Sew Buttons on Your Underwear

Forty years ago I gave myself a quest: to photograph MY North Shore, the stretch from Flood Bay to Silver Cliff, or as locals called it then, Silver Creek Cliff. Because I had use of a darkroom, it was at first all done in black and white, or perhaps with some sepia toning, or duotone effect, or Sabattier effect. Flood Bay back then was not the mass of concrete and curbs and cables it is now. It was then as it is now one of the very few official state wayside rests. Despite that, back then it was just a gravel patch with some posts to keep people from driving into the lake, which every so often people still managed to do. Locals routinely hauled away lake stone and gravel for their use, which left no dent on the amount on the shore. Also, then there was no monstrous resort along the shore. And Silver Cliff was a road, not a tunnel. The pictures I framed in simple shadow boxes without glass. I hung them on our knotty pine living room wall. (More about that later.)

The winnowing process of history to our benefit has eliminated most of the pictures. A few exist in my computer, taken from the negatives. My goal was to push pictures to expressionism. Often with high or low contrast.


One picture that I took in the remnants of a lumber mill a quarter mile from Betty’s Pies was our Christmas card picture.

Sometimes good fortune favored me, when it disfavored elsewhere with a massive storm.

A few I have drawn in graphite or pastel, often doing some adjustment of reality.

One sad picture remains, even though I did not frame it. How did history not winnow this poor picture out? It must be a sign, must it not. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

When this picture first appeared in the developing fluid, my first thought was it not worth making anything of it. My second thought was that here indeed was a sign. It must be from God giving me my life’s quest. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) It could not be just random change. I was, in fact, until recently quite good with needle and thread, which my mother taught me at an early age, despite long sideways glances from my father.

I am sad to report that I never did discover how to fulfill the quest. Sigh. And now my chance is lost. Sigh. But I did fulfill one smaller quest and quite by accident. An undisciplined boy a year older than my son lived down the road from us. He was often in our house as small boy but not later. His teens were much troubled, as were his twenties. Now he is a brilliant photographer. I mean that. Does amazing work in the camera and in his computer. Travels the worlds. Makes a good living. Has a happy life. Most of his work is of the North Shore. He is friends with both of my children on facebook, where he told them that his inspiration came from looking at those photographs on our wall. To think such beauty came from such a shriveled seed!

Did you find a life’s quest? How has it gone?

74 thoughts on “Sew Buttons on Your Underwear”

  1. great post clyde thanks

    great photos
    too bad about the winnowing
    my kids will have to do that for me
    i’m not doing it

    is the photographer down the road available to view somewhere on line?

    my life’s quest is an ongoing pursuit
    i am a follow the shiny object kind of guy who has enjoyed the journey but regrets the lack of production
    i look at others who stay on task and realize all that can be done if focus is factored in
    as we speak i am working on 5 projects and enjoy the multifaceted aspect of my life but have to check to see if i have tickets to a business luncheon or if i can go to the concert at the landmark center today
    my projects include international business community good cool products and relationship based interaction
    i also started putting a dong a day on youtube but just realized after staying up to watch kill bill and kill bill 2 that i missed putting one up on day 4 of my mission to do a daily post
    i will do a morning and afternoon version today forgive myself and try to do better
    good news bad news on my quest
    just part of the deal

    Liked by 2 people

      1. craig is a buddy who grew up in bloomington on bush lake when hwy 169 was a sleepy little 2 lane road
        the city’s planners bought them out and les ( craig’s dad and a big name in mn photography moved to moose lake and set up a nature studio up there
        craig’s career is still fairly strong up there
        not like the days when black lock photography calendars were 90% of barnes and nobles offering
        he offers classes i’ve been tempted to sign up for

        Liked by 2 people

        I am reluctant to share that because of the rather private things I said about him, but we are all proud of him.
        With my fingers I struggle to do cut and paste on the iPad. So no link, just the name.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If I’m not mistaken, he does a lot of his shooting while he’s actually IN the water. The water of Lake Superior.


