Strip Mall in the Fog


People walk by and drive by this spot every day. People look at these aging strip malls and want them replaced with something new and shiny. How far in the future do we have to be to look at what was new and shiny and want it gone because it makes us feel bad.  How far in the future do we have to be to see it as a piece of history?

How beautiful it can be in the fog at dawn.

I’ve worked hard to find interesting things in my town. I’ve gotten up too early or stayed out too late. But the more I shot, the more attached I become. The process of looking is sometimes the process of loving.

Night Reverie

Photography, The Artist's Journey

#conceptualphotography #townofajax #lakeontario #fog #mist #dreamscape #visualsoflife #artisoninstagram #lakeontario #rotarypark #canon6d #photography

I didn’t quite drop everything for the fog. Not quite. I thought I should finish this damned kitchen sink installation thing. I thought I should probably feed the kids. But the pull of the fog is a strong one. It’s hardly ever here and doesn’t last long and I’m no good at shooting it yet. And while I wouldn’t say I resented the interferences, I would say I was quietly aggravated. And when Sobeys didn’t have any more whole chickens left, damned if I was going to go grocery store hopping.

When I shoot, there is a high load of energy and anxiety in equal measure. There’s a freight train in my head and it leads me. I don’t feel the cold of my hands, the scrapes or bruises I collect, wet feet. Someone happens to me. Just one more. Just one more.

Then there is the anxiety of getting caught shooting someone’s home or a plaza security guard chasing me off, the boogey men in the night when I shoot at night (I shoot a lot at night), the jerk surprise blaring of a horn (why do people honk when they see me shooting, I don’t get it), the sudden appearance of pedestrians right behind me that I didn’t see coming. And this thing about getting back home. And taking up time. Damn, I forgot my phone! Shoot, it’s 3 in the morning already. I’m sure I’d shoot better if I was calmer.

But there is this other thing, this freight train inside, driving me, something amped up. Go. Go. It’s like increased awareness. Like heightened living. Along side of the anxiety there is this other thing. This excitement, this giddiness, this joy in the capture. And it always takes longer than I think it should and always longer thanI think it actually has. And I’m there. As present as could be. Just one more. Just one more.

It takes its toll, naturally.

After, I am completely exhausted. Physically and mentally. I don’t know what I’ve been doing with myself to be this tired. I wonder why I do it. I’m not sure why I like shooting then. Or if I actually do. Especially this night business. I like the light. I love the sun. Why do I do it? Some days I can’t even be bothered to really look at what I got beyond reviewing the images on the back of the camera. Getting the card out of the camera and putting it into the camera, starting the apps and all the seems like too big of a chore.

Later, when I have a quiet time to myself, or maybe as a treat to myself, I’ll look at the shots. This is a different thing. Like a secret thing. But calm. Measured. Like a sleuth. Sometimes, often times, there is at least one that demands my attention. It’s not always the one I think it’ll be. Sometimes it takes time to discover it. The onslaught of images to sift through sometimes causes me to overlook a diamond in the rough.

This is one of them. I remember this sequence of shots very well. The fog was starting to disappear but what was left of it was starting to settle as low lying mist. I was caught by the soften of the light. I had to get back home and I was in conflict. But I couldn’t let it go. I remember now why I shoot. I look at the disasters you’ll never see and think about what I can do better next time. I lovingly treat the images that I like even just a little. Little gems, little jewels, little gifts. Just one more. Just one more.

Moral Dilemmas and Transformation

Uncategorized, Writing

I found this new moral dilemma. I’m always finding them.

This idea of shooting the town to express a kind of passive discontent that I felt, this sort of suffocation with the mundane, with routine, the conformity, the ugliness, but not even in a glamorous rock star ugly way, of the big box store malls.

The problem I felt was that I was starting to get to know people in this community who love it here. People who have originated from different countries that actually chose Canada, chose the suburbs, who are happy and thriving.  These people actually love the suburbs.  In fact some of them like the town of Ajax more than other suburbs they’ve lived in.

