Morning Thoughts

 

Morning thoughts, yesterday:

  • It’s gray and gloomy outside.  Bummer.  The prediction was for sunny skies.
  • A lousy day for photography.  Why bother to go out?
  • And it’s cold!
  • I’m tired, run down.  I’d just as soon lie on the couch all day.
  • The morning blues.

Afternoon thoughts, yesterday:

  • It feels so good to be outside in the fresh, clean air.
  • It doesn’t seem as cold as I thought it would be.
  • I’m finding good shots in spite of the flat, gray sky
  • I can forget about the fatigue when I’m out exploring and shooting
  • A great day to be alive

I ended up shooting interesting signs or incongruous signs or signs that said something about the nature of the area I was exploring.  My day’s work was part of my long-running project to photograph the cuesta in Wisconsin west of the Chippewa and Red Cedar rivers.

I felt like a real, true artic explorer.  At one point I reached the top of an unplowed twisting road [photo below] and decided that going down the other side would be putting my life at risk even though I was driving an SUV.  This was in civilized, pastoral Wisconsin.  Unexpected.

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Hillside In November
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Wendy’s On the Hill
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Cheesehead Territory
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I’m didn’t risk driving down
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Barn At the End Of the Road
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Landfill On a Hillside
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The Road Down

 

 

Late November

November is almost over.  The autumn color is gone;  the trees are bare;  there’s no snow.  The forest floor is damp and littered with fallen leaves.  There is a bit of color – the emerald green of moss.  A single leaf still in its autumn color.  Small plants on the forest floor that never seem to suffer from the snow and cold – they’re always green.  A few bare trees with silver branches that stand out against a somber hillside.

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Silver Branches
Root, Trunk, and Moss
Root, Trunk, and Moss
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Last Fallen Leaf
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On the Forest Floor

 

Rustic Road 51

I spent a few hours Sunday afternoon driving and walking Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 in Pierce County.  This is the most rustic of the rustic roads I’ve driven.  It was not much more than two wheel tracks, in many spots suitable for only a single vehicle.  It starts at the top of a small ravine.  The road and ravine plunge downhill with a cliff rising up on one side of the road and the ravine on the other side of the road.  There was little water in the ravine, only a few small pools.  In the spring after snowmelt or perhaps after heavy rain, there would probably be water rushing down the ravine and over least one waterfall.  Eventually, the ravine levels out into a narrow, flat-bottomed valley run through by Pine Creek, a small, meandering stream.  In four places the creek crosses the road in gravel washes –  no bridges or culverts.

I spent a couple hours photographing the road and didn’t encounter a vehicle or a person.  The weather was not good.  I had to use an umbrella to keep the rain off my camera lenses.  Not the best light or weather for photography.  I did get a few decent shots, not just on Rustic Road 51, but on other back roads in southern Pierce County.  I think I did OK considering the conditions.  And – I had fun.

Abandoned Log Cabin
Abandoned Log Cabin in Pierce County, Wisconsin
Gnarly, Bent Trees
Gnarly, Bent Trees
Highway 72 Snakes Up a Hill
Highway 72 Snakes Up a Hill
Tributary Of Plum Creek
A tributary of Plum Creek meanders through a pasture
Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
The top of Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 before it plunges down to the valley floor
Curve In Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
A curve in Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 as it snakes down to the valley floor
Pine Creek on Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
Pine Creek crossing Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
Pine Creek
Pine Creek just before it crosses Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
The Side Of Pine Creek Valley
The hillside that forms the side of Pine Creek Valley

Three Syllables

It’s wonderful how much beauty a singer can give us in just three syllables.  Two examples:

Madeline Peyroux recorded the song Liberté for her latest album, Anthem.  She sings the three syllables at the end of the song.  The song is in French, but the ending three syllables need no translation.

Liberté . . . Liberté . . . Liberté

Just a bit of translation

On hope without memory
I write your name
And by the power of a word
I start my life again
I was born to know you
To name you Liberty


Oliver Mtukudzi sings with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the song Nería.  Mtukudzi starts the songs with a bit of lovely, finger-picked guitar.  Then he sings the three syllables:  Neria.  As soon as I heard that gravelly voice sing Neria, I knew I would love the song.  It’s gorgeous.  It needs translation so I will quote from the website Jusi I Love:  Music From Africa and the African Diaspora

The song was written for the soundtrack of a movie called ‘Neria‘ which is about the struggles of a woman in rural Zimbabwe who lost her husband through an accident. Oliver Mtukudzi’s very emotional song is about the strength of women and how they succeed in facing live challenges.

“Don’t be disheartened Neria, God is with you (Mwari anewe). May your heart be strong, be strong, God is with you. Death is jealous, it separates those in love. Don’t be disheartened my sister, God is with you.”