  2. down at the bottom of the post is a related articles list with dales benchley gives his trump speech that is interesting

    dale had a great idea about minimizing trumps words and actions

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Great post Clyde. I know you are struggling with pain and mobility these days, so I am so glad you can look back on these images from a more lithe time in your life. Thank goodness there are no longer buttons on underwear. Perhaps the quest was fulfilled by your inspiring presence on the young photographer? You just might want to change your perspective since he appears to have accomplished the task you sought. (Can you reveal his name or a site where we can view his work?) I would think it is our own Edith, but we all know she is in jail! Unless she is OUT again.

    I have had several life quests at various times in my life:

    As a teen/young adult, all I wanted to do was get outa Dodge and leave home. Finding ways to do that became my quest with my mother as the villain who would not let go. Finally I packed up my uncle’s truck and launched myself to Iowa State University. The first marriage was an ill-advised detour while pursuing this.

    In my mid-thirties surviving breast cancer was the quest. What an Odyssey.

    Learning to sculpt and illustrating my mother’s stories became a 50’s and 60’s quest, in combination with running a practice.

    And now? Getting a good night’s sleep? Making my joint’s move? Maybe I will know tomorrow. I think while we make the soup of our lives, we don’t always know what the quest i, while at the same time we fulfill it in the dark.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. When I began my career as editor of an outdoor recreation magazine, I had two cherished goals. One of my causes has failed to a degree I couldn’t have imagined. The other has succeeded to a degree I never thought possible.

    My highest hope was once that this nation would embrace the wisdom of environmentalism. Back then we had just declared the first Earth Day and the federal government had just created the Environmental Protection Administration. Smart young folks were taking up environmental science for their careers. Public schools were teaching the insights of Aldo Leopold.

    No more. I am horror struck by the collapse of that dream. To have a man like Pruitt heading the EPA would have seemed impossible when I was young. As a younger man I had no idea of the power and venality of entrenched economic groups.

    My second dream was to encourage women to enjoy outdoor recreation. In the early 1970s outdoor recreation was dominated by men. My magazine was the only outdoor recreation publication that could be called feminist. Amazingly, that dream has come true.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. i don’t think you can call environmental awareness in a failed state just because we have a self serving pig in the white house

    i have said all along that donald trump will serve as the best example ever of hoe not to do it

    it comes as no surprise he spoke so highly of putin the are partners in crimes against humanity

    enviormentalism is alice and we’ll and may end up better off when we realize that we can’t rely on republican based backing to sustain the cause

    impose carbon taxes and measure the impact the corporate reaping of our world resources are having and bill them for the fix of their toxic business and or forbid further pollution

    mining in ely here now is the issue
    look at gold mining in montana’s bear tooth pass region

    a crime

    Liked by 2 people

        1. BiR, I am not sure anyone gets the joke not so hidden in the last picture. In the braggadocio of my childhood, when someone said something or did outrageous and was challenged, the person replied “So!” For which the answer was “Sew buttons on your underwear.”


        1. There were a couple of doozies earlier this week, Steve, but you have to admit that today’s comment from tim is damn near perfect.


    1. The self-serving pig is not the reason I think the environmental movement has failed. My concern is that people speak positively about planet-friendly policies but when this society makes decisions that impact the natural world we make terrible choices, time after time. My basic expectation now is that we will destroy the planet. By that, I mean we will mess the place up so badly that human life here will not be possible here. And that, in fact, is maybe the most positive thing I believe in. The natural world has an astonishing ability to restore itself when we leave it alone (look at the land around Chernobyl).


      1. I’m wondering what you know about the land around Chernobyl, Steve? Haven’t seen anything to indicate that the area is anywhere near safe or restored to normal.


        1. I saw an hour-long documentary about that area. Several wildlife species have flourished there. All that they needed was the absence of humans. One of the phrases for this is “Nature always finds a way.”


      2. then we are good. a couple thousand years later and chernobyl and the rest of the world will spawn the next life form
        we will be dead anyway right?


  6. I’m still looking for my life’s quest. If I go by feeling alone, it would definitely be nature photography, but if the quest includes making some sort of living from that, that’s not going so well.


