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Lightening The Load. November 29, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.

Holly rented a dumpster this past week, hoping we could get rid of some of the junk which tends to pile up around a Country Place (which this is.)

Well, with six hands and three heads working on it, though I admit to coming late to the party due to a Progeny Delivery Event, we loaded that sucker up to its fill-line:

…and today it all went away, leaving little behind other than deep truck ruts in the lawn, a broken dooryard walkway stone and a bill to come for the tonnage.

Small price, I’d say, for a more presentable yard and lots of new-found space in the workshop, except I don’t know how much the whole thing cost.

Thanks to Holly for springing for that monster, and to Lizz for wading into that pile of rotting lumber beside the barn.  I’m humbled and grateful.

Roy Likes His Fords. November 27, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
Tags: , , ,

Roy has a farm up in Shelburne.

Well, it used  to be a farm.  Now it’s turned a corner to become something else.  Maybe it’s a dream which didn’t last; maybe it’s a damned lot of work come grinding to a halt.

At any rate, it’s a piece of the world with a story to tell.

I’m sorry that I don’t really know that story, but grateful that I can therefore insert my own happy details.  Like those bountiful harvests, and Roy teaching his children how it’s done, and old fashioned holidays spent together around an old fashioned hearth.

And how Roy always bought Fords, ’cause their trucks were good for the money, never let him down.

So OK, the family “story” is a wild-ass guess.

But the Ford part is real, and I have pictures to prove it.

One of many Ford torsos come to rest in a steep pasture:

… and on the ridge above it, a still-proud F-600:

I bet she still runs (plates on her, and tires better than mine) and did a buttload of work in her day.  She’s a dumper don’tcha know, though her dump body is long gone:

This place straddles a ridge of meadow and is slowly tumbling toward the valleys on either side; the barn at right lost its southerly extension this past winter, and the rest of it has seen better years.

One wonders how long it will be until farms like this are no longer a part of our local world, given that the only constants are change and a hope that it will be in the right direction.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.

Thanks to Elliot for his honest (if not always factual) rendering of what I saw up at Roy’s place.


A White Thanksgiving. November 25, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , , , ,

Firstly, let me wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving day, filled with family and friends.  We all have so much to be thankful for, regardless of the mountains of crap we’ll have to get back to shoveling tomorrow.

But that’s tomorrow.  Today (or most likely “tonight” as you read this,) is a day to relax with a belly full of tryptophan and a house full of friends.

For me, that will happen tomorrow when my younger daughter Ursula will be in from Boston for a big hug and some of her favorite stuffing.  It’s my favorite too, so it’s never a chore to make it for her.  😉

So I had the world to myself today, and spent some time up in Windsor, where I was delighted to find snow and ice.  Delighted because so far this year we’ve had a white Halloween, a white Veterans’ Day, and now this:

Above a certain elevation, the wet woods were encased in ice.  The last of the untended apples wore it well:

…shedding their crystaline sheaths as the day warmed:

I found those shots on the way up to the high meadows where routes 9 and 8A meet.  It’s an expanse of meadow thrust into a wide open sky, and catches lots of weather.  I’ve taken some of my favorite photos there over the last few years, and always expect to find something worth photographing.

Today it was a wintry view, with the low meadow scrub sheathed in ice:

Rushes and grasses stood stiffly in the wind:

This spot is un-Massachusetts-like, and offers me a cheap alternative to a vacation.

Aside from the meadows, the area is primarily a spruce bog:

It was cool to see this suspended animation of water in the wild woods, as in these birch leaves caught in a crystal cascade:

So, a “White Thanksgiving” it was, at least up in the hills.  Tomorrow we’ll do the turkey thing.  Tonight I’m just going to wish you the best.





Dunbar Brook, After The Flood. November 20, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , ,

Dunbar Brook comes down from the high country of Monroe, spilling into the Deerfield river.

This past summer season it swallowed all Tropical Storm Irene offered it and transformed into a raging torrent, eating its banks, sucking in miles of forested terrain and clogging the culvert at River Road, then finding a way around, blowing out the road and stranding the little community of Monroe Bridge.

They weren’t entirely cut off, as the road over the hills through Rowe survived, but were nonetheless cut off from the south in an impressive display of the power of Nature Scorned.

I hiked up the Dunbar Brook trail on Saturday, cataloging the devastation in my mind but leaving my camera tucked away.  Innumerable stretches of the river were laced with a thick cloak of fallen trees, the water below barely visible.  Without some fiduciary incentive to removing this mess, I expect it will stay in place until it rots.

And I’m not entirely decrying that outcome; Irene was an Act Of Nature, even if our carbon-spewing civilization contributed to the mix.  It’s just that I’m mourning the transformed visage of a stream which had come to grips with its surroundings, settled down, grew moss in all of it’s damp niches and smoothed the rough edges to produce the landscape I’ve  been rediscovering through my photographic eye these past few years.

