Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday afternoon

I talk a lot about Presque Isle State Park, and we have always been visitors, but lately I've been doing some exploring in different areas. I thought I'd post a map so you'd have a small frame of reference in case you're not from Erie. (Sorry for the poor quality, but this was the best I could find in a format that could be uploaded here.)

If you look at this map, in the upper left, you can see the label "Light House." Then there's a red line that says "Sidewalk Trail" cutting diagonally across the map towards the right. This is where we went yesterday.

Interesting aside: At the lighthouse exhibit, there's a sign explaining that the children of the lightkeeper in the old days would have to walk all the way across Sidewalk Trail (2 miles) to Misery Bay, then take a boat across the bay to get to the mainland, then walk ANOTHER mile from the bayfront to get to school.

Before we went onto the peninsula itself, I stopped at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (yes, THAT Tom Ridge, he of the color-coded terror alerts and duct-tape recommendations; he's a home-town boy.) and took a shot of the lake from the observation tower. I was happy to see some of the ice breaking up!

I was even happier to see a bit of green among all that brown.

Anyway, the highlight of yesterday's trip was actually another beaver. We saw one in the water, and I got a couple of not-great shots. We moved on and were standing watching a couple of woodpeckers when I heard foraging and chomping behind us. I turned, and there was a beaver right on the sidewalk! The pictures aren't great and I haven't tried yet to tweak them in Photoshop but I thought I'd just give one a quick post here.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sometimes one suffers for one's art

I arrived at the woods yesterday, glad I wore my ugly old lady boots, because it was a slushy, muddy mess. These woods are at a place called "Brown's Farm," which is an offshoot of a local nature preserve called Asbury Woods. If you go to Brown's Farm, you walk through a huge meadow, up a hill, and then there's a path through the woods. This path switchbacks down a huge bluff, so it can be steep and tricky even in dry weather. About a mile or so in, you reach Walnut Creek and the bridge. You can cross the bridge and keep going through more woods and wetlands, up yet another steep bluff, and go all the way over to Asbury Woods itself, which is about 3 miles or so.

I wasn't quite that ambitious yesterday, so I ventured to the bridge and then slightly beyond. I got some great shots of the creek and the snow-covered trees. It was beautifully sunny, but cold.

It's when I turned back and headed for home that the scary part started.

My burning desire for some color in the world around me has already been discussed here ad nauseum. I didn't see any new shoots coming up (let alone actual flowers), but there was this red bush in the meadow as I walked up. (Note: For all the edits to these pictures, I used some of the editing tools on the new Photoshop Express web-based application linked to the right. Try it out...super simple!) (Another Note: Not you, Lou. I don't think it's "do-it-yourself" enough for you, Ms. "I-shan't-use-a-template-yet-my-headers-will-still-be-fantastic"!)

Since I already have a lot of fuller landscape shots of this area, I decided to try to focus in on some of the other things that caught my eye, like the way the sun looked coming through the trees, shimmering on the leftover ice...

...and this leaf being pulled along by the current...

...and the way these trees seemed to reach out to the sun, straining for spring as much as I am....

...and the way the icicles still hang from the branchs on the banks, where the sun hasn't reached to melt them yet.

The normally placid creek was raging with spring runoff.

I made it to the bridge and rested on a rock there for a couple of minutes. It's a strenuous walk! And plus, I'm lazy.

I saw only 3 other people in the 2 hours or so I was in the woods: 2 women jogging together with a happy labrador retriever, and this man fishing. (Don't get me wrong...I don't mind being out in the cold, but I'm glad my hobby doesn't require me to stand in freezing water.)

Now, I don't have a picture of this last part, because I was afraid that if I took one I might in fact cause myself great injury.

As I turned toward home, I angled beside the normal path in order to stay closer to the water for a bit. I could see the path just fine, and also I was following several sets of footprints that had travelled the same way. Then, the path I was on forked away from the main trail. I had a moment of reason where I thought, "I should really double back and get on the main path." But like I said, the path I was on seemed to be well-travelled. It was now angling away from the water and in the same general direction as the main path. I thought.

