Archive for July, 2009

an unlimited palette

Piles of fruits and vegetables on tables at farmer’s markets or in bins at the grocery store always catch my eye.











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After posting somewht blurry pictures of my friends’ cats the other day, I promised that I would try to get pictures of the cats at rest.

As you might imagine, photographing cats is all about trust, and it has taken these cats a few days stop skittering off as soon as I come into the room.

It is a little surprising that they have accepted me already since I have been out of the house more than in it this last week, but maybe they remember me from last summer.



La La

La La

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My primary reason for coming to Maine and New Hampshire this week is to help lead a summer course for middle and high school science teachers.  A course like this wouldn’t be complete without at least one field trip, so today we headed north from Durham into the White Mountains.

Our first stop was in Madison, NH, the site of the appropriately named, and hugely surprising, Madison Boulder.


Even though everyone stops to read the sign posted at the beginning of the short trail that leads to the boulder, no one is really prepared for its immense size.


Without something for scale, a picture can’t do it justice.


It is really quite large!  It is believed to have been carried about two miles by a glacial ice sheet as much as a mile thick.

Returning to our luxury coach we continued north.  The traffic in North Conway was thick, as you might expect on a sunny summer afternoon, but once we were through the downtown area the road to Mt. Washington was clear.  We arrived at the base of the auto road at about 3:30.


While it is possible to drive your own car to the top, we traveled in stages operated by the Mt. Washington Stage Line.


Stage drivers are experienced, careful, and know a lot about the mountain. They confidently provide passengers with information about Mt Washington’s geology, geography, biology and human history.

After slowing several times to take in some incredible views (the sun was shining at the base of the mountain and on the valleys and hills that surround it) we pulled off the road at an elevation of about 4000 feet.


From there, the view across the Great Gulf was pretty spectacular, as were the low-hanging clouds.

One of my favorite things about Mt. Washington is that as you drive up the auto road you pass through four different ecological zones.  Each 1000 feet of altitude is roughly the equivalent of traveling 250 miles north.  At 4000 feet you have entered an area called the krummholz (or “twisted tree”) zone, where trees are stunted and twisted by the force of the year-round winds.

you my also notice that all of these trees' branches grow out of only one side of the tree

Once you reach the top of the mountain you are in the alpine zone where the soils are so poor and the winds so strong that trees can no longer survive.  If you wanted to see the alpine zone at sea level, you would need to travel as far north as Labrador, Canada.


Arriving at the end of the auto road, the first feature the stage driver points out is the following sign (the chain in the left of the picture is needed to keep the building from blowing away):


The stages then travel the last few yards to the parking lot beside the summit building, which houses a museum, a small gift shop, a snack bar, and the Mount Washington Observatory.



As you can see, the top of the mountain was “in the clouds” while we were there.


People aren’t the only mammals at the top.


After spending some time observing the geology and wildlife and touring the observatory, the group gathered for the obligatory group picture.


To make a great day even more memorable, on the way home we saw two moose from the bus.

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smelling the ocean

It hit me the minute the automatic doors at the airport slid open.  The tide must have been out and the air was thick with the smell (not a scent, a real smell) of the ocean.  The Atlantic Ocean.

at the beach in Maine

at the beach in Maine

Somehow the Pacific Ocean doesn’t have the same funky, almost foetid, low tide smell.  There might be a scientific explanation for that — maybe the winds blow differently, or the seaweed is different, or the sand.  Or it could just be that the smell of the Pacific Ocean doesn’t remind me of home, yet.

at the beach in Oregon

at the beach in Oregon

Is there a way to capture  smells?  Take them with you so that when you are far away you can haul them out and feel at home?


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So here I am in Maine, first afternoon, out driving around, and I realize that I forgot my camera.  As I drive there are many things I want to photograph but can’t:  my favorite sign, a familiar view, a farmstand stocked with summer produce.  I’ll have to make time to take that road again before I head home.

Instead of taking those pictures, I finish my visits, head over for my first night of work to meet the students I’ll be working with for the next week, and then come back to my friends’ house and snap some garden and cat pictures before the sun sets.

The flowers are obedient, standing quietly in the evening sun, not even shifting in the faint breeze.




This being Maine in the summer, the mosquitoes are thick in the air and I quickly decide to move inside.  There I am met by Eddie and LaLa, who are not quite as eager to pose for me; but I catch them in their various acts anyway.

Eddie first:



and then LaLa:


I’ll have to try to get them to sit still for me over the next few days!

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morning in maine

Well, I made it.  I am on the east coast (Kittery, Maine) and only six miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

courtesy of Scott Sharis and Panoramio

courtesy of Scott Sharis and Panoramio

It really is amazing to be able to go from one coast to the other in less than five hours.


Today the sun is shining and cool breezes are breezing and I am ready to enjoy all that Maine has to offer.  More soon.

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In the midst of getting myself ready to travel east for work (and some fun, I’m sure) I couldn’t resist revisiting my thermoses.


No, really, when I was updating the “about” page on this blog I took a few pictures of my recently stalled thermos collection and got inspired all over again.

My thermos collection started by accident.  I was out with a friend visiting garage sales in southern New Hampshire one day about three years ago.  At one of the sales there was a box near the end of the driveway with the word “free” scrawled on the side.  In that box, with a lot of other totally forgettable stuff, was a thermos.


For some reason, I decided to take it.  My thermos collection started there.

“Thermos” is one of those brand names that has come to stand for the product, like “kleenex” or “xerox” or “polaroid.” Like my first thermos, many thermoses are actually made by the Thermos company.


There are, however, other brands of “thermoses” not made by Thermos.




This thermos is called the Atlas, but is made by the Faris company in St. Louis.



From the start I had two rules for my thermos collection.  Thermoses added to the collection should be inexpensive (or, ideally, free).  And they should be aesthetically interesting.


Most of the thermoses I have are glass lined, and many are old enough to have corks under their caps.


Some come with their own cases.



Most of my thermoses sit on a shelf in my study, but some get used.  This one always reminds me of the cold, windy day when we filled it with Bloody Marys and took it to the beach on the Cape.


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