Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars, the forget me not of angels.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
On each anniversary of September 11th I am instantly transported back to that surreal moment, watching a television display footage of the attack on the world trade center. I can remember each moment as if it were in slow motion…trying at the same time to comprehend what I was seeing. It is one of those events that never seems to lose its rawness and I feel compelled to mark its passage each year with a moment of silence.
At the time I was a member of a search and rescue team and as I watched it unfold my pager began to go off and I knew that some members of the team would be going into that massive ‘rubble pile’ in search of anyone still surviving. I knew it would not be me as I worked a bloodhound that was trained to follow only the scent of a victim that I provided to her. The dogs going in would be trained to alert on any human scent.
It was difficult to be on the sidelines waiting for any word of a positive find and at the same time being concerned for the safety and well-being of other team members and their canine partners. This many years later I still find it a challenge to articulate what happened on the days following this terror attack on American soil.
My heart goes out to the families that lost loved ones on 9-11 as well as to the first responders, handlers, and canines that later succumbed due to illnesses caused by their selfless call to duty in a toxic environment.
So I take a moment each September 11 to remember and on this morning felt some measure of solace as dawn approached on the west coast and the aurora borealis danced across the sky.
And then there were the stars…the forget me not of angels.
The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.
It couldn’t have come at a better time during this summer of record-breaking heat and voracious forest fires. Finally the dense smoke hanging over the region has been blown out and tamped down by several bouts of rain and lowered temperatures. While containment of these massive and numerous fires has not yet been achieved there has been significant progress made towards that end.
There could not have been a more beautiful sound than hearing these droplets begin to fall on our metal roof. I am quite certain that I was not the only one to go outside, lift my face skywards and just take in a deep breath of the moisture laden air.
This image is a double taken at my little lake, sharing the rain with the beauty of the trees that did not come under fire this summer.
Are we out of the woods yet? No…but the view is getting better every day and for that I am grateful!
Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.
In contrast to last week’s post the reality of each day looks a little more like this. As the air quality remains firmly planted in the unhealthy zone, I am quite certain that companies who sell inhalers are doing a booming business.
As an added blow, Sunday marks the closure of a huge swath of Federal and State land in the Idaho Panhandle where a veritable playground of wilderness exists for those like myself who love to camp in and explore remote areas. Emergency closures include all National Forest System lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, and all state endowment forest lands within this area. The danger of people becoming trapped by fires is too great and a week-end forecast calling for gusty winds and thunderstorms does not look like it will provide the much-needed relief we had been hoping for.
I find myself hunting for little signs of beauty within the gray pallor that envelops the landscape. With having to limit time spent outdoors breathing the smoke and ash laden air this becomes somewhat of a challenge though.
I am blessed to live in an area surrounded by vast forested land, scenic mountain ranges, and plentiful rivers and lakes. After the hottest July on record though one can’t help but wonder if this season of wildfires will become the new norm?
lightning ignites new fires and every evening the sun sets in a smoke filled haze.
There is no forgiveness in nature.
One can’t help but wonder when and how it will all end as forest fires consume the Pacific Northwest. Fueled by a winter lacking in snow and close on its heels a very hot, dry summer. The perfect storm… it’s enough to bring an atheist to his knees.
Smoke filled day follows smoke filled day and each evening the sun sets in a ball of fire. The colors are vivid and quite striking but it’s hard to find any enjoyment in that. Animals are rapidly becoming displaced as they search for respite from the flames as tens of thousands of acres burn, largely uncontained.
Hopes are dashed as clouds move in filled not with the rain that we so desperately need but with lightning capable of starting more fires as it strikes bone dry tinder.
In daylight hours the sun casts a strange orange glow upon the landscape and ash drifts down upon the vehicles. Lives have been lost as the firefighters work tirelessly to get containment. We are grateful for all that they are doing as they put their lives on the line for complete strangers.
Keep them in your thoughts and the next time you see a firefighter, police officer, or veteran please thank them for their service. You never know when their actions might directly impact your life.
Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.
I felt very lucky this week to have clear and dark skies for the Perseid Meteor showers and it was quite the show!
These showers occur as Earth crosses the orbital path of the comet Swift-Tuttle and bits of debris hit the atmosphere creating these fast-moving meteors. The radiant point for the showers is the Perseus constellation.
I set up early for the event anticipating a long night and dragged a camping cot out into my pasture. Much nicer than laying on the ground and easier on the neck too for hours of viewing!
I got butterflies in my stomach as my eyes adjusted to the dark and I waited to see the first of many meteors streak across the sky. Some were brief flashes while others left wonderful trails that lingered for several seconds. While viewing my images the next day I was excited to see several shots with double meteors in them. One even had two streaking along on a parallel course.
I was grateful that my Nikon has a built-in intervalometer so that I could set up sequenced shots and be shooting while I kept my eyes on the stars. The first image is a compilation of over 100 shots as the stars moved across the sky.
Was I tired the next day? Perhaps a little. Was it worth it? In the words of a friend…indeed!
There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment.
Hunter S Thompson
One of the great things about being a photographer is the complete control that you have over subject matter and something that I like to do when presented with the opportunity is to get out of my comfort zone and photograph something that I am not comfortable with.
While on a recent trip to Florida I came across this largest of North American spiders with the exception of the tarantula, the banana spider. I did in fact shudder but taking a deep breath I began to photograph her with what looked like her offspring.
While this spider is venomous, its bite is not fatal, at least that was what I kept telling myself as I moved around her trying to capture her and the color in that beautiful golden web.
I have found that looking at something through a camera lens has a desensitizing effect because it seems that a different part of your brain kicks in and focuses on the light and other technical issues, over-riding the part that says “run, save yourself!”
In the interests of full disclosure I will admit to using a telephoto and NOT my macro lens for this shot…after all these spiders are large with a body size of 1-3″ and leg spans of up to 5″!
I can make a mental check mark beside venomous spider now, what’s next you ask? Gulp…a snake?
Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.
I spent a great week seeing old friends and making new ones…friends of the canine variety that is! Big ones, little ones, fat ones, lean ones, young ones, old ones, hairy ones and smooth ones. Some came with massive pedigrees, stacks of show ribbons…Best In Show to Grand Champions. Others came from more unknown lineage but packing an abundance of charm and good looks and each one had a story to tell!
There’s the mastiff with a stack of ribbons too numerous to count, breeder owner handled. His size was awe-inspiring and his gentle nature a treat to behold.
The pug, being a lady of a certain age, was none too mobile but very adept at keeping the big dogs in line! Her dinner dance would bring a smile to anyone’s face…
The poodle, once somebody’s show dog, forgotten when they moved on, has a heart of gold and a new loving home where he lives the life he deserves.
The staffordshire bull terrier, still raking in the accolades in the show ring but as a veteran now…owner handled naturally!
Being around such a variety of breeds was an absolute treat and seeing the pride that the owners had for their dogs was heart warming.
I am often out at night looking and photographing the stars but this week the stars came out during the day and they couldn’t have shone brighter!