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Transition. March 30, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Up here in the hills, there’s still plenty of snow wherever shadows lie deep.

But down in the valley, it’s looking very Spring-like – the snow is mostly gone:

…and the rivers are dropping:

This despite a forecast for 6-12″ of snow on Friday!

March came in like a lion, and seems determined to go out like a, um, lion!


The Hitchcocks. March 27, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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That would be Mount Hitchcock, straddling the border between Hadley and South Hadley, Massachusetts, and here seen presiding over the flood plains along the Connecticut River:

The foreground puddle is a remnant of melting snow; these fields will be plowed for corn when they’re dry enough.

…and Lake Hitchcock:  The plains of Northampton and Hadley are vestiges of the lake-bottom varves, or seasonally deposited sediments, laid down by the Pleistocene-era Lake Hitchcock, which stretched about two hundred miles from northern Vermont to southern Connecticut between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago.  The lake eventually found a path around its terminal moraine dam down by present-day Rocky Hill, CT and the lake drained, leaving only the current Connecticut River in its place, here seen passing beneath the Cooley-Dickenson Bridge between Northampton and Hadley:

This is another example of a failed sunset foray producing something else worth looking at, at least for me!

Noho Arroyo. March 26, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Every once in a while an image appears to me which seems like it’s more representative of some place other than Western Massachusetts.  That happened last evening while mucking through the now-drying cornfields of southeastern Northampton.

Here’s a shot which, had it been on a grander scale, might have been taken in the American West:

I was cruising for a sunset which didn’t really materialize, but one takes what one can get, no?

Courtesy of Elliot, my TS-EII lens.

Standing At The Window. March 25, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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You always loved this time of year.  The promise of Spring, the chance at last to throw open the window and just stand there taking it all in, the warmth of the sun on your face incongruously mingling with the cool breeze playing through your hair.  The impossibly blue sky presaging the Summer of your life, full of hopes and dreams and opportunities, the air lightly scented with snowdrops and daffodils and the sounds of  children playing…

But today is different.  Today, this 25th day of March, you’re standing at the window, standing in the window, with the sun on your face feeling like ice compared to the searing heat at your back, the furious inferno of friends and fabric clawing at you like a rabid red Cerberus, the sounds of children crying in the street below swallowed by the roar of the flames, the shrieking of women and steel and God and the blood rushing in your ears, the molten air filling your lungs with the acrid smell of burning wool and bone and your own singed hair, and through tears of pain and anguish you look up to see the red flames and the white smoke and the dirty blue sky, and you lean forward, not by choice but because there is  no choice, and follow your hopes and dreams and broken promises to the crushing pavement eight stories below.

One hundred years later, we’re standing in that window, all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, lured out onto a parapet of false promises, driven ever closer to the abyss of withered aspirations and diminished dreams.  We have a choice, or so we’re told, of sucking it in and making sacrifices for the “common good,” of working more for less pay, of peeling back our benefits, of giving up the rights our Sisters died for, our Brothers fought for, our Parents demanded…  or we can cling stubbornly to our Unions, our Workers’ Rights, our expectations of safe conditions, our delusions that we deserve to retire with dignity and some small measure of financial security, and watch the Captains of Industry take their factories overseas where reasonable people are just grateful to have jobs,  places like Malaysia and Bangladesh where corporate assets aren’t troubled by safety and environmental regulations, where injured or sickened or just plain overworked employees can be discarded and replaced by anonymous hands and backs beyond counting.

We know they’ll do it.  Hell, they have done it.    Just look at the empty factories littering the American Dream-scape, then look at the fine print on the products you buy, the labels on your clothes.  Supply-side economics holds that it makes great sense to manufacture our shirts in Bangladesh, where just this past December dozens of women jumped to their deaths from their burning high-rise garment factory because the exits were locked.

One hundred years later, people, and what have we learned?

We’ve learned that individuals may be powerless in the face of Corporate greed, but great congregations of workers are not.  We’ve learned that if we don’t demand  to be treated fairly and decently, we will be treated as expendable chattel.  And we’ve learned that Government Of the People, By the Corporations, For the Filthy Rich is complicit in the auctioning off of the American Dream.  The hard-won rights our parents and grandparents scraped together and cobbled into a life worth living are being pried from our hands with assurances that it’s for our own good, that it’s the only way our economic system can compete, that if we don’t capitulate we can kiss our jobs and our dreams and our futures goodbye.

