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One Last Look at My Gallery

One Last Look at My Gallery

Call them photos, captures, a portfolio, a galley, or a year’s worth of adventures and memories, I am proud of the images that I have featured on this site. Full disclosure, not every single image was my own; as I have noted on the sidebar throughout, I utilized Unsplash.com – an opensource library of photos by some of the most talented and generous photographers out there – to supplement my own photography when I lacked the perfect image for a post or idea. As the project progressed, however, I did find myself relying less on external images and instead utilizing my improving photography skills more.

I wrote extensively on photography and the approach I tried to bring to my practice of it in my July post titled “Photography, As It Sits With Me Now”, so I feel no shame in sparing words in this post. I kept a gallery of my best photos going throughout the blog, titling the page “Captures.” I encourage everyone to visit / revisit that page, but for viewing simplicity (and a little guilty pleasure), I have compiled my favorite images in this post.

Like other elements of this project, I do not intent to stop practicing photography just because I am bringing this blog to a close. In fact, I am inspired to continue (and maybe even upgrade my equipment). But for now, these photos are my best work. Thirteen selected favorites from thirteen months of working on this project. They can stand alone or they can represent the stories, memories, and ideas that I have tried to capture on this site. Or both. With each selection, I have provided a brief synopsis of where I was and what I was doing when I took the photo. I enjoyed the process of remembering these locations and moments, and I am pleased to share them.

SELECTED FAVORITES

(Featured in chronological order)

