June 2006

Tete a tete

…an afternoon chat with a friend. This photo, snapped during a daytrip to Ann Arbor, Michigan with Gary several weekends ago, is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Happiness is…. For another take on the same theme, see my January post of the same title.

Birch bark

It’s been so rainy here in New Hampshire, even the bark on downed birches is curling with moisture. Yesterday morning I accidentally left a chewable Vitamin C pill on my kitchen table, and by lunchtime the powder-dry pill had absorbed enough humidity to become wet to the touch, as if it had lain under nature’s tongue.

Stump and trunk

On Tuesday we had a respite: a partly cloudy day when Reggie and I walked along the rain-swollen river, Reggie wading and sniffing while I snapped pictures. I’ve been meaning to write about trees in preparation for the upcoming carnival, but the trees themselves were mute, unwilling to share inspiration with a stranger who hasn’t been to call since leaving for Ohio some three weeks ago.

If you’ve been away from a place–even if you call that place home–for more than a few weeks, you feel like a stranger when you return. When I left New Hampshire at the beginning of June, most but not all the trees had begun to leaf, and now the woods along the Ashuelot River here in Keene are heavy with lushness, green leaves nearly dripping with fecundity. The trees along the Ashuelot River seem almost as swollen as the river itself, their burden of green threatening to overlap the brimming verge of path and shore. Any wooded walk these days moves through a green tunnel, a wending tube of green fertility stretching toward infinity in either direction.

How are the trees in your neck of the woods doing these days? There’s still time to contribute to this weekend’s Festival of the Trees, a blog carnival celebrating all things arboreal. For more information on the carnival, click here: like the Lorax, you too can speak for the trees, for the trees (unlike nature) have no tongues.

Today the sun shone in Keene, turning yesterday’s mud puddles into mirrors. Sometimes when Narcissus looks for her reflection, all she sees is a shadow in the shallows.

Junked car

To borrow a phrase from comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a redneck if you park one or more junked cars in your front yard…and I’d add you might be a working class Ohioan if you park a junked car in the street in front of your house.

And you’re definitely a Vermonter if you park a Subaru ‘n’ canoe in downtown Bennington.

Subaru with canoe

Yes, I’m back in perpetually-rainy New Hampshire after yesterday’s all-day drive from Ohio…and no, neither one of these is my car, just two random pencam shots I took while walking Reggie: the first in my folks’ neighborhood in Columbus, OH on Saturday, and the second on our last rest-stop in Bennington, VT yesterday. And yes, the saying is true: Be it ever-so-rainy, there’s no place like home.

(mental) health food

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Health, so here’s a shot of some mental health food that Leslee, Dale, and I enjoyed during our trip to Montreal earlier this month. Everyone knows that chocolate is good for the soul…and by my reckoning, the berries in a fresh fruit tart provide enough nutritional value to justify a taste of decadence.

One way of portraying yourself is to show how you’re seen in another’s eyes. That’s me (actually, two of me) with a white baseball cap and camera reflected in Gary‘s summer shades, snapped on the passenger ferry to Put-in-Bay last week.

Today it’s rainy here in Findlay, OH, so there’s no need for summer shades. Later today I’ll be driving to see my folks in Columbus, so I’ll be largely offline through the weekend, checking in via dial-up and blogging only sporadically if at all. So enjoy the rest of your week and weekend, and remember: Here’s looking at you all.

If you read Beth‘s post about the Ephemeroptera along Vermont’s Canadian border, you know what’s making this Port Clinton, Ohio sign look furry: the wings and tails of countless mayflies.

On Friday, Gary and I drove to Port Clinton, Ohio, where we boarded a passenger ferry to Put-in-Bay, a popular tourist destination on Lake Erie’s South Bass Island. Given that Gary and I were mere day-trippers, heading to South Bass around lunchtime and planning to head home around dinner, it was perhaps fitting that we visited Put-in-Bay during mayfly season, when the area is carpeted with living, breeding, and dying insects destined to live only about a day.

Short-lived insects are a curious phenomenon, and so are island-hopping tourists. Because Gary and I migrated to South Bass on a Friday, our outward ferry was peopled with weekenders, the women pulling wheeled carry-ons and the men toting coolers and six packs. Put-in-Bay, it seems, is a popular party destination: a close-to-home place where land-locked Ohioans can imagine a tropical island getaway. Although South Bass is by no means exotic, slews of souvenir shops tried to suggest such, striving to re-fashion Put-in-Bay as the Margaritaville of the Midwest, a place where T-shirts promise “What happens in Put-in-Bay stays in Put-in-Bay.”

