Let It Snow!

slice-of-life_individualLast Friday, I puttered about after work–picked up the room, prepared materials for this week, chatted with my colleagues. Dark descended (which isn’t saying much since the sun set at 4:02 pm), and before I knew it, it was 6 pm. I gathered up my things, said goodbye to my one remaining colleague, and rushed out the door.

As I burst out of the building, I was startled to see that it had started to snow. I stopped.

“Oh, it’s snowing!” I called out, not sure if I was talking to myself or to my friend.

I stepped out into the cold, dark night and smiled, delighted by the unexpected scene. The parking lot lights shone on the few remaining cars.  Above the lights, the skies were dark and appeared empty, but within their cone of light, auras of snowflakes glowed. The wet, dirty parking lot was transformed. I watched the flakes appear as their paths took them from darkness into the light. Magical. I stood, transfixed, watching the spectacle. Twisting, turning, sparkling, falling. A grace of snow. 

After a moment, I started toward my car, a new buoyancy in my step, and began singing,

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
but the fire is so delightful.
And since we’ve no place to go…
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let is snow!”

I continued singing all the way across the parking lot. It occurred to me that someone else might be out there, might hear me singing, but I didn’t really care. It was the end of a long week, the snow was a vision of wonder, and I was heading home. It was definitely a night for singing.

“Well, it doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve brought some corn for popping.
The lights are turned way down low.
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

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Spam Diving

slice-of-life_individualEvery so often I look through my blog’s spam file. Once in a while, a legitimate comment will go astray, and I like to rescue it from its sojourn in the bad neighborhood.

Scanning spam comments is often boring, sometimes depressing, and occasionally humorous. I don’t even understand what function these comments serve. I mean, who benefits from me buying Amoxycillin on line? And who actually buys Amoxycillin from a blog comment advertisement? There are about a dozen related messages in my file right now, exhorting me to buy Amoxycillin on line. How does that even make sense?

Then there are the messages that seem to be trying to get me to use a different blogging system or web site or something. First, they pump me up,

“you aгre judt extremely fantastic. I actually like what you’ᴠe received right here, certainly like what you’re sayinbg and tthe best way
by whicһ you ѕay it. Yoou are making it entertaining
aand yyou continue to cаre for to stsy it smart.”

Then they go on to offer a different platform. Their effort typically does not inspire me to try their product. I remain hopeful that this one was written by a poorly designed computer program, rather then by a poorly educated human.

Spam comments definitely cluster around certain posts, and it’s interesting to note which posts attract the most comments. I have no idea how it works. For example, my post entitled “Raccoons and Cherita” has garnered a lot of spam. Why?! I really wonder about the algorithm that targets those specific words! This response amused me recently:

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The original blog post featured a poem about raccoons raiding my bird feeders. Apparently this commenter has an ongoing raccoon problem and is assuming that I’m now an expert in stymying raccoons.  They are sorely misled. The raccoons win pretty consistently.  My favorite line is the final line: “Having a look forward to look you.” I think I need to start saying that. I like the active feel of “having a look forward.” It’s much more interesting than saying “anticipating” .

Finally, my newest spam favorite, written recently in response to a three-year-old blog post about teaching struggles, is this one:

“I apologise that, I can help nothing. But it is assured, that you will find the correct decision. Do not despair.”

I love that they know their limits, yet offer empathy and a wonderful blanket reassurance. It’s so nice to know that someone cares and that they have confidence in me to work it all out.

If you have a bit of time to spare, you might just want to take a dive into your Spam file. You never know what you might find!

 

 

Once upon a bedtime…

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At the end of a long day, I lay in bed, reading, snuggled up in flannel sheets and multiple layers of blankets. Sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Then, uninvited, a thought niggled its way into my mind.

You forgot about the moon.

Oh, drat! I’d meant to try to capture a few moon photos. When I had come home late in the afternoon, I’d noticed the birch tree was rimed with a thin layer of ice. It sparkled in the house lights and I’d thought it might be really spectacular lit by the full moon. I could just imagine the photo–glowing orb, glistening branches.

Now it was hours later, and I’d forgotten all about it. Until now. Now, when I was drowsy. And warm and cozy. And the temperatures were in the teens outside. If I was lucky.

I kept reading.

You’re gonna miss it! 

I turned the page.

The moon won’t be full for another month, and how often are the branches coated with ice?

I read on.

It could be amazing! The conditions are ideal! 

I read another half page…

You know you won’t regret it if you get up. But you won’t get the shot if…

Ugh! Fine! I put the book down. I might as well just get up. 

I slid out of bed, careful to leave the sheets and blankets as intact as possible, hoping they’d hold my warmth and welcome me back after my arctic dip outside.

Downstairs, I fiddled with my camera and set up the tripod. After throwing on a coat, boots, and hat, I stepped outside. The moonlight was brilliant on the snow, and cast deep shadows around the trees. I walked out to the driveway and set up, already happy that I’d made the effort.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that, although it was beautiful out, I was not going to get the shot I’d envisioned. I couldn’t figure out how to deal with the light issues and simultaneously capture the close branches and the distant moon. I took a few photos anyway. Click. Click.

