Monday, June 28, 2010

Attack of the Lightning Bear

I was really exhausted from our weekend last night when I finally crawled into bed around 12. I had been hearing some distant thunder for several minutes and eventually started to see some flashes of lightning. Knowing I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I missed an opportunity to take pictures of it again, I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed out. I ended up at the bottom of the hill down below my grandparents house and was rewarded by a few really good shots:

On the way back things got even more interesting. While crossing the road, somebody, I think coming back from a late night at the Stanley's, pulled off our lane and caught me crossing Hickory Road in bare feet, no shirt, my technicolor flannel pants, and carrying my long camera tripod. It probably looked like some kind of occult activity or something.

When I got back near our house, I started hearing rattling and crunching noises coming from between my house and my parent's house. Then I heard Bella barking her head off from inside my place and knew it could only be one thing. I got up on the deck and ducked into my parents house just in time to see a black bear ripping apart our trash just ten or fifteen feet in front of me! He was remarkably unafraid and stayed around for about five minutes afterwords with me watching him.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Classes, Cosmos, & Kippers

It's been an extremely busy weekend. On Saturday my family went to Harrisburg, the state capital, to watch Mattea's PHAA graduation ceremony. It brought back quite a few memories of the day approaching three years ago now when I walked into the same auditorium in the capital complex forum and graduated from the same program. Although there were a few less people graduating in her class than did in mine, it seemed like the ceremony took a lot longer. This may have been partly because I wasn't nervous this time, but I also think there were many more performances before hand. Some of these were phenomenal, and others were cringe-worthy. A family quartet played Bach's Night Music, which was really good, and another family band who's name escapes me, played classical/folk music that was easily one of the best live performances I've ever heard. The most memorable performance however, must have been the two girls who did Irish clogging. Their CD didn't read in the sound board, and after several horribly awkward minutes of waiting, the president of the entire PHAA program suddenly announced that he could play fiddle, and as it turned out, he could! (this also reminded me of the only other time I've seen live clogging, here)

Note: thanks to Halifirien Pilgrim for above photo!
Below is a picture of the ceiling inside the Forum which shows a stylized version of the cosmos. It's pretty amazing!

As soon as we got home that night I jumped in my own car and took off back in the direction of Wellsboro to go to Rooted - a college-age worship event that a church there started putting on this summer. It turned into a fairly late night.

This morning I went to house church with my family. I was feeling tired and almost didn't go, but was glad I did. My uncle Bruce, who recently got out of prison was there, and spoke as the main speaker. It was really good to hear his story, and to see him for only the second time since he go out.

After that we went to yet another graduation party for an old friend from Corning, Jarrad. By the time we got back from that I was pretty much exhausted. I ended up having a long text conversation with a friend, which, seeing as we don't have service at our house, involved lots of running back and forth from our house to the end of the driveway where we do get signal... it seems like this summer I have spent a great deal of time standing at the end of my driveway, cell phone in hand.

At Wegmans in Corning this afternoon I bought Kippers. They are smoked herring from Germany that come in a can, and look really kind of disgusting. I was feeling in the mood to do something mildly adventurous though, so while we were in the foreign foods section, I grabbed a can. They are delicious! Instant favorite!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice Sky

This past Saturday was my sister Mattea's graduation party. We invited a ton of guests, and my parents who are usually OCD about how our place looks took it to the next level and spent the whole week and a half before the party re-landscaping. After all that, we were afraid it was going to rain, but it cleared up just a few minutes before people arrived and everyone ended up having a great evening.

There have been a fair amount of thunderstorms in the last couple weeks. Ever since last summer in Sarasota when I discovered that my true photographic passion is capturing lightning, I have been trying to do it again. It's been difficult though, because certain conditions have to be met exactly for it to work, and then, even when everything comes together perfectly, you still have to get lucky. Since lightning is, well lightning, it moves really fast, and the only reasonable way to catch it is to set your cameras shutter to stay open for like a minute or so. This can only be done at night, because in the day time, have your shutter open for that long will just give you a bright white photo with nothing visible at all. On top of that, it can't be raining, which is somewhat rare during electrical storms.

