Mysterious Mountains Below

About a week ago I flew out to San Francisco to attend the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Spring National meeting. These meetings are always a great combination of sight seeing, visiting new cities, networking, and learning more about the field of chemistry. I was attending the meeting to give my first oral presentation (at this type of conference) and present a poster about my current research and promote my latest publication in the Journal of Cheminformatics.

There is a major downside to attending these conferences: They typically involve flying. Personally, I would rather drive to any destination than fly. It never fails that when I have to fly there will be a delay (unless, I book the earliest possible flight). On top of the inevitable delays, flying requires a lot of rushing to arrive early so that you can sit and wait which isn’t the most satisfying feeling.

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The return flight home was delayed, so here’s a classic staring through the window at the airplanes picture

However, there is one aspect to flying that I absolutely love which involves the window seat. I love looking out the window and seeing the landscape change beneath me. It is the only time when you get to see mountains, oceans, cities, and plains all within a few hours. There’s  a certain enticing mystery about the earth below that makes the actual flight time pass by rather quickly. Besides, flying over the Rocky Mountains provides great inspiration for a writers heart.

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From the airplane the Rockies almost look like big hills. Almost.

* * *

Mysterious Mountains Below

I see you there
Down, far, far below
Snow-capped peaks
robed in brown.
From here,
you don’t seem
so big.
Or majestic.
No, from here
I see sand piles
Whose tops
are colored white.

But,
if viewed from
the ground;
how rugged
must you be?
As you tower
high above the sea.
Whose snow ridden
peaks stand there
unobtainable to those
such as me.

No, from here,
inside this plane,
you are but specks.
Specks, capped with white
and wrapped in brown.
Small dots, scattered
upon the ground.
Such sights,
are seen briefly
As soon,
your majestic peaks
will lie, hidden,
beneath the clouds.

* * *

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From the flight home. Not all of the mountain peaks had snow.
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I’m not sure which city this is, but it certainly was beautiful at night (assuming you don’t mind the light pollution)

A Beaver, Our Local Lumberjack

Athena and I have a standard walking path for her morning walk before I leave for work. This path wraps around a small man-made pond and has several dirt walkways that branch off from the Greenway. Our favorite dirt path goes along the edge of the pond between a cluster of small pines. When we first moved to Raleigh the pines here were extremely dense, but sense that time a beaver has taken up residency in the surrounding area. His favorite trees to chop down are pine trees.

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No longer in the shade
No longer isolated
No longer, lost in the pines.
Instead, the land is open
and I see across the pond.
Where apartments are my sky-
line.
There upon the ground, I see
the remains, where trees once stood
is now a shoreline covered
in stumps.
Whose points, no man could construct
but, were built instead by the
chomp of a beaver’s teeth.

Bike Tire in a Tree

Michelle and I were taking the dog for a walk the other day when we stumbled across the most random thing hanging in a tree.

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Surprise! Someone had ruined their bike tire and felt the best place to hang it was in a tree. When we saw this I had a mix of different emotions. Clearly, I was shocked to see a tire hanging in a tree (it would be weird to expect a tire in a tree). But, then I my feelings were bouncing back and forth between ‘this looks kind of cool’ to ‘why the heck would you leave your tire in the woods!’ Michelle and I tend to get a little cranky when we see people leaving trash or broken parts in the wood.

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Bike tire in a tree

what a sight to see!

Never, did I expect

to find amidst the green

black rubber hanging

forgotten from a limb.

Carried in,

but not back

out again.

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Spring

Even though winter has put up a valiant fight, spring is finally starting to take over. The mornings still get cold, but the sun stays out longer and the days are slightly warmer. The transition between the seasons can be both wonderful and torturous.

When spring arrives it brings back the birds who grace us with their songs and occasionally turn our patios into nesting grounds. Or at least, a bird has turned our fake patio tree into a temporary nest.

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There are even some eggs inside, which means in a few weeks Michelle and I will be able to listen to the baby birds chirp while we sip our morning coffee on the swing. (Don’t worry, I made sure not to disturb the nest when taking these photos).

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Spring.
A time of new life
When winter’s icy paws
loosen their chilling hold.
The sun returns to us
brightening our days
warming our hearts.

