An early morning sunrise over a local swamp. The sun had just barely cleared the treeline before it was overtaken by an onslaught of approaching clouds, leaving the rest of the day overcast and dull. The entire shoot lasted about ten minutes and served as yet another example of having to “be there” before the event happens if you expect to capture it!
I’m not a beach person. Many years ago I made it a point to visit the Rhode Island shore a few times every summer, but those days have long since been replaced with other weekend chores and activities. I’m not exactly disappointed either. Around the same time I stopped going to the beach it started getting very polluted, over-crowded and populated by roving groups of kids sporting boom boxes. (Yes, this was pre-iPod days.) It was no longer the peaceful commune with nature that I liked to think it was. Being a bit anti-social, the idea of leaving the tranquility of my farm for a big dose of chaos wasn’t exactly my idea of a day well spent. Besides, once you have animals it’s tough to get away for an entire day.
Two years ago a massage therapist friend invited me to accompany her to a client’s house who lived in a very exclusive neighborhood on the Connecticut shore. Thinking this might offer an opportunity to do some photography, I accepted her invitation. While my friend worked I walked the area nearby and took some pictures. The large cluster of grass in this photo towered six or seven feet above the edge of a boardwalk that led out to a pier, the sandy beach and ocean shore completely hidden just yards beyond the live border.
I’m a little behind getting a photo posted today. Yesterday was (overall) a nice day with family and friends. I was blessed to have been able to talk to all of my siblings in one day, which always makes me feel kinda warm and fuzzy. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve been “home” for Christmas, so talking with each of my sibs on the phone is the next best thing.
Unfortunately, we started our morning with a trip to the hospital to visit my father-in-law who’s been there since early November. It was probably the worst I’ve seen him since his initial operation over six weeks ago. Since then he’s had multiple organ blowouts and failures, fevers, infections, high blood pressure and the inability to eat anything by mouth. A feeding tube was placed late last week and it’s taken several days to get him up to speed with it’s operation. Just when we thought he might finally be able to get downgraded to a rehab facility (oxymoron, since he’s not going anywhere from there) he developed yet another complication. As it stands, I don’t think he’ll ever come out of the anesthesia-related dementia/psychosis. He had a touch of moderate “forgetfulness” going into this, but now ….. well, he can’t comprehend what’s going on or communicate a thing. The family imported his 85 year-old sister from Croatia in hopes that might bolster his reserve, but this has done little more than add another stressed person to the chaos. I vocalized my disagreement about this decision when it was in the process of being made, so now I just need to shut up and stay out of the way.
While this isn’t one of my best pictures, it’s a reminder to enjoy each day as it comes. Our time here is fleeting.
I was out doing barn chores this morning when my nose was suddenly assaulted by the strong pungent smell of fabric softener. That’s right, fabric softener. How on earth a fake floral scent can waft through the air and completely override the earthy smell of horse poop, hay and damp horseflesh is beyond me. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Like clockwork, every two or three mornings my neighbor does her laundry, and I guess her washing machine doesn’t work very well because she thinks she needs to coat her clothing and a half-mile radius of the neighborhood with a “flower on steroids” chemical stink.
I simply don’t understand this mindset, but it appears clever marketing has won the war to convince the general pubic that we wreak. We’ve been brainwashed to think our house stinks, our clean clothes stink and even our clean bodies stink. I mean, why else would we feel the need to spritz ourselves with perfume after slathering ourselves with heavily scented body wash, throw perfectly clean clothes into a dryer with sheets that are chemically loaded with phony perfumes and “clean” our houses with chemicals that tout hyper-powerful scents ?
I think this is going to become what the war on invasive smoke was to the last two decades. Sure, you have every right to smell like a floral polecat in the privacy of your own home, but when your fake chemical stink starts to seep into my open windows and linger over my back yard and barnyard then it’s not just YOUR problem anymore. These products are known to make people and animals sick. They’re made to adhere to our skin and clothing and penetrate the surface of inanimate objects, where they can linger for days. Don’t people see the connection between chronic illness and the crap we’re breathing and cleaning and bathing with day in and day out? Enough already! Please, folks. Spend a few pennies more and buy unscented, chemical-free dryer sheets or vent your dryers into your own damn basement … I’m sick and tired of the chemical assault every wash day.
Once the clouds move out it should be a nice day!
The remains of a light snowfall last week.
Fall to winter, day to night, mild to cold. Last night change rolled in on a magenta sunset. As we finished up a nice trail ride the sky started to form what l though might shape up into a nice sunset. I grabbed Gus and hit the road with my camera and gear, thinking that if I got lucky I might find a nice shot lurking not too far from home. I thought I had at least a good forty minutes to get someplace and set up before the sky started to really put on a show, but much to my dismay a front decided to come in riding low, dark clouds. Not quite ready to accept defeat, I kept searching. My local region doesn’t have the long, wide vistas one needs to catch the sun slipping over the horizon. Instead, we have nooks and crannies and deep valleys that hide the setting sun, and offer only a hint of a spectacular scene …. someplace else.
