New England, dressed in beautiful fall colors.
Another day of sleet and rain. How many does that make in the last two months? No photo ops today! In fact, none in weeks. Depressing. I feel like crawling into a cave and hibernating until spring.
Ombre by Ludovico Einaudi, from Le Onde
Lately I feel like I’m drowning in sadness. August 25th was loaded: my sister and husband were in a serious motorcycle accident, someone very close to my brother suffered a stroke and a very close friend of my husband’s family died. It was a “busy” day. Since then, I’ve learned that my father-in-law has cancer, my upcoming eye surgery “might not” deliver the result I was expecting, and the brother-in-law of my riding instructor (age 47) was killed in a motorcycle accident.
This has left me feeling as though I ought to say something profound. Like, “Live life to the fullest because you never know what tomorrow will bring!” or something to that effect. Unfortunately, while that cliche might be true, it just sounds old and overused. The fact of the matter is, for the last couple of years I’ve felt like life’s been swinging from one extreme to the other, and I’m not sure why. Is life is getting harder? At times it feels that way. And when you add local, regional or world news to the personal struggles it almost feels overwhelming.
So I try to grab a little time to do things I enjoy: Listen to music, read, ride, hike, take pictures, and try to spend more time with my dogs, horses, friends and family.
(Ora, by Ludovico Einaldi, from the CD Una Mattina)
It’s interesting how life throws us curves, sometimes over and over again.
A macular peel, vitrectomy, three retinal tears and a retinal detachment later, my eye is doing well. Tired and a wee bit beat up, but it’s starting to heal. Of course, I can’t see anything yet and it’s going to start brewing a cataract soon (that will have to be removed and the lens replaced), but I’m not going to think about that now. My vision will be very slow to heal. Slow as in, like 1-1.5 years. On one hand you think, well, thank God it WILL return, but on the other hand you grapple with so many different emotions. You ponder the fairness of this fate; this has not been my first lengthy medical hurdle. Then you catch yourself thinking that and you know there are so many people who’ve been dealt a worse hand, that you feel small and foolish for feeling sorry for yourself. So you solder on and do what you can.
Unfortunately, this will affect my ability to take and process pictures. I’ve been trying to retrain myself to use my left eye to focus when I’m shooting, but I’m not very quick with it yet. I can do some macro shoots because I can use a remote shutter release and live view, so I may have to default to macro for now. If spring would really get here I should have some nice floral subjects to shoot, but until the weather improves I’m more or less stuck blogging photos from the past.
The local streams are flowing like crazy. The bigger rivers and streams should be good kayaking in a few weeks.
A shot of the kind of fall we didn’t get last year!
We bought our house in 1986. The house proper wasn’t anything special, but the location was private, nestled off a sparsely populated dead-end road and bordered by state forest on one side. A year or so after moving in I bought a horse and kept it at my neighbor’s farm. When my husband decided to get into the horse world we gamely cleared the only flat patch of land we owned, built a small barn, collected our horses and brought them home. That was April of ’89, and we’ve been riding some part of this trail regularly ever since.
Back then this path wasn’t a public park. It was available to those who knew of it’s existence, but the old abandoned rail bed wasn’t used by more than a handful of adventuresome folks and hunters who didn’t mind a bit of a trek and a challenge. Not that it was such tough going, but the sandy path was punctuated by two long expanses of trap rock that discouraged the passing of all but the most determined hiker or biker. By today’s standards I would think the trap rock would be a mountain biker’s dream, but from what I’ve seen they seem to want the experience of riding in the woods, but the ease of an uncluttered trail. Go figure.
I’d traversed this trail on foot, bike and horseback at least a thousand times when some lobbyist decided we should use our gas tax to “convert” this path into a public state Linear park, better known today as the Airline Trail. Oh goody. Literally overnight, the quiet little farm we worked tooth and nail to create was changed. The peace and quiet …. the sole reason we bought our home …. was gone. The remote location and deeply desired privacy vanished. Where we once marveled at our great fortune and foresight to live in such close proximity to a fabulous bridle and hiking path, we now cursed it’s nearby presence. And before you enthusiastically try to proclaim the obvious, which is to remind us of how lucky we are to have such easy access to this wonder of misspent tax dollars, please walk a mile in our shoes. Think for a few moments about what it’s like to suddenly have to live with a very public park in your back yard.
To combat my angst and frustration I use some part of the trail almost daily. I always used it before it was a state park and I refuse to punish myself by avoiding it now. I try my damnedest to pick a time when I think there will be a minimum of users about because frankly, I hate seeing anyone out there. I don’t want to nod a chipper “Hello,” or mutter a fake cheerful “Good morning!” each and every time I pass someone going the opposite way. I just want to mind my own business and enjoy the scenery, preferably one that’s not cluttered with bikes, dogs, baby carriages and loud, screaming children.