I hiked an hour upstream past snags of uprooted trees and unfamiliar gravel bars until I came to a place where some semblance of my old stomping grounds sat knee-deep in the flow of the present, and for old time’s sake, snapped these two photos off.

Dunbar Brook, just about like it used to be:

…but with the addition of a tiny cairn atop the prominent pointed rock in the background.

Hey, Life Sucks, And Then You Die, unless you leave a mark.  So I’m good with that little cairn.

A bit upstream, the flow was a bit less braided, tumbling through a narrow channel to produce this view:

It’s difficult to imagine this little stream doing the damage it wrought downstream, but as we move farther from the norm of the past, we had better get used to it and be prepared to deal with it.

That’s all for now.  Good night, my faithful visitors.


Thank You. November 18, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.

This, my friends, is my 1500th post.

That’s 1500 times I’ve impinged on your reality with my ideas and obsessions, many of which were somewhat disjointed from their predecessors.

It might be relevant that my favorite short story is Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,”  seeing as that’s about what happened here at Little Bang Theory.

I mean, I didn’t wake up on my back with a surfeit of legs waving incongruously above me.  But I’ve gone from a ranter to an observer to a photographer and back.

Thanks to all of you who have humored me by sticking around through the changes, forgiving me my abject failures and supporting me when things clicked.  I’m talking about BlueGal, who first encouraged/helped me to begin blogging and still inspires me with her powerful perceptions of Our Current Dilemma (her podcasts with Driftglass are an essential part of my weekly education.)  I’m talking about Bob Rutledge, my Siamese Cousin Separated at Birth (by several years and close to a thousand miles) who was my first commenter back in 2007, finishing my thoughts and appreciating my humble efforts as I shifted from politics into photography, and to all of you, Susan, Lisa, SO many others who have kept me going.

Look for me to broaden my palette to include All Of The Above, to get back into climbing (though not as a participant; my over-zealous pursuit of this younger-persons’ sport well into my dotage destroyed my rotator cuffs, rendering me an observer,) social issues which demand that ALL OF US participate, and other fields of endeavor which I can’t presently imagine.

That is to say, I have no idea where this blogging stuff will take me.  I only know that I’m wed to the idea of sharing my thoughts and observations and joys and frustrations and little daily miracles with those of you who have stuck with me thus far, and perhaps even roping a few unsuspecting passers-by into my small but growing world of observations and musings.

Again, a hearty “Thanks” to you, the people who are the fuel for my fire.  I wouldn’t be here without you.



Occupy All Streets. November 17, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
Tags: , , , , ,

Tonight, in the tiny neighboring hamlet of Shelburne Falls, there was a bit of a commotion:

It was a candle-light vigil commemorating the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.  About a hundred people turned out to support the message being proffered by Occupy movements nationwide.  They lined our central Steel Bridge with signs and candles:

Lock up the children, them Dangerous Radicals are out to getcha!

This was a gathering of local folks, farmers and carpenters and teachers and small business owners, young folks and retirees and everyone in between, who share a common perception of what’s ailing us as a society.

And in case you’re chained to a couch and enslaved by a TV feeding you Corporate Bullshit, their message was anything but vague and scattered:

The sign on the left reads, “Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half our 401K’s, took billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses and paid no taxes?  Yeah, me neither!”

Channeling Tengrain, are we?

Despite the fact that we’re not totally down-and-out in these parts, we’re feeling our Nation’s pain.  Recent floods have cost many local towns money they don’t have, our schools are sucking a dry bone for funding, everyone’s financial security in retirement is in jeopardy, and the hope which used to spring eternal is drying up faster than the Australian Outback:

The young lady holding this sign opted to be cropped out when I disclosed the sordid fact that I threw occasional F-bombs when I discussed politics.  So much for this being a movement powered by anarchists!

So the take-away from this night of community action is that We The People are getting it.  We know we’re being taken to the cleaners by those who have far more than they need to live The Good Life, but somehow feel entitled to still more, even as the working folks on whose shoulders they lounge are losing their jobs and homes.

The Occupy movement may or may not take a chill pill as winter renders its venues less hospitable, but God help the 1% when the Spring thaw comes ’round!


Vicarious Thrills! November 14, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in climbing.
Tags: , , , , ,

I went back out to Farley Ledge this weekend to see if the lads from last weekend would make further progress on their bouldering “project.”  I might no longer be able to climb, but it still holds a powerful fascination for me, as well as an opportunity to expand my photographic bag of tricks.  Action sports photography is a whole ‘nother beast than nature photography!

Anyway, there were Pad-People everywhere, and it was cool – young and old folks (well, OK, mostly  young) hangin’ and chillin’, alternately relaxing and tearing it up to the best of their varied abilities.  I followed a group of half a dozen up the steep trail to Stereogram,  a vicious V10 problem which fights its way out the underbelly of an impressive boulder perched up near the top of the ledge.  Stereogram  has a reputation for being difficult to photograph, as it climbs out of a deep, dark hole into the light; much of the action occurs in the dim confines of a lithic Oubliette.