They say you should always wait until the final curtain goes down, so with darkness moving in I quickly searched for a sweet spot that might offer one last glimpse of what should have been a gorgeous sunset, but was fast turning into vivid ribbon of color against a dark sky. In a last-ditch effort I pulled off the main road onto a seldom-traveled side road that runs parallel to a big swampy area. I’d driven this road months before, hoping to find better access to shoot the swamp, but I never found the right vantage point. I kept one eye on the winding road and glanced at the setting sun every few seconds. I knew I didn’t have a minute to waste: I either needed to find a magic opening in the trees right now, or turn around and go home. I slowed the car as I drove into a sharp bend and suddenly, there it was, the picturesque view I wanted! The spot wasn’t anything special and in fact, I’d have to do a bit of creative maneuvering to work around some junk in the foreground, but if I could manage to do that then it just might work. In the five minutes that it took for the sun to slip below the treeline I shot a handful of pictures, then blowing on chilly fingers I packed up my gear and headed home. Not too shabby for ten minutes work!
We’re getting our first real snow of the winter season and it’s hard not to feel sorry for myself. After all, a week ago we were getting T-shirt-warm tropical high winds. Today it’s another high wind warning and polar fleece jackets, hat and mittens. Opposite ends of the spectrum! I certainly feel for the folks who are still displaced and without power from Hurricane Sandy. Seems like they just can’t catch a break. Meanwhile, it’s piling up out there!
Speaking of broken ….. our president stuck. So I’m wondering what happened to all those folks who kept yapping about needing a change and taking this country back? Well, time to shut up and get to work. I don’t think sitting around bitching about who’s in the white house will change anything for the better.
Speaking of better … I was hoping I’d have new glasses by today. I don’t, but maybe tomorrow?
There’s been a lot of emphasis on water since the storm of the century showed up on our doorstep. I live some 35 miles from the shore and when high tides and storm surges collide it isn’t a big threat. However, we do have a large amount of water nearby. Streams that swell, rivers that rise and ponds that balloon beyond their banks when snow melts or storms dump an unprecedented amount of rain in them. My house is above flood level, but we can easily become marooned here if nearby waterways get too high. But this last summer was relatively dry and so our surrounding landscape managed to soak up all the rain. As incredible as it sounds, our sump pump never kicked on during this “epic” storm! Quite the different scenario from last fall’s hurricane/tropical storm, Irene. But I’m not complaining. We did get a lot of debris and breakage from various sized trees, so I’ll be busy cleaning up the yard and acreage before the snow arrives.
Thanks for all the well-wishes during our highly unsettled weather!
Thanks to all who left comments or wrote to encourage me to keep blogging. I have a very large catalog of pictures that I’ve taken over the last two years, so I’ll go back and dig around to see what I can come up for this blog. I apologize ahead of time if I post a repeat. It’s doubtful that I’ll post the exact same picture, but I often take several photos at each shoot, which leaves me with a pretty good assortment of shots that I can use. I’ll try my best not to get too repetitious, but unless conditions improve I don’t expect to be taking new photos for at least a few more weeks. (And even that might be wishful thinking.)
Both my parents grew up on lakes. My father was raised on the shores of one of the Great Lakes (Lake Ontario), my mother on one of the smaller lakes in the Finger Lakes region. (Conesus Lake.) As a consequence, both parents felt it was important for all of their children to learn how to swim at a very young age because they knew we would grow up spending a considerable amount of time at either lake. I don’t recall how old I was or how I got my feet wet, but I was a proficient, if not highly skilled swimmer well before Kindergarten. My mother enrolled each of us in formal swimming lessons, though I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps she felt it was important for us to achieve our Red Cross swimming cards or maybe it was just her way of showing off? Whatever her reason, we smoked every kid in each class that we took.
By the time I was in sixth grade I was waiting to be old enough to take Senior Lifesaving. If I recall, you had to be a certain age to enroll. At that point in my life we lived in the suburbs of the city and we had an in-ground pool in our back yard. Swimming was as natural for us as any other childhood game or sport and given this advantage, I’d advanced well ahead of the curve. In fact, my formal lessons had come to a screeching halt a few years prior as I had passed all but the two final tests: Junior and Senior Lifesaving. As a young man my father had earned money working as a lifeguard at a public beach in Charlotte, NY., so naturally he expected that his children would take (and pass) the lifesaving courses. And as mom pointed out, with a pool in our back yard, the more card-carrying lifesavers around, the better!