For all these reasons, I have been so far unsuccessful in getting any good lightning pictures yet this summer. I have taken some other night time photos though. Here is one of Ursa Major, the big dipper:

And here is a photo of the gas well they are drilling a ridge over from us. This fall we will probably have one of those in the field right by our house.

There have been a number of really beautiful evening, or dusk skies as well. One in particular last Thursday night. I think there had been some storm activity or something, because the sky was partly cloudy, but had the most unusual colors. Some of them were colors that you don't usually think of as "sky colors" like brown and tan. Those were all in some parts of the sky, while other parts were pink and purple and blue, and gold. All that combined with the sunset and a really unusual cloud pattern created something very striking and beautiful. I was running all that evening, and all this happening in the sky may have been part of what distracted me into nearly running a half marathon. The farthest I had ever run before that was six or seven miles, but that night I went more than twelve. I didn't really want it to end, but eventually my joints started to get sore, which almost never happens to me. When I got home and tracked my route on Google Pedometer and found out why I was sore.

I love the sky. I think it's one of the coolest things in creation... although if you think about it, it's hard to nail down what the sky even is.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting Wild In Wells Township

The bear population here in our township in Northern PA has been on the rise for several years. This year though, things have gone to a whole new level. It used to be that seeing a bear was something that only happened a few times in your life (my Grandma is in her 80's, and she had lived here most of her life and never seen one until a few years ago). Lately however, it has become an almost daily occurrence.

Two weeks ago I was leaving for a party around eight-thirty or so and I almost hit one running across the road in front of my Grandparents. My brothers and sisters and parents have had multiple encounters, and my cousin Matthew ran into one while running last week. Last night, two of them walked straight down our lane, with us standing there in the yard watching them. Today, I got the closest I've probably ever been to one in the woods below our house. I managed to take quite a few pictures and some video of him as he made his way from the bank below our driveway to our compost pile out by the field. He finally seemed to acknowledge my presence when I was about fifteen feet away from him, and started walking slowly towards me. It was then that I fully realized how big it was, and decided it was best for me to retreat. This was the last picture I snapped as he was walking toward me:

In other wildlife news, I got my first woodchuck of the year just a couple days ago. I had been hunting several times, but not seen even a squirrel. Then this guy appeared on the rock pile to the south of our house, an age-old woodchuck dwelling. I took a shot at him from the window (about 200' away) and missed. When I walked up though, he stuck his head out from behind a rock, and I shot it (the head, that is...)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Death, Music, and Alchemy

Sorry for not posting for awhile. There haven't been too many really exciting things happening this past week. I got my Mandolin though. I really love it. It's not quite as versatile as the guitar, but what it does it does really well, and I've been able to pick up a good bit of it pretty quickly.

I spent Friday and Saturday night this weekend out late and now I'm tired. Friday I went up to the Wine Cellar in Corning with Chris and we met Del and a few of her girl friends there. Then last night I went to Wellsboro to go to a worship gathering at a church that Nicole invited me to. It was really cool, and they had a bunch of Starbucks coffee. This was great at the time, but it kept me from getting to sleep until even later....

That morning I had gone with my Mom to a viewing service up on Coryland Hill for Norma Brown, an elderly neighbor of ours who died this past week. I didn't know her terribly well, but I had interviewed her this past semester for a class project, and when I was a little kid she used to let us catch minnows in the creek below her house. So that was sad.

After the service my Mom decided to go to Elmira shopping. That was cool, except that I didn't have my wallet or phone or anything, so I just kind of tagged along without doing much. We went to Barnes & Noble last and I got a book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is good so far. I'm already about half way through it. It's very simple, and yet very philosophical at the same time, about a Spanish Shepherd boy who goes in search of treasure in Egypt and the people he meets along the way. It's funny that it mostly takes place in North Africa. I wasn't expecting that, and the two main languages in the book are Spanish and Arabic, the two that I've been trying to learn... so that's very interesting. Perhaps almost like one of the Omens that the book talks about so much.

Anyhow, so far my summer reading list consists of this book, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a posthumously published political thriller that seems to be quite the rage right now. I'm trying to keep things a bit less depressing than my reading list last summer. Looking back its not really a wonder I was depressed considering the stuff I was reading. So if you ever want a list of really sad books to read, I could recommend several!