photo by photo, retracing my steps

The Munson-Warnken family of Burlington prepares breakfast

If you ask me what I’ve been up to lately my mind goes blank.  I desperately grasp for a fresh, compelling story about a recent encounter I’ve had during my photo travels, but I often can’t recall one week from the next.  I’m too young for this, but my excuse?  I’m everywhere.  So, as my family does, so will I:  I read the paper to retrace my steps.  The Burlington Free Press has become my Where’s Waldo.  Here I am, there I was.

Flynn Theater Performing Arts in Burlington, Vt.

Randy Mulder removes the over 60-year-old seats from the Flynn Theater in Burlington on Monday June 11, 2012.

The Flynn is a beautiful, art deco performing arts center in the heart of Burlington, Vt.  I’ve seen shows there my entire life ranging from watching a friend perform in the Nutcracker, to famed French mime Marcel Marceau to dress rehearsals for the local Lyric Theater.  The theater is getting an upgrade:  new seats.  Gone are the days of the creaky interruption or too tight chair to comfortably settle in for a 90 minute show.

Johnson State College drama program

Sophomore Taylor Cammer reviews her lines before curtain call at Johnson State College’s production of “Spring Awakening” on Thursday April 19, 2012.

A day-long excursion to Johnson State College kept me busy covering the arts community in the small northern Vermont town.  The college brings life to an otherwise sleepy village in the form of artist studios, residences, performing arts centers, galleries, classes, public sculpture and of course…theater.  After popping into a college darkroom and inhaling the scent of a bygone method (at least for most daily photojournalists) I wandered over to a gallery to see what the upcoming student artists had produced.  Impressive.  I crouched down next to a student throwing pottery on the wheel.  Another moment to reminisce as that was the final college course I took to rid myself of those pesky elective credits.  I loved it.  And for a kid that can’t quite sit still, it kept me still as a stone for hours with intense focus.  And, I made some damn fine pottery to populate my bare cabinets as a certain boyfriend (now husband) and I moved in together for the first time.

Spiny Softshell Turtles are released into the wild

Julian Willauer-Chung of Wilmington, Delaware clutches onto his mother as they release some of the four dozen neonate spiny softshell turtles into the wild at North Hero State Park on Wednesday June 27, 2012.

I went to North Hero, Vermont to find Japan.  Not really, but as I browsed the collection of people releasing adorable Spiny Softshell turtles into the wild I knew I had to make a decision to follow one group to capture the fleeting action.  I met this group, half of which were visiting from Delaware, the other half from Japan.  Go figure.  No locals here to note in the caption but I loved that people from around the globe could happen upon a quiet, unpublicized environmental project and become a part of it.  The turtles were released into the wild after wintering at the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center in an effort to repopulate the important lake creatures.  They were so precious, like little dinosaurs.

Spiny softshell turtle in Vermont

Miro Weinberger and Paul Sisson at Burlington City Hall

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Thursday, alongside interim CAO Paul Sisson, that he decided against a property tax increase and that Ian Carleton is no longer his choice for city attorney.

Tense moment.  Newly elected Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger announced his pick for city attorney.  The selection was met with concern by the Burlington City Council.  The public and the council were turned off from the nominated attorney after he called for a salary boost, and some cried cronyism.  The new mayor was fresh on the job, only weeks into the new gig, and it seemed everyone was still testing the waters with him.  This photo captures the emotional moment when Weinberger announced that his friend, Ian Carleton, was no longer his choice for city attorney.  Standing there alongside the interim CAO, Weinberger faced an empty room save for the halo of media hanging on his every word.  It was a tense press conference and Weinberger’s disappointment was apparent, his frustrations clear.  Their expressions said everything that they may have been too polite and professional to say.

Brandon Vermont marathon runner

Nancy Leary stands with her husband, Jim, just days before running her first marathon, the Vermont City Marathon.  Nancy has used running as a means to cope with and overcome the loss of her daughter on Mother’s Day in 2009.

Incredible story, empowering moment.  Nancy Leary lost her daughter in a tragic accident on Mother’s Day in 2009.  She lost her focus, her drive, herself.  Nancy gained weight and felt out of control, until grabbing the reigns this year and using the Vermont City Marathon has her motivation to run and to heal.  I gave these two no direction.  We just walked together to a spot that they liked and when they turned around they did this.  This powerful, supportive and loving embrace with these expressions.  I asked them to express whatever expression they felt appropriate because instinctively they smiled once I raised the camera.  It didn’t feel appropriate for the mood or for the story.  We talked for a bit and during a brief pause this moment happened.  Done.  Nancy has such a beautifully fierce expression on her face while her husband exudes a genuine sense of pride.  They were perfect.

Backyard garden in Burlington Vermont

Jenniflower Laker points out artwork and mirrors hung on a garage to reflect the trees and add color to her backyard garden space in Burlington.

