Remic Rapids (Summer photo excursion #2)

So, there was no theme or unifying idea for this shoot, beyond the obvious subjects of the pictures themselves.

I love the freestanding structures at the rapids.  I have no idea how the artists put these together, I’m not sure I’d ever have that kind of patience.  Patience is not my strong suit, but I’m always working on it.  If I sit still too long, I usually just end up inside my own head, and while it’s a nice place to visit…

Shooting at the rapids, tonight, really helped keep me out of my head and really helped me to spend some time in a moment instead of looking at all the other moments going on or wondering what other people’s moments were like.  I guess there was a bit of a zen thing going on.

Usually, I enjoy the editing almost as much as I enjoy the shooting.  Not the case tonight.  The shooting far surpassed the editing this time.  The weather was perfect and the view was excellent.  That being said, I’ll come back to these pictures again and again and tweak and polish and see things from a different angle, so to speak, and edit some more.

I had fun.  Never underestimate the fun that you can have.  It’s never far away.

G.

(The musical accompaniment tonight was Matthew Good – Live at Massey Hall.)

Time and Space

It’s not always easy to grant people the time and space that they need.  It’s not always easy to take the time and space that we need.  It’s a tough one.  If you’re like me, and someone you care about needs time and space, you’re constantly reminded or seem to constantly think of reasons to encroach on that space;  one more thing to say, one more gesture to make, one more thing…  Certainly not out of a lack of respect for their request, it’s almost alway something that I think needs to be said or done, something that, to me anyways, seems important enough for that breach.  I do the same thing when I think I need time and space from something. I always seem to find a reason, valid or not, to head back in.  I have enormous difficulty disengaging from things that are important to me.  Taking time and space from something implies that you are going to return to it.  If I didn’t plan to return to it, then I’d simply walk away from it.  Of course, there’s always the fear that it won’t be there or won’t be the same when you get back.

All of this, didn’t occur to me tonight, but it did sort of gel together into a coherent thought (that remains to be seen.)  It’s been an incredibly difficult couple of months for me.  There was a huge change coming down the pipe, that terrified me, and then that change became a small change.  That made things better for a little while, but I got caught up in how it was still change and I don’t like that very much.  I have time and space, before that change takes affect, and it should be enough to bring things into perspective.  Here’s hoping anyways.

In an attempt to not only deal with recent changes, but to simply seek out the things that bring me joy and have helped my mental state, I picked up my camera again.  I headed out to this little island park on the Ottawa river.  I wanted to  get some shots of the water and rapids in the area, around dusk, using long exposure.  Basically, it really brought the Time and Space thing to mind for me – I’ve always looked at photos as a stolen moment in time.  I love those stolen moments so much.  Using long exposure, to me, is almost like drawing out that static moment in time.  Taking landscapes always brings to mind the open spaces.  It’s a bit literal, but there we have the elements of Time and Space that led me here, and also gave me a structure or theme to keep in mind while I was shooting.

The other thing that really crystallized for me while I shot, tonight, was that these photographs, these stolen moments are intensely fun.  I don’t know when I’ll do it again, but I know that there is so much fun to be had.  It’s possible that I don’t always make things fun, but I can and I’m always trying. 

Thanks for reading.

G.

Wait, I’m not done.  I have some music to thank.  I had a big old random playlist going during the shoot.  Being the emotional cat that I am, this often really adds something, for me, to the shoot.  The three stand out songs that came on during the shoot, and really, really added something were:

Come Back – Pearl Jam

You Are My Las Vegas – Red Wanting Blue

All Along the Watchtower – Dave Matthews Band Live @ Redrocks

Help – The Beatles

This is how it’s supposed to feel.

So, when I finished my door project, I felt like utter shit.  Nauseous and anxious and wrung out.  As I mentioned, I expected to feel amazing.  I know that I had nailed it and done exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted the volume turned up on the world.  I wanted that feeling and it didn’t happen.

It’s art show day.  It’s been a week or two since I finished the door and this evening it will be up on a gallery wall.  Well, that feeling showed up.

