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.


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.



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.

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.


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.


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!



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.


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.



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.


Down along the waterline.







And up on the lawn.

And up on the lawn.












Behold! Beautiful Belhurst Castle, in the morning light.

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