It Was Pink Outside Last Night

I’ve said before that central PA gets some of the best light I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s a consequence of latitude…or air pollution or…what, I don’t know. I just know that the light around here is regularly ethereal. So I shouldn’t have been surprised last night when I opened the door to look for the cat. The sky was clearing after a little cloudburst of rain, and it was that anything-can-happen time just before sunset. But I admit, I was surprised. Because it was pink outside.

Pink.

Like, did I just open the door into an impressionist painting or what?

Here’s what it was like. The photos are unretouched in any way.

Le chat.

Le chat.

See? It’s all rosy and I swear, totally #nofilter.

Check out the clouds.

First through the trees. For suspense.

First through the trees. Because I’m building suspense.

And then…

Over the top of my neighbor's crazy Dr. Seuss tree.

Over the top of my neighbor’s crazy Dr. Seuss tree.

Over the rooftops.

Over the rooftops.

HOLY POCKETS.

HOLY POCKETS.

And then I turned around and…

Dig it.

Dig it.

Seriously. It felt surreal. Which isn’t a bad thing but, by definition, not what one tends to expect.

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Bye, Honda Fit. Thanks for everything!

It was one of those moments, you know?  We were driving, the light was weird, the lanes kept getting lost in and out of the mist from the salty water pulled up from the blacktop and the intense bright glare of the sun.  Southbound, I-95, just past Washington DC.

Truth is, we didn’t stand a chance.

So, one person in the far left–who had lost sight of their lane in the glare–realized they had drifted out of their lane and were about to hit the construction sand barrels in the left median. They, of course, jerked their car back into the left lane.  Which caused the truck next to them to jerk into the middle lane.  Which caused me to have to swerve…and I have no idea what happened, but I lost control of the car.

Long story short, we hit the right concrete abutment, spun back into traffic, did a complete 360 and hit the same abutment again.  I do remember yanking the wheel to the right after the first hit on the right, because the last thing I wanted was a hit by oncoming traffic.  We came back to rest against that same concrete divider.

So here’s the deal: We walked away from this.  George and I opened our doors and walked away a little dented but generally, just fine.  And while we both think this sucked and wish this hadn’t happened, we also both acknowledge that it could have been much, much worse.  So we search for lessons among the wreckage.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

We are OK, because of things like seat belts and air bags.  Thanks for doing your jobs, good people of the Honda Safety Division!

My mother was supposed to be in the car with us, then for a few different reasons decided she couldn’t make the trip.  I was mad at first, now I’m incredibly relieved she wasn’t with us because no older lady needs to spin 360s in the right lane on I-95 southbound.  I need to remember to accept situations as they are, not as I want them to be.

Regardless of what is or is not as I want things to be, 2013 can still go fuck itself.

We were helped by a string of incredibly nice people, some of whom didn’t have to help, and all of whom didn’t have to be so nice.  Faith in humanity = shored up again.

This was one of those times when it became all to clear to me that we balance on the edge of a string.  And it doesn’t take all that much to get flung off the string or have is snap beneath you and send you hurtling into the abyss.  I’ve had a few other events like this in my life (the night a heater blew in an old apartment, the day I nearly got pulled out to sea in an undertow) and…while I don’t like to contemplate the abyss, I think it’s important to recognize those times that bring you perilously close to the edge, where you’re walking away under your own power simply because of a fingernail’s breadth worth of luck.

And so.  George and I are in the market for a new car, and it sucks but it’s OK.  I loved that car, but it was a car, and it sucks that it’s gone but it’s OK.  I’ll be wearing suspiciously high-collared shirts until the abrasion from the seat belt fades, and that’s OK.  And we’ll drive off in the morning sun in a rented minivan, which–trust me–is not my dream car.  But it’s OK.

Now go hug someone.  XOXO

Travel Theme: Pathways

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is pathways, which of course is one of my favorite things because they’re inherently liminal.  Maybe I’ve got an overly-developed sense of romanticism about pathways and roadtrips…though I don’t think so…but I always think of that Fellowship of the Rings quote:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

And so.

