Skip to content

I Think the Word You’re Searching for is ‘Space Ranger’

Inspired by Adam Savage’s almost-authentic Mercury spacesuit—but lacking about $8,000—I decided that I would make my own NASA flight suit for my first Halloween as an elementary school principal. I ordered a bunch of authentic Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo mission patches from the NASA gift shop, plus my own name badge. I bought a flight suit from the army-navy store in North Conway, then invested in a pair of black boots. (I reasoned that I’d need them this winter, but they don’t seem terribly warm. Oh, well).

That stuff was relatively cheap and easy to get, especially since I started in summer and took my time. The only trouble was the helmet. They don’t make replica space helmets. The only ones online look like crap. I did find this video for a paper mache DIY space helmet, and figured it would be my best bet.

I didn’t do quite as good a job as the kid in the video. The soda bottle faceplate was tough to work with. The paper mache started easy, but rapidly got hard to control and I ended up with a bit of a lopsided mess. Still, the taplights inside the helmet look kinda cool, I guess, and now I’ve got a costume as well as an educational conversation piece for Halloween. I’ve been giving away the two dozen or so extra patches to kids since the beginning of the year, so that was kind of a good investment; the Apollo 15 patch is the best looking of the entire set, and now some kid probably has it shoved at the bottom of his backpack. Then again, maybe he’s got it in a safe place. Regardless, I decided to narrow four missions to honor on my suit:

• First American in space, Apollo 14 commander, and New Hampshire native Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7.

• Gemini 4, which had the first American spacewalk.

• Apollo 11, obviously.

• And STS-61, the first Hubble telescope repair mission.

I also have a big NASA patch, plus an American flag for the shoulder. I should have ordered a larger one, but waited too long and even the army-navy store didn’t have anything bigger.

Anyway, here’s the “build” for the helmet. Again, this was not a good time, but I finished.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Mud Season

Hogan Road, Gorham, NH.

Hogan Road, Gorham, NH.

Twice a year, some of the restaurants shut down for a few weeks. Late October is too late for leaves (they’re all gone) and too early for November snow; that snow is gone by April, which is too early for the summer tourist stuff.

This week, dead leaves are everywhere. New Hampshire needs a rake the size of the Nile Delta.



No Parking

Chocorua Lake Road, Chocorua, N.H.

Chocorua Lake Road, Tamworth, N.H.


Mt. Chocorua from Chocorua Lake, Tamworth, NH.



Coldbrook Falls, Gorham, NH.



Nearby stars Altair (left) and Vega, 20 second exposure, ISO 6400.

I really wanted to enjoy shooting last night. I hadn’t done any shots of the sky in several weeks, but it was warm and clear. Knowing such days are literally numbered, I set up in the back yard and started taking exposures. I didn’t stay out for long.

As you can see from how blurry the tree is, the breeze was strong. It was strange: warm and unrelenting. The bright glow on the branches is misleading. To regular, non-time-exposure human eyes, it was pretty dark. The hiss of the breeze made me feel like someone was watching me. Twice I sensed something approaching, thinking it was the neighbor’s dog, and clapped really loudly. When I did that, I didn’t hear whatever it was stop moving—more like I heard it stop being silent.

I got five or six exposures, none of them very good, and finally gave up. I hurriedly collapsed the tripod with the camera still attached and got the hell out. I have to admit I walked a bit too quickly back to the porch. Just as I was walking up the back steps, I heard something heavy walking behind me. I turned around and yelled “Hey!” into the dark. There were two unmistakable sound of footfalls in the shadows by the garage, then whatever it was scampered away.

On that note, I saw my first bear this morning. I was driving to the nearby town of Milan for a meeting. About 200 yards ahead, I saw a black blob ambling across the road. It had disappeared into the brush by the time I reached that point.

New rule: No more going outside by myself in the dark.

Of Glory

Maple tree, Evan's Cemetery, Gorham, NH.

Maple tree, Evan’s Cemetery, Gorham, NH.

It was unusually warm today: a breezy 77 degrees, according to the dashboard on my Jeep. All day I tried to hold onto what 77 feels like, knowing we won’t see that again for another seven months at least.