I’m almost overwhelmed by it.  The art looks great, people are going to see it and I get to stand next to it and claim responsibility for it.  The things and people that inspired the project are already in my heart and mind, and that’s only jacked up today.  I want to love everything.  I almost skipped as I was walking in to work.

I’m going to have to do this again some time.

G.

What am I going to do?

So, it’s been a couple weeks since I found out that I’d be moving to a new school in September.  It’s caused a sort of slow-burn devastation for me.  No, it’s not the end of the world, and yes I will get over it, but it feels like shit.

The school I’m at has been mine for a little more than two school years.  I love it here.  I feel like I kind of own it.  I refer to them as my kids and my teachers.  I’ve watched certain kids evolve in this span of time, changing before my eyes and it is joyous.  I’ve watched some of my teachers do the same, adapting to the environments in their classrooms, just like the kids.  I’ve come to see my job as supporting the kids through their year and also supporting the teachers through theirs.  I fucking love it.

There’s been a lot of up and down for me these past weeks.  I started off accepting the news and was just comfortable with knowing that I still had a job.  Since then, I’ve really started to see more and more things that I am going to miss.  I’m seeing all the stuff that might happen with certain people next year and have to accept that I won’t be there to hold their hands or help them up when they stumble.  Some days I can accept it, but on others, I want to scream and rage that this is being taken away from me.

I have always led with my heart in almost everything that I do.  That might actually come as a surprise to some, but my emotions are always very close to the surface.  Through my career I’ve become very good at keeping a lid on them and using them almost as a tool.  There are things that I have seen and been a part of that break my heart wide open, so learning to keep a healthy distance or at least the illusion of it has been a matter of survival.  This is the first time, in a very long time that this has failed me.  I am torn wide open and feeling raw.

Many of the people I have worked have asked, several times, “what are we going to do without you?”  I love being appreciated for what I do, and I feel overwhelmingly appreciated at my school.  And though I know it will all work out and no one’s world is coming to an end, the question is “What am I going to do without you?”

As the year runs it’s course I find myself, almost desperately, clinging to the new and important relationships I have, and at the same time, part of me is trying to mourn the loss of those relationships.  I want it all and I can’t have it.  I want to change the circumstances and I can’t.

“What am I going to do without you?”

Why do I feel this way?

This morning, I put the final coat of varnish on an art project I’ve been working on.  Quite literally as I finished the last brush stroke, I suddenly felt awful.  Kind of queasy and nervous and anxious.  In the past, whenever I’ve finished something, most often a photo shoot, everything lights up.  It feels like the volume is turned up on the world and everything sings.  It’s an amazing feeling and part of why I love to find those shots that I feel I captured the best way that I could.  I really expected to feel the same way about this project.  In fact, I’ve sort of had that volume up feeling throughout the process of completing the project.  It sucks, not only because I feel like shit, but because I’m so very proud of what I accomplished.

Postscript to why I hate field trips…

Part one and part two are here.

The next day, Penny was moved from our house to somewhere else.  Protective services felt that it was possible that the guys who were after her knew where she was and it was safest to move her.  I have to admit that I and my coworkers agreed.

Two days later I was attending a breakfast staff meeting for the other group home organization that I worked for (two part time jobs while still in college).  I was regaling them with the story of my terror.  Suddenly I hear my name called out across the restaurant.  I turned and there was Penny and her social worker having breakfast.  They waved me over.  As I approached, Penny jumped up and nearly broke my ribs with a hug.  Then her social worker, Mary did the same.  Mary said “Thank you so much for keeping her safe.”  All three of use teared up.  We chatted a little bit before I went back to my meeting. Then I found out more about the situation.

Penny had some sketchy friends.  The reason she’d not been allowed to use the phone was they were trying to keep her away from some of them.  There was this guy in particular.  Penny was convinced that he was a good friend and she had managed to call him and tell him we were going to the movies and that was why they showed up there.  Now, were they there to rescue her from the evil clutched of the group home?  Nope.  Her friend was using her as his “entrance fee” into a gang, lead by the Giant. The social worker told me that Penny would have become a commodity to be passed around and payed for.  Basically he wanted in to this gang and the price was one human life.

