We spent the yesterday living in colonial times. By three pm, the house temperature had dipped into the low 40’s. A trip to grandma’s house was imminent. In the 270 years this house has stood, I wondered if any of its occupants had ever seen extensive tree damage like we were witnessing today. The unbelievable and untimely October snowstorm wreaked havoc on the towns of Durham and Middlefield. In an area recently tested by Irene’s wrath, most shook our heads and wondered why? Early on Sunday, the neighbors met in the middle of Miller road to have a mini conference. The consensus among all… “This sucks”. Everyone offered assistance to each other, wood, pool water and some melting contents of the freezer. Chris dipped two 5 gallon drums into our neighbors pool wincing at the cold water. Now we could flush our toilets. To complicate matters, today is my son’s birthday, Halloween, to be followed my by daughter’s birthday in two days. It's a busy week by normal standards and this storm put a wrench into the plan. New England is a tough place to live, there is no doubt about that. I had planned a Halloween blog of ghoulish photos, but they are being held captive by my unelectrified hard drive. I also have a "Happy 10th birthday Peter blog" that also must wait for another day. It’s going to be long week but we’re thankful that warmth is nearby. Our hometown could use a miracle to get back on it’s feet. I wish everyone the best.
The real occupier.
Papa's takes his last walk away from the floor of the American Stock Exchange
My dad spent 45 years of his life commuting to the depths of NYC to the floor of the American Stock Exchange. This lesser-known sibling of the NYSE vanished just a few years ago as the computer age of trading began. His commute was long and days on the exchange were stressful. A visit to his “office” was a hooky playing kid’s dream of a day off from school. I spent the day time-stamping orders and feeling very important. I would stamp a date on buy and sell slips, not really getting it, but realizing you needed to know how to do fractions to do a trade. My favorite part of his job was when you would shoot the finalized stock order through a little tube(much like some of today’s bank drive through’s) and it would miraculously end up in some far off place. It was kind of like a Fed Ex version of a message in a bottle. He would grab my hand and introduce me to all the characters, all with strong accents hailing from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Jersey and such. These guys weren’t rich. Many were neighborhood kids that were doing the best to get out of their neighborhood. They all wore color-coded jackets representing their position, so they could easily be spotted in the crowd of barking specialist and clerks when a stock rally was in process. It was the only place in the world where you could drop a paper on the floor and it was OK. Scraps and orders lay everywhere on the floor making it look like it was just past midnight on New Years Eve. When the opening bell would ring, a rush of excitement seemed to ensue marking another opportunity for capitalism to do its thing. Somehow, my dad made a living out of this; one that I never could really grasp, but I knew it somehow put food on the table. I wish could have photographed the magical place before it was gone. These are the only photos I have, despite the photos in my mind that are still vibrant and full of color. I watch those of the Occupy Wall Street movement over the past weeks and wonder if they realize that those traders are just trying to make a living. In essence, these men and woman that truly do occupy Wall Street are no different than a bread maker or an artisan buying and selling their goods at market price. Like the protestor, he too has love in his heart and a desire to do the right thing. While I believe that corporations have their shortcomings, it is because every human does. For this reason, the Constitution was written and by golly, we should abide by it. May we not forget that only 10 years ago, my father watched the hearts and souls of lower Manhattan perish in dust around him. He stood helpless as twisting metal made deafening sounds all around. He would look down during the middle of it all and pick up a boarding pass that had fallen from the sky. From that day one, he would never forget. Our great country needs to stay united, despite our disagreements. Lincoln said it best, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Let’s hope we all see the truth in this.
I loved to visit the candy man on the lower level of the AMEX
Click here to see the "Chariot's" moment that puts todays blog in perspective.
