Saturday, October 21, 2017

From the “Don’t Be Sad That It’s Over, Be Glad That It Happened” Files, Case #11,942

A gentle reminder that, for all the casual cruelty we witness among people every day, for all the horrors depicted in the news, there is comfort, there is love. 
As seen on the Facebook page Alone with the Horrors: Horror Fiction.

We do not know who thought to commission and install this memorial to his or her pet over a century ago. But most of us have had that one dog, that one special cat, that one pet who was more than a pet, who was more loyal than blood. We look back across 107 years, and we grieve with Dewey’s unseen, unnamed caretaker, because we know the same things. But we should also take joy that, for 12 years spanning the turn of the 20th century, and just before the Great War, there lived a cat named Dewey, who loved, and was loved. And somewhere out there in the madness of our own century, a similar tale lives. As it was in the beginning....

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Towards a More Splendid Retelling of a Holiday “Classic”

Yes, those scare quotes are there for a reason. Happy Halloween.

Fortunately, Charlie Brown had a trick-or-treat bag full of rocks. Which is the one part of that half-century-old holiday TV special that’s always bothered me...honestly, what kind of neighborhood is this where everyone seems to know who you are, even in costume (granted, it was full of holes), and the adults managing the candy of every house drop a rock in your bag while giving the rest of the children candy? (Don’t even get me started on the soul-crushingly depressing Christmas special.) 

Fortunately, this meme redeems the Great Pumpkin storyline. Here, the adults of Charlie Brown’s neighborhood recognize Charlie Brown as the Chosen One, though they dare not speak of this in front of their cruel and hateful children. For Charlie Brown is mankind’s best hope to resist the emergent Great Evil Foretold, who was prophesied to appear to them as a neurotic, but preternaturally articulate and intelligent kindergarten boy with a somewhat off-putting predilection for sucking his thumb while rubbing a dirty blue blanket on one side of his face. 

That Linus and and the eternally outcast Charlie Brown were the next best thing to best friends makes the showdown all the more poignant. For only one can walk away....

State of the Apocalypse: Mid-October 2017 Report

If I’d knocked this post out on Sunday like I sorta wanted to (but not badly enough, apparently) I could have called it the Ides of October Edition. Like that means anything.
Storms over the Sangre de Cristo range. All of these photos were taken during the last days of September, which was rainy, windy, and all around messy for a place that’s supposed to be a high alpine desert.

As it is, its been a stormy start to autumn in the high valley, in more ways than literal. I was excited for the resurgence in pageviews due to my posting photos of the high valley scenery around where I live, and posting it to local groups on Facebook. Once I recovered from my initial giddiness though, I quickly realized I can only do so many photo essays. It’s just as well we had that hard freeze after the 9 October snowstorm to brown all the leaves that had changed. 

In the same general location in west Alamosa Country off of US 160, looking south across the highway.

Looking in the same direction across the same highway, but eight miles west, on the far end of Monte Vista, looking at the swaths of color on the San Juan Mountain foothills.

For a while I felt somewhat obligated to take my camera everywhere I went. It’s rather nice now to just go out on a walk and not have to stop to get a photo of That Really Pretty Thing That Shines in the Light Just So. Although there are plenty of locations worthy of extended shoots that I expect I’ll get to sometime, I know I won’t be throwing photo essays up with enough regularity to justify it as part of my planned Patreon fundraising.
Boughs catching their cold fire beneath gloomy skies.

How to go about running my Patreon campaign has been tormenting me for the last couple of months. I won’t go much more into it than that. It’s just something I have to deal with until it’s dealt with.

The quiet poetry of fallen leaves along a sidewalk. They’ll chatter merrily enough once the wind picks up.

Meanwhile, there’s the book to finish writing, or at least get as far as I can until I absolutely cannot avoid rattling my cup and passing the hat for one more minute. So far, so good on that. I don’t know what else to tell you.