Crack!

My heart jumped. Huh? 

Crack!

I glanced behind me.

Ooookay. It’s dark. It’s cold. And I am NOT the only thing out here.

Crack!

Crunch!

I tensed. Something was definitely moving around near the barn. Something that sounded big!

Possum? Raccoon? No, not big enough… A deer?  A herd of deer?

C-R-A-C-K!

A herd of angry deer? A homicidal maniac?  

Grabbing the tripod and camera, I quickly abandoned the moon. I hustled back to the house, glancing nervously over my shoulder as I went.

Once inside, I shut the door behind me with relief and vigorously turned the lock. I put everything away and climbed back upstairs to our bedroom, eager to return to bed.

“What were you doing?” Kurt asked, looking up from his book as I entered the room.

“I went outside to take some pictures.”

“Oh, the moon,” he said, nodding, knowing me well.

“Yeah,” I said, “but it wasn’t great. I couldn’t figure out how to do what I wanted.”

I paused dramatically. “And something else was out there, too! I heard crunching branches by the barn!”

“Was it the deer?” he asked.

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed, “It was something big, and I wasn’t sticking around to find out!”

He shot a grin my way. “So, you scampered back inside, huh?”

“Yup,” I said. “I scampered right back inside!”

He does know me well.

Smiling, I slipped back under the covers.

I had braved the cold, attempted the photo, escaped the clutches of a raging homicidal maniac and was now back where I belonged.

I picked up my book.

Sheer, unadulterated bliss.

A Rewarding Detour

slice-of-life_individualAfter a beautiful hike along some coastal waterways, we were heading home. Kurt was hungry and looking forward to getting some food. I was driving, contemplating which way to go.

I have multiple routes around “town.” There’s the 10 minute take-the-highway efficiency route for speedy errands, or a variety of more meandering routes. My favorite way home takes me on back roads past the Muddy River and then over the Cathance River. There are a few stunning vistas over Merrymeeting Bay along the way. You never know what you might see.

“So, how hungry are you,” I asked, glancing over at Kurt.

“Why?”

“Well, do you care if I go the longer way home?”

“That’s okay,” he said.

“I won’t go the longest way,” I said, “but I would like to check out what’s by the Cathance.”

I took the requisite turn, and we drove along companionably in the late afternoon, quiet and comfortably tired from our afternoon trek.

As we neared a potential detour, I shot another glance at Kurt.

“Sometimes I like to turn and go down by The Muddy from this end, ” I ventured hopefully.

“Go ahead,” Kurt said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He nodded, and I made the turn happily and continued to chatter, “You know,” I said, “I haven’t seen anything here at all recently except for one lone cormorant. But I figure if I keep coming, I’m bound to see something sometime.”

We crested the hill, and I slowly drove toward the bridge, both of us scanning the landscape. The sun arced from low-lying clouds and the river sparkled. The last vestiges of fall color spotted its banks and reflected warmly in the water. The tree branches shifted and the marsh grasses stirred in the breeze. The bursting cattails arrowed upward. It was beautiful, but there wasn’t a bird in sight. Not on the water. Not in the sky.

“Look!” Kurt whispered urgently, grabbing my arm.

“What!?! Where?” I said, hitting the brakes to stop in the middle of the road, and scanning the water.

“An eagle. Right there!” he pointed.

Sure enough, in a tree by the road, a bald eagle perched on a branch, looking over the river.

“Oh, isn’t he beautiful.”

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I put the car in park right there in the middle of the road (country roads, remember?) and grabbed my camera. Kurt rolled down his window and leaned back out of the way, while I snapped picture after picture.

Then we just sat and admired him for a while.

Sometimes you have to take that detour. Sometimes you have to take it more than once. And sometimes, you might just end up in the right place at the right time.

 

A Rotten Afternoon

slice-of-life_individual“So, please introduce yourself and say why you want to be in Writing Club.”

We worked our way around the circle.

“I’m here because I want to finish writing a story I started last year.”

“I’m here because I really like writing.”

Then a student started giggling and announced, “I’m here to write about Chicken Nuggets!”

Multiple students dissolved into gales of laughter. After order was restored, we continued. A student started to introduce himself by his given name, and his friend interrupted him, “No, you mean you’re Timmy!” she cried.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I’m Timmy!” and laughed maniacally.

“Chicken Nugget!!” another student called out, accompanied by more laughter from some, and confused and/or annoyed looks from others.

And so it went on.

I made it through the hour. Barely. I spent most of my time redirecting, reprimanding and regretting my decision to have an after-school Writing Club. My only bright spot was that somehow quite a few students actually wrote to the prompt and had something to show for their independent writing time. I have no idea how, given my largely unsuccessful efforts to lower the volume to a reasonable level.

Now I’m home, drinking wine, and regrouping. I didn’t have the energy to go to my own Writing Group, which made me even sadder and grumpier.

Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.

