189: No significant accumulation?

(Spring temporarily gives up.)

I have a small, tattered clipping that I sometimes carry with me and pull out for purposes of private amusement.  It’s a weather forecast from the Western Daily Mail and it says, in toto, ‘Outlook:  Dry and warm, but cooler with some rain.’

~ Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island

I have to admire the folks who predict the weather.  It’s not a job I would want, especially in these parts.  Weather is just, well, unpredictable.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in an occupation where you are frequently wrong and nobody fires you for it.  I’m joking.  A little.  The fact is, I’ve always been fascinated with weather and once thought being a meteorologist was one of the coolest jobs on the planet because you get to work with weather and weather patterns, and all the cool techie stuff such as radar.

Winter hugs spring

After posting yesterday I turned around, looked outside, and found that what I’d posted was inaccurate.  “No significant accumulation” is, I believe, how I quoted the latest weather report.  Ha!  Outside my window was some quite significant accumulation for nearly the end of March.  Makes me wonder what the weather folks consider significant.  Granted, in January this would not have been a big snow event.  Even at the end of March it isn’t a big snow event.  But it’s still accumulation in my book.  If it sticks, it’s accumulation.

Yesterday, while the snow was still falling and accumulating in an insignificant way

I gotta hand it to Winter, though.  It pulled me right back in.  I immediately bundled up, got out the snow boots, and went outside, camera in hand, and started taking pictures like I hadn’t just spent an entire winter photographing snow.  I can’t help it.  (Does that make me addicted to Winter?)  It’s beautiful, especially the way the wet, heavy snow decided to stick to everything including the branches of the trees.  Winter mesmerized me once again with big, fat, feathery snowflakes dancing and whirling and swirling from the sky.  I never even noticed if it was cold or not, I was so caught up in Winter’s Waltz.

Today’s Outdoor Adventures

I took my walk early today, around 7:30am.  It was foggy, misty, and magical.  The snow laid a hush over the land, but the fog distorted and carried sounds.  It was a lovely combination since about the only sound out there was that of the birds singing and chattering.

The Early Bird (a robin)

I wonder how the birds and the almost-blossoming flowers feel about the snow.  While the flowers weren’t talking (I suspect they decided to go back to sleep for a little while), the birds sure seemed to have a lot to say.

I have to confess:  I took a ton of photos.  None of the photos in this post, by the way, were shot in black and white or converted to black and white in post-processing.  I did not attempt to change the blueish-gray tones of some of the photos since that is the reality of the colors this morning.  I did very little in post-processing.  I did some resizing so I’m not putting giant, economy-size, photos on the blog.  The fog and snow created interesting effects on their own and didn’t need the help of an editing program.

Walking towards the timothy grass meadow

The pond was like glass.  It hasn’t been this still in at least a week or so.  In addition to ushering in the chilly temperatures, the old north wind that had been plaguing us kept the water wavy and ripply.

The stillness was, simply, amazing.  The reflections even more so.  It was easy to get lost in them and imagine myself in a watery, upside down, world.

I did take a few shots with the white balance set to tungsten, just for fun.

The vignetting effect along the edges of the photo are due to lens distortion.  I know that is not always considered a good thing, but I sometimes like it (and can always crop it out if I don’t).

Be still and know

The last photo is my favorite of today’s batch.  Yesterday was about the dance, the whirling, the twirling, the swirling.  This morning was about the calm and stillness of the morning after, when the mind and body relax and meet in the quiet and peacefulness of a foggy, snowy morning in spring.

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.

~ Ram Dass

188: Who wants to partcipate in a 5k?

(My feet wearing my newest pair of Vibrams and basking in the morning sun.)

I bet you think I get tons of exercise on my daily walks outside.  Some days, that’s true.  Most days, it’s not.  Slow walking is exercise, but it doesn’t get the heart rate up and I doubt the calorie burn is terribly high.  Better than sitting in front of the computer, sure.  But not as good as I need to be doing.

Yesterday I received a gift from WordPress in my email.  I bet some of you did, too.  It was an announcement about the WWWP5k.  I have been looking for an excuse to train for a 5k, and here it is.  Synchronicity.  Gotta love it.

You can find the details at the link I provided.  In a nutshell, you can walk, run, skip, hop, swim, cycle, or crawl.  It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it’s under your own steam in some way, shape, or form.  You can do it on a treadmill, on a track, inside, outside, or upside down.  The event takes place on April 10th, but if you can’t do it that day, you can do it anytime during the week of April 4th-10th.