Past Prime Color

The fall color season is past its prime in our neck of the woods.  Colors are waning and strong winds over the last few days blew down lots of leaves.  Many days of peak color were gray, damp, and gloomy.  At one time, I feared that the season would pass with no sunny weather, but it’s ending with a few good days.

Here are my best shots of this year’s color.

 

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A Loss Of Concentration

I read The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world by Harriet Griffey of The Guardian.  One paragraph struck me because it describes exactly what I’ve experienced.  I blamed it on old age.  Griffey suggests perhaps it is due to the many distractions of our digital era.  Here’s the paragraph:

Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

That’s what I’ve been experiencing in my reading.  To compensate, I’m usually working on four or five books at the same time.  If I get bogged down on one, I switch to another.  I also set a timer.  I started using a timer to make sure I wasn’t inactive for too long.  I then discovered that if you know your current reading session will be only twenty-five minutes long, you’ll be able to concentrate better.

More from Griffey:

In 2005, research carried out by Dr. Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Our ubiquitous digital distractions are

a predominant reason for the poor concentration so many people report. The fact that we are the cause of this is, paradoxically, good news since it hands back to us the potential to change our behaviour and reclaim the brain function and cognitive health that’s been disrupted by our digitally enhanced lives.

Put simply, better concentration makes life easier and less stressful and we will be more productive. To make this change means reflecting on what we are doing to sabotage personal concentration, and then implementing steps towards behavioural change that will improve our chances of concentrating better. This means deliberately reducing distractions and being more self-disciplined about our use of social media, which are increasingly urgent for the sake of our cognitive and mental health.

Griffey ends with some tips for improving concentration starting with the “five more” rule:

This is a simple way of learning to concentrate better. It goes like this: whenever you feel like quitting – just do five more – five more minutes, five more exercises, five more pages – which will extend your focus.

Helpful things

  • Meditation
  • Good breathing
  • Watching the hands of a clock turn
  • Exercise, especially if done mindfully
  • Sleep
  • Reading for pleasure

 

I can’t concentrate any longer on this post.  I think I’ll have to end it here.

New Challenges

I am starting two new challenges:  to cover the segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin and to read fifty classic books over the next five years.

North Country Trail Near Gordon, Wisconsin
North Country Trail Near Gordon, Wisconsin

North Country National Scenic Trail

I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete this challenge given my age and the state of my health.  I intend to have fun trying.   I used the verb “cover” in the first paragraph above because some of the trail follows roads so I’ll be able to drive.  The rest I’ll have to hike – definitely a challenge since I can manage only a mile or two at a time.

The North Country Trail Association describes the trail as  “the longest in the National Trails System, stretching 4,600 miles over 7 states from the middle of North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York.  The stretch in Wisconsin is 207 miles and runs from the Minnesota – Wisconsin border near Superior, Wisconsin to where the Wisconsin – Michigan border meets Lake Superior.

Fifty Classic Books

The Classics Club sponsors this challenge that I fully expect to complete.

Here are the club’s ground rules:

  • Choose fifty classic books.  I’ve chosen fifty novels.
  • Post the list on your blog.  My list is here.
  • Choose a reading-completion goal date up to five years in the future.  My date is November 1, 2023.
  • Write a review of each book when finished reading it and post it on your blog.
  • Submit each book review to The Classics Club website.

I haven’t officially started yet.  I have to finish a couple of the books I’m currently reading.  I’ll start in a couple of weeks with Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.

The Great Bagel Conspiracy

bagelI have uncovered a sinister, global conspiracy – one to corner the market for bagels!

It started a week ago when I noticed a new slogan on the wall of Bruegger’s Bagels:  “Life Is Short.  Stay Awake For It.”  Later that same day, I saw a large, Caribou Coffee panel van in the parking lot of my local supermarket.  On the front of it was the exact same slogan! [sinister music playing in the background]

A couple days later, I talked to a clerk at Bruegger’s.  She said that Bruegger’s was now owned by Caribou Coffee.  It got worse.  There is actually a holding company, JAB Holding Company, that owns or has a majority stake in Bruegger’s and Caribou and other bagel companies.  Here is a list of all the bagel companies under JAB’s umbrella.  I don’t know if the list is complete; there could well be more.

  • Bruegger’s Bagels
  • Einstein Brothers’ Bagels
  • Panera Bread
  • Manhattan Bagel
  • Noah’s  Bagels
  • Kettleman Bagels & Bakery
  • Chesapeake Bagel Bakery
  • I. & J. Bagel Inc

This is truly frightening.  The worst part is that Caribou will not allow Bruegger’s to use crunchy peanut butter.  (I swear this is true!)  Creamy only.  Sacrilege.  I’ve been forced to switch to honey-walnut cream cheese.  What would the world be like if there was only creamy peanut butter?  I shudder to think about it.