©

Though I took this picture a few months before the idea for this site was conceived, I believe that it was the kernel of success that I needed to push my desire to practice photography from passive to active. The image is one of spontaneity. I arrived in Neil’s Harbor, one of the most northerly towns on Cape Breton Island, after exploring the island’s west side and its famed Skyline Trail, the crown jewel of the Highlands National Park. Caught off guard by the thirty degree temperature difference between the warm St. Lawrence Bay and the chilly Atlantic Coast, I nearly missed the dingy pulling out into the foggy harbor and out of sight. I appreciate the mystery in this image – a quality that I have tried to capture in my photos ever since.
Neil’s Harbor, Cape Breton Island, May 2016
Traveling to Norway in winter, Maddie and I found ourselves caught somewhere in between magical bliss and bitter-cold reality. It was our first big trip together, and with cold temperatures and a fresh dusting of snow every night, Nordic skiing was our priority, and photography was not. But, standing on a frozen lake somewhere in the hills north of Oslo, I did manage to capture this image, which I find appealing in its simplicity.
Oslo, Norway, February 2017
Ah, Craftsbury. Home to the best Nordic skiing in Vermont, and probably the Northeast. With newfound freedom in my class schedule during the Spring Semester of my senior year, I was able to make the trek to the Northeast Kingdom far more often than in previous years. After a fresh snow dump and my first foray on the Craftsbury Commons trail, I spent an hour puttering around the main trails and captured this barn image – so prototypically Vermont and perfect in every way.
Craftsbury, February 2017
My second barn photo came a few weeks later as I drove from Middlebury to Westport for what felt like the hundredth time. That number is not all that inaccurate. Counting summers, my back-and-forth between the Vermont and New York sides of Lake Champlain during my time at college easily reached triple digits, if I count each there-and-back as two drives. Everything about the drive and distance was ideal – not too short, not too long, never any traffic, and views the entire way. Plus, it connected two of my favorite places in the world.  This barn was always the prettiest thing I passed on the Vermont side, so I finally took the time to stop.
Bridport, March 2017
Speaking of favorite places, during a quiet springtime weekend I chose to do something a little different and spent a night camping out at North Point on Camp Dudley’s property. I have always slept in my hammock when I camp, and this time was no different, but with temps reaching a low in the thirties and a direct view of the sunrise over Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains, I found myself stirring at 4:15 AM. I stoked up the previous night’s fire, set out to make some coffee, and played around with camera settings to dial in an ideal exposure for capturing the sunrise. This image frames the entire experience; spring buds, the sun directly over Camel’s Hump, a boat drifting down the lake, reflections off the water, and an ethereal glow.
Camp Dudley, May 2017
One of the greatest graduation gifts I received came as a complete surprise, when Hank Barrett asked me to be the fourth for a day of thirty-six holes at Shinnecock Hills and the National Golf Links of America, two of the country’s finest (and toughest to get on) golf courses. I have never had a better day of golf in my life, and never felt so lucky, especially when I closed out our final match of the day with a par-par-par-birdie stretch on the fifteenth through eighteenth holes at National. This is an image of National’s iconic windmill, and I love the late-afternoon lighting and the arrangement of highlights and shadows it created.
National Golf Links of America, June 2017
This image does not stand in for one particular moment for all of the memories I have from this location. Sunsets with my Dudley pals, games of CanJam and corn hole, rest stops on early morning training runs, walks up the hill from my grandparents’ house between dinner and dessert. I took it when I was relaxing in Westport, in limbo between graduation and launching for Germany. The school house might be the most iconic structure in my life, and I am glad I could finally capture it in its full glory.
Westport, June 2017
My crazy, awe-inspiring West Coast road trip with five of my high school buddies was the best way for us to celebrate graduating college and spend time together before we all started up jobs in various cities on the East Coast. Though my photos will never compare to the memories of that trip, I do particularly like this one from the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. We had risen before dawn in attempt to beat the crowds and heat in Yosemite Valley, and it paid off in unparalleled views and one of the best ten miles on trail of my life.
Yosemite National Park, June 2017
This is a more somber image, taken of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany. My month in Germany featured stark contrasts, inner disparities, and a roller-coaster of emotions. Perhaps I am drawn to this photo out of all of those I took during the trip because of the profound balance depicted. On the surface, everything is aligned and appealing. And yet the experience of walking through the memorial is anything but calming. Walking between the rectangular concrete columns, the looming, maze-like construction of the site quickly reveals itself. It is claustrophobic and disorienting. In some ways, I felt the same during my month leading the exchange trip. On the surface, I was leading a group of awesome kids from the best camp in the country, I had just graduated, and I have a job lined up in New York upon my return. But internally, I felt the pressure of responsibility and the anxiety of transition, and those emotions made it harder for me to relax and enjoy myself.
Berlin, July 2017
New York, New York. I arrived to the city exhausted and full of questions, and it took me a few weeks to settle in. I am still settling in, and I do not know if I will ever be completely comfortable here. And yet, I have found solace in my daily routines and my opportunities to step outside of those routines, if only for a detour through Central Park. The calm in this photo masks the hectic nature of the city, but in seeking spaces that remind me that nature is still out there, I have found beauty and incredible juxtapositions. I love that the lady in the red dress made an appearance in the image (fitting Matrix reference).
Central Park (East), August 2017
Pawling has served as weekend escape, and I am so grateful that I can get out of the city, be with Maddie and her family, and maintain some of my favorite outdoorsy activities that are just not possible in Manhattan. This is another photo that captures mystery; the gate is both open and chained closed, and the grass (and trees) are certainly greener on the other side of the fence (stone wall). But ultimately, it is inviting, and that is the way I feel about New York: being in this new place is an invitation to try new things and expand my parameters for how I define “adventure.”
Pawling, August 2017
I kicked off September and autumn with a trip home to Williamstown with Maddie to celebrate birthdays, be with family, and find more adventures. No moment from the weekend was more striking than when the sun rose over Lake George at the start of Maddie’s triathlon. With the air temperature thirty degrees cooler than the water, the fog rising off the lake was mystical. I felt lucky to be present for that moment, and I always feel lucky that mountains and lakes have been such an integral part of my life.
Lake George, September 2017
The foliage has been more muted this autumn, and that is okay. There is still plenty of beauty in less vibrant tones. I love the layering of greens and browns in this image, and I was thrilled to capture it when the priority of this particular morning was running a trail race, and not going out on an adventure to take photos. There is nuance in this image, which makes it a fitting one on which to end. Who would have known that my year long quest to capture moments worth savoring would end with an image of an unnamed bog somewhere in northwestern Connecticut, but I like it that way. Beautiful yet unassuming, bright yet mysterious, an ending and a beginning.
Macricostas Preserve, September 2017
Senior Week and Graduation

Senior Week and Graduation

THE ENDING AND THE BEGINNING

Today is Memorial Day, May 29, 2017. I sit in rainy Westport, NY having just completed a puzzle. And senior week. And graduation weekend. And college.