Here’s the general overview, for setting and scale, with a kid from Colorado emerging from the pit at the lower right:

I’m sorry not to have gotten his name, as he photographed well (long, elegant body positions and serious facial expressions.)

[Ed. – Tom Camillieri, thanks to Blake Cash]

Here’s a series of him working this set of moves:

That’s a really cool looking sequence.

A bit later I heard the sounds of climbers down below, where last week’s project had transpired.  I packed up quickly  and scooted down the steep trail, dancing from rock to rock, attentive to miss the dry leaves coating nearly everything; a misstep on such steep terrain would be nothing if not ugly.

And I was just in time to see Pete and Jason getting to work on the arete which had so engaged Breyton and Hayden the weekend before.  I wanted a different perspective than the over-and-up view I’d shot those lads with, so I set up a rope and rappelled into a position looking down the ridge at the action.

It worked.  I got a sense of the height, steepness and tenuousness of attachment which characterize this particular piece of stone, and an appreciation of why it remains unclimbed despite a decade of serious efforts by some very strong climbers.

Here’s Pete Clark putting a series of complex foot moves to good use, an instep scum to a powerful toe, all the while moving too quickly for my shutter speed, despite an ISO of 5000:

Pete makes the difficult look easy, and the impossible look hard.  It’s a gift few of us are given, and his humility is as impressive as his ability.

Jason Danforth put his calm to work as he found the hang-point at about the same spot:

This man’s stronger than dirt, and stands a good chance of sending this thing.

As darkness crawled up the valley walls, both of these dudes left happy with their progress.  Perhaps next time they visit it will all come together for them, and the “project” will get a name.

A Full Beaver Moon. November 10, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , , , , ,

The Full Beaver Moon, as the Algonquian people refer to the full moon of November, is an illusive sight – it’s not a particularly settled time as weather goes, and given the statistical propensity for cloudy weather during any  full moon, the likelihood of getting a clear shot at November’s Finest is slim.

So I wasn’t surprised ( though I’ll admit to a bit of disappointment) to find this evening’s almost-full-moon rising through a thick layer of haze, yielding this suboptimal image:

It’s a curse, this quest for a nice shot of a full moon.  Maybe the clearer air of winter will be more cooperative, but tonight’s wasn’t..

Anyway, switching gears and lenses,  I headed westward into Williamstown, aiming for a western slope I knew of.  The plan was to let the moon rise above the haze, then catch it in reasonable proximity to some pastoral scene which sloped upward to the East, and hopefully before the last light had left the land so there’d be something to pin it to.

I got lucky.  With Elliot on the box, I snagged this shot of cat-tails issuing their rheumy rattle to an indifferent moon:

This twenty second exposure suffered some breezes, so it’s not what it might have been, but I dug the juxtaposition of the colorless foreground grasses and cattails and the still-trying pasture beyond.  Tall things seem to give it up sooner as Winter approaches, yet somehow they’ll persist in their dessicated state long after the sun has returned and most smaller things have self-composted.

Further on up the hill, the corn stubble of a harvested field lead my eye to a nearly full moon and tonight’s companion, Jupiter:

…though the latter is barely discernible at blog resolutions.

These are both  courtesy of Elliot, at f:20 and about two degrees of tilt.

Well, given the forecast, that’s likely to be it for November moons.  We’ll have sleet and more wet snow before the weekend gets away.

Wending Our Way Winterward. November 8, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , , , ,

A dried basket of Queen Anne’s Lace emits a wind-driven thrum as it lords it over a meadow of grasses already laid down by our recent preview of winter:

It was 60 degrees here today, and I can’t help thinking that this field hit the mat sooner than it should have.  But then, two feet of snow in October will do that to you.

That’s from Elliot, in Williamstown.


Progress Report. November 8, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
Tags: , ,

Route 2, the Mohawk Trail in these parts, took a massive hit from the flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, and looked like it might be closed for years.

But our can-do Governor Patrick threw down the gauntlet that it’d be open by December 15, and damn if they aren’t going to make that happen!

Here’s a shot of the progress at a huge wash-out in Florida where I spend many of my work days, the one I’ve posted before with hanging guardrails and pontificating politicians.  It looks different now,  thanks to the ’round-the-clock efforts of Northern Construction, working fourteen 12-hour shifts a week:

That’s looking downriver, whereas the “before” shots were looking upriver.  But you get the picture: that’s a buttload of gravel and stone you’re looking at.

Thanks to the unionized working folks (yes, there are women on the job too, though they’re few) who make our world go ’round.  They bust their asses for a daily wage while the people with the connection$ rake in the profits.  It’s nearly inconceivable to me that the Haves don’t appreciate the efforts of their workers enough to assure their futures, but in the grander scheme of things, that seems to be the case.  Union workers like these folks are under attack from their Corporate Overlords, albeit by way of the brown-shirt dimwits of the Tea Party.

At any rate, we might just make the December 15th target.

Thank you, my hard-working brothers and sisters.