If I sound like a miserly curmudgeon, so be it. I feel an affection for this trail that borders on possessiveness. When people discard their litter on it, I’m appalled. When hikers let their dogs use it as a toilet, I’m annoyed. (And yes, should the inevitable happen I dismount and remove any road apples from the trail when I ride. Everyone in our small equine group does.) When the parks and trail committee decided this trail needed benches and bright blue metal picnic tables I was disgusted. So now one of the most rural, pristine sections of the old airline is peppered with man-made “improvements.”
I was out riding three weeks ago and took a detour off the main path to an area I hadn’t visited in a few years. It had changed little. It was comforting to find the huge boulders, sandy landscape and canopy of trees that hugged the rocky flowing stream remained unchanged. That’s what I like about nature; reliability. A week later as I traversed a nearby trail, I heard the sound of heavy equipment. A steady rumble of diesel echoed off the steep walls of the ravine. I rode a little farther before I realized the location of the commotion was the area I’d visited the week before. I rode to a higher vantage point and peered down. Many trees had been cut down, a road built and an erosion barrier had been erected. Obviously, a project of sizable proportion was underway.
As the week progressed I watched the slow progress. From my lofty perch it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, but I had my suspicions. Mostly, I saw a half dozen or so hard-hatted workers sitting around chatting, while one guy ran an excavator. Friday I rode in that direction only to discover the trail was closed. Sawhorses with signs that said “Road Closed” prevented my passage and ahead, parked in the very spot where I had been viewing the slow progress, sat the largest crane I’d ever seen. I could feel the bile rise in the back of my throat. My trail, my woods are being changed. Again. Undoubtedly, some fool will eventually say to me, “They’ve been improved!” and I’ll have to resist the urge to slap them.
I took this picture on a damp, blustery fall day … a day when nobody thought the weather fit for hiking or biking.
All the better for me.
The last time I was out on this trail it looked like this. Given that I haven’t been able to even reach this trail let alone see it since January, I’m getting pretty excited to start hiking again. The only good thing about winter is that very few people try to hike this trail very far. You see, my house and barn sit only a couple hundred yards away from it and I can’t stand the traffic during the rest of the year. We’ve lived here since way before tree huggers lobbied to turn this (already public) trail into a linear state park. Not that our state needed more parks. Many nearby parks have either closed or offer no services (things like a simple trash can) because our state doesn’t have money in the budget for park upkeep. But people pushed for this old rail bed to be converted into a park anyway, so now what was once our nice quiet, remote little farm at the end of a dead-end road is like living in a fishbowl in the middle of Grand Central Station three seasons out of four. Oh, and while most people seem to think this trail was a great idea (Read as: free) they don’t realize that a good portion of our state gas tax goes toward it for improvements, upkeep and continued expansion. Since our current price at the pump has exceeded $3.60 I’m wondering how great that idea seems now? Frankly, I’d much rather be able to afford a tank of gas or home heating oil than pay for “improvements” for a trail that …. well, was ALREADY a trail.
Right now it’s still quiet, like the calm right before a storm. Soon, I’ll be awakened by people yelling at my horses and at each other as they bike, hike and jog past my property. The traffic will be almost constant during the daylight hours, especially on the weekends. As soon as we change our time back my peace and tranquility will be over … before I really even get a chance to get outside and enjoy it myself.
Oct 17, 2010 7:46 AM. EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 400, 30mm, 1/50 sec, f/16
Lens: Canon EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Lightroom3: Contrast/brightness adj
Horse shopping has been an emotional roller coaster ride. Fortunately, I think I’m past the part where I come home and fall into despair because it feels like I’ll never find a horse that will fit me like the one I used to have. That’s the curse of having had a great horse, I suppose. I’ve ridden a few that felt good. Different, but good, like maybe if I spend a year or two bonding with them it might start to feel like I felt on Tia. Yesterday I rode a pretty, young mare that made me think the magic might happen again.
It’s an interesting challenge to test ride a horse you’ve never met before. There’s really nothing like it. It’s not like driving a new car … that’s a piece of cake. Riding a living, breathing, thinking animal? Now that is a unique experience.
Above, Aldo and Keith take a break on a warm fall ride. Rocky, the young horse on the left was pretty new at the time, but he handled everything on this ride quite well. When I took this picture both horses were looking at a herd of goats that had been shadowing them on a nearby hill. For some reason the goats really spooked them, which made for an interesting photo. When I look at their expression in this photo it makes me think of Robert Redford’s line in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid: “Who ARE those guys?”
Sept 24, 2010. 11:32 AM EST.
Canon EOS 7D
ISO: 200, 135mm, 1/640 sec, f/5.6
Lens: Canon: EF
S 18-135mm IS
Lightroom3: Crop, brightness/contrast adj.
The wall surrounds nothing,
leads nowhere, yet her
strength draws you near.
A timeless force to reckon with still.