The events that transpired over the past week are a blur, but the feeling that lingers is one of deep gratitude mixed with well-warrented exhaustion. Senior week proceeded like a whirlwind – a temporary unorganized lifestyle coupled with the need to organize my life for the move-out. Though I will skim over some of the details, my favorite moments included Tuesday’s epic trip to Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT for the best mountain biking on the East Coast and Wednesday’s outdoor concert featuring some of Middlebury’s best student bands. The mountain biking was so good that we are hoping to go back in June, so I hope to do a better job documenting the trip then.

On Friday, family and friends gathered at the Storey Farm in Westport for a small celebration and a large feast. I was particularly thrilled to see those who came from further distances: Miranda (who is now a rising Junior at Bowdoin!) and my grandparents who came up from Florida. We dined on grilled chicken, a multitude of vegetable dishes, an incredible carrot cake, and plenty of Alchemist 16-ounce cans. It was also the first time that Maddie’s parents and my parents were all in the same room together, and everyone enjoyed bonding with old friends and new ones. As I have written in other blog posts, I feel incredibly lucky to have a space within an hour’s drive from campus that is so special to me, and having the graduation party there epitomized this experience.

Saturday was a special day in a different way. I woke early to prepare myself for the Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony. I am still trying to figure out if I am more honored by the nomination itself or the fact that I got to share the stage with so many insanely smart and talented people. Hearing each of the nominee’s future plans was the best part of the ceremony.

My dad and I went for a run and we took things easy in the afternoon, watching some FA Cup soccer and packing up a few final items. We then attended the English Department reception, and I was thrilled to learn that I had received one of the departmental awards. I never doubted choosing English as my major, and now the pride I have felt for my classes and independent work tastes even sweeter.

The last installment of my penultimate day was the party for the senior soccer players, held at the Woodchuck Cider House. Between the eleven of us, our families, and our friends, we had an outstanding “one last night.” And fittingly, the skies over Lake Champlain granted us the most dramatic sunset of the year.

It is tradition at Middlebury for the seniors to stay up all night before graduation. The townhouse quad where I lived turned into a late-night block party, and I went inside only to fix up a midnight coffee for a few friends. But eventually, my “early-to-bed, early-to-rise” habits caught up with me, and I had to retire at 2:30 in the morning. Two hours later, Maddie woke me for a sunrise run, and we jogged up to the highest point on campus to look out over the Green Mountains one last time. As is also tradition, the bakeries in town open early to serve free breakfast to the seniors, so we jogged down to Otter Creek Bakery for an egg sandwich and a few of the tastiest croissants of my life. Sleep deprivation had nothing to do with it.

A few hours later, I was dressed in my cap and gown, ready to graduate. We could not have received better weather, and though the three-hour commencement ceremony dragged at times, everything in it felt right. And nothing was better than the final gift we received as Middlebury Students. Grace Potter, recipient of an honorary degree from the college this year and fellow Vermonter, broke out her guitar and sang her heart out in the final minutes of the ceremony. The song made some cry, some smile, and all of us pause in a moment of gratitude and unity.

The entire week, but especially the graduation weekend and commencement ceremony, was a gift. A chance to be in a place I call home without the pressure of classes or finals hanging over me. An opportunity to explore new Vermont adventures and repeat old favorites one last time. A time to be with those who are closest to me, and to show them how lucky I have been to attend Middlebury. I will remember it all.

Before I close this post, and this chapter of my life, I will remind myself of two thoughts. First, I am not really leaving Middlebury, but rather I am beginning the next phase of my learning and growing. I look forward to new challenges knowing that I am equipped with all that my college experience has taught me. Second, there is a Mary Oliver poem that Professor Brayton gave to me and my peers on the final day of my favorite class at Middlebury. I carry it with my to this day. The message was appropriate then and still fits now.

THE SUMMER DAY

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

Spring at the Storey Farm, A Night at North Point

Spring at the Storey Farm, A Night at North Point

Being done has been nice. On Friday, with finals in full swing on campus, the temptation of warm Spring weather luring me outdoors, and the need to move some of my personal items from the dorm to Westport for the summer, I headed to the New York side of Lake Champlain for a solo adventure.

First, I delivered a car-full of items that needed to be stashed temporarily in my grandparents’ barn. I was happy to help out with the necessary springtime upkeep in exchange, clearing a few small downed trees, moving patio furniture, tidying up the barn. I was also thrilled to join Mommom and Babo for dinner – I even got to grill for the first time this year! The Storey Farm is looking beautiful, with apple blossoms and lilac trees in full bloom. Mommom said this has been the best year for lilacs that she can remember, and I feel lucky to get to enjoy moments of Spring in Westport, when so many of my family members and Dudleyite friends only see it in the Summer.

