Film from the Past

As you may have guessed it, these photos aren’t “new.” It’s been a little while since I stood in the shadows of Mount Rainer, watched the sunset in Naples, or enjoyed the newest rotation at a brewery. However, this quarantine has allowed an ample amount of time for me to find more things to tidy within my 600 square foot apartment in Manhattan. This weekend, I decided to go through all the film I’ve developed since I moved to New York and annotate the back with memories.

I feared that going through these photos would make this quarantine harder. That I would miss the cross-country drives, being able to hug my loved ones, and spending my days off discovering new towns. I worried that seeing the forgotten memories immortalized would make the walls close in. Instead the opposite happened.

Yes, I am the woman who takes a disposable point and shoots on vacations. I typically receive the same, “I haven’t seen one of these in a long time,” comments when I pass my camera to a stranger on the street, but in this digital world, I like taking one photo of someone, something, somewhere and winding the film to the next shot. Sometimes I blow through a camera, and other times the camera spans multiple trips.

When you line up a shot, you never know if the lighting is just right, if the subject will be in focus, or if a stray finger will linger in the viewfinder. There is no instant satisfaction, but the film will always transport you back to happier times once it is developed. I had so much fun trying to remember when and where the photos were taken. In its own way, this film that I haven’t seen since it was developed, let me travel back to some of my favorite times.

Some of these photos have sat in a bin for the past three years, waiting for me to rediscover the memories. So, here’s to dusting off a few of my favorite memories, and sharing them here to make sure they don’t get lost in a bin again.

In case you missed it, I pretty much have stayed the same, but David’s hair and beard changes provide a little insight on when these were taken.

 

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Leavenworth, Washington

This travel post is going to be a little different than the ones I have posted in the past because Leavenworth wasn’t just a city I passed through, it was a moment of immortalization in my memories.

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Before last year, this town never existed on my travel bucket lists or must-see cities. It just sort of appeared on my radar and stumbled into my life, but now it holds so much of my heart and fond memories. Around this time last year, I was tucking into my thesis depression and searching far and wide for a location that made sense for my novel. Then the trifecta appeared — my love for small towns, random generators, and my boyfriend’s suggestions — that had me researching this town nestled into the Cascade Mountains that replicated Bavarian life in the Pacific Northwest.

I was getting stressed about the little nuances that came with naming characters and deciding their unbiased background that I was using a random name and school generators. Usually they would give 10 options at a time, so I always picked option five. I told myself I couldn’t write about a “David” or The University of Washington. I said I wasn’t going to write my book about a love interest because I thought it was cliché. Then option five was the “University of Washington” and trust me, I thought about lying and doing it again, but something was telling me to just look into it.

Then I started to research small towns in Washington. I had just come home from spending a week in Spokane, not a small town at all, and didn’t know where to look. I thought about Forks, WA, where Twilight was set, but then nothing about the town intrigued me except for the fact that they have vampire tours now. So no, I didn’t want a town clinging to its defined claim to fame necessarily; I wanted something whose charm influenced the way people perceived it. So I asked David.

He suggested I look into Leavenworth. I saw the way the European facades contrasted with the mountainscape and found what I loved so much about Europe in America. I was sold by that, but worried, who was it that live in this tourist-attraction, Disney like town? I was searching for places that weren’t shopping for replica old-time photo booths and every t-shirt variety possible with the same city, just written in different fonts. And then David found it, Mailbox Peak, the ending of my story lied in those peaks, so I knew it had to be in Leavenworth, but I needed to go to Leavenworth and see the town for myself.

I remember getting into the rental car and immediately thinking about how I wanted to document every feeling and thought I was experiencing, so I took photos to try and capture them all. I flip through them all and hear the way. Delicate plays through the speakers as Seattle’s cityscape appeared through the mist and clouds. There were videos about how the sleet splatted on the windshield as we started to drive into the mountains. Or when the sleet turned to massive flakes that coated everything around us until even the tire tread marks blended into the white wonderland around us.

Into town, you heard the laughter of children as they slide down the small hill in city-center. Some buildings had a Bavarian-style on the outside or a sasquatch mascot wearing lederhosen inside, but most had both. It’s a quaint town with charm, locally-owned businesses, and places to explore. But something I don’t know if I could ever clearly describe was the silence that came from the way the snow soundproofed the town. We were there in February when the activities surrounding Christmas had died down, and Spring Breakers weren’t ready to slide into their boots and traverse the slopes.

We came up to the creek, trudging through shin-high snowdrifts until the silence turned into a bubbling of icy water flowed in front of us. I could feel how my jeans were slowly absorbing the snow that clumped onto my legs, but I never wanted to leave. The snow just fell around us delicately, clinging and spotting our hair and furry hoods. IMG_0373.jpeg

We explored even more of the parks, where young adults made makeshift snowboard ramps out of ledges and stairways. We stopped to warm up at Hewett Brewing Beer and Pizza where serves up some spectacular varieties and piping hot pepperoni pizza. So many locals came in just for some crowlers (can growlers to go) and pizzas for the family.