I think I’ll go take a nap.

Playing On Our Heart Strings

 

FedEx.pngTelevision advertising seems to be increasingly trying to sell by associating their products with good emotions.  Using positive emotions has probably always been integral to advertising, but lately, it seems to me that advertisers are saying nothing about the quality or price of their goods or services.  A good example is the recent Fedex campaign.  The gist of the campaign is that FedEx delivers comfort, or love, hope, encouragement, support and so on.  The campaign says nothing about FedEx delivering on time, at a competitive price, and without damage to the delivered item.

One could just as well say that FedEx delivers:

  • death and destruction in the form of a Unabomber package
  • disease via an anthrax-laced envelope
  • despair in a dunning-letter from a debt collector
  • depression caused by a Dear John letter

It is also probably true that both UPS and the good, old U.S.Post Office deliver just as much comfort, love, hope, encouragement, and support as FedEx.

Just Do It.pngThis trend in its modern manifestation may have started with the Nike slogan Just Do It.  The strong implication was that one could just do it better if one were wearing Nike shoes; and one could do it much, much better in an expensive pair of Air Jordans.

Automobile advertising uses the same approach.  If you buy a particular make and model of car, you can be just like Matthew McConaughey, sitting on a beach drinking whiskey and looking cool, or thinking profound thoughts on a road trip through a scenic desert.

Don’t get sucked in!

On the Shores Of Gitche Gumee * . . .

. . . actually, Lake Superior; the western shore of the Chequamegon Peninsula in Bayfield County, Wisconsin between Port Wing and Cornucopia.  This stretch of shoreline has crescent-shaped, sandy beaches separated by rocky headlands and occasional sloughs where streams enter Lake Superior.

It’s one of my favorite places.  I hope these photos give an idea of why I like the area so much.  Yesterday, the water was tan and cloudy.  I think it was because of suspended sand blown to this side of the lake by northwesterly winds.

Lake Superior Shoreline
Lake Superior Shoreline
Driftwood
Driftwood
Twin Sisters:  Retired Fishing Boat
Twin Sisters: Retired Fishing Boat
Eagle:  Retired Fishing Boat
Eagle: Retired Fishing Boat
Dahlia and Old Boat
Dahlia and Old Boat
Dock In Bark Bay Slough
Dock In Bark Bay Slough
Abandoned Fish House
Abandoned Fish House
Mushroom In the Moss
Mushroom In the Moss
Moss and Roots
Moss and Roots
Sunset At Cornucopia, WI
Sunset At Cornucopia, WI

 


* The first line of The Song Of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mushroom By Any Other Name

I don’t know the names of any of these mushrooms.  My friend and bartender Nick assures me that the best book for learning how to identify mushrooms is Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora.  I’ve ordered the book, so maybe in the future I’ll be able to add captions to such photos.

 

Moments Of Happiness

Moments of happiness often pass by quickly;  sometimes so fleetingly that you miss them.  Catch them if you can and savour them.

Happiness rolled over him, he felt suddenly warm.  Perhaps, he thought, paradise goes by in an instant.  When you’re not looking.

–   Jean Casson, protagonist of the novel The World At Night by Alan Furst


The queerest thing it was, to hear such misery and, just for a moment, to know the joy of a fresh draft of air in the lungs, to feel a vague and, perhaps, traitorous promise.

–   Riordan, a character in the novel Judgement At Appomattox by Ralph Peters


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Week

Last Week

These are the best shots from my last week of shooting.

Fields In Dunn County, Wisconsin
Fields In Dunn County, Wisconsin
Gate Frames a Hill In Dunn County
Gate Frames a Hill In Dunn County
Tree In Bean Field
Tree In Bean Field
Lift-Bridge Under Repair
Lift-Bridge Under Repair
Wildflowers In the Evening Sun
Wildflowers In the Evening Sun
Web-encased Plant Backlit By the Evening Sun
Web-encased Plant Backlit By the Evening Sun
Osceola Loop Of the Ridgeview Trail
Osceola Loop Of the Ridgeview Trail
Mushroom Siblings
Mushroom Siblings
Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Sundown On the Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Sundown On the Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin

 

Two Rivers and a Creek

Last week I photographed the Lake Wissota Dam on the Chippewa River as part of my project to photograph the river from source to end.  All the dam’s spillways were closed.  It rained heavily on Tuesday so I thought perhaps the spillways would be open to handle the runoff.  I went back yesterday and found only one spillway open, the one farthest away.  Here are shots before and after the rain.

