Frozen, fabulous February

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On this beautiful, sunny and warm (25 degrees … it’s all relative) Saturday I took a trip to see something I’d been wanting to explore for awhile now: the Alton Bay ice runway on Lake Winnipesaukee. I had only come across it once from the road, and even then hadn’t spent much time. So this morning I drove to the southern end of the lake and …

… this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

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The runway is about 3000′ long and the ice approximately 18″ thick. Dictated by Mother Nature, it is the only FAA-sanctioned ice runway in the lower 48 states.

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Today there were many people – most with cameras – out on the ice with me, watching the planes take off and land. All are small single-engine aircraft. There is no control tower and although there is radio contact with pilots, they pretty much govern themselves. For obvious reasons they cannot use their brakes. Landing on ice can be tricky.

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Volunteers keep this runway operational, plow it after snowstorms, and help with parking the planes. Today was a rare storm-free and windless day, perfect for a fly-in. In addition to the airplanes there were countless snowmobilers, bobhouses, fishermen, and people simply out on the ice walking their dogs. Everyone wanted to be outdoors today.

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Around for more than 30 years, this little wintertime runway brings life to Alton Bay in the dead of winter. Pilots support the businesses in the Bay, and visitors like me flock to watch something you can’t see anywhere else. Yes, winter in New Hampshire is long … but while it’s here, its residents sure know how to make the most of it.

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My second favorite

 

Photo Jan 16, 6 33 58 PMWinter is my second favorite season. You can’t beat autumn in New Hampshire, so that’s a no-brainer, and while most people would choose summer next I prefer winter. At this point in the season, though, I’m a little afraid to admit that.

I am probably the only person left in New England who likes winter. Yeah, we’re all winter-weary here, and I’m looking forward to spring as much as anyone else, but you can’t argue with the beauty of the season. I have included some photos here to prove my point, just in case someone pushes back on this.

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Winter here is the stuff of postcards and calendars: fluffy-white drifts of snow covering hills and fields. Curls of woodsmoke coming from chimneys. Centuries-old white architecture made even more beautiful with a frosting of ice. Little white lights in every window, illuminating the dark frigid nights.Photo Feb 10, 6 41 59 PMThen there are the things the postcards don’t tell you … the ice dams that back up on rooftops and allow water to creep into your house. Snowdrifts so high you can’t see around them to turn onto the street. High heating bills. Empty cars running in parking lots, staying warm while their owners shop. Bad hair days from all that dry static electricity in the air.Photo Feb 16, 4 19 43 PMIt’s all just part of living here, though. We know it, expect it, and put up with it, believing that spring can’t possibly be that far away. And when it does arrive it is a feeling like nothing else – new beginnings, new life, something that is looked forward to every year.

So until that day, I am loving this frigid white landscape and thankful that my roof hasn’t collapsed under the weight of two feet of snow. The ice dams haven’t caused any major damage. Yet. The car still reliably starts when it is seventeen below zero. There are no mosquitoes.

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I’m happy when my second favorite season begins. And just as happy when it ends.

It’s right here in black and white

As New Englanders hunker down for the big Blizzard of 2015, with snow measured today in feet and high winds and low visibility, I look out my window and see … black and white. January is like that. Stripped down, raw, bare-bones January. It’s a long, cold month but if it weren’t for January we wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of spring. Winter has a quiet beauty that is, to me, second only to autumn.

Sorting through some old photos I realized I have a nice little collection of black and white photos – though they were unintentional. Color photographs with no color. Silhouettes, snowscapes, patterns and textures. Fun stuff. And I thought I would share here on this snowy, colorless day, watching the snow pile up outside.

London train station detail

London train station detail

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Gravestone, Ireland

Gravestone, Ireland

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Winter in New Hampshire

Winter in New Hampshire

It’s a good day to stay inside and dream up new places to explore in the coming year. New Hampshire is closed today!

 

 

365

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On the eve of each new year I try to choose something new to focus on and learn about in the coming twelve months. This is harder than it sounds. Sometimes I stick with it, and sometimes I don’t. Past picks have been all over the place: jewelry-making, Ireland’s history, how to start a blog. The year of attempting traditional Italian cooking sounded good on paper until I realized that I would also have to eat it; sadly, in the end I figured I did not need the extra pounds. So … some ideas work, and others don’t.

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For 2015 I wanted to do something creative. After days of crossing items off a mental checklist I finally settled on an idea: Instagram. Now, Instagram is nothing new, even to me. I had tried it once before. Social media isn’t really my thing. But Instagram IS photos, and I thought it might be another aspect of photography – however simple – that I should investigate. To up the ante a bit I decided it should be a Project 365 – post a photo a day – on Instagram. Let’s call it Instagram365.

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For the record (and I looked this up) “instagram” is a blend of the words “instant camera” and “telegram.” Photos are confined to a square shape, reminiscent of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images. A bit of a throwback in the midst of 21st-century technology. Not life-changing, but different enough to be fun (I hope).