  7. My quest started at age 12 to become clinical psychologist and play therapist. Well, I did it. Now my quest is to stay whole and rational for three more years until retirement . I am thinking today of CP Kavafy’ poem Ithaca. I will post it when I have access to a computer.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Right out of college I really thought I wanted to teach, and bring a new humaneness to that profession. Got frustrated and burnt out within 4 years, so groped around for 10 years or so while I figured out a related mission – matching people up with their books. Had my little book business (one wall of books in the shop of a friend) until I realized that I also wanted more time for my family. Will never regret the decision to let the book business go, worked in other people’s bookstores, and I am still trying to match people up with books. (See above…)

    At this point my quest is to be useful for as long as I can, particularly in bringing music and dance to as many as possible. But it’s not a burning desire where I feel the need to accomplish a lot. Whatever fits comfortably in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As I think of a quest, I can’t rightly say I’ve ever had one. I don’t think of a quest as running away from something, but rather a pursuit of some kind. Putting one foot in front of the other, and keep going, hardly qualifies, but that’s pretty much the tack I’ve taken.

    I’ve never had the sense that there was something I was destined for, or anything special I was called to do. I have always admired people who had that certain knowing. I still don’t have a good sense of what my life is all about, except for perhaps wanting to be part of the solution to all that ails this world rather being part of the problem. If that’s it, I’m still on task.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The quality is much degraded by copying from the negative. Not sure why. I had a scanner that had hardware for copying slides and negatives. Slides worked great. Negatives not so much. Look carefully at the last picture for something you do not expect to be there.


  10. Well, daughter is starting on a quest. She just found out she was accepted into the MSW program at U of Southern Cal. It is a one year, online program

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you. Now she has to figure out how to work full time and do school work and clinical placements. I think I am going to get one of those things you get to prevent teeth grinding.


      2. We chose professions for which we need an advanced degree in order to practice independently. We achieve out of necessity.


  11. Today’s post asks you to look (read) with care. We were just in Sleepy Eye and saw posters all around town announcing a circus competition no to New Elm. I did type that right. New Elm.


  12. OT just stumbled on this. No real publicity effort on it. For an hour or so Sunday morning the only way out of our apartment building and other buildings will be blocked. It affects a couple hundred people. I wonder how many will be on their way to work, and church. Lots of medical folks live here, some will be starting shifts. If you do know it, there is little you can do. You cannot park even close. Hundreds of streets in town and they decide to do this.


  13. I always have at least one quest in the works. Quests are how I entertain myself. I’ve never expected my quests to provide a monetary return, since that usually requires some sort of compromise. My quests might be quixotic, but they are all mine.

    When I found the group of negatives recording a 1904 trip through Europe, that was the beginning of a 25-year quest to learn as much as I could about them, especially the identity of the photographer. So far I haven’t succeeded with the identity question but the search has put me in contact with people around the world and opened up new areas of interest. The quest continues.

    I consider my work on the family genealogy a quest, in that there are puzzles to solve and family lore to verify or debunk. I inherited most of the photographic artifacts from both parent’s sides going back several generations. I’m the only surviving member of my generation who can identify many of the individuals depicted by sight. I’d like to leave the material I’ve inherited in coherent order.

    I have for years been studying nineteenth century popular culture. My interest is not in politicians and generals or in legislation and wars but in the everyday lives of everyday people. To that end, I have concentrated on a few areas that caught my fancy and/or were content rich and illuminating. Back in the ‘90s, I began collecting books about 19th century theatre, including many biographies of prominent actors and actresses, some written in the twentieth century and many in the nineteenth. Concurrent with that I began collecting original photographic images of those actors and actresses. My collection formed the core of at least one college’s theatre history website and, as I’ve related before, some of my images have found their way into books, scholarly and otherwise, and television productions. I still add to my theatrical collection from time to time but my interests have expanded.

    Utopian communities and intentional communities: The nineteenth century was a heyday for planned utopian experiments and my collection of books, like those of the theatre, are a combination of new publications and earlier accounts.

    Spiritualism: The pervasiveness and influence of the spiritualism movement in the nineteenth century is fascinating and took many forms. This is an area where at least half of the books in my collection are original editions.