There is obviously not enough time for me to go from the Couch to 5k.  I will start the training for running a 5k, but plan to do a walk/run.  Or, if I can get M to join me, maybe we’ll hike it.  The weather will be a factor, too.

So.  Who wants to join me?  Anyone??

Mapping My Walks

Joanne recently suggested that a map showing some of the main features of my posts would be helpful so you all can get your bearings.  I think it’s a splendid idea!  But I’m not terribly good at drawing maps so I thought I’d give it a go by labeling a few photos.  Later in the season, when it’s looking a little more green and lush, I’ll see what I can do about taking you on a walking tour.

You might want to click on the photo above to enlarge it a little.  It will be easier to read that way.  For our purposes today (and in the future), the front of the pond is the area at the bottom of the photo (nearest the house, not pictured) and the back is the area where you see the trees (labeled “Woods”).  The W (for West) and the S (for South) are approximate, and there just to give you a general idea of where things are in terms of direction.

Joanne also asked if the trees at the back of the pond were showing any signs of new life yet.  Yes, indeed they are.  The photo above shows the “aura” (as I think of it) created when the trees move from their dormant winter stage into the budding stage.  The yellow is from the blossoms or seeds that are starting to appear on some of the trees.  The trees in this photo are in the back, right hand corner of the above photo.

We have 8 acres of property here at Breezy Acres.  1.5 acres of that is the pond.  It’s about a half mile around the periphery of the property.  Some days I walk down the sledding hill which is to the right (outside of the photo) of the pond.  That brings me approximately to where the willows are shown.  The area just before the willows dips down into a kind of trench.  This is the emergency spillway for the pond.  It comes in handy when the drain at the back of the pond can’t work quickly enough (or becomes clogged, as it was when we first bought the property).  It’s important to have good drainage given all the rain and snow we usually get.  If the pond level were to get too high, it could breach the dam.  The dam is the area built up all along the back and to the right in the above photo.  It holds in the water.  The ground slopes down from both of those areas.

On the right hand side, behind the trees and shrubs lining the dam, it slopes down to a creek which moves the excess water from the spillway to the creek in the woods.  This is usually a dry creek during the summer months, where more trees and shrubs are growing.  The creek in the woods, however, is never a dry creek although I have seen it at fairly low levels during a drought.  The other area at the back of the pond slopes down into the woods.  There is an opening in the trees (just under the letter k in the word “creek” in the photo), and a path that goes down to a small clearing where there is an old apple tree.  If you were to turn right from there, you would eventually end up at the creek and the edge of our property (which runs about 100 feet or so back into the woods).

During the winter months you have probably noticed a house back there in the woods (to the left).  It almost looks like it’s near the pond, but it is set back a ways beyond our property line.  It wasn’t there when we first moved here.  The property back there is boggy and swampy, and it was said that nobody would be able to build there because they wouldn’t get approval for a septic system.  That turned out to be wrong, but only because the county official who wouldn’t approve the septic system was on vacation and they got the substitute guy to say okay.

We planted evergreen trees back in that corner (the left) in the hopes that eventually they will grow tall enough to block our view of the house in the woods.  It might even help with sound, as the couple who live back there are known around here as the Loud Family.  Everything is said at high volume and we can hear their conversations way up here at the house.  It should be said, however, that water carries sound well so their words tend to drift across the pond, up the hill, and through the windows at the back of the house.  Mr. Loud (not his real name, obviously) manufactures steel drums and, every now and then, he plays them.  I especially enjoy that during the summer months while I’m out on the pond in one of the boats.

Rowboat, waiting for summer

Hopefully I have not made things even more confusing.  Just in case that is the case, I’ll stop here and resume the tour another day, when I’m fairly certain we all know where I’m going.  Heh.

And snow it goes…

The day dawned bright and sunny and clear.  By noon we had a heavy cloud cover, and by 2:00pm it was snowing.  Yes, snowing.  It was a weird kind of snow, falling in clumps of tiny balls that look almost like styrofoam.  It is light like styrofoam too.

I did not take the camera with me during my outdoor time today.  I did, however, take a few shots of the snow falling before I went out and about.

Snow falling on ducks

I don’t think the snow will stick.  The ground is probably too warm for that right now.  As of this writing, the snow continues to fall in a flurry-like way, and the prediction by the weather folks is “no significant accumulation.” It will be changing over to rain tomorrow, then snow again tomorrow night.  Messy, methinks, if things start to freeze up a little.


Snow falling on pond

187: Weekly Photo Challenge: Ocean

(Point Reyes, California.)

