), handwriting on the back of a photograph of my mother, Georgia Memoir Series, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, November 10th, 2008, day of my mother’s birth (and also the birthday of Mr. StripeyPants who is 11 years old today!)

-related to post: November 5th, 2008 – ybonesy’s father is a Scorpio, too. And we were recently sharing with each other how much we enjoy being able to share old family photographs and history with each other on red Ravine.

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Cutting The Cake, Amelia's hands cutting the cake, the day she turns 70, Central Pennsylvania, photo by QuoinMonkey, November 2007, all rights reserved.

Cutting The Cake, Amelia’s hands cutting the cake on the day she turned 70, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m sitting in Amelia’s kitchen. The smell of homemade chicken and dumplings spins across the room. My brother and sister-in-law stopped over for breakfast. Amelia made Canadian bacon, grits with butter, crumbled bacon and sharp cheese bits, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, orange juice, and French Roast.

My sister-in-law had us in stitches over a story about a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We were cracking up over our second cup of coffee, and it reminded me of all the rambunctious activity, laughter, and fun that’s taken place in this kitchen. Mom has lived here over 40 years. I find it comforting that she has the same Ma Bell wall phone with same old-fashioned  “ring” and the same 20 foot coil of cord that extends all the way across the kitchen so she can chat while she cooks.

In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to be able to go home.  And for home to still be there. Home and hearth were so closely connected in Mom’s generation. And many generations before her. These days a family is lucky if even one parent can stay at home, much less the whole family sitting down to a home cooked, family meal around the kitchen table at the end of a long day.


Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mom turned 70 last Saturday. She’s seen a lot of change. The week before, my brother called with an idea to fly me home. My five siblings chipped in to buy a ticket from Minnesota to Pennsylvania so that I could surprise her. Everything went like clock-work, from pre-Holiday ticket prices, to flights, to coordinating busy schedules. It was meant to be.

It was so hard to stay at my brother’s for two days without calling Mom and spoiling the surprise! The first surprise was the party with my 4 brothers, 1 sister, and all of the extended family. I didn’t get to see this part, when she walked in with a huge smile on her face (I was hiding out in an appliance box!). She hugged everyone, my sister placed the tiara on her head, and she sat down to open presents. When my sister gave the verbal cue, “It’s too bad QuoinMonkey can’t be here.” Out I popped, arms spread, singing Happy Birthday off-key from a wrapped, bowed and ballooned, dishwasher box where I had been hiding the last 20 minutes.

Who's Inside The Box?, Mom's 70th Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey's nephew. All rights reserved. Mom burst into tears. I was soon to follow. I’d never seen her so surprised! (She’s very intuitive and we were rarely ever able to keep any secrets from her when we were growing up.) We exchanged a long hug. The whole family poured into the kitchen, and dove into all the homemade Southern food. There was banana pudding, pork barbecue, beef barbecue, hushpuppies, biscuits and sausage gravy, black-eyed peas and rice, sweet tea, lemon meringue pie, and a glorious birthday cake. (Hey, all family, please chime in in the Comments if I’m forgetting anything!)

Home and hearth. What matters to you? Each time I come back home, the grandkids, nieces, and nephews are taller, the parents and siblings are older. Health fluctuates, situations challenge and change. Home connects me to the past, and forges the future. It’s as if everything I ever did tumbles through a parallel universe. It’s good to spend time with my family.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

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