In truth, the problem is not just with a culture of corporate greed and exploitation, with “fiduciary duties” paraded as an excuse for sucking workers dry, but with a system of government in which spineless, self-serving Corporate Whores craft legislation and loopholes which fatten the purses of their Patrons at the public’s expense.

Modern multinational corporations are beyond the reach of reason, separated at birth from their hearts and consciences, blinded by the vision of uncountable profits, their greed metastasizing into a frenzied feeding on the hands which turn our wants into their widgets. Our arguments on behalf of Noblesse Oblige fall on ears deafened by the Siren song of Fiscal Fundamentalism.  We appeal in vain to a sense of decency which we wrongly believe must be in there.

But it’s not in there.

No, my friends, if salvation from unbridled greed and uncontrolled consolidation of wealth is to be ours, we must wrest it from those who are charged with representing us, but who are pressed hard to accept the filthy lucre showered on them by their corporate keepers.  We need to see the problem clearly, to speak the truth loudly, to do the daunting deed of rallying our Brothers and Sisters to the cause of interdependence, of mutual respect, of standing together with arms interlocked lest we fall, one by one, through the window of opportunities lost.

United we stand; divided, we are all tottering on that terrible parapet.


Thanks to Tengrain over at Mock, Paper, Scissors for the writing prompt, and for his frequent support of my humble efforts.

That Golden Hour. March 21, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Not all light is created equal, and views of the Great Outdoors change dramatically throughout the day.

Most photographers (I’m told) like the long, low rays bracketing sunrise and sunset, with some of the blue light spectrum filtered out by the greater amount of atmosphere the light passes through to reach our eyes.  These “Golden Hours” provide warmth, depth and drama, even here in Western Massachusetts where the landscapes are unremarkable.

Here’s a shot of the Deerfield river in East Charlemont, benefiting from the effects of the Golden Hour:

That’s the same spot where I caught the freight train in post-precipitation fog a little while back, and the result is entirely different (Duh! )

Two Moons. March 18, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Taken tonight, just before sunset, from the muddy fields along the Connecticut river in Northampton.

First, with a hillside of hemlocks and birches:

…and then, after running through ankle-deep muck with Gizmo slung over my shoulder, this one with the Skinner Park Summit House in the frame:

I’ll clean the shoes tomorrow; tonight I’m gonna look at these for a bit, then hit the hay.

G’night, my friends.

Details, Details! March 15, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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More juicy bits from the Bulb Show, all up-close-and-personal-like.

To set the stage, we’re in the greenhouses at Smith College during their annual  March event:

…and we’re going in for a closer look:

…I know, this (and possibly others among the above) isn’t a bulb, but it was there, and now it’s here!  🙂

And three more tulips for dessert:

And now, off to bed!




Goodnight, My American Dream. March 12, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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A Short Fiction woven from loose threads of the unraveling fabric of our Society.


Remember when that old Ford truck was new?

Well, I do.

I remember diggin’ potatoes, I was just little, and Daddy tellin’ me he hadn’t saved the farm back in the Bad Years by sittin’ on his hands, that he’d done whatever it took, some things he wasn’t proud of, but mostly just a whole lot o’ hard work that never stopped.  Eatin’ mostly potatoes and chicken and every kind o’ thing he could grow, and ’cause nobody had money to buy it, givin’ away the rest.  Daddy taught me to work hard, and to never give up, and to dream big and pray that I’d get half-way there.

When I came home from The War, Uncle Sam put me through college and gave me a loan, and I bought that truck brand spankin’ new.  Daddy was so proud, you’da thought it was a miracle or somethin’.  Said it made life a whole lot easier than before.  Sometimes we’d take her for a turn ’round the fields after it got too dark to work, just to be able to sit down and relax and look at what we’d done.

Yeah, Daddy loved that truck.

We worked side by side, plantin’ and harvestin’ and tendin’ the milk cows till I got married and the kids started to come, and I needed some real money to make ends meet.  I got a job in the mill, a good job, a union job, and with my education they moved me up pretty fast and gave me my choice of shifts.  I took second so I could help Daddy most of the day.  He wasn’t gettin’ any younger, and I owed him just about everything I knew or had.