I could never stay long enough on the shore, the tang of the untainted, fresh and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.

~ Helen Keller

This week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post is Ocean.  I love the ocean.  If I had my druthers, I’d live near the ocean.  East coast, west coast, it doesn’t really matter.  I am probably most familiar with the Atlantic Ocean, having grown up on the east coast and vacationed there frequently as a child and as an adult.  But I do love the Pacific as well.  I think the advantage of west coast living would be the proximity to mountains and desert as well as the ocean.  Just think of all those different worlds and climates to explore.

Since I obviously cannot step outside or take a short drive to gather new photos of an ocean, I decided to dive into ye olde archives and bring out some photos from a place I visited briefly and would love to return to someday.  Point Reyes, California.  M and I were given a quick tour of the area by a friend back in 2006.  Our trip west was to San Francisco and nearby areas, and it happened to be a very rainy spring that year.

It rained off and on the day we went out to Point Reyes with our friend.  Even with the rain, the clouds, and the fog, I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Point Reyes is a peninsula that was first inhabited around 5,000 years ago by the Coast Miwok Indians.  There are over 120 known village sites within Point Reyes National Seashore.  The first European explorer to land at Point Reyes was Sir Francis Drake, in 1579.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

The Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 and retired in 1975 when they went to an automated light system.  We were not able to visit the lighthouse that day because the stairs were closed.

The views from where we stood when I took these photos were incredible.  You could turn in any direction and fill your eyes and soul with beauty.

Point Reyes National Seashore is home to a wide variety of plants and animals.  The animals range from large marine mammals such as the northern elephant seal to small butterflies.  The area is characterized by Mediterranean vegetation.

We did see quite a few animals that day.  Unfortunately, most of the photos I took of the wildlife (including a number of birds, some seals, and tule elk) did not turn out well.  Those that I did capture fairly well, such as the fallow deer, turned out to be non-native species.

If I could, I’d like to spend at least a month there, exploring and hiking around the area.  I’d better start playing the lottery.  😉

Today’s Outdoor Adventures

Not much has changed.  It’s another chilly, blue-sky day with a brisk north wind.  We woke up to frost and fog, and another pretty sunrise.

I had a lovely walk today.  We had a few visitors to the pond.  The mallards, who seem to have decided to stay for a while, were swimming around. They let me get closer than usual.

We also had a great blue heron stop by for a few hours.  The swallows, of course, are swooping and swirling around, catching insects near the water.  I did not see any of the turtles today.  I wonder if the frigid nights have driven them back into hibernation?

Sunlight on a tree limb

I stayed out for a while.  I thought I should enjoy the sun and clear skies while I can.  It’s supposed to get cloudy tomorrow.  And snow on Friday.

Perhaps we put away the cross-country skis too soon.

186: Dazzling in blue

(A single cattail.)

I cannot think of a better word for today.  It is dazzling.  The sky is an amazing shade of blue.  The sun is providing incredible light.  It’s just… dazzling.

(Ripples and willow branch reflections on the pond.)

Has it warmed up here in the Bogs?  No.  It has not.  It’s not any warmer than it has been for the past week or so.  But my attitude has  changed, and I have once again acclimated to the cold.  Layers on, hat on, mittens on, and waterproof boots to keep my feet dry and warm.  The t-shirts, shorts, and other bits of summer apparel will have to wait.  The weather folks are saying we won’t be warming up anytime soon.  It’ll be at least a week or more.

Bird's nest

I like the way the blue of the sky comes out in different shades depending on where I point the camera in relation to where the sun is positioned.  Or something like that.  I bet it sounded like I knew what I was talking about for a moment or two.

A bird near the nest

I am surprised by how boggy it continues to be.  The persistent, steady, cold and dry north wind should have pretty much dried things out by now.  I tried to make my way through the woods, but once I started down towards lower ground, it got muddy and mushy.  I would have been slipping and sliding (and probably falling) all over the place if I had continued.

Old tree in the woods

The vegetable garden area, which is on slightly higher ground, is almost dry enough for tilling.  That also means it’s almost dry enough for me to start to work on cleaning up the asparagus bed.  It will, however, be a while before we can consider planting anything.

I stayed out for over an hour today, enjoying the light, the blue of the sky, and even the chill and fresh scent of the north wind.  It was invigorating, on many levels.

Today's view of the pond from the timothy grass meadow

Old Man Winter may think he’s got a grip on us, but if you look closely you will find that Spring has not been completely halted in her mission of growth, rebirth, and renewal.