I was starting to feel that I was doing my new-found community of people a disservice. How would it make the people I’ve grown to care about feel if I showed their beloved home in any kind of negative light?

Well, I still may explore that, but I felt challenged to look at things in a new way. Not in the way they looked at it, because I can’t see it from their perspective, I can only see it from mine. But I asked myself what that negativity was about.

Back when I was growing up the suburbs there was a kind of darkness that was hidden in the suburbs and it lived in my house. It involved looking the other way. It involved not making waves.


Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that doesn’t still exist.  But I caught myself living in the past with it – almost because it was easy. I knew how I felt. I know I didn’t want to show myself as being the kind of person who sold themselves out and retreated quietly to domesticity either.

But now I wondered if it was possible to show other people a town in a new light, in a way that I wouldn’t feel bad about. Why was I falling back on easy?

I’ve been shooting at night for a couple of years now, long before this most recent project. Night shooting is not something that comes from my past. It’s not something that comes from any idea of who I should be and what I should be doing. It truly is this fascination I have for exploring a hidden world.

And I think this hidden world was what I wanted to show people that live here. Your town is full of town artifacts we haven’t really looked at.

But I don’t seek to show you something that you’ve seen already. I wish to transform what you’re usually used to seeing into something new. Because that was the journey that I needed to take for myself.

In life we often get stuck in roots, we get rooted in the past and our past beliefs, we get attached to the idea of who we are and it prevents us from living in the present, from being present and seeing things new. We get stuck in our own perceptions and into the belief that how we perceive the world is not only correct but is the only way to see the world.

Creative Process Rumination

The Artist's Journey

I’d go out at night, sometimes around 9 or 10, sometimes much later. I put jazz on the car radio. From time to time I would dictate notes on my iPhone, capturing my thoughts and contemplations as I spent hours alone.  I fill a thermos mug with wine and walk around in the dark in the neighborhood. I’m always keyed up and anxious, but I also love being out in the dark and the excitement of it.

What started as being a simple exercise of photographing your neighborhood turned out to be more complex the more I focused on it. I found myself thinking about what my photographs meant. I found myself thinking about what it meant to live here. All those hours alone contemplating my life here, how I came to be here, why I hadn’t left.

I found myself I found myself contemplating my conflicted feelings about being here.  And yet they were a part of who I was in some way that had to do with me figure out who I was as a teenager. Here I am at middle-age knowing full well the kind person that I am and yet dragging the past with me.

Conflicted between trying to make this place more beautiful more special, and at the same time driven to capture the worst of it. Back-and-forth I would go. I discover things in the process of it. Seeing what I’ve been drawn to, I see I’m looking for the drama that maybe isn’t there, creating the drama that maybe isn’t there.

The Unquenchable Thirst


There comes a time in your life when you need to take stock of things. Are you really where you want to be? Is your life following a path closely matched to your values? Actually what are your values? Are they the same as they used to be? Are you doing what you have always wanted to do? Are you wanting? Are you listening to that little voice?

I’ve been stuck a long time. Or maybe I’ve always been. But it’s twisted into a kind of existential crisis in the last few years. I’ve started to know what I don’t want, but that isn’t the best way to define you’re life. I haven’t known how to define myself for people, and so I’ve just hidden away. There were all sorts of things I couldn’t talk about because I just sounded like a fraud (oh, you do that and that AND that?). I had this unquenchable thirst to do so many things, to learn so many things but no clear way forward down the single path that we are expected to find. What do you do, people wanted to know. Everything, nothing, I learned to say.

See, by saying I did this (whatever my current job or pre-occupation was) meant I would get to be known for that, and what about all the other stuff? What about when I get tired of the this or move on to the next thing? Who was I then?  I enjoy doing too many things and they don’t fit tidily under one umbrella. How do I market myself? This seems to be the thread that goes through everything. So instead of developing my personal brand, marketing myself for what I do, I hide. I avoid the questions. I change the subject. This is the dilemma of a multipotentialite.