I’m really glad they didn’t take her and I’m really glad I’m still alive.

No.  I don’t like field trips.

Why I Hate Field Trips -or- The Scariest Thing That Ever Happened to Me (Part Two)

Part One is here.

“They’re trying to take her!”

Lisa had tears and snot running down her face and really looked terrified.  Mike actually went pale.  Before I could ask her who was trying to take who, Lisa yelled “She’s locked in the bathroom!” and then took off back the way she came.  Very much the last thing I expected to hear while out at the movies.  We didn’t run, but Mike and I walked pretty quickly to follow Lisa.

We were in the long, wide hallway, with three or four theatre doors on each side. The hallway was pretty empty, there were some people lingering a bit after their movies had let out.  About halfway down the hall, Lisa was kneeling in front of the door to a washroom, crying.  There were two young manager-type-guys in suits standing about twelve feet away from her, looking concerned but unsure what to do.  Lisa saw me approaching and called out “He’s coming, Geoff’s coming.”  Here’s what I noticed, but didn’t register until much later:  One of the manager guys began to move towards me.  Mike hustled over to Lisa.  A guy, a large guy was leaning against the wall across from the washroom; as I approached, he gave a little wave to another large guy who was standing much farther into the hallway.  Both the big guys were gone before I got to Lisa, Mike and Penny.  I really had noticed them, but nothing about them was important enough to intrude into my brain at that moment.  Something about them did cause me notice them though, I don’t think that I’d remember their presence there at all if it hadn’t.  Manager guy asked me if I was with the kids and I told him that I was.  I went to the door of the bathroom and asked Penny if she was ok.  She was crying but said that she was and several times told me not to leave.  I assured her that I wouldn’t go anywhere without her.  Manager guy proceeded to tell me, occasionally being interrupted by Lisa, that several men had entered the theatre, while the movie was playing, and began looking for someone.  Apparently one of them approached Lisa and Penny and then began to lead Penny out of the theatre.  Lisa added that he’d been Penny’s friend but then other guys showed up.  Manager guy said that he saw Penny talking to one man and that she got upset when she saw the other guys come towards them.  He hear Penny tell Lisa to “Get Geoff!” Lisa ran towards the lobby and Penny ran to the handicapped washroom and locked herself in.  That was when I remembered the two guys who’d been hanging around when I arrived.

Mike managed to calm Lisa down and Penny agreed to open the door once I explained that there was no one else there other than her friends, me and the managers.  Penny was white as a sheet and clearly terrified.  She cried softly and said she wanted to go home but was scared to leave.  I told her that there was an exit that led to the side of the  cinema and that I could pull my car up and we could leave that way, avoiding anyone who might be waiting out front.  The manager guys agreed to stay with Penny and Lisa while I did this.  Lisa joined Penny in the washroom and they locked the door again.  Mike and I went to the parking lot and got my car (an old ’91 Cavalier).

So Mike and I hopped into my car.  I have to say that Mike was being really awesome.  He was clearly freaked out a bit but stayed calm the whole time.  I pulled the car up to the stairs at the side door to the theatre.  One of the manager guys was there, holding the door open.  I waved to him and he went back in.  I left Mike in the car and went to the door.  Penny and Lisa were there when the door opened again.  I walked them quickly to the car and made sure they got in and settled.  Mike was in the front passenger seat and the girls in the back.  I got in and started the car.  At this point I remembered that I’d probably have to write something down about all this so I figured I’d need the names of the manager guys.  I’ll admit that I was pretty relaxed at this point.  The big guys weren’t around, and I had all three kids in my car.  After telling the kids what I was going to do, and that they needed to make sure they kept the doors locked, I hopped out of the car and went to get the names of the manager guys.

So, what had I done up to this point?

  • I’d made sure the kids in my care were accounted for and safe.
  • I’d calmed and reassured those same kids.
  • I spoken with the manager guys about what happened.
  • I made a plan to get out of there.

Here’s what I hadn’t done:

  • Called my supervisor for support or instructions.
  • CALLED THE POLICE.

