Mary Beth Writes

Len has been taking photos since he was a college newspaper reporter/photographer; (University of Chicago and University of Calgary). He has photos that he took from Willis (it was Sears then) Tower while it was under construction. Len had a journalist pass so he called to see if he could “do a story” and they didn’t ask if he was 20 yet, so he got the gig. When (if) he finds those photos, I will put some here.

As long as I have known him, Len has owned a camera. I think we are now on #3. He brought to our marriage the tripod that he still uses.

Living with Len in Chicago was my first opportunity to actually use a good camera. I spent a lot of afternoons in the winter of 1981 walking around my Logan Square neighborhood with that camera, taking hundreds of photos. I used B&W film because it was cheaper to buy and develop. I mostly took photos of lamp posts, bare trees, muddy, slushy streets, and parks. I spent an afternoon photographing the back stairs of apartments buildings reflected in the puddles in alleys, which was a weird thing to do even then. I never really figured out the technical side of photography, which is huge. But I needed the relief it was to get out of my head, to try to really see what there was to see. I liked figuring out the best way to position myself in order to frame whatever it was I wanted to focus on. I liked paying attention to where the light was coming from and what it was falling on. It distracted me from myself. 

Some people take no photos because the techy claptrap gets in the way of how they want to interface with the world. Some people take way too many pix; so anxious and greedy to “capture” a moment that they forget to be in it.

Some people confuse photographs with reality. Like, if there is a nice handsome photo of the family on the mantle, then that family must be nice and handsome and happy. Right? Or a great wedding photo album is the point of the wedding day. Or that I am actually a finer woman if you take my picture from above, so my chin swag doesn’t show.

Taking photographs or clicking pix on our phones can do two things that are the opposite of each other. It can help you really see what’s really outside of yourself. Or it can buffer you from the weird, sad, painful, exhausting moment you are in. 

I am thinking about photography today because last night Len forced me (hah, he asked if I was interested and I said yes) to accompany him to Retzer Nature Center at 5:15. There sky was clear, there was to be a new moon, and Retzer has a high hill, so Len wanted to photograph the moon rising. Len even brought his grandfather’s brass compass to ascertain exactly where the moon would first appear. He was wrong in his precise calculations. I was just hanging out shivering on that dark and freezing hill when I saw an orange glint finger-nailing over a hill to the left of where Len was watching. That was a funny moment.

Advent means “It’s coming.” I guess we had a moon-advent last night. We wanted to see something, we went looking for it, and there it was.

When the moon's in the sky like a big pizza pie, that's amore...


I took this photo with my phone this summer when a thunderstorm was coming.

“Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet.”
― Willa Cather

“There was nothing but land; not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.”
― Willa Cather, My Ántonia

Jennifer B. The zoo at dusk.

“Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream.”
― Euripides’

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Edward Abbey

Weijia pretending she is not sitting on the kitchen table.

“US president Donald Trump told a female reporter to keep her voice down and to ‘relax’ when she asked about what his administration had done to prepare for the coronavirus in February. CBS reporter Weijia Jiang asked Trump why he waited so long ‘to warn people the virus was spreading.”

“The fuck I was going to stand here and wait for my men to save the day.”
― Joely Sue Burkhart, Queen Takes Knights

Peg P. This photo is from Ludington, which means the rainbow’s end is in Wisconsin.

“Like; What is the least often heard sentence in the English language? That would be: Say, isn’t that the banjo player’s Porsche parked out front?” Jackson Brown

Yeah, the first thing that comes to mind is not to try too hard.” Leo Kottke

I’d love more photos, Friends. Go outside. Or stay inside. Look for where there is light.

If you need my email address, just ask in the comments – tell me your address (it’s hard to back track to it in mail chimp) and I will send you mine and I won’t post that info on the website. It will be our little link.






Thank you!!!!!!!

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Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.


Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

Advent Light Post 12/24/2020

Judy Saunders. Photo of a Rose.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As folks of old have sung.
It came a flower bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.


Len and I were delivering presents to Chicago yesterday. Social distancing, with masks, but we did it and we saw our kids’ faces and there’s your Christmas, Ma’am.

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