From an overpass looking down onto a train yard in Cleveland.

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Westward bound.

In the park outside l’Orangerie in Paris.  Please note: the lady is carrying a parasol.  A parasol.  And I don’t care if it’s actually an umbrella multitasking as a parasol.  It’s still a parasol.

This picture delights me every time I look at it.

This picture delights me every time I look at it.

My niece and nephew, in training for future adventures down pathways of their own.  At Knoebel’s, one of the greatest amusement parks in all the land (not that I’m biased).

World's most controlled road trip.

World’s most controlled road trip.

The Grand Canal, Dublin, which connects Dublin with the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland and a major thoroughfare for…oh…pretty much all of time. Located right next to it? The Grand Canal Hotel (wonder where they came up with that name?), which was a pretty swanky spot to stay.  That was where I had literally the best and spendiest veggie burger I’ve ever eaten.

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I was happy to have this sight greet us whenever we left our hotel.

And…home sweet home.  We have loads of enticing back roads around here just open to imagination and exploration.

Ever forward!

Ever forward!

What pathways have you taken?

Travel Theme: Bridges

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is pretty groovy: bridges. It must be liminal week for me because this is the second challenge in a row that involves me thinking about liminality, which was one of the best things I studied in college and here I am, still talking about it.

Since I have such a profound love for liminality it should surprise exactly no one that I like to take pictures in or around liminal spaces, and this of course includes bridges.  Why are they liminal?  Because they’re the transition point between one place and another.  Where do they stop belonging to one side of the ground to which they’re attached and become the other?  Or do they exist in their own netherspace, independent from the real estate to which they are attached?  What happens as you cross them?  Can the view from the middle help change your perspective?  I could go on.  I usually do.  But!  Let’s get to the photos instead.

Boston by day.

Welcome to Fairyland.

Welcome to Fairyland.

I adore the Boston Public Gardens, with their lush willows and their dreamy swan boats.  But this picture, with the graceful bridge anchoring the shot, gets me swoony every time I look at it.  Must go.  Must go now.

Boston by night.

On the overpass.

On the overpass.

This was taken this past summer from an overpass as we walked back to our hotel after a night on the town.  It’s so not the genteel look of the Public Gardens.  I also love the contrast; the city is stretched out before you, but the fence keeps you back.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia.

'scuse me while I walk across the sky.

‘scuse me while I walk across the sky.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia is GIIIII-normous.  When we went to Philly last summer, I couldn’t believe how much of Center City the hospital complex has come to dominate.  In order to connect one set of buildings to the next, they’ve built breezeways between them, which was something I first saw in Minneapolis and surely isn’t some revolutionary idea to anyone who has a winter but hey, it’s pretty striking when you turn the corner and see it.

And closer to home.

Under the stone bridge by Grove's Mills.

Under the stone bridge by Grove’s Mills.

Grove’s Mill is a fully operational water-powered grist mill located a scant four miles from where I live.  This bridge along the front of the mill has been relatively recently remodeled so it’s not one of the 70,000 structurally unsound bridges in the US, though they made sure it stayed all rustic-looking ‘n’ stuff.  But!  I’m delighted by the ducks under the bridge; could anyone tell me for sure if that’s a hooded merganser?

And close to home but in the other direction.

Rishel Covered Bridge.

Rishel Covered Bridge.

The Rishel Covered Bridge spans the Chillisquaque Creek (say that three times, fast!) and is five miles away from my house.  Built in 1830, the Rishel Covered Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Place and is quite possibly the oldest covered bridge in the US.  The bridge was pushed six inches off its moorings by the flooding that accompanied Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 and while it’s been reported that having the “bragging rights” to the bridge is worth the cost of repair, it’s been unused and untended for almost a year and a half now.  I grow more cynical about its repair by the day.  SAVE THE RISHEL COVERED BRIDGE!

Have fun checking out the other bridge bloggers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward!