That last one turned out to be kind of important.  As I turned from the manager guys, I noticed seven large guys walking towards my car.  Were they all actually large?  Yes.  Fucking huge.  My recollection may be coloured by terror, but seriously, fucking huge.  Not one of them looked happy.  They were farther from my car than I was, not by a lot though.  I moved to the car, without running.  Part of me thought that if I ran, that would up the ante somehow.  When the kids in the home were having trouble, you always tried to not show your fear and frustration, but remained calm and basically lead by example.  I figured this applied.

It was close.  I sat in the car and started it.  Got my belt on and put it into drive.  I reached out and started to pull the door closed.  Unfortunately, the door wouldn’t close.  This was because a giant had stepped up and was leaning against the inside of the door.  My first thought was that I had the car in drive and that a little tap on the gas would get us out of this.  My second thought was, that if I hit the gas, I probably kill the two men who were standing with their knees at my front bumper.  I didn’t think I was ready for vehicular killing just yet.  But as I said, it was close.

The girls were screaming.  Screaming and crying.  Mike was silently looking around the car, no colour left in his face.  I took a moment (one of those endless moments, like a slow motion pan around a scene in an action movie) to look out the other windows.  There were two guys at my rear bumper.  There was a guy at the rear passenger side door and another on the other side, plus the guy almost standing inside the car, next to me.  The giant leaded back against my door and rested a foot just inside the car, next to my seat.  He started telling Penny to get out of the car.  He was very calm about it, but he wasn’t asking and seemed to firmly believe that he was going to be obeyed.  The guy at the rear driver side door began to tap on the window with a ring on one of his fingers.  The girls were in an absolute panic.  Mike leaned back towards them and took their hands.  He told them that they’d be alright and just generally made soothing shhhh noises.  This kid, who could be one of the most obnoxious little fuckers I’d ever met, became my favourite person of all time (for like 3 seconds).  I started telling the giant that no one was going to get out of the car.  I told him that we were expected back and would be missed.  I alternated with trying to help Penny and Lisa calm down (they were really, really loud).  The giant, in no way, acknowledged my presence, initially.  I have no idea how long this went on.  It was probably no more than a minute, maybe two.  Honestly, in my heart, it feels like it was an hour or two.

I’m a pretty calm person.  That calm and an ability to deal with crisis were valuable in the group homes and were skills that got a lot of practice.  What else got practice was a particular tone of voice.  You bust it out when you need to be heard, but aren’t going to yell.  The taping on the window became banging.  The guy on the other side of the car also began to bang on the windows.  One of the two from the front of the car moved around to the passenger side of the car and started trying the doors.  The giant raised his voice and began demanding that Penny get out of the car.  I wasn’t feeling calm, but I was trying.  To the giant, I said “Look man, you need to calm down.”

For the first time, the giant seemed to be aware that I was there.  He leaned down and brought his face down into my line of sight.  He brought his hand a couple of inches from my face and pointed at me.  “You don’t tell me to fucking calm down.”  That one sentence was dripping with menace.  I was pretty sure that I was going to die.  That seemed to break his calm as well.  He thumped the roof of my car and began to yell at Penny to get out of the car.

One of the guys moved to the giant and seemed to be trying to get him to calm down a bit.  I heard the guy tell the giant that maybe now wasn’t the best time.  The giant pushed his ‘friend’ away and then stepped towards him and began to argue.  He yelled “She needs to get out of the fucking car now!”  This was when I noticed a couple things.  The first was that I still had the car in drive and the second was that the voice-of-reason guy was no longer in front of the car.  So, I hit the gas.

I promptly got lost in the parking lot.  Seriously, you know when you think you can get through part of a parking lot, but there’s no exit and you have to backup to pick a different route?  That.  The whole time, I was convinced that I was about to take part in a real life dukes of hazard car chase.  It was while I was trying desperately to get out of the parking lot, that the adrenaline wore off and the panic kinda set in.  My knees went to jello and I felt like I had pins and needles in my hands and feet.  I’m pretty sure that I nearly killed us several times.  So convinced was I that we would be followed, I took a really long and circuitous route back to the home.