Thankful

slice-of-life_individualThis morning as I headed to work, the car wheel turned right toward town and the river, instead of left toward school. The unexpected detour felt beyond my control, so I just gave in–Well, honestly, I didn’t struggle too much. Apparently my will power was weak, and the lure of a brightly colored dawn was strong.

Down by the river I marveled at the glowing reds, roses, golds and greys. I parked and grabbed my camera to snap a picture or two. I walked out onto the dock, my steps sending ripples shimmering across the reflected clouds.

As I walked, something made me look up. Overhead a heron flew by,  its strong wings flapping, its silhouette unmistakable. I stopped in my tracks, so grateful to see it, awed by its silent dawn flight. Where had it been? Where was it going?

The stress of the week receded, and I stood, camera forgotten, simply watched the heron fly until it was out of sight. I wondered idly if it might be the last one I’d see until the spring. I was so thankful I’d been there to see it. So thankful I took that right turn.

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Moon Mission

slice-of-life_individual“I’ve got a mission tonight!” I announced.

“A mission?” Kurt asked.

“Yes! It’s a full moon and I’m gonna try to take pictures. I’m determined to figure out how to take a good moon photo.”

To date, all my moon shots with my “new” camera have been tremendously disappointing. Just a big white blob in the sky. I knew it was operator error, and tonight I was determined to succeed or at least improve. I also had new tools in this endeavor–a tremendous zoom lens and a tripod–recent gifts from Kurt. 

 “Do you know when it rises?” he asked.

I googled away quickly.

“7:23 pm!” I announced.

Looking at the clock, I realized I’d better get on it. I started leafing through my camera manual and googling on line: “best setting for a moon picture.” I barely noticed when, a few minutes later, Kurt left to go to a meeting.

I was deep in confusion when my phone rang, only a few minutes later.

It was Kurt.

Huh?

“The moon’s already rising, Molly.” I looked at my watch.

“What!?! But it’s only 6:30 pm!!!” (Clearly I do NOT know how to read a moon chart!)

He continued, “You should check it out down on Brown’s Point Road. It’s huge!”

“But…but… I thought it wasn’t rising til after 7! Ahhhh! I’m still figuring out settings!”

I hung up quickly and scrambled madly trying to at least address the basics. Umm….ISO 100, aperture f/11-f/16 and shutter speed 1/60-1/125. I fumbled with knobs and buttons.

I have very limited experience with manual settings, and I should have begun preparing earlier. I was paying the price now. Try as I might, I could not get the iso to change. Over and over, I pushed the sequence of buttons, but it kept reverting to the original setting.  Oh, well, I finally decided, I’d just drive down to the river and give it a try. I grabbed my camera bags and tripod and set out.

Down at the water, the moon was a huge glowing orb with wisps of clouds drifting across it. Stunning! I unloaded my gear and set up, happy that the tripod was pretty user friendly and that I was able, more or less, to manipulate it in the dark. Then I turned on my camera and swiveled to find that gorgeous moon. Ahhhhh….Perfect shot. With my zoom, I was so close that the details popped.

Click!

I looked at the picture displayed on my camera.

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Oh.

This was not the stunningly detailed moon that I had seen in my view finder. Despite my tinkering, I was still firmly at white celestial blob. This was very disappointing, but I rallied.

Cell phone flashlight in hand, I fiddled around with a few settings and tried again. The clouds were cooperating nicely, but…

Click!

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This was not encouraging. I took shot after shot on different settings.

Click! Click! Clickety click click!

Blob! Blob! Blobbity blob blob!

One time, I got desperate and tried some effect setting and, much to my surprise, wound up with this:

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Maybe the moon is actually made of a fried egg, not cheese…

Eventually, I packed up my equipment and headed back home, temporarily defeated, but determined to view it all as a process. A very messy one. Clearly, I needed to do some more research.

Once home, I dug into the manual and Google again. The more I played around, the more I realized how little I really knew about  my camera! After much reading, experimenting and head scratching, I discovered that there was an automatic iso setting that was confounding my iso adjustment efforts. I then figured out how to override that. Finally, the suggested settings were programmed, and  it was time to wait for the moon to rise above the trees at home. Every 15 minutes or so, I dashed outside to assess its location.

At about 8:30, Kurt came home.

“How’d it go?” he asked.

“Utter failure,” I replied, “but I did learn how to use the tripod and I think I’ve reset it so I can try again. I’m just waiting for the moon to rise over the trees.”

“Well, I could see it when I drove up the driveway,” he said.

I grabbed all the gear again and set up outside. Looking up at the moon, I shook aside the lingering frustration of missing the earlier much-more-magnificent version.  Process!  I reminded myself. It’s still beautiful!

I set up and found the moon in the viewfinder. All those glowing details. Vivid. Clear. I took a deep breath and…

Click!

I looked at the camera and…

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Woohoo! Yes! I did it!

I know I need to practice it a few more (hundred!) times to try to retain it. And I’m sure there’s still fine-tuning to be done. I’m having all sorts of thoughts about learning curves, process vs. product, frustration, and persistence. But mostly, for now, I’m simply celebrating!

Mission accomplished!