Or, Ever Forward!  As my sister and I have been known to adopt as a motto.  Particularly while moving me to Pennsylvania from my former home in Texas.  But that’s not really important right now.

Anyway.  I dig things that make you think of movement, and progression, and the not necessarily negative inevitability of change.  It’s all about the liminality, man.  Because to move forward you have to engage in the journey to get there; it’s not just done by closing your eyes and having “forward” happen to you.

So.  This photo–probably more than any that I’ve taken recently–says “forward”.  There’s the curve of the tracks, and I always find myself sort of craning my neck to try and see what’s around the bend.  It’s a great unknown out there; do we stay where we are and not explore, or do we see what’s around that bend, and the next, and the next?  Plus, it’s taken at sunrise, so hooray to the dawning of a new day!

Onward!

Onward!

Ever forward, my friends.

Go check out the other photo challenge participants here.  Or bust out some pictures and join in the fun!

Ever Forward!

My sister-in-law snapped an extraordinary picture of my niece, on her first day of kindergarten.  After putting her on the bus (which had several more stops to make), Debbie high-tailed it to the school, waited for the bus to roll in, spotted Jen still at her seat and clicked away, nabbing the shot that makes my jaw drop every time I look at it.

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Welcome to the moment where everything changes.

This took place in the days before the advent of pre-K orientations, when the first day of school was one’s first encounter with their school.  This was, literally, the first time Jen was seeing the building in which she’d spend the bulk of the next few years.  There are so many emotions she conveys in this shot–you can see she’s nervous and scared, and excited, and so wholly absorbed in her assessment of the school that she doesn’t even notice her mother standing just below her on the sidewalk.  Can you feel the butterflies flitting around in her stomach?  This picture makes me want to practice my zen deep breathing.

She looks so…little.  She was so little then.  I mean, come on.  She was five.  And yet–despite the fact that she was so young, and nervous, and facing an entirely unknown situation–she got off that bus and went in those doors.

You could argue that she had to go.  You could rightly claim that there was nothing she or her parents could have done to prevent her from going to school, and even if she broke down into hysterics and threw herself on the ground at her mother’s feet, eventually, she would have had to walk through those doors anyway.  Therein lies my point.  She was five, and when children are five we don’t just expect, but mandate, that they do things like go to school and learn how to read and add and become functional members of our society.  Which is fine and as it should be since they need to start doing that at some point, but ultimately what we expect a five-year-old to do is blow up her or his comfort zone and launch into a journey of self-improvement.  Think about it.  We expect our children to go to a new building where they are surrounded by people they don’t know, abide by rules they haven’t had to live by yet, incorporate new skill sets into their repertoire, and perform those skills on demand.  Daily.  For twelve years (thirteen, counting kindergarten).  When they cry and say they hate school we assure them, “You’ll get used to it, it gets better, I promise.”  And every day the kids go back to school, to stare down new expectations, and meet them.  Or not, as also happens.

Kids, I’ve come to realize, don’t hate school because it’s hard–the word “hard” is so ambiguous in this situation that it renders itself meaningless.  Math is hard, grammar is hard, history is hard, science is hard…but so what?  Anything new is “hard”, since you lack the learned skill for it. I can think of fully grown, seemingly functional adults who would rather peel their own faces off than walk into the unknown like Jen did that day, and like every five-year-old does on their first day of school. Kids hate school because it constantly pushes them out of their comfort zone.  They may change…or they may fail to change in comparison to the peers that surround them.  Which is worse?  How many times have you made the face my niece is making, mentally or physically?  How many times have you resisted doing something because it’s different?  How many times have you said (or heard someone else say), “No, I won’t do it, I hate change.”  How many times have you tried to do something once, lacked the innate skill for it and defensively declared it “stupid”?  (You should have seen my first and only knitting lesson.)