If I look back into my past…all the way back to 1983, I remember caring about being an athlete for the first time. I was in 6th grade. I had played some tennis and done swim team. I enjoyed them both but in a way of child’s play. At school, the Presidential Fitness Test was nearing. For some reading this, you may remember the misery of the test…how long could you hang(not very long), how far could you jump(not very far), how fast could you run(not very fast). Forget about the standing long jump. A few lucky ones with frog like legs would reach the furthest line that looked like it was at the other end of the planet(that’s you Cathleen). I would fail miserably, wondering how a girl the exact same height could jump so much further. I could hustle my way through sit-ups with the rest of them, but the marquee event was always the 1 mile run. After seeing “Chariots of Fire”, I envisioned myself in the last lap of the Olympic Oval. As I neared the finish, silence would ensue as I leapt in slow motion through the finish line. An explosion of cheering applause would erupt as I just eeked out the 2nd place finisher. Yes, “Chariots” stayed with me. In my own oval around the weed filled playground landscape, I was feeling my first twinge of competitive necessity. In reality, a girl with uncanny natural speed beat me handily. I vowed to never let it happen again. I created a training plan. I would start running home from school. I would meander the one mile through town, sprinting through the scary underpass near the train station and complete the workout up the big hill that brought me to my doorstep. My mother would secretly follow me. It took one full year to achieve my “Chariots” moment when I overcame the talent of one little girl with the pure will and determination from deep within myself. I had found my inner athlete. Fast forward, dare I say, 30 years. Go Far was born out of that one moment when it clicked. I would never forget the feeling of contentment of accomplishing a goal that was so hard achieved. Pushing the personal envelope, even when you’re too young to know why you’re doing it is what Go Far is all about. As our elementary students run mile after mile, I know they are finding their own “Chariots’ moment. In middle school, as doubts creep in, it becomes difficult for many to believe that the “Chariots” moment is even possible. Over the past months, I have worked at designing a new program, aimed at helping kids discover their individual potential. Go Far Extreme will introduce kids to new ways to exercise. Kids will learn the simple fundamentals of sporting and fitness. Achieving core strength and stamina will be at the heart of it. They will have the opportunity to try a number of individual pursuits: orienteering, track and field, kick boxing, hip hop dancing, boot camp, yoga, and even hula hooping. The goal is to help each child find what naturally fits so a seed of potential can be planted. As it unfolds, I welcome ideas and expertise to fill the calendar with meaningful endeavors. If we create a fencing class and one child becomes an Olympic fencer in 2024, then I’ll know that I achieved my goal in seeing the seed flower. It will be a long wait for sure, but I’m willing to wait and see. Pictured here are some shots from the Cross Fit games. As pictured, those seeds surely became massive plants for some. But it’s always about the next generation as you can also see in these shots. Here’s to your very own “Chariots of fire”.
Early morning detour
Yesterday I dropped my husband off at Hartford Airport well before anyone should have been awake. He is off to do a marathon, this time climbing the peak of Mt Lemmon in Arizona. The climb will bring him up more than 5000 feet over the top. As he does this, he wont be alone. His mom and dad will be out there too climbing it with him. Ever year, around 5 marathons are added to his growing collection of more than 70 grueling ventures. I’ll admit that while driving through the darkness, I was bitter. I to wanted to feel the warm dry air of Arizona too, but we just couldn’t seem to get the childcare thing together. I would stay back for this one and hold down the fort. I felt sad as I knew that he would be having an adventure without me. I was picturing pointing my camera at giant cacti and feeling the warm sun on my shoulders. Instead, I was hurtling through the chilly early morning darkness in CT. Through the shadows, I could see what looked like 50 or more massive buildings. For years I had thought about stopping and checking these buildings out, but never have. Usually when you’re near the airport, you’re just in a rush. I looked back and saw that my camera was in the back seat. In the early morning I grabbed it thinking…” Hey you never know”. I had left the wide angle lens on the table at home…drat. The sun was beginning to lighten the horizon. I veered off onto a dirt road and went through a maze of old tobacco barns. I put the car into park and just sat there thinking to myself, “Jen what in the hell are you doing”. I am sure there was a no a trespassing sign somewhere, but it was too dark to see it. When you weigh the pros and cons on the scales of life sometimes you just need to go with your gut feeling. The boogey man probably sat waiting in the shadows ready to eat unsuspecting photographers. I killed the engine and waited for the sun. 30 minutes would pass and the shadows would begin to lift. Outlines of the buildings became more defined and soon the collection of massive barns could be seen. The sun would glow and warm their east sides. The ponderous buildings lined up like soldiers. The dirt road surrounding the buildings transported me to another era and I bent down to swirl a small design in the sands of time. Little seemed to have changed on this farm except for the highway that had been built to transport travelers to the airport. I would see numbers on each building as high as 50 and the edifices seemed to have no particular organization. I started to think of the numbers while I shot away. In my mind I thought of how there were as many buildings as the number of marathons my husband has run. I thought of how I could use the numbers on the barns as a blog topic or for an age specific birthday card for a friend. I looked for 40, my current number, but it seemed to be hidden. Daylight was now brilliant and it was time to move along. I had found my own adventure and my earlier sullen mood had lifted. Sometimes we need to find our own adventure despite the conditions that hold us back from doing so. There really is adventure around every corner…even in CT.