Connecting with my grandparents in a setting different than the large family gatherings of summer or of holidays in Williamstown is something I appreciate more and more every time I get to do so. They have a different perspective on my college experience and plans for the near future than my family or friends, but it is one that I cherish hearing.

After dinner, I set out for North Point on Camp Dudley’s campus – a destination for cabin suppers, overnights, and council rings. It is the most exposed promontory, jutting out into Lake Champlain and enclosing the cove that is home to Dudley’s boating and swimming areas. I have fond memories of fishing at North Point  and watching the moon rise over Vermont’s Green Mountains. This time, I was alone and content to enjoy the quietude, embracing the serene calm that Dudley experiences ten months out of the year.

I strung up my hammock, built a fire, and settled down to read Walking To Listen, a powerful coming-of-age personal narrative written by Andrew Forsthoefel. Andrew graduated from Middlebury in 2011 and in the year following walked across the U.S. – traversing from eastern Pennsylvania to California over the course of nearly a year. Though I am only partway through the book, I can recommend it, because I believe that his true anecdotes and thoughtful reflections speak to the empathy that is so lacking, and so necessary, in modern American culture and society.

I fell asleep with the fire still flickering and the stars above me shining bright.

Sleeping outside, I am always more in tune with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world. So I was not surprised when I began to stir at 4:30 in the morning, just as the earliest glow of the sunrise began to grow across the lake. I stirred the fire and quickly brought it back to full strength. I sipped coffee and at my overnight-oats. All the while, I watched the sunrise fill the sky.

Camp Dudley, May 2017
Camp Dudley, May 2017

I get conflicted when taking photographs in beautiful moments. I had not watched a sunrise like this in years, and my camera felt ancillary – a distraction from being present and enjoying the moment. But I can also draw a distinction between photography as a stand-in for memories and photography as an expression of art. I choose living memory, that which is encrypted into our brains, over static memory, that which is stored in hard drives, every time I can. But I also choose to be artistic, to improve my abilities, and to seek out things that make me proud.

Camp Dudley, May 2017

I cannot capture the essence of a sunrise, the vastness of a starry sky, or the warmth of a campfire in words alone, nor can my pictures to them justice. If given only one means of expression, I will always choose words. But part of why I enjoy this blogging process is because it allows for a unique combination of modes of communication.

Camp Dudley, May 2017

The day with my grandparents and the night at Camp Dudley served many purposes, but most of all, it was a reminder of how lucky I have been to go to school so close to my second home. The benefits have ranged from simply having a place to store my personal items to having access to a loving community of people who all take utmost pride in Camp Dudley and its mission. I am so appreciative for all of it, and I can say with full confidence that it has been one of the defining aspects of my college experience.

Morel, Morale, Moral

Morel, Morale, Moral

I knew nothing of foraging until I read Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book in which an entire section told the story of Pollen’s quest to learn to forage and prepare a meal from his findings. A particular chapter stuck with me, that being a springtime expedition he made into an area recently burned by forest fires to find morel mushrooms poking through the sooty soil. While I was sure that the mushrooms were tasty delicacies, I dismissed the idea of ever foraging on my own due to the painstaking attention to detail required to collect morels. Plus, Vermont does not experience forrest fires.

So, when I discovered a single morel enjoying the shade and mulch outside my bedroom window (pictured above), I was surprised for two reasons. First, I never thought I could “forage” for anything, let alone something so close to home. Second, I had written a poem about morels for my creative thesis, an uplifting piece that weaves threads of science and love through the images of hard-to-see mushrooms and burned forests. The fact that a morel appeared outside my window the day after I finished college seemed more than a stroke of random luck. No, it felt like I was receiving a message.

As I look forward to the future, I am ecstatic about the adventures I have planned for the next two months, and I am eager to move into my NYC apartment with Maddie and make the space our own. I do, however, fear some of the changes that will occur with moving to a city and beginning a job that will have me working “regular” hours. It will be a far cry from the freedom I felt this semester, in time, space, and creative expression.

Perhaps, the presence of the morel outside my window was telling me to listen to the message of my poem – to find love and beauty in unexpected places, to keep up my morale even when facing the unknown.

If this is the moral of my transition from Middlebury to New York, I think it is a good one.