Judging from what Gary and I assiduously observed, what happens in Put-in-Bay is pretty wholesome at least by daytime, consisting of water sports like jet-skiing…


…boating with geese…

…moped-ing under fake palm trees…

…and lake kayaking.

Detailed directional signs notwithstanding, tourists on South Bass island and the businesses that cater to them seem to be a bit clueless about geography. Having been to seaside destinations like Bar Harbor, Maine, I had to laugh at the various lakeshore restaurants advertising lobster: lobster don’t live in Lake Erie, so the crustaceous meal you’d buy in Put-in-Bay is no fresher than one you’d buy at an inland Red Lobster. The point of Put-in-Bay, though, seems to be vacation fantasy: because we all took a boat to get to an island in the middle of a freshwater lake, we day-trippers could fool ourselves into thinking we’d arrived at a seaside resort, the smell of salt coming from our drink glasses, not from actual tides.

Gary and I eschewed the much-touted Put-in-Bay lobster bisque and opted instead for a lunch of perch and walleye: two fresh water fish that do live in Lake Erie. The fish we ate probably themselves fed on mayfly eggs and larvae, closing a culinary circle as adult flies buzzed around us. Although I can’t personally attest to Put-in-Bay’s status as an alternate Margaritaville, I can say that our lunchtime mojitos were less than satisfactory, the waitress whom Gary questioned about “fresh mint” assuring us that, yes, the drink mix was fresh. If your drinks come from a mix, you’re pretty much guaranteed a disappointing experience: would Jimmy Buffet, for instance, settle for anything other than real lime juice?

Luckily, Gary and I didn’t visit Put-in-Bay for the food or drinks, seeking out a different sort of wildlife. Many of the beer- and cooler-toting guys we’d seen on the ferry were also carrying fishing gear, and the prevalence of Great Blue Herons on the South Bass shoreline suggested that those guys’ afternoons wouldn’t be wasted even if their drinking buddies were.

If you’re looking for Margaritaville, you really have to stay the weekend, one night of drunken carousing never being enough to make you feel you’ve really gotten away. But if you’re simply searching for serendipity, a day-trip is more than adequate, the mundane cycle of there and back being enough to stir up something new, guaranteed.

On Friday’s day-trip to Put-in-Bay, serendipity was serpentine as Gary and I saw not one but two rare Lake Erie water snakes, ubiquitous signs around the island beseeching visitors to leave them in peace as they’re both threatened and entirely harmless to humans, preying on fish that are too small to interest human fishermen.

As if a single serving of serendipity weren’t enough, Friday also dished out an unusual mammal: an extra-lively black squirrel that Gary and I chased with our digicam, this being the best of some two-dozen shots I snapped, most of them capturing only a blurry bit of shoulder or tail.

As Gary and I ferried back to the mainland on Friday night, the usual tourist parties were just getting started, but we hadn’t come to Put-in-Bay for that sort of wildlife. A couple of day-trippers amongst Ephemera, we were content to chase squirrels, spy on snakes, and then head home, confident that a clear-eyed morning-after would deliver serendipity anew.

I’ve never pretended to be an artist, but even so…drawing myself is much harder than I’d ever suspected! Although the figure at left looks (thankfully) like a person, I don’t think like it looks like me. It’s as if I can put the eyes, nose, and mouth in the right anatomical places, but I can’t capture whatever Essence of Individuality makes my face look like Me.

I did (I think) manage to capture my long, narrow face and over-arching eyebrows. But I think I got the chin too long, and I was entirely helpless when it came to drawing the scraggly mop that is my hair. Maybe this would have been easier to draw when I was bald?

So, those of you who are Real Artists…any quick pointers on how to move from Basic Line Drawing that Doesn’t Look Like Me to something with a bit of individual character?

    This is my third submission for the current self-portrait marathon. You can see my previous attempts here and here, and you can see a gallery of other portraits here. Enjoy!

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Automotive, so here’s a detail from the Findlay, OH mural I blogged last August. (Click on the image below for an enlarged version.)

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