How to get there? ...Follow the signs
We all like to think we have our lives plotted out on a gps. Truth is, there is no lady with a English accent telling us which way to turn. Sometimes we need to think about the way things were before the gps came around. We would drive along and look at road signs. Those that follow them and abide by them would generally get to their destination in one piece. The message is usually so simple…stop, slow, yield, one way, do not enter. The risk of danger that comes with ignoring signs is obvious. It can come in the form of a scare, or a fender bender which really is just luck protecting you with cro-moly bumpers. But things could be far worst, you can find yourself forever maimed or even worst, gone forever. “If only I had obeyed the signs better”, a foolhardy one would think after the fact. This story has an entire metaphorical side. In life we have many signs that help keep us on track. These signs are usually posted throughout life in pretty obvious places. The most popular book ever written, the Bible, has the 10 most important signs on it’s first pages. You can even get it in a hotel room! The US Constituton is also another wonderful guideline for good behavior on a grander level. One of the best rulebooks ever written came simply stated in Robert Fulghum’s, “All I really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten.” Much less cmplicated than the Bible , what says it better than, the following:
• Share everything.
• Play fair.
• Don't hit people.
• Put things back where you found them.
• Clean up your own mess.
• Don't take things that aren't yours.
• Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
• Wash your hands before you eat.
• Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
• Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
• Take a nap every afternoon.
• When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
• Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
• Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
For some reason, there are lots of people who choose to ignore signs, despite the warnings printed in big block letters. I know personally that when I have ignored the signs, I usually know it and regret it. Luckily I haven’t crashed much beyond a fender bender; a small miracle I guess. So while enjoying the ride, please remember to read the signs, look and do get there with everything in tack.
Finding your way with Jane.
Often in photography,you regret the one photo that you didn't have the opportunity to take. Tonight, upon coming home from a meeting, I learned of the sudden loss of Jane Churchill, the librarian at the Durham Library. I knew very little of Jane's personal life since I knew only of her from our little trips to the library. But the mark she left on me and (I would venture to say) everyone who passed through the library doors was indelible. There were few that looked so comfortable in the setting of books as Jane did. I met her shortly after moving to the area. In my third year here, I would discover photography. Over the long winter months, I would park myself in the photography section, sitting kris-crossed on the floor trying to absorb just a few bits of knowledge to my newfound craft. Jane would get used to me sitting there, often stepping over me as she would shelve books. She would smile, ask questions and show her encouragement. On two occasions, Durham library would come up on my caller ID and I would hear Jane's voice. Waiting for the admonishment for my overdue books, rather, I would hear optimism through the line. She would tell me of a new book she had taken upon herself to order or put aside knowing of my voracious appetite for photography. She wanted to help people learn. It is clear to me now, how kind her heart was. I am sure I am not the only one who had experiences like this with Jane. She had an amazing ability to help people find their way. Maybe this is why she would become a librarian and do her job so well. This was her miracle she would share with us. She would guide you to a book and make you feel like you were discovering it yourself. She was the type of person that makes living in a small town worth while. As in a Rockwell painting, you would wish to seek out the familiar character as you walk into the coffee shop, post office or local library. A fixture like Jane is why you keep coming back. Getting a cup of coffee, a book of stamps or a new best seller would be the perfect excuse for coming back time and time again to see people like Jane. You simply feel more connected to what's good in life around good people I need to know little of her personal life to know she connected to everyone she met. My one regret in Jane was that I never had the chance to photograph her. I may have a photo from a party of her, but no true portrait. I always thought her graceful features and subtle laugh lines completed the perfect soul that lay beneath. It would also have been a tangible memory of her. Now she must continue on in my mind. Jane Churchill, you will be missed in more ways than I'll every know. As I search for my next book, I still hope you guide me from afar.
A Cup of Escapism
I drove by the cattle auction house in Middlefield yesterday early on. I would see burly men exiting their pick up trucks holding a cups of coffee from their favorite deli. It reminded me of my dad as he would love to head out early on a Saturdays to visit the boat yard with his cup of coffee in hand. The cup would come to represent the weekend, a time when he would escape from work, the kids and anything else weighing on his mind. As I drove along, I would sip my cup of hot chocolate, now a staple of my morning photo excursions. It was early and Durham was still asleep as I meandered around looking for a decent shot. I would think to myself that I needed to start driving further as I think I have covered every inch of these nearby towns. The hot chocolate tempted me to keep driving as I wasn't ready to give it up its warmth to muck through the mud of some field. I would have my typical problem…private property. So much of what interest me is on private land. At 6:15, no one wants a knock on the door from some permission seeking photographer dressed in her Wellies. Gun shots echoed from every piece of public open area that I would drive by. Hunters had woken me up at 5 am and now they were keeping me from my shot too. Last thing I wanted was to be mistaken for some wild turkey. I ended up back in Durham at Rivendel, one of my favorite horse farms in the area. The owner is really cool and always smiling no matter what the hour. The farm is spectacular. Horses followed as I walked paddock to paddock deliberately petting each one and saying hello. For a short time, I would escape my world into theirs, sinking deep into the mud along with them. The rain this season has plagued all of the area farms, a challenge that most in modern suburbia are somewhat unaware of. I would snap a few shots and be ready to go home. But I would come home having a little vacation of sorts. I would better understand my dads coffee-cupped escapes early on Saturday mornings, as well as the men from the auction house. For those that read this, do you have something worthy of photography in your immediate surroundings? Contact me if you do. Most farmers tend to wonder what I see in their creaky old buildings, but believe me, the proof is in the photo. Your help in finding good locations both public and private would keep my meanderings focused and you'll see the best shots here. I'll keep those warm cups of hot chocolate flowing and with it, the photos.