Earth Tones

Power lines parallel to Route 2, Coös County, NH.

Power lines parallel to Route 2, Coös County, NH.

Fall’s almost over.

Evidently Some Bug. How Strange.


Hoverfly, Coös County, NH.

I don’t know what the name of the plant is and I’m tired of looking for it.

Sun Day



Androscoggin River, Gorham, NH.

Androscoggin River, Gorham, NH.



Evan’s Cemetery, Gorham, NH.

Hard Right



Maple leaf, Androscoggin River, Gorham, NH.

Maple leaf, Androscoggin River, Gorham, NH.

Alight II



Androscoggin River, Gorham, NH.

Androscoggin River, Gorham, NH.

Positively Main Street

U.S. Route 2/Main Street, Gorhman, N.H., ISO 100, f/7.1, 6 second exposure

U.S. Route 2/Main Street, Gorhan, N.H., ISO 100, f/7.1, 6 second exposure

The Difference Between Autumn and Fall

Pinkham Notch, NH.

Pinkham Notch, NH.

Namely this: Leaves stop hanging there and looking pretty, and start falling on the ground. Dry leaves skittered past my office window this morning like they were racing.


10712447_674508185990119_4839858628199565511_oAbout a mile down the road from this spot lies The Balsalms Grand Resort Hotel, which traditionally has held the first primary and general elections in the nation. For decades, the dozen or so residents of Dixville Notch would gather in the ballroom at midnight and cast their ballots. According to a few things I’ve read, that tradition seems to be in peril. The resort closed in 2011, but may open again in 2016.

Incidentally, “notches” are valleys in northern New Hampshire. They definitely look like some titanic being cracked the underlying granite with an axe.

41 Lots

IMG_4269Old Yard Cemetery sits on Main Street two blocks from my house, on a spot of land much smaller than my house. Most of the markers are either broken or so worn away that we’ll never know who they’re for.

According to this pdf, the oldest stone is for an infant who died in 1800. The saddest, which I found last weekend while walking back from breakfast, was for an 8-year-old boy who died in 1840. It reads, “Moses, son of Moses and Eliza Goodno, drowned.”


Connecticut River, New Hampshire shore from the Vermont side.

Connecticut River, New Hampshire shore from the Vermont side.

New Hampshire’s forests look like a bowl of Froot Loops. It’s almost too easy. I could take a pretty picture by setting the two-second timer on my camera and then tossing it into the air.



Woods at base of Mt. Washington, Coös County, NH.

Above and Below

Mt. Washington Summit, Coos County, NH.

Mt. Washington Summit, Coös County, NH.


Stonington, CT.

Stonington, CT.

I don’t know which of the following photos I liked better, so I’ll post them both.

Flock 2

Stonington, CT.

Stonington, CT.

The Snap

Autumn creek, Center Ossipee, NH (from 2013).

Autumn creek, Center Ossipee, NH (from 2013).

Things are still about 80 percent green here. That’s changing in a hurry, though. I took this photo when we flew out here last October, which means we’re about due for the leaves to turn. Color will sweep across the mountains—then God only knows what’ll happen in the months that follow. I haven’t experienced a true winter since the late ’70s, and I know it’s going to land on me with both feet. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts little snow in New England but bitter cold. Forecasters, on the other hand, say El Nino will bring relative warmth but several feet of snow. The Almanac’s is the version the locals keep bringing up. Thanks, guys.

The cold hangs like a spectre over everything here. Last winter’s road sand collects in asphalt cracks and coats the sidewalks. Take a shortcut behind a cafe on your way to work, and you’ll come across three snowplow blades, stacked against each other in the shadows. When the natives tell you a story about the wind and the ice, they always smile and shake their heads. You feel the cold when they do that, even on the hottest, muggiest day of the year.

It was 25 °F this morning. I’m told that when the leaves get that first “snap,” they turn in a hurry. The trees are changing color in the hills behind the school—a yellow sapling here, a red branch there. Next week, they say, everything turns at once.

Cold Pool

Ellis River, Pinkham Notch, NH.

Ellis River, Pinkham Notch, NH.

64 Feet

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, NH.

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, NH.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers