Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vacation Pictures 2007

In yet another posting which sadistically taxes the blogger servers and casual readers with dial-up connections, here are some pictures from my recent family vacation in Elmore, VT. Well, most of them are actually from the Camel's Hump Mountain hiking trip that my parents planned with a group of my cousins. Unfortunately my parents weren't able to make it the whole way on account of bad shoes that my mother was wearing. The other seven of us made it to the top. Here's another lovely source of information on Camel's Hump.

Many of these pictures have a larger, more detailed view if you click them.

My young cousin K and I were the sole members of the 'advance group' on the way up... which basically means that we were the only ones insane enough to keep a suicide pace.

K and I made it to this site, just a few hundred feet below the summit, about an hour before everyone else. This is the wing of a World War Two era plane that crashed on the mountain while on a late-night, mid-winter run during WW2. Here is a clip from an internet message board summarizing the crash: "On October, 1944, a B-24J Liberator flying a training mission out of Westover Air Force Base crashed into the eastern side of Camel’s Hump just 100' below the summit. Of the ten crewmembers, there was only one survivor. The survivor, still a teenager I believe, spent two nights on the mountain and lost his hands and feet to frostbite. It snowed while he was up there. It's a bit of a mystery why the plane hit the mountain -- it was traveling at 4000 feet, half its standard cruising altitude. One theory holds that they were cold and were trying to stay low for warmth." The interesting (and exhaustive) full story of the plane crash can be found here.

A few interior shots of the plane wing.

My cousin R

Some beautiful and very tasty wild blueberries that were growing in the sparse cliff-top soils on top of Camel's Hump, I ate several handfuls. You can't get much more fresh or organic than wild-picked.

A picture of my brother and four of the cousins sitting on the edge of the cliff. The picture was taken from a ledge I climbed down to about twenty five feet below the cliff.

A view of the western face of Mt. Elmore, taken from a long distance away on top of Camel's Hump.

A view from the northeastern face of the mountain... Burlington, VT in the foreground against Lake Champlain in the background.

A cliff side, westward view of one of the many green valleys.

My little brother with two of the young cousins.

Group shot on top of the mountain.

At the base of the trail, just a stone's throw from a ranger's cabin is a unique little cemetary. Unique because it is the resting place of Will S. Monroe, "Teacher, Author, Trailbuilder, Companion and Lover of Dogs," according to the epitaph on his gravestone, it is also unique because he had gravestones made for each of his most beloved dogs. This picture shows his own gravestone and his sister's with one of their dogs in between. Take note of each of the inscriptions on the stone.

"Basque of Basquaerie" had the distinction of being the "first great pyrenees born in America". Interesting. I found Mr. Monroe's name also listed as one of the past presidents of the Great Pyrenees Club of America.

Mt. Elmore with a small, blown-up inset of the fire tower in the bottom right corner.

A white leghorn chicken who followed my sister and I for a short distance while we were hiking around the backside of Lake Elmore. He was very curious and very photogenic.

Completely unrelated to my vacation: I snapped this pic of a Monarch Caterpillar on my thumb while out on a wild blackberry picking hike yesterday morning with my buddy D.

At work: a red serpent starfish. Their legs are prehensile, much like the tails of some types of monkeys.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anger and The Peace Testimony: Posting Dichotomy

Warning: snarky bitchfest coming on..... So, I just got off the phone with another mortgage broker who told me the same thing as the other 3 I applied through. I can not get approved for any size mortgage on any property because I ,"have no credit history." You would think that having paid off three cars and a couple of educational loans as well as never being late on paying for insurance and utilities would count for something!!?? My parents and teachers at school brought me up on the belief that whenever you keep making payments on utilities or a loan on time and eventually pay it off, this reflects very favorably on your credit record and you are much more eligible for a mortgage. These beliefs were correct back in my school days. It seems that the rules have changed and I am now attempting to hit a moving target. Many of the folks I have talked to about this have now told me that you need to have at least a couple of credit cards in active use for over a year as well as some sort of loan being paid off for it to reflect positively on my credit report. Basically you have to be in debt in order to put yourself further into debt! How the heck does this make sense??!! It angers me because it reflects how corrupt our financial systems have become. Those of us who have been responsible with their debts have nothing to show for it because financial companies don't make as much money off of them as they do off of interest, late fees and balloon payments from people who use the system poorly. I am gaining a better understanding of why usury was either discouraged or viewed as a sin in some cultures.