As I continued to follow it, the footprints got more sparse. It seemed that at first as many as 10 different people and a couple of dogs had been there. Then there were perhaps five. And as I came to the big bluff that the main trail switchbacks down, there were only two. I stared up at the bluff, seeing the footprints that went up to a flatter area, and thought, "It would be really far to turn back to the regular trail; I'm sure I can make it up this." So up I went. It was steeper than it looked, with slushy snow and mud. I found myself slipping a couple of times and thought how silly it would be if I slid down and somehow got hurt and had to call 911 to be rescued.

When I got to what I thought would be a flatter area of the bluff, a place where perhaps I could get my bearings or even see how to make it over to the regular trail, I found that instead I was on a very narrow ledge. Now there was only 1 set of footprints. Everyone but me and this one other person had been smart enough to turn back. I stood there frozen for a moment, trying to decide whether I should take my chances on sliding back down the part of the bluff I had just climbed, or take my chances on a ledge perhaps 3 feet wide (more narrow in some places) curving around the side of the bluff. I looked ahead at the footprints ... they seemed to make it okay and I couldn't see any obvious signs of slippage. So I went ahead. I found myself inching along from tree branch (or bush clump) to tree branch (or bush clump). It was terrifying. I seriously thought I might meet a bad end, and then also I was panicking about whether I'd come out somewhere where I could find my way back to the trailhead and the meadow and my car.

I made it across the ledge and kept following that one set of footprints. I hoped they knew what they were doing, because I sure as hell didn't. And finally, after about 15 more minutes, I found myself at the edge of the meadow. I was on the opposite side of meadow from the trailhead, but I could find my way to the parking lot from there.

And the moral of the story is that when one ventures into the woods, one needs to stick to the trail.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I don't want to break it, just see how far it will bend.

They say that life moves fast, and in the grand scheme of things, they're right. I think back on my first real boyfriend, of whom I still have very fond memories, and can't believe it was over 20 years ago that we were dating! Or I come across a picture of newborn Liam, with his kittenish "mew" when he was hungry, and wonder where the last 7 years went. But day by day, things can seem agonizingly slow. I'm going through a rough patch right now, and I think there will be drastic changes for me and my family in the next month or two.
Right now, I'm just trying to make it through the hours, and the days, and the weeks. It's tough sometimes, but my doctor has this pithy little saying: Inch by inch, life's a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard. That's deep, huh? So deep I think I just blew my own mind. Anyway, as trite as it seems, I am trying to keep that in mind, and make it through each minute, and each hour, and each day.
Today, I added a music player to my blog. Don't worry, I set it not to start up automatically, but if you're so inclined, you can click it and it will play whatever song you choose. I HIGHLY recommend all of them of course, but a couple of my absolute favorites on the list right now would be "Killing the Blues" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and "Foundations" by Kate Nash. As a matter of fact, the title of this entry is from the Queens of the Stone Age song, "Make it Wit Chu."
I have to make a run to the store because heavens to Betsy, we're out of juice! After that, I think I'll take a walk in the woods. I hope you're having a fine day!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I've been trying to work on my header for the past couple of days. I've had ideas of things to try, but nothing works out the way I think it will, and maybe it's because I'm working an odd shift, and I'm tired. Anyway, it is what it is for now.

I haven't been able to get out and take any pictures the past few days. Again, the work thing. For now, I do have these two that make me smile:

Liam found some old (outgrown!) pajamas in the bottom of his drawer and decided they were perfect for an Easter morning romp on the ol' Sit & Bounce.

And Spike and Tom are spooning on the couch.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shameless self-validation post

Today, I shared my blog with someone and she mentioned that she and her husband wanted beach portraits last summer but didn't end up having them done. She went on to ask if I did portraits. I said I was very interested in bettering my skills in this area and would love to try some out. (!!!)