Spring
A time of new life
Flowers bloom, amidst the thaw
Trees slowly begin to bud
Bird’s nest to raise their young.
Molding winter’s day
into Spring’s new art.

Curve of a Disc

Athena and I woke up this morning and went on a mission: Capture the perfect image for the Tuesday Photo Challenge. This week’s theme was Curve and as an Ultimate enthusiast there was only one way to interpret this theme: Throwing a Frisbee. Plus, it was a great way to take Athena out for a game of fetch. We decided to take the GoPro out and experiment with the Time Lapse setting and the surrounding scenery.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

* * *

Nothing quite captures the definition of curve like the flight-path of a disc. The ability of a Frisbee to defy the law’s of physics is mesmerizing as it slices through the air. When you think the disc will fly for miles, it falls; when you think it can drift no farther, it gains new life and hovers on. The only limitation of where you can throw the disc is your own creativity.

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All photos were taken using a GoPro Hero+ using the Time Lapse setting.

A Frosted Bloom

A Frosted Bloom

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The vibrant purple mixed with the icy white snow perfectly captures the strangeness of this March NC snowfall

Frozen water
falls from the sky
a natural
beauty, I once
missed.

Falling upon
the greenest grass
March has ever
known. Blanketed
in white.

Spring no longer
blooms all around
with fresh petals
frosted beneath
snowflakes.

* * *

North Carolina isn’t known for handling snow or ice very well. Heck, if there’s even the threat of snow it is likely to cause a State of Emergency to be declared in the rare event that we do have a snowfall. Some years the rarity of snow is enough to make a former Michigander wish for the snow. This winter has been a very strange winter for NC as February has been one of the warmest on record (and the temperature seems to change from 30’s to 80’s daily).

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You can’t see it, but these petals are actually covered in snow. The joys of using a GoPro to capture photos is learning you missed the epic-ness of a shot

That is what made waking up this morning extremely strange as I discovered snow covering the new spring grass (in March!). First, I thought this was a result of lack of sleep due to the Daylight Saving’s time change, but Athena and I quickly discovered this wasn’t the case. It was really snowing!

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I love snow covered trees! Especially green pines.

Athena and I went on quick adventure to play in the snow, but those pictures and that story are for another post. If I ever manage to get caught up on my actual work and editing photos/videos I will upload those. This post is actually my response to Dutch Goes the Photo’s Tuesday Photo challenge: Bloom. When I saw this theme on Tuesday, I thought there was no chance of me capturing a great picture showing the birth of spring or of a flower.

However, I was wrong as this morning provided the perfect photo opportunity. The contrast between the blooming season of Spring and the snow answered the photo prompt challenge exquisitely (and inspired a little poem to boot!)

I hope you enjoy the photos and poem.

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A classic snow covered bridge!

Athena’s Adventure to New Hope

This post has been a little delayed in reaching publication. Mostly, I fell into the age old habit of shooting some epic GoPro footage and then leaving it on my computer unedited for a couple of weeks. So, this morning I finally had some time to work on the photo and video edits. 

About two weeks ago, Michelle and I took Athena on a trip to Jordan Lake where we hiked the New Hope loop and let Athena go swimming. It was a beautiful and warm February day. You can watch the video of Athena’s adventure here.

* * *

The past week has been unbelievably boring! We have gone on no adventures or even squirrel patrols around the lake. Both of my two-leggers just choose to lie around all day sniffling, coughing, and blowing their noses. The male two-legger who loves stealing my rope hasn’t even had the energy for that! I fear they may both be broken forever.

However, there seems to have been a change in their demeanor, recently. I noticed the change in energy on Friday night as my male two-legger started stealing my toys and throwing them all over the place again (he seems to find it highly amusing to THROW MY STUFF everywhere and watch me pick up after him). Then we spent all of Saturday napping on the porch swing in the sun. I made sure to sleep on top of both my two-leggers to guarantee that they wouldn’t abandon me like they do during the week.

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Some good action shots of Athena running through the water.