In some ways it became worst when I discovered my kids were cognitively gifted. I started researching giftedness in hope to better understand the complicated life I have with my kids. In my travels I came across a blog by Paula Proper, Your Rainforest Mind. And suddenly I was no longer reading about my kids. I was reading about myself.  I don’t mean giftedness, either, I mean the state of being too much. Too intense, too interested, too emotional, too thinking, too analytical, too this, too that. Not enough and too much. And you know you’ve hit on something when tears that seem to come from an ancient long-buried place appear, and your pain is getting unearthed, and you’re like, holy f***, I can’t unsee this. There I was. Right there. And so were others.

And one night I thought about how my life was and I realized I had no purpose. Sure, I’m a mother and my kids need me, but what if I had never had kids? Surely I am more than a mother. I have nothing to give to others. Nothing I want to give. Nothing of value. Those were the thoughts of that night.

See, there is a kind of corruption that happens when we don’t follow our paths. It was not that I was interested in programming, learning french, writing, photography, building websites, dogs, designing, video editing, physics, social media, business strategy, soccer, how the brain works, cognitive therapy, positive psychology (oh, there’s more). But I thought it was.  How do you follow a path when you’ve got many? Just imagine what I could accomplish if I could commit to something! It was not that. 

It was this intellectual drifting. It was my being authentic in the wrong place. It was letting fear dictate. It was about mailing it in.

And this little whisper in my ear. Art. Oh little voice. What is even art?

I fought it for a million reasons. Because, how does art help anyone? (And I’m not saying you, dear artists of my tribe, I am saying me. And yes, I can pinpoint the experiences that lead to this belief, but you can psychoanalyze me later).


But it refused to leave me alone. This is your purpose, it said back then, it always has been and you’ve been denying it.

This deeply upsets me. It’s a pain that has to do with living, that had to do with life itself.  Like a sin against the self. Like I’ve been denying the very gift of life. We have a responsibility and a duty to make the most of this gift. And I’ve been squandering it.

I’ve been squandering it. 

The thing about business is that it’s all about the other people. What do they want and need? It’s easy to hide in the quest of pleasing others. The pursuit of art was too narcissistic. Too impractical. And too revealing!  And how are you going to make a living from that?

After a lot of heart searching and research I realized in art, what your tribe wants and needs is whatever your personal work and vision is. You can only go inwards for that. That is what they are looking for. That work helps certain others see the world differently.  It expands their world.

I haven’t been able to tell people what I really do because I was hiding who I am, what I feel, what I believe. 

My most authentic creative work and some of my best writing has been on two secret blogs. One blog was just to have a place in the world where, although in a fictionalized format, I could tell the real truth without fear. I had to answer to no one and no one knew who I was.  And people responded. But I didn’t think I should be “wasting time” (another theme in my life).

The other was for the special audience of one but over time grew into a larger audience and I felt myself hiding once again because I was developing relationships with those people and I lost the authenticity as my need to please them was too great and I felt I was becoming to known. Artist can’t please people with their art. They must make art that pleases themselves. 

I don’t know yet what my “niche” is. But this blog is about becoming unstuck. A kind of unravelling. A coming clean. Journeys of creative process. Of what it means to be alive.

And also, a search for my tribe. After reading Paula’s blog I’m coming to the conclusion I have one, and I just haven’t been looking. I think you, my fellow tribes people, are out there; fellow creators, fellow doubters, fellow thinkers, fellow multipotentialites, fellow hiders. You are out there.

I can’t predict where this blog will go. And I can certainly promise spelling mistakes. But what I can promise is that I’m aiming for something real. I offer you an intimate view into the mind of another.

Re-launching with a focus on the creative, process and life.