Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Reflections in Mud Puddles.

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I love sunny days and large blue skies. The brightness and optimism of the unblemished firmament that stretches from horizon to horizon, and takes me back to my Northwestern Ontario wonder years. No matter how bad things were on the ground I could always look up and see that immense sky, and get a glimpse of God’s miraculous hand at work. I remember it then, and still experience it now, the feeling of peace and comfort knowing that I am connected to something so big and so powerful and so utterly wonderful. What an awe-inspiring and breath-taking view.

But lately I’ve found a reason to like rain. Or more precisely, what remains after it rains. I’ve acquired an entirely new attitude towards the potholes that pepper the country road where I walk. For they are the conduit to the glorious mud puddle, my new favorite thing.

When I was a kid I liked to stomp through them in my black rubber boots. Or after a warm summer shower I loved to go barefoot and sink my toes into the soft buttery ooze. I used to ride recklessly through them on my bike. But as I grew older they became wretched annoyances to avoid. Little nuisances and painful reminders of the relentless rainfall on the West Coast from the beginning of November till the end of April. I’ve done my share of cursing after being splashed and sprayed by passing vehicles. And I am not amused by those who quip, “well at least we don’t have to shovel it.”

But about a month ago, as I was walking along the country road at lunch, I saw things quite differently. It was as though I was seeing a mud puddle for the very first time. Like I was wearing magic glasses. And instead of avoiding, I sought them out. What caused this sudden transformation of vision? Why did my perspective change? What captured my imagination?

It was one of those serendipitous happy accidents. It had been pouring miserably earlier in the day. By the time I headed out for my walk, the sun was grandstanding and showing off its brilliance. It aced the surface of the mud puddle at just the perfect angle for me to see. I mean really see something so ordinary but suddenly so utterly extraordinary. Something I’d seen a million times before. Yet at that precise moment it was as if for the very first time.

I saw a reflection. And it was a beautiful sight.

Tall and stately evergreens. Gnarled and naked Garry Oaks. Blades of grass blowing in the breeze. Cloud formations. The sun, a blinding orb overhead. Telephone poles with wires stretching like tightropes. Street signs and other directions from above.

In the past month, I have sought out muddle puddles. They have brought new meaning, joy and wonder to my lunchtime walk. I’m the crazy lady crouched on the ground snapping photos on my iPhone of these fascinating little pools of dirty water. The smallest one I’ve photographed was about six inches, the largest about six feet long. I feel like Alice in Through the Looking Glass peering into another world filled with magic and all things curious. Everything is distorted. Depth perception is challenged. Shallow one second. And bottomless the next: like I could easily fall in and be lost forever in the shimmering darkness. Seeing such gigantic things like trees and telephone poles reflected and held so spellbindingly inside something so small. The juxtaposition takes my breath away.

The most magical thing about the muddle puddles is this. Like snowflakes, no two are the same. And even the same puddle is different depending on the preciseness of my presence, the direction of the sun, how it skims the surface of the murky water, and of course the angle with which I peer into it. Standing. Crouching. On my knees. These all affect what I see.

As a writer I can usually find words to describe most things. But in this case, words are inadequate. In fact, they fail me. Hopefully the photographs don’t. I hope they have captured some of the miraculous that I have witnessed, the dirty beauty of the earth, the sky, the sun and the wind, and the surprising unpredictable moment of confluence of all perfect things.

Technical note from a completely non-technical person: all photos were taken with my iPhone 6 using the Instagram App, with the Nashville filter.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Photograph.

ma me dog on back steps at 204I love taking pictures. It’s just another one of those things that I come by honestly. I’m not a Pro, nor do I aspire to be. I just like to take pictures. Plain and simple.

My parents loved to photograph the sundry events of our domestic life. Both momentous and intimate alike. All the milestones were covered. So were the trivial, trifling and trumpery.

While browsing through our old family albums, it’s always photos of the small everyday things that captivate me the most. The prosaic and mundane events capture my imagination like no other. For it is in these ordinary images that I see the unguarded details and accidental gestures. They become the grand movements that spawn wonder, and where unexpected beauty dwells.

