Spooked

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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.

Notch

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.”

Everywhere

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.

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.