In August I was startled by the bright red flash among the green. Here it’s completely gone over, but by the end of the weekend it was bare.

I like how I’ve got the Ghosts of Autumn Past, Present and Future in this shot.

Like a splash of blood along the fence. Autumn’s sanguinary sacrifice...okay, yeah, that’s troweling it on a bit thick. Enough!

What with the foreshortened autumn after a too-brief summer, finding the waterlogged corpse of a feral kitten in our yard after three straight days of cold rain and wind, and me now closer to 60 than I am 50 years old, the melancholy streak in the fabric of my reality is a little wider than I’d like. Still, we soldier on, and take our rainbows where we find them.


Friday, September 22, 2017

“Have You Been Here Since We Switched the Pit?”

Our third trip out to the San Luis Valley regional landfill.

We spent six hours that Sunday cleaning the garage, knocking out old, rickety shelving, and sweeping and rearranging. We took another half-hour loading up the minivan with the demo’d shelving, plus the debris from last autumn’s kitchen remodel. Much of the time was spent hammering back the flesh-hungry fangs of countless nails bristling from the slabs of particle board and molding.

Fortified with surgical face masks and heavy gloves, we left for the landfill as soon as it opened on Monday morning. As always, I took my camera. There’s always something in that stretch of wide, rolling country between Monte Vista and Del Norte, Colorado, that catches my eye. This occasion was no exception.
This is the other side of the highway where we turn for the San Luis Valley Regional Landfill. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to live so far off the road in this picturesque distance.

Looking towards the landfill from the highway, just before the turn.

Looking out the passenger window on the way in, at one of the many delicate matchsticks holding up civilization in this high, windswept valley.

Man’s lines angle over nature’s landscaping.

So many gentle, wind-sculpted slopes held down by wildflowers and grease grass.

Crazy contrails.

Where Indians once hunted, poles and lines carry electricity across the wilderness.

Someone decided those lines would run all the way out there.

Then a bunch of people rolled all the way out in the middle of all this, and started digging postholes, and setting poles, and running wires. Miles and miles of wires.

“Have you been here since we switched the pit?” said the young woman working the counter at the check-in.

“Switched the what?”

It’s something they have to do from time to time, and the directions provided gave me the idea that getting to the new household dump location would be more trouble than it was. The way the route was set up, though, we couldn’t go any other way. We followed the narrow one lane path to a ridge on the far north end of the landfill.
Our lovely, scenic destination. They’ve done a fine job covering the old pit.

Zooming in on that scenery.

The view a little to the right, looking south.

Coming out to the landfill in the morning before the sun’s heat had a chance to warm up the biodegradable matter meant we didn’t need the masks. This proved fortuitous, as unloading the van took longer than I thought it would.

One thing I couldn’t bring myself to hurl with force into the pile of household waste were my two old and battered Bose 301 speakers.

I’d purchased these on New Year’s Eve 1986, along with a JVC amp and dual cassette deck with the insurance money I received upon my mother’s passing that year. This was the first stereo I ever owned. The speakers survived the obsolescence of the amp and deck, and two CD players. By the time I retired them in 2007 beneath the basement stairs of our house in Colorado Springs, they looked pretty much as you see them above. My now-grown children poked their fingers into the tweeter cores as toddlers. Indifferent military movers in Japan and Washington state broke the cases and tweeter covers. 

The speakers still worked, more or less, but they were an aesthetic disaster. I’d had them for 30 years, and in storage doing nothing for the last ten. No thrift store could sell them looking like this. So I set them down, took a last photo, and congratulated myself for letting another few pounds of useless junk go. They look no less forlorn here than they did sitting in my Monte Vista garage for the past year.
Everything we own, and eventually our bodies themselves will end up in a landfill of some description, discarded and forgotten. Cemeteries hold the remains of living bodies, but you’ll find the evidence of those lives as they were once lived in a landfill.

