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The Damage Done. August 30, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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I got out for a bit yesterday, with the dual intention of finding a passable route westward for today’s travel to work.  The main route through the region (Route 2) was closed just west of town, so I ranged farther east, then north, in search of open roads.

Now, I’d already been stunned by the spectacle of high water and amazed at the wreckage of mud-encrusted Shelburne Falls, but with the water levels dropping, a whole new level of devastation was being revealed.

I got to Shelburne, then headed north on Route 112 through Colrain.  At the hamlet of Lyonsville, the first bridge was closed – the roadway, gone:

I back-tracked, knowing a long-cut through the hills.

Beyond the bridge was more destruction.  Dams:



Not gone, but nonetheless destroyed.  These high tension lines suspended a mangled tower over the North river.  They’re fully loaded, supplying a large part of the region with power, and can’t be shut down until a reach-around is arranged.  Good luck with that.

The road northward through Halifax, VT was, shall we say, “compromised:”

It’s over the State Line and so won’t be my job, but it’s worth noting that the miles of road in this condition in Southern Vermont are nearly uncountable.

Jacksonville, VT took a monstrous hit; they opened the Glory Hole at Whitingham Reservoir to avert a dam breach, but totaled a lot of the places downstream, including the Honore  (formerly North River) Winery:

It wouldn’t be there at all if the dam had let loose, so I’d say this mess qualifies as the Lesser of Several Evils.

I stopped to inquire about the way westward, and learned that it wasn’t going to happen – Wilmington was unreachable by land by any means.  Bennington, the next large city going west, was similarly unreachable.  National Guard helicopters were doing the essential lifting there.

I headed south at Readsboro, following the Deerfield back south into Massachusetts, making it as far as Dunbar Brook:

It’s gonna take more than asphalt to patch that pothole, I do believe.

A long ride over Monroe Bridge, astonishingly intact, led back through Rowe to the lower part of River Road, where Zoar Gap had reduced the road to one undercut lane.  Finally, I’d found a way out, via Whitcomb Hill Road.  That would be, um, sweet come winter.

With daylight fading I retreated to Charlemont, hoping to get a glimpse of what was keeping Route 2 from opening – it’s the main east-west artery in northern Massachusetts,  and sees a tremendous amount of commercial as well as private traffic.  I slipped on my yellow work vest and hard hat, passing the National Guard roadblock with a business-like wave, stopping to bullshit wth the local police who knew my work, and swerving slowly around the last group of local residents beyond the roadblock:

It was good to see people whose lives had been devastated turning the disaster into a rare opportunity to grill on the double yellow line.  They handed me a hot-dog on home-made jalepeno bread as I passed, admonishing me with a wink to “take pictures.”  They’d been up the road and knew I’d be impressed.

I was.

I know the Cold River along this beautiful stretch of Route 2 well, every swimming hole and sunning rock.  But not today.

Today, it was gone.  Gone!  All of it, the swimming holes, the forested shorelines, the valley I love so much I can taste it, gone.

Route 2, the lifeline of our county, miles of it, gone:

Car sized boulders and a forest’s worth of trees buried the pavement, filled the gaping holes, obliterated the way forward:

And the river was unrecognizable, its massive concrete retaining walls collapsed, its course altered for all time, its beautiful pools obliterated.

I don’t mind saying that I cried.  I’m still grieving as I write this, for the beauty which won’t be back in my lifetime, for the special places I’ll never see again, that no-one will ever see again.  Places I was so looking forward to seeing this Autumn are now lost forever, joining their ancestral mountain fathers in the sea, perhaps to rise again in a billion years, In Sh’Allah.

It’s my job to fix this sort of thing; roads and bridges, that’s what I do.  But when the money’s not there, fixing things takes a long, long time.  In the meantime, while I’m infinitely grateful that everyone I know and love survived this storm, everything  I love didn’t.  And I’m going to miss it.

I know, “It’s a big world.  Find other spots.”  Of course I will.  That’s what we do.

Back at the cold river, I turned and drove back down the valley, stopping for one more burger, served with courage and good cheer by folks who knew exactly what I was feeling:

After all, it’s their  river, too.

Short Bus Mystery. January 5, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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So way up in Colrain, along the side of a dirt road which dead-ends at a farm up in the hills, sits this Short Bus, bleached virtually white by its idle time and grown in amongst saplings of ever increasing girth:

Details tell a tale, but the message is muddled.  The smokestack reaching from the roof at mid-frame suggests a live-in Keseyan “Further,” while the back end’s heavy welded platform and cement mixer suggests…


Ah, Colrain, font of mysteries and birthplace of the tooth brush.

A Certain Kind Of Sky. October 29, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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So there’s a certain kind of sky I’ve seen through the years which, while not completely uncommon in the Northeast, happens only occasionally and is somewhat under-represented in New England landscape photography: the Dark Sky Over Sunlit Earth.  It almost always occurs as a powerful afternoon storm moves eastward, clearing the  western horizon and letting in the slanting rays of the sun.

While it’s mostly a summertime sight, I was moved to pull over in the hills of Colrain this evening as departing rain clouds formed a dark backdrop for sunlight on a stand of birches on the slope below me.

But I was barely out of the car when the patch of sun disappeared, leaving me with just the dark clouds over an unspectacular post-peak landscape:

Without my graduated filters, I blew out the sky trying to get some detail in the unlit trees; I guess that’s what happens when one wanders around without one’s tools.

But then, as I tracked the line of storm clouds southward, one of them dropped its gifts through a low band of slanting light, creating this marvelous surprise way down-valley:

I found this scene dramatic in a way which reminded me of things I’ve seen out west, and was pleased to be where I was for the minute or so that it lasted.

I hope you like it too.  😉

Chandler Hill Cemetery. September 8, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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Visited the Chandler Hill Cemetery in Colrain over the weekend:

It was like stepping into a time machine; stones carved in a style gone from modern times:

…scripture quoted in words lost in antiquity, memorials to people who wrested a life from these rugged hills long before there was a United States.

“James Stewart, b.1680…”

One Reverend Taggart apparently made quite an impression, serving both his congregation and his community in an early incarnation of our Congress:

I liked the time-worn workmanship of his stone:

Thanks to Lizz and Holly for sharing with me this very cool old piece of our local history.

Gauguin In Colrain. April 11, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Yeah, in Colrain, “Birthplace of the Toothbrush.” *

And if that isn’t strange enough for you, The Big G makes his appearance on the side of a 25-foot sailboat marooned on this Berkshire hillside like an Ark deposited by the retreating waters of a Biblical flood:

I blinked hard as I drove past this visual incongruity, then doubled back to see if I had seen what I’d seen.

I’d seen it.

The stern of this poor old girl confirmed its owner’s intentions:

One never knows what one will encounter while cruising the back roads, does one?

* If the toothbrush had been born elsewhere, it would most likely have been called a teethbrush!

Colrain Horse. December 27, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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If you knew anything about Colrain (which you probably don’t) you’d appreciate how Colrain this poor horse is:

Makes me want to love our fellow travelers, and pray for those less blessed than we are.

Feel free to join in.


Ruby Tuesday: A Covered Bridge. November 2, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Ruby Tuesday!.
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Here’s the Arthur A. Smith bridge in Colrain, Massachusetts:

Colrain covered bridge

Spans the North River, it does.  Recently “refurbished,” to the tune of a million and a half bucks.

There are times when I think that’s a bargain; tonight has been one of them.

See more Rubiliciousness over at Mary’s place, Work of the Poet.

Thanks, Mary.   😉