I understand the desire for order, and I understand why we as adults tend to resist change.  I understand why we’re attached to our status and our stuff; I don’t even want to imagine a road trip without my smart phone handy anymore.  But I suspect that’s not what It, in the big-picture, capital-I “It”, is all about, no matter how much I love to surf the web while my boyfriend is driving.  We were born programmed to learn, to think, to experience a range of emotions, to make our time here on this planet an insightful and emotional journey and not just a chronological one.  So.  With this new year, I wish you all peace and joy and health.  I wish you love, and I wish you all the ability to attain the goals you’ve set for yourselves.  And I wish you all the courage of the five-year-old girl who rides the butterflies into a great unknown.  Ever forward!

Travel: Sunrise, Belhurst Castle

My boyfriend and I spent an amazing, romantic couple of days at a beautiful castle–CASTLE, FOR CHRISSAKES–on the Finger Lakes.  Belhurst Castle, located right along Seneca Lake in Geneva, NY, is a gorgeous spot for couples.  The rooms are huge and lovely; mine had a lake view and a fireplace, and a jacuzzi complete with a complementary rubber duckie.

Hi.

Hi.

The spa was amazing (ask for Lindie), the winery was impressive (try the Cabernet Franc).  The restaurant…meh (my steak was cooked correctly but the vegetables were steamed into oblivion, everything needed seasoning and the breakfast was entirely uninspired and unimaginative).  However, Geneva has some really good restaurants to choose from nearby (starting with Pure, the Indian place that’s maybe a five minute drive up the road, try the vindaloo and their spicy food is no-joke hot) so it’s no big deal.  And the surroundings were extraordinary and facing eastward, which is why I decided it would be in my best interests to get up before the sun and take pictures of a sunrise over Seneca Lake.

This isn’t a decision I make lightly.  I enjoy a good sleep far too much.

Good morning.

Good morning.

As this is the sort of blog that provides its own narrative, I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story, with not so much text.  All pictures taken on Belhurst grounds, either down at the dock or from the back lawn.

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Down along the waterline.

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And up on the lawn.

And up on the lawn.

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Behold! Beautiful Belhurst Castle, in the morning light.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

This week’s photo challenge is “Reflections”.  I don’t have much that’s pithy to say about the theme.  I just like it because it’s inherently liminal.  So let’s get started, shall we?

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

First up: a picture of my boyfriend’s parents, watching my boyfriend perform a song he wrote for them for their wedding anniversary.  He’s reflected in the window behind them, and I love that the picture has this whole “family unity” thing going on.

Zelda's, mid-flood.

Zelda’s, mid-flood.

I live along the Susquehanna River and last year, we had some pretty crazy flooding in town.  This is a local coffee shop, and the reflections on the water almost make it seem like the doors and windows are just very tall; if you glance at it quickly it doesn’t look like it’s flooded at all.  (Don’t worry; the business survived.)

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Me.

My boyfriend and I went to Gettysburg a few years ago, and I took roughly a bajillion pictures.  The only one of me?  This one, reflected in the mirror behind the bottle of wine we bought to share in our room.  There’s a certain poetry to this that I find cosmically brilliant.

And speaking of wine…

Hail Bacchus!

Hail Bacchus!

I snapped this tasty nugget in a local establishment for the purchase and consumption of adult beverages.  I dig the contrast.  I dig the impact.  I dig the reflections in the glass.  It should go without saying that I dig the wine.

You can go check out other interpretations of reflection here.  Fellow bloggers, feel free to play along!  While you do so, please enjoy some Diana Ross and the Supremes.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

One of the fun things about traveling is getting to that point where you know that you’re not home any more.  Though you do have to be careful about becoming weirdly jaded–cities are cities and they all contain common elements–traffic, garbage, pushy people, great shopping–that can override your sense of appreciation for what’s definitive and amazing, though some cities do make their unique characteristics much more difficult to ignore.  I’m looking at you, Paris.  As for traveling through the countryside…well…I live in the country.  I know what a cow looks like.

See?  Weirdly jaded and not groovy at all.