Everything from Ma in the kitchen stirring the Saturday night pot of spaghetti, with the food-worn wooden spoon that had grazed many lips and touched all of our tongues with its tanginess. Or The Old Man sitting in his favorite orange velvet swivel rocking chair, with his oversized horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, engrossed in the evening edition of the Times Chronicle. The exquisiteness of the waning summer light glinting through the living room picture window upon my unwitting father takes my breath away and stills my heart.

There were the bigger things too.

Like the photo taken of me on the Sunday I got Confirmed. There I stood in front of the Kodak Brownie camera looking more like a reluctant blushing bride than a religious devotee, who had just received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was the combination of my not-so-holy Mona Lisa smile, the newly sanctified white leatherette Bible that I was clenching so fiercely to my precious budding bosom, and the unfashionable translucent off-white organza dress Ma bought from a secondhand shop just for this pious rite of passage. In the same cream-colored album, just a few pages later, there shines the real bride photo of my luminous sister-in-law in her fairytale wedding gown looking beyond radiant on the day she married my big brother.

Then there’s all those birthday party photos of me surrounded by my little friends in our fancy dresses and Sunday-best shoes. Sitting cross-legged on the grass or standing side-by-side posing, smiling and squinting into the glaring midsummer sun. Ma really knew how to throw a good party.

The silly lighthearted things were captured too. Like the night my sister decided to pin curl both my brothers’ hair. All the crazy amusing family antics. Giggling. Hoot and hollering. Laughing our guts out. All there. Perfectly preserved.

Pictures were taken everywhere. From the bathroom to the beach. Around the kitchen table and all around Lake Superior. In front of the Christmas tree and behind the back porch. Sitting on the front steps, the front lawn, the front seat of the car, in front of the TV, and in front of God.

Ma, in particular, had an abiding love for capturing the events of our lives. She had a Polaroid camera that brought her endless hours of fun and fascination. Its ability to seize a fragment of time instantaneously was a marvel to her. Holding the print in her fingers as the picture appeared within seconds. Right before her eyes. Pure magic. A modern day miracle. A wonder of wonders. Oh how she loved it so. I feel the same way about the photos I take on my iPhone. Mind blowing amazement.

As a result of all this finger-snapping photo-taking, I have a glorious visual documentation of my life. One that covers the panorama of events and emotions. From the bitter to the sweet. Snared at the intersection where joy meets sorrow. Where the profound punches the profane. The everyday and the spectacular events in the life of a regular ordinary family. Nothing special. Yet remarkable.

I have looked at these photos hundreds of times over the years. More so lately as I record the stories of my life growing up at 204.

The cracked and tattered black and white images from the early days. The washed-out color photos from the seventies. The blush-inducing eighties pics. All the nineties farewell kisses. Ma and The Old Man both died in early 2001, and with them went all the interesting, eccentric, peculiar, wonderful, joyful, melancholy, and magnificent photo ops.

There is a photo that I looked at this morning, as if for the very first time, although I had seen it countless times over the years. One of the black and whites taken by The Old Man.

My recollection of 204 was of a lovingly well-kept freshly painted white wartime house, with an enviable vegetable garden in back and beds of sunny happy Marigolds under the front window, with a beautiful Lilac bush that bloomed every June.

But this picture told a completely different story.

Staring down at the image in my hand I thought, “Holy shit. Were we really that fucking poor?” And then, shaking my head in disbelief, I thought, “The place was a run-down beat-up crummy shack.”

But as quickly as these thoughts passed through my mind, I saw this treasure of a photograph through my father’s youthful eyes.

Everything he held dear in life was in that photo. Ma, his beautiful Italian girl looking so lovely in her flowing cotton skirt of flowers. His shy baby girl with curious dark eyes just for him. The sweet gentle caramel colored mutt, with her ears perked up and dialed to his whistle. And of course, the leather baseball glove on the bottom step, ready for a game of catch.

Not so shabby.