And lastly, where there is one morel, there are often many more. The next morning, I found six more in close proximity, including the large one pictured below that is nearly the size of my hand. I am sure that once I settle into New York and begin to find the sparks that keep up my morale, there will be no stopping me.

A collection of morels

MORELS

mô’rel : an edible fungus that has a brown oval or pointed fruiting body
with an irregular honeycombed surface bearing the spores;
demonstrates an unusual propensity to grow abundantly in forests
which have been recently burned by wildfire

The air was so thick
that it tasted of char
when the wind sifted through the burn forest,
and as I remember,
it did so often.

She’d spoken of nitrates and microorganisms,
and the hollow tones of her voice
nestled between remnants
of organic matter.

Below the burn spring had arrived,
and above on the mountainside
the pine shrubs had not yet released
their winter brace —

and in the space between
she followed her own bearings,
knelt and felt the blackened earth
in the cool shadows of dead half-trunks,
saw color in the landscape
that wasn’t there —

and plucked up a morel.

Though I had followed blindly
I now felt the whimsical spontaneity of it all,
and the darkness of the burn lifted
as spring rose up the mountain.

And she placed the morel
in my palm
and traced my wrist,
a promise answered,
a prayer renewed,
a sooty touch now rooted
in the infinite hyphae
beneath our feet.

The End of College is Now Officially Inevitable

The End of College is Now Officially Inevitable

SUMMER TEMPS, A VISIT FROM PEPPER, & A ROUTE 100 DAY

The day of my final assignment at Middlebury College was Tuesday, May 16th. The chill of my 7 AM bike ride across campus to the Atwater dining hall did little to shake the glowing warmth. Inside, I knew that only a few hours remained between myself and the completion of my critical thesis defense, which would mark my final task as a college student. Outside, the clear blue skies signaled a swift rise in temperature – what I project to be the final departure from early spring chills.

That afternoon, as expected, I walked down the English Department hallway one last time. I had defended my thesis, and I was done.

First on the list of celebrations was the consumption of a special Hill Farmstead beer called Birth of Tragedy that I had acquired in March and was saving for this very moment. I was not bothered by the fact that I was drinking a heavy stout in summer-like temperatures, nor was I concerned with the foreboding name of the beer (it’s all down hill from here, right?!). I paired it with a Busch Heavy, the beer that kicked off my college experience, and enjoyed.

Celebration beers paired with my critical and creative theses.

I have not yet mentioned that I went home for Mothers’ Day and returned to school with my dog Pepper in tow. Her presence helps to ease the stress of finals week for Maddie and other friends, and we love taking her on our adventures. The following morning, I launched an epic Route 100 Day – one of the bucket list items that I wanted to complete before graduation, and an adventure that I highly recommend. Maddie, our friend Lisa, Pepper, and I kicked things off with mountain biking at Blueberry Lake in Warren. Discovering new trails combined with the first day on the mountain bike of the spring made for an epic morning, and when Pepper got tired, I had no issue slowing down to enjoy the sunshine, practice my photography, and hang out in the river while she cooled off.

Pepper after a few miles on the Blueberry Lake trails.

We enjoyed lunch at Mad Taco in Waitsfield after the ride – a mandatory stop along Route 100 that must include hot sauce sampling (all made in-house), outdoor seating, and perhaps a beer from Lawson’s.  After our meal, Maddie and Lisa returned to Middlebury while Pepper and I continued North.

Between Waitsfield and Stowe, which was my ultimate destination, Route 100 winds over hills, through valleys, and past the town of Waterbury – the original home of the Alchemist Brewery and its famed Heady Topper. Though the old brewery is not open to the public, Waterbury is still revered as a beer destination because of the breweries, restaurants, and stores that have popped up around the town. Though I did not stop everywhere, I would recommend Prohibition Pig for a bite to eat, The Reservoir for outdoor seating, and the Craft Beer Cellar for an outstanding selection.

Beyond Waterbury, I arrived at the Ben and Jerry’s headquarters and visitor center for a drippy ice cream cone, swung through the Cold Hollow Cider Mill to check out their apple products (although it was much busier when I had stopped last Fall), and stopped by the Cabot Cheese Annex Store for unlimited cheese samples. It was a wide-ranging and less-than-healthy culinary experience along Route 100, but it was prototypically Vermont, and I loved it.

