The Comfort of Rituals

I have a ritual. It’s a very sacred ritual and it takes place during the late summer of every year. Actually this year, it came early. However, that’s okay, because I needed something to cheer me up this week. The temperatures in Houston are in the triple digits and not going down any time soon. This is the worst part of summer. Don’t go outside without sunscreen and a hat. Better yet, don’t go outside. You will sweat.

As I have written before, I am a big fan of Halloween. I have been for years. If reincarnation is a fact, then I must have been a witch way back whenever. Did I get burned at the stake in Salem? It would explain so much. Even Hannah, my cat, is a fan of Halloween. She loves my witch hat and poses next to it every chance she gets. Why did I have my witch hat out last week? More on that later.

While I’m running chores and errands at various stores, I always stop and notice the first time I see any Halloween decorations. This year it happened late last week. It was at Michael’s. And of course whenever I see these first seasonal decorations, I have to buy something to add to my collection. Lucky for me, Michael’s was having a sale to clear out some of last year’s stock. Great! That meant that I could buy two new Halloween decorations for the price of one.

I picked up these two little items. One is a skeleton sitting in a meditative position. The other is a stack of books. I took them home and added to my ever increasing stock of Halloween decorations. Since I have so many, there are several items that stay out all year long. Think me weird? Again, just think of it as explaining so much. But the skeleton looks peaceful, doesn’t she? It reminds me to practice mindfulness meditations and keep a sense of humor about myself at the same time. And I like books. I don’t really read palms or tell fortunes, but I can make something up if you like!

I thought this trip to Michael’s was an unusual and fortunate find. Surely I wouldn’t find any other Halloween decorations about. This ritual of mine usually did not take place until September. Imagine my surprise when later the next day I walked out of Kroger’s and saw this pumpkin display! Maybe everyone else was agreeing with me. Late summer in Houston is too hot and let’s proceed as quickly as possible into fall and cool off.

Maybe we need Halloween, because it allows us to laugh at things that typically scare us. There has been a lot of scary stuff in the news lately. Let’s move to a place where the ghosts and goblins are imaginary and we can have some fun. Maybe Halloween is much more about healing from our fears than it is about scary movies.

But please, let’s not forget about the witches. Another fortunate incident happened this past weekend when I made another visit to Houston Tintype Studio and photographer Laura Burlton took this picture of me. Yes, I am ready for Halloween. I am ready for cooler weather. I am ready to relax and enjoy Halloween festivities. I am ready to start healing some of my fears. It’s less than three months away. I will start practicing now.

Until next week.….

Tintype Field Trip

Remember when you were a kid in school and went on field trips? Weren’t they exciting? As an adult I have perfected the art of the field trip.

Enter Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio.

Who is Laura Burlton? A very talented photographer here in the Houston area. She does all of your basic types of photography. However she also has developed crazy mad skills when it comes to Tintype Photography.

What you may ask is Tintype Photography? Think about all of the photos that were taken during the mid to late 1800’s. (Yes, including the Civil War.) A Google search told me that the photograph is made by “…creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated.….dark lacquer or enamel.….photographic emulsion.….”. Better yet, here are some examples of work by Laura Burlton.

For those of us who are not technologically inclined, this is a fun way to have your picture taken.

These are not your run‐of‐the‐mill digital photos. These are not selfies. The pictures are taken one at a time. With a camera. Not taken with a phone. There is skill and artistry involved in these pictures. To have my picture taken, I sat on a stool in front of the camera. I posed. Laura Burlton put a metal plate into the camera. There was a bright flash of light and a mild puff of warm air. Then Laura took the plate into her darkroom and re‐emerged with one photo.

The trickiest part of this whole process had nothing to do with the artist or the photography process. It had do to with me. For many years I have hated to have my picture taken. I have never liked any picture ever taken of me. Yet, I have recently undergone gastric sleeve surgery and have lost a bunch of weight. What the heck do I look like? Other people see a difference, but I don’t always feel any different. Pictures are good for comparisons.

Here is my favorite picture. Why yes, I am wearing a Bowler hat. Why? Does anyone need to give a serious answer when wearing a Bowler hat? Obviously, I am still exploring this surrealistic phase of life that I have entered. It’s fun. I really don’t understand why more people don’t wear Bowler hats. I’m pretty sure it would help lead to world peace if more people would just wear Bowler hats. What do you think?

I like the fact that these are black and white photos. Black and white photos are developed in a dark room. This involves time and patience. A dramatic play between light and dark and shadows that cannot be found in color digital pictures.

Here is another fun picture from the Tuesday field trip. I think this one makes me look mysterious. This is the one I should bring out at Halloween and use to scare small children. Boo! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would mess with this woman. Yes, I am still wearing the Bowler hat; however, I could throw this hat at you and it just might hurt you. Who knows? As always, I am really looking forward to Halloween. Here in Houston my favorite holiday is just one hurricane season away.

Many thanks to Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio for allowing me to have such a fun time Tuesday morning. Here is Laura talking to me from her dark room. This was towards the end of our session when all of the magic of the darkroom was finished. I can highly recommend this experience and will definitely go back myself for more fun and frolic.

Until next week.….