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.

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.

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.

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.

* * *

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

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.


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.


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.



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.


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).


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.

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.

A Frosted Bloom

A Frosted Bloom

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

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

Spring no longer
blooms all around
with fresh petals
frosted beneath

* * *

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).

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!

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.

A classic snow covered bridge!

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! 

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

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


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


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.

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

Names Carved Upon a Tree

I had originally taken these photos for the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Names, but I realized after taking the shots that this was the challenge from two weeks ago! Oh well, I still think they are some pretty cool photos. 

Recently, Michelle and I went on a hike at Occoneechee Mountain located in Hillsborough North Carolina. We had a wonderful time on this hike and at one point we found a quiet scene along the Eno River. There was bench overlooking the water with one large tree adding an accent to the view. However, this large tree had multiple names carved into its trunk. Some, might say these names add to the atmosphere of the place as couples left tribute to their love across this tree. While others, might think the atmosphere ruined as the tree stands there in scars.

Names Carved Upon a Tree

Deep into the bark,

I dig my knife,

or my keys

the sharpest thing

that i can find.

Deep, deep into the bark,

I will carve our names

Outlined by a heart

To show our love

that is unending.

Will be together always?


Maybe not, but

At this time,

my heart cries yes.

So, Here I carve

our names

A token to our love.

A token that

this tree must bear

For all to see

Long after

Our love departs.

The bench that quietly sits over the Eno River
A ground view of the tree from the base to the top. There were a dozen different names of various couples who had visited this tree over the years carved into its bark.
Another angle of this tree with a close up on one of the names. A Sepia filter was applied to this photo.




Michelle and I recently ordered some hammocks from Fox Outdoor Sports and decided to test them out this weekend. Behind our apartment there is a Greenway around a small lake that has several wooded spots you can stop to enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding scenery. This Greenway allows us to forget that we are really in the center of busy city. The poem that follows was inspired by this hammocking adventure and was written in response to the daily word prompt, invitation. The two photos were taken using a GoPro and I feel really capture the ambience of the location. 


Here we hang,


            Hanging from

            Tree to tree

Beneath the

            Lofty pine.

Invited by


            Of this place.

* * *

Here we hang,


Below a


Sky, painted

            Blue, brushed with

clouds of white.

Invited by

            Soul’s delight.

* * *

Here we hang,

Lost in love,


            To the sounds

            That surround


            Of patrons

            Passing by

Invited by,


* * *

Here we hang,

By hammock

            Lost in our

            Pseudo woods.


            Is the city

            That surrounds.

Invited by

            God’s good grace

An ambience

            Given this place.


The Orange Wall


Before Michelle and I left for Michigan to celebrate Christmas with family and friends I wrote a poem entitled Your Buildings Be Damned. That piece was inspired by me waking up one morning to hear a logging tractor cutting down trees behind my apartment. After returning from Christmas break we found an orange fence had been erected around the logging zone and that a significant number of the trees had been removed. They were gone.  This is a poem about that orange fence and the removal of those beloved trees.

The orange barricade that has been erected to keep people out of the logging zone behind my apartment.
A shot I took of some of the fallen trees. It is mostly pines.

There it stands,

Far, far in the distance

A barrier separating

            Life from death.

Those trees which stand

            Outside of its blockade

Are safe and may live

            For ages yet to come.

But for those within its border,

            Those poor, beautiful conifers,


                        And deciduous trees

They await certain death.

* * *

Another shot of some of the fallen trees. You can really see the number of trees that have been removed.

From my porch

To the boundary

There stand oak and ash

            Walnut and pine

The floor is covered

            With fallen leaves

            And overgrown brambles

Safe, for now.

Then you reach the barrier

Affording a striking contrast,

            To the earthy hues

            And life all around.

Then you reach the barrier,

            The Orange Wall.

Inside this Orange Wall

            Lay a wasteland

Where great Maples have fallen

            And mighty Dogwoods too.

No more do brambles

            Cover the forest floor

But sawdust and tire tracks

            Are the carpet anew.

* * *

There the Orange Wall stands.

More hideous than Mordor’s

            Black Gate.

A symbol of industrialization,

As every tree is slowly cleared

I can only sadly wait

For the laying of brick and mortar

            That is surely to come

Behind the Orange Wall.

Your Buildings Be Damned

            When I awoke this morning I left bed with heavy eyelids and a grumpy attitude. Athena had decided that last night that if she was unable to sleep, then nobody would get any sleep as she woke me up twice to go to the potty, once by getting stuck in the bathroom, and finally to bark at the things that go bump in the night. Needless to say, rising from bed was a true struggle today.

Athena’s “I’m sorry I kept you up all night” pose

           But, there were some silver linings. It is a Friday morning and that means brewing the special coffee that celebrates the end of a long and tiring work week. However, as I was preparing the coffee cup a loud screeching noise was heard echoing from outside. The screeching noise consisted to attack my ears through my fist cup of coffee and breakfast. Before leaving for work I decided to step onto the back porch of our apartment and see how heavy of a coat the day would require as I stepped onto the porch Athena and I discovered the source of the screeching.

            This morning, when Athena and I stepped out on the porch, we discovered the source of the screeching noise was coming from a saw operated by a tractor. This was a true horror to witness! Our apartment is a terrace level room with a back porch that overlooks this beautiful wooded lot. In the summer, the trees provide plenty of shade keeping our home extremely cool and they provide the other perk of preventing us from seeing cars and people in the middle of Raleigh. The trees are a true blessing. As you can imagine, I proceed to enter a melodramatic rage at the machine destroying our beloved trees. This is what Athena and I yelled.

*  * *

“What is this?

What are you doing out here?

Do you not know,

That these trees are mine?

They are not yours,

They do not belong to you,

You cannot chop them down!

*  * *

Why must you chop down

            My trees?

Why must you remove the woods

            From the city?

Are we not aware,

That the beauty of Raleigh

Grows from the dirt.

Tall trunks standing erect

Leafy canopies casting

much needed shade

From the sun’s fiery touch.

How can we be,

             A City of Oaks

If there are no more Oaks?

*  * *

Perhaps, I thought,

This saw was meant to bolster

The woods behind my home.

Removing only those trees

That are dead

            Or sick.

But such a job, requires only a person

            And his saw.

Yet, here I see

A yellow tractor,

A yellow devil

amidst my trees.

Whose engine roars

Drowning out,

 morning birds’ song!

Whose exhaust

Blackens out,

 the early dawn!

*  * *

This yellow beast,

Can mean only one thing.

My Trees are doomed!

No more,

Shall I hear the birds’

No more,

            Will squirrels taunt my dog

No more,

Will the forest’s peace


How can I know, such a thing?

Because it has happened


Last summer, there was a grove

of pines, standing on a corner

They graced both Tryon

             And Walnut

With a releasing green space

Amidst the hurried traffic.

But, green things do not last!

They are forcibly removed,

(as these pine trees were)

In place of warehouses,

            And stores.

            Apartment buildings too!

We say, it is

For progress,

The trees must go.

For city’s growth,

            The trees must go.

For man’s wish,

            The trees must go.

We say, it is

For another building,

            The trees must go.

To this, I say

Let the trees remain

            The Oaks stand.

And your buildings be damned!