The final stop was Stowe, a town that boasts a multitude of attractions and shops. Though many are overpriced, the two places I visited are both of excellent quality and not too pricey, either. First up was PK Coffee – the modern design, simple coffee menu, and screened-in porch made it an ideal place to recharge. Second, last but not least, was the Alchemist Brewery & Visitor Center. Gone are the days when scoring a single four-pack of Heady Topper means standing in line, tracking down delivery trucks, or just getting really, really lucky. The new brewery is visitor (and dog!) friendly, offers free samples, and has quantity limits that far exceed anything I could carry or afford. Plus, they offer a variety of beers besides just Heady; when I visited, they had Broken Spoke APA, Focal Banger IPA, The Crusher IIPA, and Beelzebub Imperial Stout. Coming home with a case or more was certainly not a bad way to stock up for my graduation party next weekend over in Westport, nor do mixed Alchemist four-packs make bad gifts.

The Alchemist Brewery, May 2017

I watched my car thermometer reach and then exceed 90 degrees as I turned south for Middlebury. The most direct route offers fewer exciting stops than Route 100 but plenty of appealing views. I especially like the stretch between Richmond and Hinesburg, with its winding dirt road and expanses that make you slow down and appreciate the quiet thrills of Spring in full bloom. My adventures like this one are not over, for I have a week-and-a-half until graduation and then a few weeks of Adirondack living in June, but they are waning. I approached this blog project to increase my own sense of mindfulness, but as I traversed Vermont’s roads, I realized that sometimes, the pursuit of mindfulness is sometimes just a big descriptor for the desire to have fun.

Richmond, May 2017
Cruising Over the Hump

Cruising Over the Hump

When the end is in sight, sometimes the best way to get there is with an epic effort. That’s how I felt on Sunday, for two different reasons.

First, Maddie and I teamed up to defend our title as Mixed Relay Champions of the Middlebury Maple Run. We had stiffer competition this year in the Middlebury Cross Country coach and her husband, and though the rain held off, stiff winds blew all over the course. My opening leg left a little to be desired, especially because I gave Maddie about a minute of time to make up over our competition during her leg, but I was proud of my effort and the way I ran the final mile. Fortunately, I had a talented and fast teammate who blew away her leg of the relay and ensured that we kept our title. We finished in 1 hour 30 minutes and pocketed $100 for our hard work!

I had little time to relish over the victory, though, because of a more pressing deadline. My critical thesis, the 40+ page comprehensive analysis of the fiction of Alistair MacLeod that I had been dreaming about since the Fall of junior year, was due just over twenty-four hours after the Maple Run ended. So, I set out to suspend my fatigue, compartmentalize the soreness in my legs, and complete my thesis.

At noon the next day, after forfeiting a few hours of sleep and consuming a few extra cups of coffee, I submitted a bound copy of my thesis to the English department. I felt as if there were very few works left in me, but that mattered little, because the final product was polished and coherent. The words that I had been trying to nail down since September finally fell into place in a way that was clear, presentable, and made me proud. Hopefully, I stumbled upon some profound statements about MacLeod’s work along the way.

My thesis, titled “The Heart’s Compass: Disorientation and Reorientation in the Stories of Alistair MacLeod” can be found on my Portfolio page and on the website I built that pays homage to MacLeod.

It is both rewarding and strange to complete a project that has enveloped so much of my time and thoughts over the past twelve months. I am glad that I kept a few journals going along the way, because the process is what I will remember years from now when I forget the details of my critical stance or finer points of my arguments. It was a long process, but I am glad I gave myself the time to thoroughly understand the material, to learn to love it not just for the brilliance of the storytelling but also for the layers of deeper meaning that unveiled themselves only after months of analysis. I am not quite finished, as I still have to defend my thesis, but I am glad that I have finished the biggest hurdle.

Trails, on Bike and Foot

Trails, on Bike and Foot

This final weekend of April marks the beginning of true “crunch time” for my academic work. Having submitted rough drafts last week, I now have a series of upcoming deadlines that will propel me to the end. I will turn in my secondary rough draft of my critical thesis to my advisor by Monday evening for his final revisions, complete my creative thesis by Wednesday, submit my completed critical thesis the following Monday, and defend my creative work later that day. Later that week, I will finish my final woodworking project and defend my critical thesis. And then I will be done.

Safe to say, I cannot let a day go by without making progress toward these goals. This weekend, however, I was not willing to pass up a few opportunities to see new trails and to enjoy the simple thrills of springtime in Vermont.