So now I have to feed this corrupt system and play the game their way to buy a home. Time to get another secured loan and a couple of unreasonably high APR credit cards and use them conservatively from month to month. I have been advised that if I use them wisely over the next year, it will supposedly make my credit look far more favorable to mortgage companies. It may be for naught because many common projections theorize that mortgages will be much harder to obtain by then. Oh joy! >:-( OK, I am done with my complaining.

One of the things that I have been wrestling with lately is the Peace Testimony which is so prevalent in the Quaker circles where I circulate. The environment I was brought up in had elements of that which is reactionary and occasionally vindictive, so it is hard for me to wrap my mind around this new (to me) way of thinking. Yet choosing to follow the way of peace has been of great benefit to me and others in my life over the past year. It is by no small coincidence that I have begun to let go of struggles with adversarial people in my life; choosing instead to understand them and do what I can to receive them as a human being and treat them kindly while not acknowledging or supporting what I view to be their troublesome personality traits. As a result I have way less enemies and more friendly people surrounding me. My view of life and society is slowly evolving into one which is less negative. I have come to know that the Peace Testimony has to be applied and known intimately on a much smaller, personal level before it can be more broadly applied within society and the human race. It all starts with intent and conscious choice on the part of the individual. This may sound like very basic thinking to some, but for me it is all new.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Head Spinning

I apologize to the few people who actually follow this compendium of personal randomness known as my blog. I've been much busier than usual lately. Between household stuff, real estate shopping, hiking, occasional insomnia, blackberry picking, reading, writing, etc... I've been very lax in putting down any of my thoughts here. My head is spinning from all the activities and opportunities on my plate right now.

Good books I've been reading:
To Try The Bloody Law by Robert S. Burgess - The story of the life and martyrdom of the Quaker woman Mary Dyer.

The Renewable Energy Handbook
by William H. Kemp - A Guide To Rural Energy Independence, Off-Grid and Sustainable Living - An excellent technical guide for people like me who are researching forms of living which have a much lower environmental impact. The author really puts everything into language which is easy to understand and includes lots of simple, helpful, technical diagrams for do-it-yourselfers like me.

Dark Night Journey: Inward Re-patterning Toward A Life Centered In God
by Sandra Cronk - "The dark night aptly describes the situation of those who have had a growing sense of God's presence, direction, and consolation and are suddenly bereft of that experience. Aridity, meaninglessness, loss, and pain are hardly the milestones expected on a journey toward God. The author brings a unique perspective to her interpretation of this powerful pathway, and offers sensitive guidance to dark night travelers and those who seek to understand and nurture them.

Random things I have been doing:
It looks like it is going to be another banner year for harvesting wild blackberries. Tomorrow I am hoping to go out and pick at least a couple gallons' worth with the intention of making jam with them.

At the end of next week I am headed up to Elmore, VT again for vacation with my family. I've purchased a used boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia which I intend to start reading again during my down-time.

I am working on a narrative essay detailing how the 'Ex-Gay Movement' has affected my life and my relationship with my parents & family. It describes by struggle due to the fact that my parents espouse ex-gay philosophies and I am a gay man with no desire to submit myself to the 'reparative therapy' which is promoted by the organizations in this movement. I am running into a lot of snags in writing the essay and trying to really examine myself and my life deeply so that the essay can be truthful and concise while touching on the subject of my family and parents with a sympathetic, understanding view of them. I don't believe I have ever put as much of myself into a piece of writing and it is emotionally exhausting. It is currently under review by several close loved ones and friends and I've just submitted it for consideration (and hopefully refinement) by some of the Friends who I attend meeting with. It will eventually be posted when I feel that it is ready.