After a long week of minimal activity and a day of lounging on the porch, I was really beginning to grow restless. So naturally, I started stealing shoes and slippers and hiding them in my lair (underneath the coffee table). Sunday arrived with the sun shining, the earth was warm, and everything was starting to smell of spring (in February). I DESPERATELY NEEDED AN ADVENTURE!

I can only assume mom and dad knew this because after a Sunday afternoon nap on the swing the male two-legger asked if I wanted to go swimming. (I can only assume that stealing their shoes and slippers successfully communicated my boredom and will continue using this communication system in the future.) I LOVE SWIMMING! And I love car rides! And in order to go swimming, we needed to go on a car ride first!

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Athena blowing bubbles in Jordan Lake

The two-leggers loaded me into the adventure mobile and so I naturally posted up in the shotgun seat. Mom than told me to get in the back, but I didn’t want to sit back there so I ignored her. But then she tried to SIT ON ME! In order to avoid being crushed, I leapt into the back! I guess mom doesn’t know that I am supposed to ride shotgun in dad’s car. Oh well, I will just let them both pretend to be the alphas for this car ride. It’s good for their self-esteem.

After an eternity of driving we arrived at my favorite swimming hole: Jordan Lake. My two-leggers always bring me here during the summer to cool off. We started off down the New Hope trail and I immediately charged to the front leading the way as ‘first-leader.’ Now the two-leggers could ride in the back!

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Another sequence of Athena running through the lake.

Our first stop was a little off the beaten path. We veered right, then left, and every which way in between to navigate the brush. Mom, who was holding my tether, refused to follow my lead and kept causing us to get stuck around trees by going the wrong way. In the distance I could see the water getting closer and could barely contain my excitement. But, my two-leggers refused to free me from my tether. Oh, the torture!

They ordered me to sit, but I couldn’t with all of this energy building inside of me. The two-leggers were insistent, so I compromised with a wriggling-worm of a crouch. This seemed to appease them as I heard the blissful words, “Go play.”

And I was gone! The muddy sand flying all around as I leapt in the waves and excavated rocks. Dig, dig, DIG! Splash, splash, SPLASH! My forelges became a furry as I dug through the clay. Soon, my white spots turned to brown, but I would just wash the mud off with a run through the lake. I even made sure to include mom and dad by shaking the mud and water off next to them. I’m sure they loved being included!

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Athena digging for rocks

I thought this first swimming hole was awesome, but it was nothing compared to the second spot. We stopped at the New Hope Overlook where I tried to make some friends. They were floating on the water, but they wouldn’t bring their kayaks in to see me. No matter how much I begged. So, I decided to run alongside them as they drifted by me and I even thought about swimming out to see them. But, mom and dad said I couldn’t swim to see out there. Sadily, I had to just watch the floating two-leggers drift on by.

But, my sadness was short-lived as I began investigating the landscape of this new place. The lake had eroded the shoreline and turned the clay into a rock-like substances. Some parts were hard and rounded, while other parts were soft and malleable. There were even small fissures that one could pretend were canyons (if you were truly imaginative). My tail slowly started to wag as I knew what a dog must do here.

Flexing my paws, claws digging into the muddy clay I took a steadying breathe and took off! Running at a full sprint I climbed the bank and jumped the gaps, then landing at full speed on the other side. From the top of the bank, I would sprint down the slope and through the water just so I could one more charge back to the top. This time instead of running I decided it would be better to leap and fly from the highest part of the bank. Then, it was time for my best jump. I was sprinting towards the canyon when dad decided to stand directly in the center of my path. There was only once choice before me; I had to leap over dad, so I did!

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Athena thought it would be fun to hurdle me at one point. At least I got this awesome photo!

Before we could leave this swimming hole, I had to inform all it was mine. To do this meant I must destroy a stick. I found one buried in the mud and I bit down hard giving it a tug. But, the stick refused to budge! So I pulled even harder and let out a growl (letting the stick know that my will would not be thwarted), until at last it gave with a loud resounding CRACK!

After leaping dad and destroying my stick, it was time for us to hike back to the adventure mobile. But, I knew my two-leggers were tired from our adventures, so I made sure to stop for extra smells allowing them to catch their breath. Once we were home I immediately sought out my throune where I curled up to nap. And during my nap, I vaguely heard the tv getting louder as the two-leggers increased the volume to be heard over my snores.

