Secret Transmission

As I was cropping and editing photos for our holiday card, a strange thing went down. Photoshop started freaking out. Every time I tried to do anything within the app, the photo re-mixed into new psychedelic arrangements.

Sometimes it would be an extreme closeup of me. The next time, the dog. Back to me. Then Louie. Always with the bright colors, repeating boxes, wiggly lines.


Was an alien trying to transmit messages via my Photoshop? Had I stumbled onto a secret door to an unknown universe? Maybe this was a digital wormhole into a land with brand new planes of color.

No door ever opened, not all the way. No time travel or grand adventure. No decoded message leading to world peace or secrets from the beginning of time.

Just a peek into something unexpected, distant, unknown.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Untold Stories. Share the photo(s) you almost posted, but never did.”

A Suggestion

As one does when in Seattle, we spent the better part of an afternoon roaming Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Market gets mail too.
Pike Place Market gets mail too.

We bought a lb. of hazelnuts, crammed into a restaurant and ate some hearty clam chowder (good, but not award-winning, truth be told), and eyed a lot of produce and fresh fish that we had no place to cook.

No grazing!
No grazing!
Pike Place Peonies.
Smelt pretty fishy.

Amidst the iced-over fish eyes and neat rows of flower bouquets, the aisles were tightly packed with locals, chefs, street musicians, tourists with cameras. It’s an experience in people watching as much as in food.

Because of my obsession with Lunch at the Shop, I knew I wanted to visit Peter Miller Books. It’s walking distance from the market, so once we’d had our fill there, we headed over.

Despite knowing better, we arrived near lunch time and had to mill about the neighborhood until the shop reopened. We could have gotten lost in the book stacks for hours – it’s like taking a design and architecture world tour within a couple hundred square feet. Not wanting to carry a lot of heavy books back (plus we had a Powell’s trip on the docket), we ended up with some Japanese award-winning pencils, smooth erasers that look almost like stone and heavy brass pencil sharpeners.

As we checked out, I was too shy to gush as I wanted: “OH MY GOSH. I LOVE YOUR BOOK!” so I said nothing. Peter was quite friendly and struck up a conversation anyway. He asked where we were from and to my relief didn’t talk RFRA (which was all over the news). We asked for a lunch recommendation, and he recommended a Middle Eastern place called Mamnoon, which sounded perfect.

Lunch at Mamnoon.
Lunch at Mamnoon.

We had quite a feast, and doodled with our new pencils while we ate. Seattle International Film Festival was running, and over fattoush, we chose a french fashion documentary to see later that day.

Doodling on the SIFF cover.
Doodling on the SIFF cover.

Peter had made a second suggestion. “If you’re going that way, there’s a small church worth seeing…” After lunch, our friend Jenn met us, and we took the second half of our two-part directions and ventured together to find the church.

By this point we’d walked a lot, but we it seemed wise to listen to a fellow who owns and curates a shop specializing in architecture books when he suggests seeing a building. It was the Chapel of St. Ignatius, on the campus of Seattle University. It was well worth the extra jaunt to find it.

St. Ignatius by Steven Holl

Pops of colored light pierced through the white plaster, a strange play between serenity and joy. I hadn’t known then that architect Steven Holl’s guiding principle for the space was “a gathering of different lights.” Mission accomplished – you feel the color. (None of my images fully capture that magic, but you can see some that do here.)


We took a break on the benches outside, gazed into the reflection pool.


Somehow, it’s like he’d known we’d need this restorative stop, a peaceful oasis within the bustle of travel. You just can’t beat a good recommendation from a local.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Influencers. Did you witness someone influence others? Perhaps you experienced it directly. Share a tale of persuasion.”

The Embarcadero

Our San Francisco flight had been delayed, which meant we’d be hard pressed to make it for the start of the Giants game. It was a frenzied dash, from landing to hotel check-in, then we rushed to AT&T Park to catch the game in progress.

Look at that blue sky. Hello, California.
Look at that blue sky. Hello, California.

Louie kept score as usual. I kind of tuned out, soaked up the sunshine and tried to recover from the hustle of traveling.

This hot dog and garlic fries helped the recovery situation tremendously.
This hot dog and garlic fries helped the recovery situation tremendously.