Before

Lake Wissota Dam
Lake Wissota Dam

After

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Lake Wissota Dam After Tuesday’s Rain

 

 

Other shots from yesterday, including another river, the Red Cedar, and a creek, Popple Creek, a tributary of the Red Cedar.

Red Cedar River
Red Cedar River
Sunset East Of Colfax, Wisconsin
Sunset East Of Colfax, Wisconsin
Gull On Spillway
Gull On Spillway
Popple Creek
Popple Creek, a Tributary of the Red Cedar River

Best Of August 2018

I used to post slideshows of my best photos each month until February of this year.  I then stopped due to illness; bronchitis, insomnia, and, lately, pollution from Canadian wildfires.  The air quality has now improved as have both my insomnia and bronchitis.  I’ve been able to get out again with my camera and post a Best Of August slideshow.

 

 

Three Days In August

I recently spent three days in a hotel while waiting for the carpet in my apartment to be replaced.  The hotel was an hour closer to some of my favorite photography sites, so I went out with my camera gear rather than spending the evening cooped up in a hotel room.  Here are some of the shots I captured.

 

 

The Hour Is Getting Late

All Long the Watchtower DylanPlaying for Change just posted their version of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.  It’s a spine-tingling rendition of a song with some timely lyrics:

There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late

Opening Early

Old Baseball Gloves
Old Baseball Gloves

I’m on my sofa watching the season opener for the Minnesota Twins.  They are in Baltimore where it’s 68° and sunny.  It’s also sunny here in Stillwater but only 38°.

This is the earliest opening day ever.  The season usually doesn’t open until a week into April.  I think it’s being done to give the players more days off during the season.

If you can’t watch or attend a game today, you could check out John Fogerty’s* song about baseball, Centerfield.

The sun came out today
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home
It’s a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel

. . .

You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all
A moment in the sun
(pop) It’s-a gone
And you can tell that one goodbye!


* John Fogerty, once lead singer and guitarist of Creedence Clearwater Revival

 

Enjoying the Moment

View From My Bedroom Window
View From My Bedroom Window

I’m ill; have been for two months.  Lying in bed with my CPAP mask helping my lungs do their job.
I can feel the congestion, like a sore throat in my lungs; feel the tiredness that is sometimes overwhelming.

But . . .

I’m enjoying this moment.
My bedroom is a pleasant room.
It’s spring even though it snowed overnight.  Now it’s early afternoon and the snow has melted.
Windows are wide open.  I can feel the cool, fresh spring air.
I hear the birds:  a woodpecker hammering, sparrows chattering, a cardinal loudly defending his territory.
Out of my other ear I’m listening to My Top Rated iTunes playlist.
I hear this lyric from Papa Dukie and the Mud People:

Love is a beautiful thing
I can’t wait to see what the new day brings

. . .

Make you wanna dance, and cry, and
Laugh, and sing
Nananana…make you wanna holler
Nananana…down by the river
Nananana…behind the levee

I actually live down by the river and behind the levee.  I haven’t been down there lately ’cause I can’t lick this bronchitis.  So I just keep doin’ what I can.

Enjoy the good moments when they come.

At Play In a Field Of Daisies
At Play In a Field Of Daisies

 

The Blues

This is my least-favorite time of year.  Once the calendar tells me it’s spring, I expect blues skies and warm air.  I usually get winter storms.  I never learn that here in Minnesota we can’t expect winter to leave for good until well into April.

So, to counter any depression-type blues caused by the lingering winter, I’ve posted some photos featuring blue-skies-type blues.

 

 

References To MLK – The Good and The Ugly

The Good

Lyrics from the MLK Song:

Well it really doesn’t matter most of the deeds I’ve done
It really doesn’t matter the prizes I may have won
I’d like for somebody to say I tried to love someone
When I have to meet my day

In the crawl for justice
I helped somebody run
In the walk for the hungry
I fed someone
And in the march for peace
Tell them I played the drum

Mavis Staples gives the lyrics much greater emotional impact.

Buddy Guy takes the lead on “Skin Deep“, a song in similar vein produced by Playing For Change.  He’s joined by more than 50 other musicians spread across the U.S. in this song that tells us that “Underneath We Are All the Same.”  The video starts with a quote from Martin Luther King.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness.

Only light can do that.

The Ugly

This is very, very ugly.  Dodge Ram Trucks using an inspirational, Martin Luther King speech to sell trucks in a Super Bowl commercial.  What’s next, using the Sermon on the Mount to sell mini-vans?

Listen to it here and try to ignore the commercial bits.  The speech is uplifting:  Dodge Ram Superbowl Commercial