With my personal history thus unloaded, along with many heavy pieces of a kitchen and a garage for which someone else may have once entertained fond memories, we made our way out. Aside from some great distance shots on the county road, there were wildflowers and a gyre of hawks to see along US 160 eastbound to home.
Normally, I’m irritated when I accidentally get the radio antenna in the shot, but I like the way the antenna comes in at almost precisely one-third into the shot to complement the vertical lines of the utility poles in the middle-third.

I like the sense of vast distances conveyed in this shot. Note how the utility poles rapidly diminish in the distance towards that ridge where the cellular phone relay stands.

Looking north to the characteristically jagged Sangre de Cristo Mountains through the haze of wildfires blown in from several western states. After days of this, it finally started to clear away on 11 September, the morning we went to the landfill.

That blue you see cutting through the high, filmy haze is the first we’ve seen of clear sky in a while.

At the turn onto US 160. I took this because here you see two kinds of wildflowers that all but define the San Luis Valley, namely the yellow black-eyed Susans and the purple-petaled piƱon asters.

So many hawks sharing one thermal, two miles outside of Monte Vista.

You see the road curve into the wall of trees marking the edge of Monte Vista’s western residential area, and it’s only a mile to home. Two miles past this point, and you’re out the east side of town and in a completely different landscape.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

As I Went Out One Morning drop my son’s vehicle off at the San Luis Valley Auto Repair shop on US 285/N. Broadway, I took the following photos on my walk back home, along N. Broadway until the intersection with US 160/First Avenue.

This is where Acequia Drive meets N. Broadway. Acequia is a crooked road that follows the crooked acequia (irrigation ditch) that winds its way a block or so north of US 160. It’s not a pretty street, what with the abandoned houses and railcars, the warehouses and packing plants and such. The early fall morning sun makes everything better, though. It also helps that the sky is clear of the wildfire smokes of four states for the first time in an aching long while.

Walking south across the intersection I come to the big, weedy lot where the old railcars rot away at the end of equally decrepit tracks. I’ve photographed this place before (see here), but I’ve yet to capture whatever it is I’m looking for from this place.
I realize the light is literally working against me looking in this direction at half-past nine in the morning, but at least the changing colors of the grasses take on a neat hue.

It’s picturesque, but only if you’re viewing these images in photographs. One certainly wouldn’t want to have to behold the slow progress of this decay from one’s window. Sadly, this lot will likely have to catch fire before anything is done. It’s not as if city planners ever anticipate having to deal with disposing of abandoned railcars and the rusting tracks they crumble away on, let alone the metric scads of abandoned houses when the boom times fade to history.

Looking across the street seems like another world. Having the sun at your back makes all the difference.
Looking west/southwest down the working SLV/Rio Grande tracks. You can see the goalposts for one end of the Monte Vista High School football field at left.

Following the river to Del Norte and the San Juan Mountains beyond.

At the intersection where US 285 turns left/east to join US 160 until Alamosa, and Broadway crosses to become S. Broadway/CO 15, we note a sight peculiar to this season and the year 2017.

All photographs in this post Copyright © 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Up Close and Personal with a Zoom Lens

To be clear, my daughter is not working with a fancy detachable lens here. She simply has a more modern model of the Canon Powershot happysnap machine than the one I bought in 2010.  

Her camera has a far superior clarity when zoomed in, but Emily’s real advantage is her artist’s eye, combined with skills she’s honed doing sports team portrait photography for Peak Moments in Colorado Springs.

Smudge, one of the two tiny kittens living under our porch.
The feral cats around our house are increasingly tolerant of our physical proximity, but we’re still a long way off from being able to reach out and pet them. Emily was a stranger to them, but still managed to get within maybe ten feet. Her skills with zoom and focus did the rest.

Alas, Emily does not have a website. She has an Instagram account, but I’m not sure how often she posts. This is purely for kicks on her part. Trust me, her proud father will let you know when this changes.

All photographs in this post Copyright © 2017 by Emily Aiken. Used with permission.