Now, will it actually come to pass that I do in fact take pictures for her? Who knows. I hope so. It's possible that it could have been that type of conversation that doesn't actually lead to know, the way we say, "We'll have to get together! I'll call you!" In any case, it felt great to be asked.

As a matter of fact, it made me feel like this:

Freaky Treeeeeeee

In the cemetery, we saw this gnarled tree. Of course, it grabbed my interest at first glance, but as I started snapping photos of it, it became apparent that this was not just any gnarled tree.

It was, in fact, the FREAKIEST TREE OF ALL TIME.

See the big branch that looks just like a snake?

There were swirls and incredible patterns...

branches turned back on themselves...

and improbable growth in various directions.

But the freakiest part was only apparent from the other side. See the "man" sitting in the tree?

I made a clumsy attempt at leaving the "man" in color here:

And cropped for a closer view. Now, I would be completely amazed if anyone but me "got" this reference, but did you ever see the John Huston epic The Bible: In the Beginning"? When the serpent first tempts Eve with the apple, he does not yet look like a snake. He looks like a strange alien man hiding behind the leaves of the tree. That's what this tree-man reminded me of.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The freakiest tree EVER

This is just to whet your appetite:

The rest of the freaky tree pictures (and there are a ton of them) will have to wait until tomorrow. It's late and I'm tired. Have a good night, everyone!

Nothing says Happy Easter like a trip to the cemetery!

After my houseful of guests (read: 3) left yesterday afternoon, Em was bored and wanted to take a walk. She asked if we could go to Little Clare's cemetery, but that's over an hour away, and I was in no condition to drive that far, what with all the bloating and exhaustion. So we went to a cemetery closer to home.

The cemetery is located at a church , which is named after the road it's on: Sterrettania. And in this cemetery I found lots of Sterretts buried. I hadn't ever thought of Sterrettania road being named for an actual family, but apparently it was.

(Note: the black and white conversions to the following were acheived using free actions by The Light's Right Studio. Check them out sometime...but not until you're done reading my blog.)

These shots use a free action called "Lomo" by Addicted2Design:

Then, I totally lost my mind and ran the Lomo action PLUS the b/w actions. Somebody stop me!!

And alas, it's almost time for me to get ready for work, so the freaky tree will have to wait until tonight. I promise, the freakiness will be worth the wait!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Inspired by Lou

My friend Lou takes the best macro shots ever. Since I always tell her I want to be just like her when I grow up, I decided today would be a good day to practice.
The only thing I don't like about Lou is that she lives in California. It makes me jealous, since she's well into spring, with actual flowers and leaves and short sleeves. Hell, most of the stuff that populates her jaw-dropping photos is actually considered more summerly here. Meanwhile, here in the woolly wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania, I'm lucky to find a few buds or some sprouts.

One quick aside before we get to the pictures: one might get the impression from reading my obsessive posts about my deep longing for spring that spring is my favorite season. As McLaughlin would say, "WRONG!" Summer is my favorite season. I like heat and green and walks in the woods and going to creeks. Spring is cool too, but mostly only because it is the gateway to summer.

And now, some hot macro action. I don't have an actual macro lens yet, so this is just what my camera can do on its own.

In spring, first will come the forsythia.

The lilacs won't bloom until May...

but they're thinking about it.

And meanwhile, over in the side yard, a daffodil is fighting its way through the rocks.

And across the street, the hedges have these leftovers from last autumn. (And no, I don't know what kind of hedges these are. I'm a wanna-be photographer, not a wanna-be botanist!)

Now, for the next few macro shots, I felt it necessary to the story to show a wide view. I thought about putting this shot after the close-ups; maybe creating some kind of "what could it be?" type queries for the headings. But it's going on midnight and I don't have the energy.
Anyway, this is my neighbor's tree.

See the hints of green here and there? Look closer.

And finally...lest you think that I strolled around taking pictures all day, I also cooked Easter dinner, and we all stuffed our faces.

Tomorrow: cemetery pics and a FREAKY tree.