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When we left the restaurant, we headed into the main square where a horse-drawn carriage contrasted against the Dodge pick-up trucks and Toyota Camrys. There were Christmas lights clinging to all of the trees, gazebo, and buildings.

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Then I went into one of my favorite stores, A book for All Seasons where hopefully one day they will stock my book! I hope to go back soon to give more advice-based feedback around the town, but until then, its 100% worth just walking around the snowy days or stopping in for Octoberfest during autumn.

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I Wrote a Novel

For my Master’s thesis, I undertook 280+ pages of pure emotion that bleed throughout my first completed fiction piece. I only needed to write a 20-page academic paper to get my degree, but my advisor encouraged me to write a novel because it is what I want to do in life. It was hard, but I did it

Entering February, I only had a 1/4 of my book done and I needed it completed before the end of March. In April, I found myself trying to edit my book, but there was so much more I neede to accomplish, including actually writing that 20-page academic paper.

Although the novel isn’t where I wish I would be, I would love to share my site, some samples of my book, and where you can find it as I start the process of publishing my work. I look forward to blogging more about my process and the steps that are to come in the

Book Synopsis

Elizabeth Calhoun fantasizes about her child’s future, while her daughter, Annabelle, fights for her life after a devastating accident. The traumatizing sight of her daughter in pain spurs Elizabeth to gather her thoughts into letters for Annabelle to read. For two years, Elizabeth fills the letters with stories and advice while imagining a world where her daughter opens them after turning eighteen.

What remains on the page is a mother looking back on vulnerable teenage years, misguided decisions, and serendipitous first loves, all while reexamining who she is as a person. The letters tether the mother and daughter together through a collection of memories that Elizabeth uses to uncover who she is through the words of wisdom she aims to pass along to her daughter.

To face the harrowing details of love, anger, grief, and relationships, Elizabeth must come to terms with her daughter’s altered life journey and meet her darkest temptations. Through the process of Elizabeth’s passage through madness, depression, and pain, this evolving stack of letters collect on her desk and become a refuge that both heals and terrifies a mother.

About the Novel

I conceived the idea of Open When, my first self published novel, while reflecting ways I have tried to help my friends and family through trying times. During my time spent writing, I traveled to Leavenworth, Washinton to experience life in such a unique city. From there the idea of having letter writing tether two lives together inspired the epistolary form of the letters. The entirety of the novel is narrated by Elizabeth, the mother, as she encounters advice that her daughter may need in the future while still maintaining the form we have all come to know within letter writing. The novel had its first reading on May 10th, 2019 during “XE Thesis Symposium” where I presented on the Explorations of Form.

Enchantment Park, Leavenworth, Washington when I was on-site for research 

Sample of the Book

Purchasing a Copy

Within the immediate future, I will revisit the manuscript, initially prepared for my graduate thesis, and prep it for literary agents to manifest it across bookshelves in the future as a way to inspire more to understand life’s most difficult times. In the meantime, Open When is available for purchase on Lulu Publishing.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Camping in the Shadows of Rainier

I lost cell phone service about an hour outside of Mount Rainier National Park. I was the navigator, so luckily Google Maps pinged my location somehow so we didn’t end up lost, but that meant nothing was distracting me from the road ahead.

We were driving from the West to the east; inland towards the coast. For hundreds of miles, all we saw were sprawling fields, deserts of mesas and rugged terrain up until we made our turn and headed straight into a deep forest––Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Elk stood and watched oncoming cars enter the national forest. Daylight forced its way through the cloud and tree cover above. I felt the air whip into the vehicle from the sunroof as the tips of the pines swayed and disappeared out of view. I was at peace looking around as the car wound around each hairpin turn and followed the potholed road.

There was a caravan of us, three cars in a line approaching Mount Rainier and the protected land that surrounded it. My eyes were peeled for more animals lurking between the fallen trees and thick brush. Only the occasional camper caught my attention. Off the highway, on the turn-offs, there were the random trucks, cars, and camper vans perched and overlooking a family nestled along the Nisqually River and listening to Berry and Big Creek bustle.

There were so many of them tucked into the cliff faces, starting campfires, and tiptoeing across fallen trunks like a tightrope walker in the circus that I expected all of us to stop and pick a place to set up camp. To me, and my experience with camping, this had to be what everyone was doing.

However, I learned there are campsites, and that doesn’t just mean the place we pick to set up our tent, but rather for Big Creek Campground was a little culdesac of others pitching tents so close that you can hear them chatting around their picnic bench as you are falling asleep.