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Instagram also encourages the use of filters, and this is where the creativity comes in … I have given myself permission to go a little overboard with it, creating images that might not look exactly like what I saw but maybe what I imagine it to be. After all, who cares? This is supposed to be fun. Instagram may not be challenging to learn or use, but my dare is to post something interesting – or at the very least not boring – every day.

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Twelve days in … so far, so good!

Follow me on Instagram

 

Christmas in Seattle

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During my annual December visit home for the holidays this month I was lucky enough to have a friend invite me out for a day of “fun, excitement, and intrigue.” Not knowing exactly what that looked like, I was happy to learn that we were heading for downtown Seattle – it had been years since I’d been there.

Years ago I worked downtown … Boeing had leased a building there and for a couple of years we really had a good thing going. Only 3 blocks from the Market, we were also right in the middle of everything: I remember great used-book stores, fabulous bakeries, the Bon Marche (which is now Macys), Nordstrom and Frederick & Nelson (which is no longer there), lots of good restaurants, and plenty of engineers who drank their lunches and didn’t get much done in the afternoons. I turned 21 in downtown Seattle. For a quiet kid from what was then labeled a “cow town,” it was quite an eye-opener.

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Since my friend works there, she knew her way around – including where to park. We did a little window-shopping, and passed the Fifth Avenue Theater (where my mom and I saw Katharine Hepburn years ago). This month “A Christmas Story” was playing. Eventually we made our way to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (which would have been the Four Seasons when I worked downtown) for lunch.

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She wanted to eat in the Georgian Restaurant, and we made our way through the huge lobby and past the 3500 lb noble fir tree decorated with ornaments the size of light fixtures. The restaurant was European-grand: Italianate architecture, immense crystal-swagged chandeliers, super-high ceilings, columned walls, marble sideboards, and buttercream paint on the walls. The waiters (much to my single friend’s delight) all had accents and were attentive without being overbearing. When we asked one of them for some history of the room, he told us the hotel was built in 1924 and where were we from? It was a little embarrassing to name two just-south-of-Seattle towns. When he practically scolded us for not knowing more about this hotel I said that I had been in New Hampshire for years, as if this were some kind of excuse. He seemed to go along with this, or at least pretended to.

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After lunch we wandered down to the Pike Place Market. This public market has been around since 1907. Originally farmers brought their produce to the city by horse-drawn wagon and by ferry from the nearby islands (one of which I used to live on). Over time arcades were built by a developer who prospered during the Klondike Gold Rush. After World War II the Market fell on hard times and by the 1960s the buildings were slated for demolition; it was saved when a historic district was approved and the market was preserved. Today it was in full swing and decorated for Christmas, and packed with people.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through Westlake Center, past the Macy’s windows decorated with vast model train landscapes, through alleys lined with little shops, and watching the sun set on Puget Sound.

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Shop window

Shop window

Next year's lunch spot!

Next year’s lunch spot!

Today was so much fun we thought we should make this an annual Christmas tradition. I’m all for that – and next time, dear friend, lunch is on me. :)

 

 

 

 

So much to explore just outside the front door

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I didn’t take a vacation this year. I did not visit any exotic places or have bragging rights to a foreign country. I did not have to be concerned about the value of the euro or whether my luggage could survive another trip through baggage claim. And you know what? That’s ok.

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I subscribe to quite a few blogs that deal with travel … I admire those that can finagle trips for whatever reason, whether it’s as a student or as a retiree. I still intend to get to Venice and Cinque Terre and Salzburg. In the meantime I have come to realize that where I am at is pretty special; as one friend pointed out, I live in a place that many would fork over their hard-earned dollars for a two-week vacation. Now that I think of it, I did this for years. Why am I not appreciating this?

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Sure, maybe the grass is greener in Rome. Or Sarlat. Or Banff. But hey, maybe the Canadians are thinking that Wolfeboro, New Hampshire is the place to be! I guess my point here – to myself as much as anyone else – is that we all live in an interesting place. Appreciate it, celebrate it, extol its virtues. There’s so much to explore just outside your front door!

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Giving thanks in unexpected places

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The calendar may say it’s Black Friday, but here in New Hampshire it’s White Friday. Wednesday night a storm moved up the east coast and dumped a foot of heavy wet snow across the state; as a result, a whole lot of people did not get their Thanksgiving turkey yesterday. 200,000 people were without power, down to about 80,000 today. This type of snow (known in Washington State as “Cascade cement”) can cause a lot of damage, leaving in its wake downed tree branches and power lines; yesterday morning my poor lilac tree looked like an inverted U. And it isn’t even winter yet.

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So this Thanksgiving I thought about some of the little things we take for granted – like electricity, hot showers and shopping on Amazon. Of course I’m thankful for the more obvious things too; but the morning news, that first cup of coffee, and being able to email my mom rank right up there. (Yeah, I would have made a lousy pioneer.)

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Black Friday has come and gone but it looks like maybe the snow is here to stay. It’s strange how something so beautiful can also be so treacherous. Blame it on technology, or the millennium, or anything you want, but this year I am doubly thankful for my family, my friends, and my internet access. For me, at least, they are all interconnected.

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