My older sister was exactly eighteen months (to the day) older than me, and when she reached the age to enroll in Senior Lifesaving my mother somehow managed to get me enrolled in the class too. This meant that I was the smallest and youngest in a large class of mostly boys and a few girls. While my sister was a strong swimmer she was by no means a tough girl. But I was, and that more than made up for the slight disadvantage I had going into this class. I don’t remember all the details of this experience, but I do remember having to swim lots and lots of laps and having to tread water for a ridiculous amount of time. None of that bothered me the least, but what did bog me down was the amount of reading and reciting that we had to do. I remember sitting poolside and reading our Lifesaving books, yellow hi-lighter in hand. Often, my sister and I would jump into the deep end of our pool to practice something we’d just read. I’m sure this gave us a huge advantage over other students in our class.
When it finally came time for our water tests the instructors did their best to try to intimidate us. We were each tested alone; nobody except the crew of instructors and their hand picked “drowning victims” could watch. Each test for every student was different, created spontaneously as the student was ushered from the bowels of the locker room up to the pool. We nervously waited our turn, then as each student returned from their test we peppered them with our questions. “How was it?” “Was it hard?” “Did you pass?” “How many tries did it take?” Unfortunately, each student was sworn to secrecy before being dismissed, and so we learned nothing. Two or three students were injured in the process. Dislocated fingers and broken toes seemed to be the catch of the day.
My sister was called to test ahead of me, leaving me for last. By then, word had it that several students had failed their water tests. I was shocked to learn that several of the biggest, best swimmers had failed to “land” their victim in the allotted amount of time. I worried that my non-aggressive sister might not fare well and I hoped the best for her. When she returned, she looked defeated (she had, in fact passed) and subdued, and she wouldn’t catch my eye, afraid perhaps that her big sister concern would tempt her to share more information than allowed. I remember the chill as I walked up the long tiled corridor, followed by the strong smell of chlorine as the warm humid air hit my face. I was quickly introduced to my ‘victim’ before he jumped into the deep end of the Olympic size pool. By all accounts, he was huge. Tall, muscular, very long-limned, and I had no idea how I was going to “rescue” him. I knew for certain that he’d be doing his best to try to drown me in the process, especially since “Realistic” was the only description I’d managed to cajole out of any of the other students.
My test was explained to me. I was to perform a direct front in-water approach and a classic cross chest carry. Once I got out there anything could happen and I would be allowed to make my own decisions on the fly, but that was what I was supposed to attempt. I nodded that I understood, glanced at the clock and walked to the edge of the pool. There were ropes with life rings attached, long poles and other implements that we could use as we deemed necessary, but only after our prior assignment had failed. The whistle blew and I dove in. A strong under water swimmer, I didn’t surface until I was just out of reach of my victim. I called to him and he lunged directly toward me, mimicking a full blown panic! I dove deep, grabbed his legs, spun him around until his back was against me. I crawled up his body, gripping him like a vice, terrified that he would get turned around again. I knew I didn’t stand a chance if he wrapped one of his spidery arms around my neck. My lungs were about to burst. I kicked hard, surfaced, threw an arm across his chest and locked my elbow down. We headed toward the edge of the pool, but his long, heavy body dwarfed mine and I had to fight to keep us both afloat. Meanwhile, my victim was doing everything in his power to sabotage my rescue. He repeatedly tangled his legs in mine and tried to break free, but I rolled him like an alligator and kept working toward the make believe shore.
I was one of four students who passed the Senior Lifesaving water test that summer. I never applied to be a life guard anywhere, but swimming has remained my strong suit. Many years ago I joined a YMCA and swam laps on my lunch hour. Something about the steady rhythm of the crawl appealed to me. I found it calming. When I was young my parents used to pack me up and send me off with my older sister for a two week stay with my mother’s mother. Grandma didn’t spend much time worrying about us or supervising our every move. We knew what was off limits and what the rules were, and were were pretty much on our own. One of my fondest memories was waking up at the crack of dawn so we could swim while the water was still calm. The cool morning air made the water feel bath-tub warm and the only sound we could hear was the soft slapping of the occasional wave against the sides of the rowboat that was moored along the dock. I remember the long, stringy, green seaweed that clung to the wooden ladder at the end of the dock. It looked like cooked rhubarb as it waved back and forth, pulled by an invisible current. I remember doing handstands, my feet kicking in the air and my fingers pushing against the ripples of sand on the shallow bottom. My sister and I swam or rowed to a float that was secured some 150 yards or so from the main dock, where we planned our strategy for swimming across the lake. (Accompanied, we thought, by one of us rowing the boat alongside!) We were young … probably seven and nine when we were doing all this, and totally unsupervised. Like many memories from my childhood, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to do these things, unfettered by parents who thought better of our crazy schemes and ideas.