By the time we got there, the kids were calm.  The other residents were already in bed, so I had them head up as well.  I went down to out little office.  My coworker, Steph and the house supervisor, Bill were chilling in there.  Bill asked why we had been gone so long.  I had to kneel on the floor.  I wanted to vomit.  I wanted to pass out.  I’d never felt so shaky before. Slowly I told them everything that had happened.  They were pretty good.  They listened without interrupting, through most of the story. When I was done, I kind of lay down on the floor.  After a couple of seconds of silence, and a couple of shared looks between them, Bill and Steph started to laugh.  They couldn’t stop.  I’m pretty sure that Bill had tears streaming down his face.  It was infectious.  I started to laugh and couldn’t stop either.

All in all, it could have been worse.  I got everyone home and no one got hurt or died.  But, fuck no, I don’t want to go on a field trip!

Why I Hate Field Trips -or- The Scariest Thing That Ever Happened to Me

I really do hate field trips.  As a kid I didn’t mind them at all.  Away from school for the day? Excellent.  In theory, as an adult working with kids, being away from school for the day should still be excellent.  I can see the benefit of these trips.  I can see why we plan them.  I totally agree with the awesomeness of a good field trip.  However, it’s only awesome if I’m not going on the field trip.  It’s visceral.  When a teacher asks me if I want to help out on a field trip, my immediate and vehement reply is “Fuck no.”  I kind of joke it off, saying that I just don’t want to be responsible for that many kids at once or saying that I get worried that people will think that they’re mine (judging me harshly for being a, clearly, shitty parent.)  Here’s the thing…  recently I remembered that there’s an actual reason why I hate field trips.  This brought up two questions.  One:  Really?  It’s not just a sort of jaded laziness on my part?  Two:  How in the holy fuck did I forget this?  Before I worked in a school, I worked in Child Protection.  Prior to that I worked in group homes for teens.  It was in the group homes that I developed my distaste for field trips.

The home I spent the most time at was a coed emergency home.  This meant that it was boys and girls living together in short term ‘stabilization’ placements.  We helped get them settled and used to the group home thing before they moved to long term homes or with family.  See the links in the previous paragraph for some idea of what went on at the houses.  We worked on a level system for privileges.  Level one, you were pretty much in your room.  Level five, you had a fair amount of freedom to do what you wanted.  With kids on levels 4 or 5 we would sometimes go on outings, on the weekends.  I almost never got the opportunity to take kids on these outings as the more senior staff would snap them up.  Well on this particular weekend, we discovered that I was the senior staff.  There 4 kids in the house that weekend.  One of them was grounded on level one and the other three had the levels for an outing.  Not only that but I had some petty cash.  The kids suggested a movie.  Who wouldn’t want to go to the movies while at work?

So, I took these three kids out to the movies. Two girls and one boy.  Let’s call them Mike, Lisa and Penny.  Here’s what I remember.  Mike was 15 and a bit of a redneck.  He always wore a tank top and loved WWF (WWE now).  Lisa was blonde.  I remember that she could be really loud sometimes and was not very bright.  Penny was 15.  She made sure that she looked older as much as she could.  She had a make-up obsession.  This manifested most as compulsive retouches to her lip liner (this was the early oughts).  She was also involved with some not-so-nice people.  These other people were part of why she was in the home.  We, at the group home, didn’t know much (or enough as it turned out) about this.  She wasn’t allowed to use the phone and wasn’t allowed to tell anyone where she was living.  She’d been with us at least a month before the outing.  In the time that she’d been with us, she’d been well behaved and made no attempts to contact anyone.

At the theatre, there was no agreeing on a movie.  Mike was adamant that he would not go see whatever girly movie the girl wanted to see.  So I, in my infinite wisdom, I figured the girls could go see their movie and Mike and I would go see ‘splosions and such.  Their movie was a tad longer than ours, so I figured this’d be good, as we’d be out first and find them easily.

I wish, I wish that I could remember what the movies were.  I really think that this would add something to the story.  But, alas, I cannot.  Mike and I were waiting at the front doors.  There were lots of people around, in the lobby.  After waiting for a few minutes, suddenly Lisa runs through the crowd, sobbing and hyperventilating.  “They’re trying take her!” she screamed.