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Away Message. August 28, 2012

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Hiya Folks,

I’m away for a couple of days, so if I seem unresponsive, it’s because I’m out having too much fun – see you all soon!

– TCR

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A Pow-Wow. August 27, 2012

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A mile from our house sits a sacred patch of land where both local and visiting Indians dig for their roots. It’s called the Indian Plaza.

And before you get too far along the path of thinking I ought to have said “Native Americans,” I’m going to go with the ‘druthers of the people I’ve talked to at these gatherings and use the umbrella term “Indian.” It describes them all without differentiation, and if there’s anything striking about that it’s that they see their commonality as being greater than their differences. Such is, I assume, the outfall of collective persecution.

Anyway, the Indian Plaza was badly flooded a year ago by Irene, taking on five feet of silt-laden water and looking dead as a doornail when the rive receded.

Well, it didn’t die. After months of hard labor by its faithful people, it opened last weekend with a gathering and dance:

There were perhaps a hundred people present, though I confess to being an unreliable reporter of numbers – calculate in a generous margin of error and I’m good to go.

Four or five drum circles provided, in turn, the rhythm and reason for the dancing:

And dance they did:

They danced in a measured pursuit of their heritages, my heritage, shallowly buried in the clutter of the American Present.

It was hopeful, and it was beautiful:

Lame Bull traded for this bear headdress, and wears it proudly.

Stone Elk makes staffs for walking and dancing:

And everyone danced:

It was good to see, a resurrection of sorts and a celebration of life.

The next gathering will be September 1-2, if you’re in the area.

Birds Of Prey. August 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I haven’t seen prominent displays of eagles on the river since Spring, and our local population of hawks is pretty private, so I was pleased today to find both within range of my lens and comfortable enough with my presence to sit for me.

Well, the eagle wasn’t exactly close – it was perhaps a hundred yards away, and sitting in a densely-leaved tree, but I reeled it in with Gizmo and a 2X Tele-Extender for an effective focal length of 800mm. The shot is hand-held, albeit resting on the door of my car, and cropped pretty hard to get this:

The faster version of this lens, with image stabilization, is a cool thousand dollars more than what I paid for Gizmo, so you’ll have to suffer with us until I hit the lottery.

I did  get closer to a red tailed hawk perched on a roadside fence post this very same morning, and didn’t have to crop the photo to give you this:

I crept my 4-Runner up the shoulder of the road over ten or so minutes to position myself across from this beautiful bird, who stayed put and let me. Go figure – perhaps they know the difference between being loved and hunted.

I see lots of raptors every day, but it’s not every day that I have a chance to photograph them.

Thank you, Father Sky, for lending me your children.

Shroomin’! August 27, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Dinner with TCR, macro photos.
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After a dreadfully hot and dry start to the summer, which meant that the local mushrooms weren’t blooming, we’ve had a good mix of rain and sun lately. Consequently, we’re seeing a lot of mushrooms in the woods and at roadside.

I’m totally all over that. Free food of a mysterious and slightly dangerous nature… not really, because I’m faint of heart… but the “free” part is all true, and there’s nothing like freshly foraged food.

The Boletes are out, some pretty good to eat and some really choice.  I’m fond of Red Capped Butter Boletes, which are really hard to confuse with anything else. Firstly, they’re a bolete,  so they have a spongy underside instead of having the fine gills of most other mushrooms. Plus, they’re bright red on top, butter-yellow on the underside of the cap, and shading from bright yellow to a vibrant red moving down the stem. There are other red mushrooms, but none which look like  the Red capped Butter Bolete, so it’s a safe choice for mycophagists.

Here’s a freshly picked RCBB lying next to a Russula, which has both gills and a pure white stem which snaps like a piece of chalk when picked:

Some people eat Russulas, some people are sickened by them, so I just keep to the boletes and whatever else I know to be safe and delicious.

I also found some chanterelles, including red (rare,) yellow (common) and black (exquisite!) The black aren’t uncommon so much as they’re invisible on the forest floor. I’ve hunted then fruitlessly for hours, then suddenly realized I’d been walking through them most of the while.