The Embarcadero picks up near the park. We planned to walk off our ballpark lunch and get a feel for the city. Eventually, we’d end up at the Ferry Building to explore the market inside.

Direct hit.
Cupid’s Span by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

After all of the sitting on the plane and at the ballpark, it felt good to get moving and listen to the water lapping up the shore.

San Francisco Bay from Sara McGuyer on Vimeo.

Obligatory bird shot.

One odd moment transported me from the place I’d just come – home. This sculpture along the waterfront so reminded me of our state flag, I couldn’t help but think of Indiana.

SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls
SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls

We made it to the Ferry Building ready for coffee. Good thing we found Blue Bottle inside, and a wonderful place to get a sweet treat too.

The Port of San Francisco.
The Port of San Francisco.
Macaroon from Miette in the Ferry Building.

Good job on the strolling situation, San Francisco.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”

Lost Coast

The Lost Coast is a land without internet. We showed up in early spring. The off season, when all the vacation homes were shuttered up.

Surrounded by the sea.
Surrounded by the sea. The Lost Coast in California.
Waiting for action that may never come. A tiny boat in the off season.
Waiting for action that may never come. A tiny boat in the off season.

The Inn where we rented a room was kept up by one woman, plus a teenager who came in the morning to run the coffee shop. We saw no other guests as we arrived. We were more likely to meet a whale, if we sat on our balcony and waited. They’d been spotted just earlier, the inn keeper said. Lore and suspense? Maybe. We waited, but no whales.

Fog rolls in.
The view from our balcony. Not bad.

Sea lions and cormorants camped out on jagged rock. Like they owned the place. (They did).

Owning the place. Creatures outnumbered humans at least 20 to 1.
Creatures outnumbered humans at least 20 to 1.

The sound of the sea was constant and gushing. We slept with the balcony door open, salt mist lullabies pushing in. This is how to have a really good night’s sleep.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”

Fire Gazing


Louie is the fire builder between us. He has an eye for how the wood should stack into just the right structure for optimal blaze. Fearlessly, he tends and stokes as sparks fly near his face.

I’m more the fire gazer–the one who can sit still for hours, eyes locked in the flames.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Communal Circles. What new circles have you formed? Any unexpected ones? Did you start a book club or hang out in a tea yurt? Maybe you re-upped with existing friends. Explore your kumbaya moment from 2015.”


Instructions for how to feel very small:

Step 1) Fly on a jet plane to San Francisco.


Step 2) Get a rental car. Take Highway 101 until you see an exit for California 254, toward Myers Flat, Humboldt County. Turn right toward Avenue of the Giants.

Careful, there might be fog.


Step 3) Look up.

Avenue of the Giants.

A video posted by Sara McGuyer (@sara_mc) on

I’m sure a zillion others have said such things. Standing next to these noble trees, I saw myself for who I am. A rough, flawed beast. My steps, my breath – a clumsy assault on the serene green. Everything draped with prehistoric moss, old, yet fresh. A quiet hush.



This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “In your eyes. Share a photo or paint us a picture with words. Show us something from your year through your eyes. Did you see something that took your breath away? Or maybe you just couldn’t look away?”


I’ve been practicing using manual focus on my camera instead of going the easy auto focus route. It’s been an exercise in patience and letting go of the great shot as much as one in photography.

Birds have been one of my favorite photo subjects for a while. Right now the hummingbirds are fiesty, as they fatten up for their migration. They’re especially challenging to capture since they move so fast. I managed to get one perched on top of the lilac bush.



This spring I put orange slices and dishes of grape jam out, hoping to attract Orioles. It didn’t work and I stopped putting that stuff out. Then this guy randomly showed up one morning last week! It’s not often I get a new bird in the yard, but he was my first Oriole. He was in the bird bath and eating suet, which I didn’t know Orioles would eat.


More bird photos:

Window Pane



Notes: One morning this past week I was packing up my car for work… coffee mug, water bottle, backpack, camera bag. I had a meeting to get to. But the windows! I could take a few minutes to get some shots.

Our garage is old, and the windows all have cracks and holes in them. I noticed them before, but with the frost, the window panes became something entirely different.

The frost obscures what’s on the other side, but the hole says, Wait a minute! I’ll give you a peek. The cracks hint, More will soon be revealed.