Tuesday, February 26, 2013

24 Hours in a Day

Mention the word nature and people automatically think about carpets of flowers, towering trees, blue skies overhead, a gentle breeze.  This instinctive mental picture is of course of nature in the day time.  We play outside from sunrise to sundown, and thereafter head indoors to read, eat, drink, watch TV, etc, shrinking out world to what is artificially lighted.  Even campers hunker down around the campfire at night, venturing outside the circle of warmth and comforting light only to relieve themselves.  The woods are closed.

There are, however, 24 hours in a day, and nature is always open.  While spending time out West I slowly came to realize just how magical the nighttime is.  It began with the occasional night driving home from town or the saloon in Montana when the moon or lack there of would catch my eye: a full moon revealing Paradise Valley in a completely new light while its absence mean an incredible blanket of stars overhead.  In Moab this past fall the moon was full and I could not help but sit out and watch it light up the canyons and explore a little as well.

Even my camera, a device dependent on light, can be adapted to the nighttime.  A long exposure and a little computer enhancement make night photos a lot of fun, although getting a clear picture of the moon itself remains elusive.

Skiing to and from work this winter has made me more comfortable with the darkness and has helped me appreciate and be aware of the lunar calendar.  Skiing under a new moon is a little trickier than a full one.  Last night I could have read a book outside, while two weeks from now the world will look two dimensional under the new moon, dark trees against a white background.  Sometimes staying on the trail is more of a feel than sight thing, especially if new snow has erased any visual signs of its existence.

Do I use a headlamp to light the way?  No.  Never have and never will.  Like so many other human inventions, it cuts you off from the outside world.  Sure, it illuminates the trail directly in front of you, but it also blinds you to everything outside that narrow line of sight.  A moose could be standing two feet off the trail and I would never know.  Until he decided to stomp me into oblivion that is.

So last night I decided to take advantage of the full moon and made a midnight excursion over hill and dale and through the enchanted forest to my favorite aspen groves, their creamy trunks stretching skyward, branches spreading out to create a see-through canopy.  

I did not take any pictures, but the night before I snapped a few photos on my way home from work.  The first photo is un-enhanced, while the second is what a little tweaking can do.

Alright, well time to get out there and enjoy the fresh snow that is currently falling, reducing our world to the trees immediately beyond the deck.  A snow globe existence if you will.  Let it snow and I will just pretend the hubbub of the outside world does not exist.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Joys of Rising Early

Mornings here are wonderful.  More often than not I work evenings, so I am free to wake up as the sun rises and enjoy a quiet house to myself.  Oatmeal and coffee, a good book, checking the news, and skiing are my usual routine, in no particular order.

The skiing is limited to the loop that surrounds the house as it is too cold to ski for more than 25 minutes.  My poles sit outside overnight, so gripping sub zero rods transfers the lack of heat straight through my mittens to the fingers inside.  By the time I am back inside taking my boots off my fingers are tingling.  Any numbness or pain from the cold is worth it to for this though:

It dependably sinks below zero every night, often hitting -10, -15, or -20°F.  This means Jack Frost paints all of the trees with ice crystals from the vapor in the air.

As a result, the trees seem to glow as the rising sun strikes them.

An hour after the sun rises Jack Frost retreats for yet another day and everything returns to normal.  Most people are not even aware of the delicate frosting job that nature has done overnight.  They are sleeping, drinking coffee from the safe comfort of their kitchen tables, or settling in to their offices at work, oblivious to the changes that are occurring outside their shells of civilization.  Or, as Edward Abbey was wont to call it, 'syphilization.'

I am just grateful to be able to witness it myself and share it with you.  Nature never ceases to amaze me with beautiful cloud formations floating overhead, sunsets composed of reds, blues, purples, and yellows in combinations that have never occurred exactly like that before and will never be the same again, the beauty and stillness of a fresh snow blanketing the landscape, or the way wind and water have shaped and sculpted rock formations, whether gentle or jagged.

Get outside and never lose that sense of wonder that is best described as that feeling that fills children when they witness a stunning sunset, view, or an animal in its natural habitat for the first time.  A sense of wonder and awe.  Every day is new and never identical to the last.  Try, once in a while, to take a moment in while focusing on just that moment and nothing else.  Often times our lives are too convoluted, hectic, and stressful to stop and truly appreciate what is going on right in front of us, a product of our syphilization.

Jim Harrison put it best-"The summer came and went quickly which is the nature of summer for people who are not children, those lucky ones to whom clocks are of no consequence but who drift along on the true emotional content of time."

For my next post I will try and capture some photos of the night, as the moon is currently waxing, illuminating the landscape in a totally new light that defies the limited dimension of words and challenges the lens of a camera with its subtle light.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February Update

Just a couple of pics to share with you.  January has turned into February and with it came new snow.  You might think we anywhere in the mountains gets a lot of snow, but January was pretty scant for us here.  I swear we didn't get any for two weeks straight, and when we did it was an inch or two.  The five inches or so at the end of January/beginning of February were much needed.

As for January, I put 150 miles on my car for the entire month.  I skied to work every day, about 3.1 miles roundtrip, and on my days off skied to the ranch as well, so that is 96.1 miles.  I estimate I skied seriously twice each week, so let us say eight times, and on average that was perhaps 7 miles on average, so 56 miles.  Grand total: somewhere in the neighborhood of 152 miles.  Woohoo for skiing as much as I drove!

Just to give you an idea of what -20°F looks like, here is what it does to my beard on my way into work in the morning.  Call me 'Frosty'.

The evening light is often pretty great here.  Here is a view of the ski hill beyond ranch property.

And finally for you here are some crazy clouds I witnessed on my way home from work the other day.

Alright, well today is my day off.  Time to hit the trails.