The ones I got this week were thin tubes, a bit browner than their more trumpet-shaped black brethren:

I put a load of these into a cream sauce, and they’re exquisite, with a strong nutty flavor and a texture suggestive of al denté  penne. They’ll meet their end on a bed of polenta tomorrow.

I have a variety of really choice boletes to prepare tomorrow, including king, queen and yellow-footed in addition to the red capped butter boletes. I’m not sure if I’ll get to eat them or just dry them for later; I’ll be away for most of midweek, and don’t want them to go to waste!

Weather. August 25, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Here’s a black and white photo of some low clouds passing through a couple of days ago:

This scene was interesting to me partly because its “interesting” aspect was so ambiguous. None of the elements were particularly compelling, yet the whole scene worked, and  I wasn’t clear on how  it worked. It took me a while to conceptualize it as you see it, and in that time the skies changed enough so that I nearly missed the shot.

I gotta learn to think faster.

At The Heath Fair. August 25, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music, Politics and Society.
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Charlemont’s neighbor to the North is Heath, Massachusetts, and in the down-home vein of our Yankee Doodle Days, Heath has its annual fair every August.

This is a traditional New England country fair, with a focus on our agrarian lives and times. As a teenager I dismissed this stuff as “hokey,” but as an older person I view it much differently – it’s like a love letter to a friend who is threatening to disappear from our lives, and we know we’ll all be diminished if that happens.

So I’ve gotten it into my mind that I’ll do my best to find the hearts of these matters and share them with you.

Welcome to the Heath Fair:

There are animals of every description, many being judged for their exemplary breed characteristics, some just on hand to elicit smiles:

If these guys had a dollar for every time they heard “Aflac” this weekend, they could charter a jet to fly them around!

The grounds abounded with the fruits of these folks’ labors, including buildings full of arts and crafts and ribbon-winning vegetables:

And there was a full schedule of events, from the Church Ladies’ Ham and Bean Supper:

…to the Antique Tractor Parade – step aside, folks, they’re coming right down the middle of the fair!

And the music was a constant presence, all of it appropriate for the venue. Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem lit up Friday evening with a long and excellent set of alt-country tunes:

Their drummer took it up country with a kit comprised of a suitcase bass drum, cardboard box snare and Dap calking tubes, among other things, which he beat the pants off of to stupendous effect:

They were tremendous fun!

Outside the tent (and a safe ways away,) the fireworks crew were setting up with one eye on the sky:

The sky looked ominous as they hurried to wire the ‘works together and get it covered up before the predicted weather hit.

Still, impending floods be damned, the Tractor Pull went on as scheduled, with kids assuming their rightful place, which is “central” in these parts:

This little girl was dead serious about helping her Daddy win.

‘Round about the time local hero Ray Schwanger roll-started his old Farmall and made short work of pulling a heavy load, the skies opened up for real:

The announcer called a time out as we all scurried for cover. I hit a Sausage Grinder shack to snag my favorite guilty-pleasure fair food, expecting to eat it in the car while the downpour passed.

As I trotted back toward the parking lot, hunkering over my camera and grinder, I happened past the Heath Free Library’s tent, where I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a young boy escaping the rain by disappearing into an entirely different world. I snagged this quick shot of the moment:

…which turned out to be my favorite photo from the whole weekend.

Thanks, kid. I owe ya.

Before long the rain let up, the tractor pull resumed, and the fireworks went off right on schedule:

I’m pleased with that shot as well, having struggled with the technicalities of shooting fireworks for a couple of years now and finally being happy with a set of techniques which deliver acceptable results.

Saturday was equally fun, though I was otherwise occupied in the morning and missed a few things. I got to Heath in time to catch Last Night’s Fun, a local Irish/Celtic band playing up a storm and laying down a soundtrack for a group of lovely young step dancers:

A walk around the grounds again found me surrounded by animals – baby ducks:

…rabbits, including this double-chinchilla:

…cows:

…bulls:

(…yes, a head shot. You’re welcome.)