I love gardens, but Burlington gardens, especially, have a wonderfully chaotic sparkle.  Residents sneak flowers and edibles into unexpected nooks, crannies and collected items.  Broken mirrors enhance a garden’s depth, a faded baby doll leers at you from behind a fairy garden.  Jenniflower Laker gave me the full tour (it took 8 minutes) of her intimate backyard garden.  She pointed out her disinterest with weeding saying she prefers an untended, wild approach.  She lamented her failed experiments, but celebrated her small victories and invited me back should I need plants for my own garden in the future.  Very kind.  I love touring people’s gardens because I, myself, love to garden but have absolutely no knowledge of plants, their proper names or really how to properly care for them.  I have a haphazard approach, discovering the colors as they bloom and their need for water as they wilt.  Trial and error.  Because, like Jenniflower explained to me, when we live in such an organized, regimented and technologically driven world, we should let our gardens go.  Relax.  Agreed.

Free Press reporter Sally Pollak at Bristol Waterworks

Reporter Sally Pollak examines the seeds of a miterwort while walking through Bristol Waterworks with naturalist and literary professor John Elder and biologist Alicia Daniels on a recent afternoon.

Reporter Sally Pollak and I got lost in the woods.  Not literally, but our minds certainly did.  Never have I walked so slowly, so deliberately, through a nature walk gathering found items, blooms gone-by, or hints at a new wave of the season.  When I walk, I walk too fast, usually with my eyes locked on my frolicking dogs trusting that they won’t chase that squirrel or small child up ahead.  After five years back in Vermont I still haven’t shook my Boston shuffle.  Going, going, going.  Sally and I met up with biologist Alicia Daniel and retired literary professor John Elder for a nature walk through Bristol Waterworks all the while reciting Robert Frost poetry.  I was fascinated by Alicia and John’s fascination.  These two loved life, at its core, at its inception as they found it in the trees, tucked along the rocks and swimming in a spring pool.  Armed with Frost’s poetry, a pair of binoculars and a set of magnifying lenses, the four of us disappeared for four hours.  This never happens.  Never do I find a chunk of time to devote to one story, to truly engage and get lost within it.  I encourage you to watch the video I made HERE as well as Sally’s story.  Bumbling around the woods, John and Alicia displayed a true, true friendship bound by the very environment they stood in.  Fantastic.

Green Mountain Club Executive Director Will Wiquist

Will Wiquist, executive director of the Green Mountain Club, walks through a parcel in Bolton that will become part of the Long Trail.

We’re establishing a theme here.  Nature walks.  In Vermont, really any walk could be deemed a nature walk.  We live in a truly beautiful place.  This story was about an extension of that beauty.  The Green Mountain Club is finding a reroute for part of the Long Trail so hikers can avoid the current roadway walk.  This place felt like Ferngully.  So lush and green and recently soaked in rain, this parcel was a wonderful departure from nearby roads.  Reporter Candace Page and I strolled through this untouched, tucked-away piece of landscape to give readers the first view of their new route.  An enjoyable honor indeed.

Our Bodies, Our Selves authors

Vilunya Diskin (left) and Jane Pincus helped author the women’s health book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” 40 years ago.

Wonderful women.  These two influential figures stopped by the Free Press for a quick photo in-studio.  I knew their book, but I didn’t know them…yet.  What a force.  We had such an interesting conversation about women, about being women and most importantly, being a woman today.  These two were revolutionary thinkers, publishing the real, raw information about women’s health in their now 40-year-old book “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”  They opened up the discussion and fought for fair and equal treatment for women’s rights and health.  What they told me when we met was interesting.  They didn’t think we’d be having this discussion again.  They said they expected progress to keep moving forward, never backward.  With women’s healthcare at the forefront of national politics the discussion is back and these two aren’t giving up.  We fascinated each other.  I was intrigued to learn about an era that predates my existence as  they were interested to learn how young, modern women feel about our current standing.  The writer, Susan Green, joked that she was glad I was assigned to shoot the story rather than our other male photographers.  I laughed too, thinking about what Glenn’s contribution to the very estrogen-rich discussion may have been, but was glad just the same that I got to have a moment with two influential figures of our time.

Vermont Lake Monsters baseball in Burlington

Local Little League players gathered on Centennial Field to meet Champ and the Lake Monsters at Tuesday’s season opener on June 18, 2012.

After the Burlington Free Press launched its new redesign I knew I wanted to test the waters with a photo package.  I think I may continue this through the summer as I’m really interested in catching those hidden moments, those in-between occurrences that happen at a minor league ball field.  And the light, oh the late summer light that spills onto a baseball field is lovely.  But, for now, I’ll share these three photos from a recent double truck we ran about the boys of summer.  The Vermont Lake Monsters are an important institution to Burlington, but they faced a difficult future with a tired ballpark.  That has all changed, renovations are underway and the games are drawing crowds like they used to.  I remember seeing these guys play, back when they were a Montreal Expos affiliate, the Vermont Expos.  Champ the Lake Monster was always their mascot and the ballpark is much the same.  I remember eating Chessters ice cream cookie sandwiches, I remember the uncomfortable old wooden seats, I remember the sunburns and the announcers.  One time I got to ride with Champ on his ATV during his big entrance onto the field.  He drove while I tossed frisbees into the crowd.  I don’t remember how that happened but it was thrilling for an eight-year-old kid, much like it was for these kids (above) to make their entrance on the field on opening night.

Vermont Lake Monsters baseball in Burlington

Vermont Lake Monsters baseball in Burlington

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