A few weeks before booking this trip across the country, my partner let me know there was a plan to head out and camp with his family. I had met most of them last year in Germany, so I figured this must be a big deal since half of them were making the transatlantic flight to enjoy the summer on the Pacific.

“Camping” wasn’t something I had ever experienced. I had religiously watched “You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Camping Party” on VHS. I remembered how they hung the food in the tree so the bear wouldn’t get it, but other than that I severely lacked on what it meant to camp.

The anxiety that began to build made my stomach weak. On our drive, we first approached the cabins where everyone else would be sleeping. It was a quaint log cabin with a hearth and loft sleeping areas. There was a jacuzzi on the porch, running water, and a full kitchen—bigger than the one in our New York apartment might I add.

We arrived around 5:00pm, which meant as the sunlight was slipping away, we needed to make our way to the campsite to make building our home a lot easier. The three of us, myself, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend’s father set back off onto the road and followed the GPS to our campsite. We parked, surveyed the land, and got to work. There was a flat piece of land, a picnic table, and an ominous toilet paper roll hanging from a branch just off the path of our site.

They began pulling tents, sleeping pads and bags, and blankets from the trunk. It went fairly quickly, and I was helping, but in my mind, fearful thoughts were racing.

“Check for Ticks!”

“You didn’t bring any winter clothing? You know it’s going to be freezing!”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t be camping.”

The tent looked cozy when it was filled with blankets, but when I kneeled to place my borrowed hoodie, beanie, and gloves, I felt the forest floor directly beneath my knee and realized all the layers didn’t mean comfortable.

I started to set into a small panic attack. I needed to use the restroom, and I could feel the tears welling up from fear. I thought I looked like a prima donna. Like a snobby girl who had never camped and expected a tent big enough to fit my space heater, cloud mattress, and vanity set. But really this was just new, different than anything I had ever experienced. I felt exposed and overwhelmed and couldn’t control my emotions.

In the toilet, I cried. I felt misunderstood. I didn’t know how to vocalize that I was excited to try something new but also simultaneously terrified for no rational reason. When everything was set up, we headed back to the cabins to join the rest of the family for dinner and smores. Most everyone who planned on camping for one our two nights during the trip decided against it when they saw the look of the cabins. The general consensus was that they were “too old for it” or “it’s supposed to rain.” I was scared they knew something that I didn’t, that I was in for a bad experience, so I started to believe it.

I went inside myself, trying to hide, but also calm myself so I could function with everyone else. I was tired come 8:00pm. The sky was deepening, and I knew the father would want to head back to the camp. I think I realized then that I was feeling these strange tinges of feeling left out. I felt like we would miss out on something; maybe midnight boardgames or last-minute smores; perhaps even a shower at night, or having a light in the bathroom.

I went, I wanted to camp for at least one night. So before we left, we brushed our teeth with the cabin’s running water and changed into sweatpants. The headlights on the car illuminated out tents in the dark and the smoke rising from the campsite next to ours. My partner turned to me, “absolutely no food in the tent, Hannah, I mean it.” I knew he was cautious, but he also knew I had a stash of M&Ms in my seat pocket. I left everything because I had been listening to scary bear encounters on the drive up.

Our tent was unzipped as we said goodnight to his father. I shone my iPhone light onto the ground, so I knew where I was walking and unlaced my shoes outside the tent, so I didn’t track any dirt into the sleeping area. We zipped up and began to lay out the blankets over one another. There was only one sleeping bag for the both of us, so we unzipped it completely to lay on top of.

My partner held onto me tightly as there was nothing but stillness on the air surrounding us. Eventually, we heard his father’s snores, but other than that, there was nothing. It was quiet, and I was able to fall asleep quickly from my anxiety earlier, causing me to be exhausted.

I tossed and turned quite a bit from the cold. I burrowed myself into my partner’s body heat and tried to hogg the blankets. I woke up to the sound of a rooster calling and his father stirring. My neck ached, most likely from how I slept, but it meant I had a hard time looking at anything the next day; however, I survived.

I ended up camping the next night with no anxiety whatsoever. It reminded me of sleepovers with friends, and I was giddy to be cozying up to someone I love. After then, the rainstorms fell over mount Rainer, leaving our tents to drip from the roof. We spent the last two nights in the cabin, while the symphony of snores echoed from the three double beds and twin bedroom upstairs.

At times I missed the quiet. I look forward to camping again because next time it won’t ne something new. I will have already known what to expect, and know how to pack. I will be able to anticipate what we will need and what we can leave behind. A pillow, is 100% somethin gyou should splurge on if I were to give any advice on the topic.

Check out how we got to this point on my previous post about driving across the country!

Driving Across the Country

Yes, you read that correctly. Together, my partner and I voluntarily embarked on a cross-country road trip in a rental car from our apartment in New York City to Spokane, Washington; a 2,600-mile excursion.