I got to see the Adult Goat Show… and no, the Heath version is nothing at all like the one you may have heard rumors of down in the Gritty City:

And, of course, there were horses, the draft kind:

…the lovey-dovey showy kind:

…and the kiddie-kind:

Lots of horses. Enough said.

And speaking of children (I was, wasn’t I?) they were everywhere – crushing in the tug’o’war:

…devouring the competition in the blueberries-and-cream-eating contest:

I think Nathaniel subscribes to the “eat today, chew tomorrow” school of hooverism…

Kids  swarmed the truck-sized sand pile, with this young lady directing the relocation of the pile’s edges to its top:

A sack race bopped by:

…while tiny wobblers watched:

It was all very warming, and a pleasant break from the tribulations of a world on fire and politicians on crack.

Plenty of other stuff happened up at the fair, like the talk by an animal rehabilitator and her assistant:

…but I’m sure I’ve already tested your patience, so I’ll just apologize to those whose efforts I’ve left out. With a full boat of Fall events in the works, I’ll probably catch you later!  🙂

Summer. August 22, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I was at a meeting of a few folks last night, outdoors, at a picnic table. We talked past sundown into twilight and beyond, and with just a tee-shirt on, I got cold.

This signals a turning point which I’ve ignored in past years, the turn toward winter, the Long Sleep of the Green Things, the time of thicker clothes and bigger fires.

Not that it’s winter, not nearly; it’s just that this year I noticed the subtle shift from warm evenings to cooler ones.

Still, there’s  another month of Summer to be had, though it’s going to become less dependable from here on out.

It’s now or never, people, or at least now or next year. Get out and get some summer!

At the Chesterfield Gorge in Chesterfield, MA:

Young folks exploring the river.

 

Old Trees. August 22, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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White pines, one of the taller tree species which grow in New England. These are out behind the Hall Tavern Farm in Charlemont:

There are four or five of these great things growing amongst a younger forest – how they were spared the saw is a mystery to me, but they’re inspirational enough for someone to have built a few benches for the contemplative visitor:

Those are both tilt-shift photos, although that gets lost in this venue. The first shot has a good deal of tilt, the second a full boat of swing planted right up the tree and catching the bench on its way by.

Large trees these are, at least for these parts. Two tall men might not reach around them.

I’ll be back.

Steel Bridge Dinner, 2012. August 21, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Shelburne Falls’ 12th Annual Bridge Dinner happened this past weekend. The village’s main street bridge closes to motor vehicles and becomes a dining room for 400, which is a surreal situation when the light cooperates:

A long table is set with flowers and glasses and linen:

Plates await…

…the guests trickle in:

…and soon assumed their stations, anticipating their coming meal in the beautiful Autumn air:

It was a lovely evening to be out and about as people settled down in the hot sun and cooler evening air:

Salad appeared:

…thanks to the servers from Mohawk Trail Regional High School:

..and we dug it:

The table filled as the sun settled low:

…and the evening was well enjoyed:

The servers cranked:

…and the love of the moment flowed:

There was pleasant conversation:

Contagious congeniality:

…and LOTS of food:

Friends caught up between courses:

It was all well received, the meat and fish dishes and sides of all sorts, and at last, dessert:

It was quite  a nice night, so much so that I didn’t mind working – what I saw made me smile, and I had high hopes of capturing some of it to share.

I hope you’re smiling too.  😉

Refuge From The Storm. August 20, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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At this weekend’s Heath Fair, a sudden rainstorm sent the crowds scurrying for cover. Among the varied refuges was the Heath Free Library’s tent, presciently provided with windowed walls which kept the storm at bay while providing a safe haven for dreaming:

I watched this young man for some while, shooting with a rain sleeve over my camera. It seemed risky from the perspective of my equipment, but important enough to press on, taking whatever precautions I could against the weather.

I think this shot is my favorite from three days of shooting at this particular fair, both for the emotional roots of it and for its unanticipated quality. As much as getting the shot I set out for pleases me, surprises are what fuels my desire to photograph.