Below are a few photos that represent for me the moments when I fully appreciated the impact of being somewhere new and different, that had much more to offer than a wide array of stylish shoe shops.

Inis Mór, Ireland

Staring out into the North Atlantic from the edge of Inis Mór (Aran Islands)

One of these days I’m going to go in and fix that white blotch on the picture.  This was a film camera, not digital, and apparently the film had a little flaw.  Anyway.  Inis Mór, one of the little fingertips of granite poking out of the North Atlantic off Ireland’s west coast, is quiet.  During the day Kilronan, the town we stayed in, bustles with activity.  Tourists come in from Galway and shop for Aran Island sweaters (I have one in green) and other crafter’s goods.  At night, many of them are gone, and the island falls profoundly quiet.  It’s a quiet I’ve rarely had a chance to experience and can be found if you wander only a short distance away from the center of town.  It’s well-nigh impossible to photograph quiet, but I can photograph empty and deserted.  We encountered a father and son pair of hikers on the way up to this spot–and that’s it.  To get here, you have to climb over uneven terrain, and as you can see by the clouds the weather isn’t always on your side.  There’s no easily-graded hiking path, there’s no handrails, there are no guardrails or warning signs to keep you from the ledge.  I was glad to be so profoundly out of my element.  It’s good to recognize the times that you stand on the edge of the world.  There are all sorts of ways we can stare into the abyss; this was just one of them.

Paris, France

Along the Seine, Paris

Keeping in line with my statement about being weirdly jaded, Paris shares a lot with other cities.  Its avenues are far more tree-lined and gracious, and the art and architecture you find everywhere you go…amazing.  It is a spectacular city and one of my top three (Venice and Boston also jockey for the top position, dependent on my mood) but again, it’s a city.  You can still get hungry and sweaty and cranky walking around, you can still get tired of getting jostled and just want to chill out in your hotel room.  What you can’t necessarily have, though, is someone playing sax along the Seine, at night, under a street lamp.  This was somewhere near the Île de la Cité, the island on which Notre Dame is located, and we came across him after a long day of walking and looking and stuffing ourselves full of food and sights.  I remember hearing the sound waft up, and I had to follow it to its source.  There he was, looking like he stepped off the set of a movie, under the light with a few nighttime listeners sitting around.  I was mesmerized as I realized just how far from home I was, and I loved every moment of it.

Rome, Italy

The Colosseum, Rome

We got to Rome on a Monday.  Monday is not the best day to be in Rome, if you’re a tourist, because a lot of museums and such are closed, unless it’s a biggie like the Colosseum.    Since visiting the Colosseum was on our must-do list, and it was one of the things that was open, it was the first thing we did once we got to Rome and dropped off our stuff at the hotel.  We took the metro, got off at the Colosseo stop and…stood blinking our eyes in slack-jawed disbelief as we walked up the metro steps and saw the Colosseum rise before us.  There it was, sitting in the middle of traffic, a feast for the eyes before you even step in the door.  (I’ve said this before but I can’t stress it enough.  FYI, if you do go to Rome, get the Roma Pass.  You’ll be in that door so much more quickly.)  The thing about the Colosseum is, it’s so well preserved and maintained, you can’t help but find yourself transported.  I found it impossible to not step outside myself and imagine sitting in the crowd, or find sympathy for the combatants waiting in the (now exposed) hallways under the main floor, who knew their likely death would serve as entertainment for the crowd.  The Colosseum didn’t just stress to me that I was in a different city, but it took me to a different time and a different mindset, and forced me into a humane and human exercise I didn’t expect.  And that?  Is not something you get every day.

You can see more of this week’s “Foreign” photo challenge here.

Sunrise at Nags Head, NC

We just returned from a trip to Nags Head.  I’ve never been to the Outer Banks before and, as I have a bit of an obsession with border spaces it makes perfect sense that barrier islands are on my list of places to visit.  (I like to go to places like “the southernmost spot in” or “the furthest expansion of”.  I am also dying to visit the Four Corners monument and would also love to make it out to Key West.  For a variety of reasons.  Some of them academic.  :)  And I digress.)

