I recently spent a week at my parents house in far northern Maine. They live on a lake. Even though we moved into their current house in my high school days, the lake is truly home to me.
This is their backyard.
Before buying their current house, my parents owned a small business made up of a bar, restaurant, convenience store, cabin rentals, and for a short time, video rentals on the lake. There were added duties of upkeep of a large wharf for many boats to dock, and grooming a twisty snowmobile trail leading back to the nearest of Maine's Interconnected Trail System - ITS#83. Ah, the heydays of Rainbow Cove...
Before my parents bought the Cove, we spent our summers at the lake, sleeping in the attic loft, playing in the water, and feeding the ducks. About the time my parents bought the Cove, my grandfather put a foundation under their camp, remodeled it, and they moved to the lake too. My whole childhood I enjoyed summer to the fullest at Madawaska
After my family moved to the lake, I got to also enjoy the winter's solitude, broken only by the roar of snowmobile engines! Good news for us. We enjoyed busy times in the summer, when the lake's summer residents would come by car, boat, 4 wheeler, mopeds, bicycles, sneakers to swell the usual number of local patrons. But our busiest season was snowmobile season. I can remember coming home in the evening and having to park very creatively because the proportionally huge driveway/parking lot was packed full of sleds. We used to count and keep track of the number of sleds in the driveway on the busiest nights from our apartment balcony above the business.
I learned to swim, fish, ride a bike, drive a boat, drive a standard shift (my dad wouldn't teach me on anything else!), make a pizza, work a cash register, order and stock inventory, and waitress (at Rainbow Cove - later a Chinese restaurant), water ski (not really, I got up once for 30 seconds, but enough to say I did), and kiss all at Madawaska
Lake. Our wedding was supposed to be at the lake, but a weeks worth of hard rain changed our location. We held the ceremony at a nearby church and returned to the lake for the reception. My brand new husband and I rode a pontoon boat across the lake from my grandparents' house (the original ceremony location) to arrive at the reception at my parents' from the water. Then I changed into a bikini for the rest of the day!
My life was centered around this lake for my formative years and I often feel more centered after visiting. Life slows down up there and you can't help but enjoy every day to the fullest - especially when you are doing nothing in particular.
Naturally, I want to share this special place with my son. It was great to watch him splash in the water with the son of one of my closest friends from back home. It was rejuvenating to have drinks with a girlfriend I haven't seen in over a decade. It was just comforting to run into people around town from my past. People who know who my parents are and care to ask about them. Not because my parents are anyone special - just neighbors in the expansive way that happens in Aroostook
County. Living in Portland, I find people generally friendly, but I don't know my next door neighbors' names. At the lake, a good number, in fact, most of the year round residents know me by name (unless they think I am my sister - an understandable error), and I haven't lived there since the 90s. It did both of us good to enjoy summer the way it was intended.
And I got some great photos. The wild beauty of the Maine woods and the agricultural scenes and the moose sightings inspire me to carry my camera EVERYWHERE when I am there.
But I left feeling really nostalgic. Rainbow Cove has burned down. My childhood home and high school workplace - gone. And the store/coffee shop/gas station/fishing tackle shop, where I used to pump air in my bicycle tires, get gas for $1 for my moped, and buy a pack of gum only to have the owner's mother offer to dust it off for me before adding the tax on paper and ringing in my purchase into an ancient manual cash register - complete with pull handle - was closed when Stan retired and then sold and the building demolished leaving behind another void.
And - my son won't have the same carefree summers at the lake as I did. We live six hours away. We will visit as much as possible, but it's not the same. We're near the beach and I won't complain about that, but your own home on the lake where your father played as a boy, that's special. Maybe week long or month long visits in the coming summers will give him his own experiences with barefoot days spent in swimsuits, alternating sunblock and fly dope. Experiences that I hope he will draw on to enrich his life and share with his future family.
What does all this have to do with photography? Well, maybe it's a stretch, but I often feel drawn to make nostalgic images of places and things that remind me of my childhood and of Aroostook
County. I think time slows down there, but you can see the passage of time more clearly. Old farm equipment quickly becomes obsolete with new machinery available. A way of living changes one tool at a time, until the past is forgotten. Scan your old family photos - but keep the old weathered prints too. Occasionally print your digital photos to put on your fridge. And photograph your older friends, neighbors, and family (with permission, of course) and ask them to tell you their stories. It is truly amazing the changes in lifestyle from generation to generation. My grandmothers' childhoods were drastically different than my own. It is important to remember simple pleasures and simple beauty.
Hokey post? I don't care. Feelings can generate introspection - especially on a long drive. Those thoughts often result in new ideas and concepts for capturing "on film" images that evoke emotion and provoke thought in the viewer. Creativity happens more organically and more authentically when it comes from emotions - positive and negative. For me, nostalgia is both. Happy sadness that the past is gone, coupled with cautious optimism for the future.
What feelings trigger your creative tendencies