    Precolumbian Archaeology in North America: Early surveys, especially of the Mississippi River Valley reveal a great many extensive earthworks, some of which are geometrically perfect, some of which have complex alignments. Some of the interpretations of these earthworks and the speculation as to their origin are fanciful in the extreme. Even the reserved, scientific accounts are engrossing.

    John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry: John Brown has been described as “the stone in the historian’s shoe.” Possibly no other person and no other series of events has been portrayed more diversely than John Brown—everything from a madman to a martyr and saint. For that reason, reading just one account will never give you an adequate picture. I have about sixteen versions, some of them written recently and some as early as 1860. A couple of them were written by individuals who knew him personally. Viewpoints as separate as W.E.B. DuBois and Robert Penn Warren.

    The last few years I’ve turned my attention on nineteenth century humor and humorists, and especially the humor of the 1850s. Why humor? Well, humor to be funny has to be relevant. That’s why most 19th century humor is no longer funny, unless you make the effort to understand the references. But in its obscurity it provides clues to what you need to understand to glean the mid-century point of view. And humor confers license. Humorists address subjects that are really on peoples mind and give you unvarnished glimpses into subversive veins of thought that get otherwise swept under the rug.

    I’d like to have a mode of art that I could really stick with and dig into—an area I could explore and develop as my own. So far I haven’t found it. Too much of what I do is derivative and doesn’t lead anywhere. I also struggle with the paradox that I enjoy the process of making but hesitate to add to the accumulation of things and I am indifferent to the idea of showing my work.

    I have other quests simmering but that should be enough to give you the idea.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. You and I are alike in several respects, Bill. But when I read about your hobbies/interests I am put to shame. You have so much more order and discipline, and you don’t instinctively seek out the juiciest, most obviously appealing subjects. I truly wish my mind were more like yours.


      1. It’s not discipline. It’s just curiosity. Otherwise I could choose an area and stick to it. There’s plenty to discover in each of them.


  14. The utopias especially interest me, the great awakenings, too. We are in a similar sort of moment. Few realize that much of the religious landscape of the present was only invented then. Pentecostalism, the rapture, Sunday school, etc. spiritualism was stronger n Europe/England, but here, too,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great Awakenings: why do masses of people jump onto the same bandwagon being pulled along by wild emotions, paranoia, boredom, spiritual and emotional emptiness, rejection of the status quo, blaming of problems on everyone else? Sound familiar?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always been struck by the apparent fact that, no matter how unhinged the utopian leaders seem to us to be, they always managed to attract followers. Some people seem to crave a leader more than they crave autonomy. Part of it too, was the Panic of 1837, where many were left jobless and homeless and willing to attach themselves to anyone who could promise them a meal and a place to sleep.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Clyde, these are terrific photographs.
    But I’m still trying to figure out the title. “Sew buttons on your underwear”?
    All I could think of was the qiup, “Sew buttons on a balloon; you’ll get a bang out of it.”
    But I can’t come up with a joke about underwear…

    I was sure all I was going to do in my life was milk cows. And then the theater thing came to play…and I really like working with the kids. Or at least the ones that are interested and putting an effort in. I guess some aren’t interested but still put some effort into it. That’s OK too.
    And I suppose honestly, it’s some of the ones that appear least interested that could probably use the most help. And again, they gotta give me something to work on. The monosyllabic, disconnected ones are tough.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I explained that phrase above a ways. But look closely at the last picture just above the stump. What do you see?


        1. That picture came up on my random screen saver. All I ever see is that. I decided I was going to throw it away but then made it a blog post. 40 years ago it was a joke with my annual staff about who could see it and who couldn’t. We had it as a large print as a lesson to look carefully at backgrounds.


        2. Back when I was in the advertising and publishing business, photo reviews were a frequent occurrence. We would gather around a light box and review the selected photos from a project. There were always a couple of individuals who strained to find subliminal images in the clouds or in the foliage as if it were their duty to save us from them. Of course, once they pointed them out you couldn’t unsee them.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I was skimming too much today. And I’ve never been good at subtlety… I see snow on a piece of stump / driftwood. And maybe a puppy.


        1. I’m with you, Ben, I don’t see anything else. One of the reasons I wanted to be able to click on it to enlarge it.


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