New life popping up

I think those might be the day lilies.  The area where I found them is the right place for them, and I can’t think of any other flowers that might be growing there.  We’ll see, as time goes on, how good my memory is.

Catkins against a blue sky

Going outside on a daily basis is easier and much more enjoyable when I give up the whingeing, and go out with a sense of adventure and discovery.  So go ahead, North Wind.  Bring it on.  It’s not going to keep me indoors.


Fire in the sky -- last night's sunset as seen through the woods

I’ll find other ways to keep warm.


185: At least it isn’t snowing

(Sunlight on dried flowers.)

It’s another bright, sunny. blue-sky day here in the Bogs.  The north wind is still blowing, keeping the temperatures down and Spring at bay.  I expected to be taking photos of spring flowers by now, but it’s back to the dried flowers in the meadows.

Golden morning sunlight reflections, fog, and goose on the pond

Sunrise was pretty this morning.  It took a little while for the sunlight to hit the pond.  When it did, it was breathtaking.  I wish I could have captured it better.

Willows touching the deep blue sky

I went out for my walk late in the afternoon today.  We were busy earlier in the day.  We had lunch with a friend and then did a little shopping at an outlet mall near where we had lunch.  I’m still trying to figure out what size I am after last year’s weight loss.  I’m also trying not to buy much as I’m on my way towards losing more weight so it seems a waste to invest too much right now.

Afternoon shadow

I keep reminding myself that when we had this sort of day in January, I thought it was warm and beautiful.  When that doesn’t work, I repeat what others are saying:  At least it isn’t snowing.

184: Odds and ends

(Finch at the Cleveland Botanical Garden)

After a trip or a visit to a local attraction, I’m usually left with photos that just didn’t seem to fit into a post.  I think of them as odds and ends.  So, every now and then, I do an odds and ends post about nothing in particular.

(Chowing down.)

The problem, however, with a post about nothing in particular is that I have to come up with ways to insert some text in between the photos.  Well, okay.  I don’t have to.  But I like to.  To break things up a little.

I’m not sure what type of finches they have at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  They have quite a few of them in the Rainforest of Costa Rica glasshouse.  They are cheerful little birds, willing to pose for a minute or two.

(A plant in the Spiny Desert of Madagascar glasshouse.  Cleveland Botanical Garden.)

It’s another cold day here in the Bogs.  The high today is supposed to be somewhere around 29.  It’s hard to believe that we’re near the end of March and it’s still this cold.  It’s also sunny and clear, something I’m trying to be grateful for.

A look at the 10-day forecast shows there is no warm-up in our near future.  Spring has been put on hold.  Or on ice.

I guess we’ll have to find other ways to keep warm.

Today's view of the pond

The swallows are back.  When I was out on my walk this afternoon they were swooping and swirling over the pond.  It looks like a flying dance to me.  I stood for a while and watched.  Every now and then one of them would swoop close to me, as if checking me out.  I suspect I am not nearly as entertaining to them as they are to me.

A terrible photo of one of the swallows

I tried to photograph them but they are so fast that it is nearly impossible.  I used to think the same of dragonflies until I learned they have flight patterns.  Perhaps the same is true for the swallows.  I’ll have to take the time to sit out there one day and watch.  It was too cold for that today.

Ice formation in one of the boggy spots at the back of the pond

Remember way back to November when I posted the first signs of ice here in the Bogs?  I couldn’t remember when it was, either, so I looked.  Here it is, the bones of winter post.  It seems like it was a long time ago.

Blowin' in the wind

I guess that’s about it from the Bogs for today.  I’ll leave you with a couple of warmer scenes to help those of us still dealing with the cold.

Walk through the door...

... and out on to the beach.


183: Photography as meditation

(Willow stump.)

Yesterday, Kathy asked:

Here is a question, Robin. Do you find it easy to meditate with a camera? I find it a distraction many times, because the mind gets active watching for a possible shot, figuring out how to frame it, always moving outwards. I would like to learn how to meditate with a camera–but it hasn’t happened yet! Any advice?

Kathy’s question is so interesting to me that some of the neurons in my brain that fell asleep over the winter months awakened and started firing like crazy.  Little firecrackers in my head, going all active.  My brain is awake.  Yay.

I started to answer in comments but my answer was so long that it turned into a blog post. I will try not to turn this into the longest blog post ever.