Firstly, before I explain the adventure, we need to circle back to December 2018 which is when we first discovered the two of us were capable of one, driving a car since our relationship solely lived within the confines of a carless relationship in Manhattan, and two that we had previously completed a 21-hour drive within a 24-hour rental window.

See during Christmas, flights to Florida, let alone Naples, Florida, are outrageous. So, being the young adults we are, we felt it was worth saving 600 dollars if it means we could rent a car for 120 dollars and get there in a day.

As it was a success, we found ourselves planing for our Summer vacation. We were just in Washington the month prior, however, we were heading back for a family trip with my partners extended relatives. I was, and still, jobless, so finances were a bit tight, but something I really wanted to do was see my friends in Colorado.

It has been three years since I was back in Boulder, Colorado. I flew out for a majority of my friend’s graduation, but it felt like a lifetime had passed since I was living there amongst the foothills. Showing my partner, my home in Naples was priceless.

Side note: I don’t think he fully understands what it meant to take him to my favorite spots, show him my schools, and introduce him to my local friends. I felt in the past relationships I had, I had to plead to have my lovers visit and still I was left with heartache in the wake of my pleas, so it felt indescribable to have him by my side. 

To reiterate, I know this one is a keeper because last summer we went to Germany. And obviously, we know how to plan showstopper summer vacations, but I am honestly eternally grateful to have met someone that appreciated exploring new lands alongside my anxious, antsy, anal travel habits.

He was the one to suggest driving. This time around, it wasn’t any cheaper to drive vs. fly, but a stop in Colorado meant a lot more money. We were going to need a rental car there, so we were going to need to pay more on top of the cost of flying. Luckily we were able to break up the trip into digestible bites.


New York, NY to Chicago, IL: The Pricier Leg

My Brother graciously offered up his couch, as he has for the past four years at his apartment and allowed my gang of hooligan friends and partners crash at his place for every time I planned a trip to the area. We planned to leave at 10:00am, however, knowing it was a 13-hour drive, we decided to change the rental to 8:00am so we would make it in time to catch dinner and a drink with my brother.

It was the lesser of picturesque drives and had THE MOST tolls, one being 15 dollars, but it was the shortest days. We had all of our energy in front of us as we took to the open roads of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. We learned we have minimal interest in moving to a mid-western city, but can very easily find a way to pass the time with luxurious rest stops and car games.

Chicago, IL to Boulder, CO: The 24-hour Challenge

After an “active” evening in Wrigleyville, we stuck to our timing of leaving my brother’s place at 5:00am. The friend I was staying within Colorado just had a baby in April, so I wanted to be courteous to their fragile sleep-schedule, as well as catch them when they were all still awake since it had been so long since I had seen her last. We hit the open roads, and a few more tolls, and headed for the Rockies.

We were tired, I struggled to stay awake in the beginning and were struggling with the various on-ramp highway and frequent exits as we left Chicago––fighting to get across seven lanes of traffic was not something either of us wanted to do that early in the morning. But, luckily the sprawling fields of Iowa and Nebraska made for comfortable cruise controlled rides and afternoon naps. We were delayed for a bit in Nebraska when we hit bumper to bumper traffic, slowing us for an hour in the hottest stretch of land with rumbling tummies, but rolling into the mountains of Colorado, and arriving at my friend’s home with Indian food and a babies waiting for us made the difference.

Boulder, CO to Spokane, WA: The Scenic Route

Now, we both knew the fastest way to our destination would have been going from Illinois to Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, but because I wanted a day to catch up with some college besties, then we decided to make the trip a little longer to hit more scenic spots. We woke up earlier, again, to ensure we made it to Yellowstone during the daytime. Before we could leave Colorado, we had to stop at Santiago’s. If you haven’t been, you need to go. My favorite breakfast was their burrito, on bacon day, with half-n-half sauce; it’s not spicy and not too mild.

This leg was the longest, but also the one with all the firsts. This was my first time in Wyoming and Montana and my first time in Yellowstone National Park. It was so worth the four extra hours and 200 miles to drive through the park, and we left with a year pass for a chance to visit more in the country. Driving along the Grand Tetons, which are pictured above, was spectacular. I saw Old Faithful blow boiling water into the air and Bison graze on the grass outside my passenger side door.

We made it to northern Montana before midnight, which meant we had several hours to nap before our 8:00am deadline. It was the first time I had slept in a rest stop and boy was it cold in Montana at 3:00am, but I wouldn’t change seeing the sunset and sunrise over Montana’s Rockies.


By the end of the trip, we were sleep-deprived, stinky, and disoriented from time changes, but it was such a fantastic experience. I highly recommend grabbing a friend you can spend hours talking to without eating and embark on a trip around the US!  Take a look at the playlist we played on repeat and our mapped journey below.

 

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