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Athena zonked out immediately after we got home. She was so tired!

Nostalgia

When I first saw that the Tuesday Photo Challenge for this week was nostalgia my initial thought was ‘How am I supposed to capture a photo that makes one wistful for the past?’ But, then I forgot that this weekend I would be celebrating my 26th birthday. What more do you need to inspire feelings of reflection?

How about a camping trip in February! Yes, I said a camping trip in February. Here in North Carolina this has been one of the warmest winter months in history, so Michelle and I decided to go on a camping exploration to celebrate my birthday. Combine these two events together and you have the perfect recipe for self-reflection and longing for the past with simpler times.

Here are a few teaser photos from our trip (a full write up will be posted after I edit some video and photos) with a short poem.

For this post I decided to use three photos with three photo-filters applied. My first step in editing a photo is to apply an auto filter. This adjusts color, contrast, etc. After I get a feel for the photo after adjusting color contrast I begin to play with other filters. For these photos I felt that using a vignette or black and white filter best captured the feeling of nostalgia. I am constantly amazed at how applying simple filters can completely change the story a particular photo is telling us.

I hope you enjoy these photos and poems.

* * *

My favorite part about camping is campfire coffee in the morning! There isn’t a better pairing of any two things!

Maybe I spoke too soon about perfect pairings. Can you really beat drinking a cup-of-joe while hanging in a hammock? Don’t forget the sun is shining and the birds are singing!

What is the one combination that is better than any cup of coffee? How about the great outdoors and a dog. Athena’s favorite spot was posting up outside our tent.

* * *

Simpler Times

I long for simpler times,

Times free of burden,

Times free of worry.

I longingly look into my past,

Before Facebook

                     and social media.

A past filled with make-believe

                            and imaginary friends

Where my games involved the woods

campfires,

s’mores,

and trail rides.

I long for simpler times,

Where all I needed

was the forest

To feel God’s love

That is all around.

* * *

Sadly, I wasn’t able to edit and post these sample pictures before the Tuesday photo round-up. Check out some of the great interpretations people had for the theme nostalgia! 

My Shadow

My last two mountain bike rides have had plenty of sunlight which resulted in a couple of opportunities for me to race my shadow while on the trails (Lake Crabtree County Park and the Carolina North Forest Trail system). It also inspired a little poem below. I hope you enjoy! 

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This was taken during a ride at Lake Crabtree County Park using a GoPro Hero+

I see you there, stretching across the ground

Only a few yards ahead, but forever out of reach

The harder I work and the more effort I exert,

So you do too. Grinding away, as much as I do.

While the sun is out, you are too

Sometimes you are ahead (with the sun on our backs)

Sometimes you are behind (when we face the sun)

But, you are never ahead or behind, by very much

However, when the sun goes down or hides behind a cloud

You’ll give in and won’t be found. And who then,

My fair-weather friend, will I race?

Without my shadow upon the ground

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This was taken during a ride at the Carolina North Forest (CNF) trail system using a GoPro Hero+

Solitude

This past Tuesday was an absolutely beautiful day in North Carolina. The sun was shining and everything had the smell of spring arriving in February. Unfortunately, this warm spell was short lived, but Michelle and I knew we had to get out and enjoy the moment. We took our Hammocks and walked the Greenway behind our apartment until we found the perfect spot to hang out. Suspended between the trees, we both caught up on some reading while Athena (the dog) rummaged through the leaves. Needless to say, it was the perfect ending to the day. While we were lying there, it occurred to me that the setting sun and surrounding scenery captured the Weekly Photo Challenge of Solitude perfectly.  

Amidst the world’s noise,

It is hard for me to listen,

I focus on the earthly,

lost in news headlines

and daily struggles.

I forget, to breathe

In

and out.

I forget, to seek peace.

* * *

Amidst the world’s noise

It is hard for me listen,

To your guiding words

Of love and salvation.

But, as we hang here

Under the trees,

You speak

And I hear.

Solitude, has been found.

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This past Tuesday the sun was out and it was too warm to pass up an opportunity of being outside suspended between the trees.
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A shot of the setting sun during our Hammock adventure.