And that desire — the strong desire to take pictures — is important.  It borders on a need, based on a habit:  the habit of seeing.  Whether working or not, photographers are looking, seeing, and thinking about what they see, a habit that is both a pleasure and a problem, for we seldom capture in a single photograph the full expression of what we see and feel.  It is the hope that we might express ourselves fully — and the evidence that other photographers have done so — that keep us taking pictures.  ~ Sam Abell, American photographer

Photography is often described as capturing a moment.  That’s true.  A crocus pushes up through the snow, a camera with a person attached to it (in some way) records it.  The moment when those tiny little bits of green show through the snow at that exact position in time is gone except for the photograph recording it and the photographer’s memory of it.  It becomes another moment, a personal moment, when someone else views it.

As I’ve noted here (I think) and in guest blog posts, photography puts me smack in the moment with a heightened awareness that I often find difficult to describe.   Perhaps a better description is feeling as if I am connected with everything.  I am present in the moment.  When I walk with my camera hanging around my neck, I rarely pay much attention to the camera itself.  I know it’s there in the same way I know my arms, hands, legs, and feet are there.  I feel it.  I am aware of lifting it, looking through the viewfinder, and taking a shot, in the same way I am aware of my feet on the earth or my arms and legs moving.

Here is a shocking bit of information about me:  I do not compose my shots.  I know.  It’s weird.  I do not consciously look at a scene and think about how I would frame it.  Subconsciously, maybe I do.  The thing is, I already see in frames.  I attribute that to having worn glasses most of my life, but I suppose it’s possible that’s just how my brain works.  I don’t believe there is anything mystical, magical, or highly artistic about it.  It is just the way I see and think.  I am fortunate in that there is a way for me to express the way I see and think.  Whenever there was a camera of any kind for me to attach to myself, I’ve taken advantage of it.  I borrowed cameras when I didn’t have the money to buy one of my own.   Taking a walk without a camera feels odd to me.  I do it once in a while because I think it’s healthy to take a break every now and then.

Although I am aware of the camera and the motions involved in taking a photo, I just don’t think about it.  At all.  I point, I shoot.  Sometimes I barely stop to do it.  The camera is, in many respects, an extension of me.  It is my way of seeing the moment as well as the world.  I am often surprised by what I find when it’s time to look at the photos.  I see things I could not have otherwise seen.  There is a drawback, though.  The camera doesn’t always see the way I see.  That’s why I’ve become more and more interested in fiddling with (processing) the photos in various programs including Photoshop, Picasa, and Picnik.  I’ve sometimes used all three for one photo to come up with what my “eye” (soul) observed.  It’s not merely an observation for me, and I think that is the difference between what I see (feel) and what the camera captures.

Photography is meditation for me in many respects.  When I am out walking and taking pictures, my mind often becomes quiet, relaxed, and present.  I’ve been known to use photography to help me through fear when hiking in high places (or on an airplane).  I lift the camera to my eye and the fear fades as my focus changes, physically and mentally.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rules of not composing, and photography as meditation.  If I go out with purpose (“today I am going to shoot This”), then it is not as much an extension of me as when I go out without expectations of any kind.  Taking photographs with intention is different than when I’m out on a hike or walk.  There might still be a meditative quality to it, something similar to a guided visualization as I usually try to map things out when I’m shooting with intention.  The other exception is shooting in manual mode, something I’ve been doing more of lately in an attempt to get the photo right in the camera so I don’t have to fuss with processing it later.  (Side note:  Shooting in manual mode has started to make me slightly unhappy with the auto modes.  That’s probably a good thing.)

As for advice, I’m not very good at that sort of thing.  You should do what feels right/best for you.  I think it may be different for everyone.  🙂

Today’s outdoor adventure

It’s another chilly day here in the Bogs.  Low temps in the teens, highs in the 30s.  At least we have sunshine, and the wind is still gusting occasionally but not quite as blustery as it was yesterday.

Today's view of the pond

I didn’t stay out any longer than I had to in order to meet my commitment.  It is just too cold.  I don’t think I whined this much about the cold throughout the winter.

Grackle in the locust tree

The birds don’t seem to be minding the cold too much today.  They’re active building nests or, in the case of the ducks, swimming in the pond.

The trees continue to bud, and the flowers have (so far) survived the cold nights.  The crocuses have shriveled a bit, but they might have been finished for the season.  The hyacinths are budding nicely.  If it continues to stay dry, I might get out in the garden soon to clean up the asparagus bed.

I should get some seeds started soon.  I’m not sure what I want to grow this year.  Tomatoes, of course.  Lettuces.  Maybe I’ll give rapini or swiss chard a try.

How about you?  Do you have a vegetable garden?  What do you plan to grow this year?