As this was a vacation with family, George and I spent more time hanging out in the pursuit of quality time than we usually do and less time crawling around the night scene looking for foodie enclaves and loud music.  Everything in balance, people.  (Though here is my one foodie plug–if you’re in Nags Head and in the mood for Mexican, drive the ten miles to Bad Bean Baja Grill in Kill Devil Hills.  The salsa fresca is super-fresca!  The roasted habañero and tomato salsa is ain’t-messin’-around hot!  The nachos have pickled onions on them!  And the mole on the chicken mole burrito is great.  Nice and deep and smoky.  Everyone else at the table enjoyed their meals, too.  So, go.)

Anyway.

It was a little cold and dreary for the first two days that we got there, though the clouds seemed to break a little bit on the second night.  We noticed a clear patch of night sky, so George and I walked out to the beach to see what we could see, and got to feast our eyes on shooting stars zipping all over the sky.  I know they’re more prevalent than we realize.  It’s still a little startling when you go somewhere with way less light pollution than you’re used to.  The night was so clear–for a few minutes, anyway–that you could sort of see the stars behind the stars behind the stars and realize the three-dimensionality of the universe, which can be a heady concept to grapple with on a family vacation.  I wanted my most complicated question to be, “What’s for dinner?”  Instead I was faced with, “How infinitely small am I in this crazy vast universe I’m hurtling through?”  Yeesh.  I’d like another beer, please.

So.

Buoyed by the fact that there were clear patches of sky, I set the alarm for 6:15 so I could get up, shake the cobwebs out of my eyes, manage a cup of coffee and make my way to the beach before sunrise so I could take some pictures.  When I first looked out the window I saw cloud cover and had a few moments of “waaah” before thinking that the clouds had the potential to make things interesting.  And it was such a short walk to the beach; if it ended up being a glorious morning I would have kicked myself for missing out.  One cup of coffee later, George and I were on the beach anticipating the morning.

George, preparing for sunshine.

See?  Kind of grey, but what the hell.  Anyway.  We stood around and watched, and waited.  Wasn’t nobody there but us chickens.

Hello…hello…hello… Echo…echo…echo…

And then we started to get some little peeks of color through the clouds.

Patience, patience.

Sure, the promising gold and pink flecks of light on the water made a girl happy.  But something was missing, what was it?  Hmmm…

Thankfully, Central Casting apparently anticipated my needs and, as the sky turned more and more pink, provided me with Surf Fishing Dude and accompanying Birds.

One surf fishing dude stands alone.

And I know, I know, I promised you Central Casting Surf Fishing Dude with Birds, so here you go.

And I deliver you Surf Fishing Dude with Birds.

Oh, you like the birds?  Okay.

Check out the birds as the sky catches fire.

Here they are again.

On the hunt for some breakfast.

And don’t forget these little fellas in the surf.

Lest we forget.

OK, I’m going to drop the narrative now and just let the pictures tell the story.  I can’t do the morning justice, except by saying that we’re all very lucky we survived the sky exploding as it did.

And to think I almost decided against going.  So what to we do?  We look for the lessons.  If I had gone with my initial instinct and stayed home because of the clouds, I would have missed a spectacular morning.  If I hadn’t set the alarm (who wants to get up at 6:15 on vacation?) and taken the initiative, I would have missed a spectacular morning.  I like to walk around with my camera waiting for things to show up in front of me, and that has its benefits, for sure.  But rising to meet this opportunity paid off so, so spectacularly.  It’s only fitting that the beach (liminal) and sunrise (also liminal) are a potent combination for moments of self-reflection.  Is it corny that I think this is a metaphor for life?  Too bad if you feel that way.  I kind of dig it.

Oh, and lesson two: photographers, always…ALWAYS…have a spare battery charged and ready to go.  :)

All photographs are property of me, Terri Peterson, and may not be used without my permission.

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