Then Momma got sick, and Daddy had insurance, but they dropped her, just like that.  He mighta’ been late on a payment; payin’ the bills had always been somethin’ Momma took care of.  Guess we never really knew how hard she worked, takin’ care of everything indoors, puttin’ up food to get us through the winter and takin’ care of the business end of things too.

Daddy had to take out a mortgage on that old farm, first one ever, to pay the medical bills.  It damn near killed him; it’d been his dream to leave it to me and Jane and the kids.  Said we could sell it if times ever got that rough.

When Momma passed and the hospital bills kept comin’ we sold the place off, bit by bit.  First the milk cows, then the machinery, then a couple of back lots.  Daddy all but stopped talkin’, except to the kids.  He’d tell them about the Good Old Days, when he and their Daddy used to dig potatoes together.

We might have made it through those bills if my job hadn’ta gotten “right-sized.” That’s a dishonest way of sayin’ they could Git ‘er Done cheaper in Mexico.

Well, I guess Mexicans got to eat too.

When the bankers came and put the foreclosure notice on the front door, Daddy wouldn’t even look at it.  He went in and out the back way, like he did when the farm was working.  He’d go up in the pasture where the old Ford truck had stopped runnin’ and sit for hours, his knuckles white on the steering wheel, staring off at God knows what, maybe some scene from his past, him and Momma doin’ something nice together.

We had thirty days to get out.  Jane and I got a little apartment in town, not much of one with me not working and her not making much, but we had a little room for Daddy.  He said he wasn’t leaving, but we knew the reality of it, and planned accordingly.

It was a hard winter for moving, real icy, and the two of us did it ourselves, not trusting Daddy’s bad back to move even small stuff.  We sent the kids off to their cousins’, and Jane and I had our first night alone in our new “home.”  It was too sad to be romantic, and we held each other in silence ’till we drifted off into something like sleep.

We got back to the farm around 9 the next morning and found the house empty.  The wood stove was cold, the wood we’d left for Daddy still piled by its side.  It wasn’t ’till then that I went back to the kitchen door and saw the tracks heading up the hill, blown over from a long night of wind.

We found my Daddy sitting in that old Ford truck, his rigid fingers still wrapped around the steering wheel, cheeks whitened with tears turned to frost, glazed eyes staring imploringly at God and Momma.

Jane took it pretty hard.  She kept saying she couldn’t understand, that we had a place all set up for him, that this just wasn’t right.

But I understood.  That old Ford truck had been the last place I’d ever seen my Daddy smile.

Goodnight, Daddy.

Farewell, My American Dream.

More From The Bulb show. March 11, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
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More shots from he Smith College Spring Bulb Show!

It was crowded during my visit, despite going on a weekday.  A busload of Old Folks came in, followed by one of little kids, their eyes wide with wonder:

The girls were all eyes, the boys all noses, doing face-plants in any flower they could reach.  🙂

I used my tripod in a very compact way, approximating a monopod, but with a bit more stability; despite the apparent brightness, I’ve found that I need longer exposures in this greenhouse, up to several seconds for close-ups of the darker blossoms.

Anyway, with fewer words and more images, here’s some of what I got:

All of these were taken with Ziggy, my 50mm Sigma lens.  I kept my aperture nearly wide open to make the most of the light, and composed these shots with a shallow depth of field in mind.  It’s quite different from my usual fare, wherein landscapes like a much deeper field of sharp focus.

More shots to come, but I think that’s enough for now.

Hilltown Blues. March 10, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Down here in the valley, we got quite a bit of rain last Sunday night into Monday morning.  But up in the hills, it was a different story.

Now, I understand the effects of this particular storm were worse elsewhere – Albany, NY lost power, and many places haven’t gotten it back yet.  And Central Vermont got 20-30 inches of heavy wet snow, which  I would have loved earlier in the season, but by now I’m just as glad to have missed it.

What we did get was a good icing up high. Here are some shots from the Hilltowns.

Mount Greylock after the storm:

The actual peak is hidden in the clouds in the center of that shot.

A Hilltown River under a blanket of ice:

A tree-row dividing pastures:

…and iced trees silhouetted at sunset:

It’s a far cry from what was happening down in the valleys at the same time, but as the days pass, the Valley Weather is destined to win out.

I’m ready for that!