3.31.2009

I try and be thankful for small things

"How a Modern Depression Might Look" reads the headline of an article in the WSJ, and after last week's little blip of heady and unreasonable optimism, it seems like this week marks a return to a steady diet of gloomy and unsettling economic news. As I have observed from my own experience, dwelling on this situation, can be paralyzing, it seems that a little denial (emphasis on 'little') can be a good and healthy thing.

Reason #1 to be optimistic: There is no snow outside the kitchen window, my own private 'ice out date' occurred a full two weeks earlier than last year -- 2007/08 was an epic snow year.

Reason #2 to be optimistic: The garden continues to come along even as things have cooled off since the weekend's near 70 degree temperatures. After the long dark winter it's quite uplifting to see green again.

Reason #3 to be optimistic: Lots of birds at the feeders: woodpeckers, finches, chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, jays, etc. Birds don't care about the stock market, the endgame of the domestic auto industry or the lack of a pipeline of new business at major IT consultancies. They are concerned with food, shelter, and reproduction: Perhaps there's a message in there somewhere.

3.29.2009

Wrightsville Beach redux

Taken a week ago during my trip to North Carolina, I brought more camera gear than on the recent Florida trip (lenses, card reader, memory cards, cleaning supplies, etc.) but then wound up hardly using it. On my next trip down to North Carolina I would like to take some time to poke around the fringes of the area that haven't been developed yet, there are still old shacks and decrepit trailer parks along the railroad tracks, the trick is knowing the area well enough to find good locations, and also to be willing to get up and out early enough to take advantage of the indirect light of the morning.

That's all: I can really feel how twitter and Facebook (which is now more twitter-like) make keeping a site like this going much harder because it is so much easier just to post some 140 character comment with a link to someone else's content and move on. Sitting down and trying compose something that isn't totally random, but that has a beginning, middle, and end, and at least the glimmerings of a coherent argument, takes time and effort. The situation today (for those with Internet access, anyways) isn't not enough content, it's too much bad, thoughtless, extremely ephemeral, narcissistic, indulgent content -- judged even by the very low standards of this blog -- and the consequent erosion of one's ability to pay attention to the task at hand and the consequences of one's actions -- which, if I find the motivation, may be the subject of a future blog post.

Finally, I've been to Wrightsville Beach before (also here) ...

3.18.2009

Continental drift: I head south again

Interstate 95 in Virginia

It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don't matter, anyhow
An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don't know by now
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I'll be gone
You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on
Don't think twice, it's all right

I'm leaving again, for a week, flights are cheap, work is slow, skies are gray in Vermont, why stick around? Since August 2008, I've driven to Wilmington, NC & flown home, repeated the trip again -- to and fro -- at the end of the year, and have also spent time in Florida. These trips have been pretty unstructured, mostly, I have had the chance to aimlessly drive around, pondering the future and considering my options.

The story of these travels reads like strange tales from a strange time: I feel like I have been watching things crumble before my eyes, it almost feels like the entire country is built on sand, shifting and impermanent -- this is especially true of the endless miles of retail strip development punctuated by gated housing communities with pretentious names around Wilmington, NC -- it feels like one good storm could come in off the Atlantic and blow it all away.

I'm not sure what the future holds, it's interesting to see other places, but I've lived in Vermont all my working life, but I'm not really from here -- in some ways, I don't consider myself 'from' anywhere -- and recent events have made me seriously consider leaving.

3.17.2009

The (r)ides of March

Riding around on my mtb on Sunday in the warm spring sun with a gps in my jersey pocket. The dirt roads weren't too bad but the surface was definitely tacky and sticky, I could feel the suction grabbing at the wheels even on the descents. But who's complaining -- I was wearing shorts, knee warmers and a long sleeved jersey, and felt somewhat overdressed.

(a screenshot: not a real, clickable Google map)

The route included a little bit of Blush Hill (the first little spike starting out), Loomis Hill -- the long climb in the middle of the ride, and Perry Hill -- the steep descent, which was very sketchy with all the sand on it from the winter. All these climbs make up part of the Gravel Grinder ride so this was good early season training, I hope the recent great weather isn't just a tease, I remember riding in April last year and getting caught in a shower of ice pellets driven by a bitter cold wind.

3.15.2009

Signs of spring in Waterbury (Vermont)

The thaw has arrived: A winter's worth of broken ice along the Winooski River, Waterbury, Vermont.

Winters in central Vermont are hard -- even with the imminent arrival of global-warming induced climate change, there are still nights where the thermometer registers in the double digits below zero and snow piles up (for some reason, local drivers' winter driving skills seem to have deteriorated -- 2008/09 was a record season for weather-induced carnage on the interstates). And the preamble to the season -- the gloomy, dark days of November and December take a toll on the psyche even before the season proper begins.

So I'm not complaining that spring seems to have arrived early this year, there have been a string of sunny days with temperatures approaching 50, an positive counterpoint to the string of depressing news headlines. I was very surprised to observe that a flowerbed that gets some afternoon sun is starting to come alive:

Saturday: Green shoots poking up through the last remnants of snow.

Sunday: The snow is gone...

There have been clouds of finches in the backyard as mere survival becomes less of a grinding struggle and the search for a mate becomes more important.

3.08.2009

Vermont bike rack

...first ride of the season this afternoon. There is much less snow cover than last year at this time so maybe I will be able to start putting in some miles on my bike. The 2009 Gravel Grinder ride is coming up in April (video of last year's event here) -- a very iffy time of year, it could be a beautiful spring day, or a hypothermia-inducing mix of rain and snow, or something in between. Hopefully I will have enough miles in my legs by then to make it through the event without too much suffering.

3.06.2009

Solace in a bottle

The King Neptune Bar, the Island Hotel, Cedar Key, Florida.

...I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown. -- Prufrock

One thing I have learned, in having this site, is that I am a character dancing on my own string, reality is prosaic, mundane, and humdrum, so consequently what shows up here is a very imperfect and rather fictional -- but hopefully more interesting -- reflection of my small experiences in the world.

More Florida photos (sunrises, Pelicans, shacks, and other photographic clich├ęs) here in my Facebook account.

3.03.2009

The not quite yet old man and the sea

Cedar Key, Florida: A sleepy, remote and quiet place on the Gulf of Mexico. I was surprised to learn that the natives shop for groceries in Gainesville -- 45 miles away by rural highways.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009: Town meeting day in Vermont, and also the day that I start traveling back home. Here in central Florida a cold front came through on Sunday with wind, thunder and rain and it is cool enough (50s during the day) that lolling around on the beach or floating in the Gulf in a kayak doesn’t seem quite so appealing as it did earlier in the week. But the skies are clear and the sun is much stronger than in Vermont and Cedar Key is a pretty lazy, slow moving place so it’s good to just hang out, watch the pelicans (a ridiculous, prehistoric looking bird), egrets, gulls and dolphins and drink beer and eat oysters on the half shell ($9/doz in a local bar).

This whole trip has been a way for me to decompress and hit the ‘pause’ button on my life. Internet access since we left Daytona Beach has been very sporadic – the local library thoughtfully provides instructions on how to connect to their wireless network from the street (facilitating off hours access) – and the cable company only provides a very minimal cable access package. It’s not roughing it by any means but I am cut off from the ceaseless chatter provided by social networking sites, constant exposure to online news, and other distractions. This is a rare circumstance these days – I know the world’s got problems, Vermont’s got problems, I’ve got problems (quite pressing ones at that), I just don’t need to be reminded of the situation 24x7.