You can now click on photos to see them full-sized. Yeah!
As luck would have it, I would be introduced to a miracle yesterday. I didn’t even have to dig deep or search my soul for this one. As long as I could move as quickly as she crawled, the miracle could be captured like fairy dust granting a wish. As I left the shoot, this little miracle left her certain mark of sweetness as a gift for me to remember. Every morning should be so good. Every soul should prove as innocent as hers. I realized quickly that photographing her smile paled in comparison to capturing her inquisitive nature. So often we look for the big smile in photos, but in the end, we are most captivated by witnessing a person’s wonder of the world. Without question, I was in wonder of her.
Glass filling suds
My daughter dutifully informed me that my long-winded gripe about generic products in my last blog was not about a miracle in any way, shape or form. I smiled back in her direction and reminded her that my photo of the razor toothed shaver made her smile, despite the fact that her mood showed differently. Sometimes miracles are reactionary as was in her case. This blog was created with every intention to peer into life's kaleidoscope and find the good in everything that's thrown at me. So where is the miracle in today's suds filled photo? Not every miracle is so cut and dry. Sometimes they are discovered in the smallest of actions from one person to another. As I came home from a bike ride today, Chris had taken it upon himself to wash the cars. If you only knew how bad a case of grunge had taken over my poor Subaru, you would have probably sent the poor vehicle to the wrecker. But he scrubbed and scrubbed. From this he would personally gain little as he is rarely a passenger in the car. Somehow, he knew that in some way, he was making my day better. As I pulled out the camera for the quick blog shot, he would swirl the suds perfectly down the front of the car so the effect would be just right. The miracle would unfold as he would do this and then step back for the shot. The truth here is that it takes very little to bring happiness to someone else. He knows what my photography means to me and in setting up my shot, it was clearer than every that he gets me. It took only a few seconds of his day, but the good that came from it, is what makes my glass half full. Lets hope that I may have done something today that filled his glass of metaphoric happiness. In the end, two half full glasses combined make a cup where happiness spills over.
My left leg is on fire! How's that for a product review! In my quest to save some hard earned money I pulled out my 30 pack of BJ's brand razors tonight. A triple blade razor would surly evict the gorilla legs I had grown accustomed to over the past weeks. With one swipe up my lathered leg, I knew I was in trouble. After the second, I was cursing out BJ's for making such a crappy product. My last painful run down the length of my bloodied leg would have me most angry at myself now for having 29 more of these razors sitting in the closet. Rather than abort the mission, I would jump out of the shower sopping wet to dig out my dulled "Lady Venus" razor out of the drawer and beg it for one final act of mercy. I may as well chuck my relaxing evening right out the window. Could someone tell me why two products can look exactly the same but be so totally different? Perhaps, that would be a good question for the parents of twins. How can three blades fail so miserably? I take my shopping responsibility in this house quite seriously. I try to keep us out of debt by picking and choosing the right products to get the job done so we could spend our extra cash on the good stuff. Enter Aldi…A store hailing from Germany, brought right here to the USA, made nearly 100 percent of generics. My husband winces every time I come in the door with my arms full of Aldi goodies. He knows immediately when I have been there because they don't do shopping bags. He is a food snob, often snubbing food that he can't even taste the difference between. Purchasing food from Aldi is like playing a high stakes game of Roulette. Sometimes you hit the jackpot in finding an generic identical tasting morsel to the real thing…while other times, your spitting the food into your hand and licking a napkin to get the taste off your tongue. It's good fun. After a few visits, you get the routine down, buy you basics and the head to the real supermarket for real predictability. So here are a few things i can tell you to stay away from when it comes to generics: razors (I learned of tonight), peanut butter(just funky), ice cream(always a let down), beer (yes,they do make generic beer), toothpaste(kinda scary to brush your teeth with something made in China), and shampoo(unless you want greasy hair). Otherwise the place is generally safe except for a few mishaps. Good thing, it only takes one mistake to learn your lesson. With this warning go off and explore the world of generics. Veggies, staples like flour and sugar and cereal will often save you lots and your unsuspecting family won't know the difference. It could be worth the gamble. Just a warning to my local friends, if you see 29 brand new razors in the free pile at the dump, just keep walking.