On Friday afternoon, the warmest day of the spring yet, I rode my mountain bike around Blueberry Lake in Warren, VT with Maddie and another friend, and we had a blast getting lost down dirt roads and ATV trails, crossing streams, taking in panoramic views of the Mad River Valley, and zipping down Prickly Mountain Road, which is lined with some of architect David Sellers’ finest work. We did our best to earn our dinner at Mad Taco in Waitsfield, and I even stumbled upon the elusive Lawson’s Triple Sunshine IPA – the best “triple” IPA I have ever had.

Sunday featured my first race of the year and my first ever trail race. The 10k mountain run at Sleepy Hollow in Huntington, VT featured just under 1400 feet of climbing, nearly 300 participants, and some light sleet at the start. What a difference one day can make in the weather – only in VT! The course was titled “The Dark Side” and certainly presented its challenges. I found the three major climbs to be brutal but rewarding, and I gained the most ground on the field on the steep descents. Overall, I placed 36th, and Maddie came in a couple minutes after me in 47th. She earned the prize, though, taking home 5th for women and 3rd in her age group!

Though I do not have an extensive racing calendar planned for the spring and summer, I know I will be competing fairly regularly up until my Germany trip. It was great to start the racing season off with a grueling course and a decent result. The Middlebury Maple Run is a week from today, and Maddie and I will be teaming up to defend our title in the mixed-relay category!

Theses Rough Drafts and a Family Weekend

Theses Rough Drafts and a Family Weekend

I am in the midst of finalizing my theses rough drafts and am finding it ironic that a rough draft has to be finalized at all, considering it is only a rough draft. But of course, the more presentable and polished the rough draft is, the easier it will be to achieve a final draft. And so I write, or I think about writing while I write a blog post. I do so while watching the greens and blues of a vibrant spring day, checking the scores of the Boston sports teams, and dreaming up post-graduation plans.

While the thesis work has consumed the majority of my time (hence, fewer blog posts), the past week or so has not been without highlights:

I built a cutting board and continued to dream up woodworking projects.

I presented my website titled The Stories of Alistair MacLeod at Middlebury’s Spring Symposium. The site pays homage to MacLeod – the focus of my critical thesis – and explores the geographies of his life and his stories. The mapping component of the website combines my interests in literature and cartography, and the cumulative product is a unique foray into digital storytelling that is atypical of an English thesis project.

I got to spend quality family time with my parents, my brother Sam, and my grandparents. We all stayed in Westport for a night – Sam to play in a soccer recruit camp at Middlebury, my grandparents to check up on the house after their two months in Florida, and my dad and I to sit in on preliminary summer staff meetings at Camp Dudley. We enjoyed some time in the new Leadership Barn and heard a detailed explanation about the new high ropes course that Dudley is adding – complete with a 400-foot zip-line and a giant swing that will soar over the lake.

And just this morning, I rode to Vergennes and back with Maddie, enjoying new roads, new views, and a coffee break at Three Squares Cafe.

Maple Street, Vergennes

As I turn back to my writing, I look forward to other events in the near future. I have two upcoming races, plans to mountain bike as soon as the trails open, and some IM Golf sessions that begin this week. And more momentous occasions lie in sight, too. The completion of my theses, the defenses, senior week, graduation parties, ADKs in June, a tentative trip (more details to come!), and the final send-off to Germany. I feel just as much excitement for the little moments as I do the huge celebratory events, and be they big or small, I will continue to write about them – mindful of how lucky I am.

More Questions than Answers

More Questions than Answers

Vermont has transitioned from Winter to Spring since I last wrote, and with it, I feel the end accelerating towards me. I am on track, continuing to garner compliments on my thesis progress from both of my advisors and to make time for fun activities on a daily basis, and yet I find myself teetering more frequently than I would like.

Events have passed by in a blur, and I hope to capture the most meaningful snippets in this post. Below are two photos from “Winter” – the first, from my final visit to Craftsbury over Spring Break (I think that brings my total Craftsbury days to five –not bad considering the distance from Middlebury); the second, from the April Fools’ Day snowstorm that dumped eight inches of wet powder on Westport.

Two days later, I was out on my road bike for the first time, and now that it has reached 75 degrees two days in a row, it is officially Spring. When I delineate in this manner, it all sounds so easy. But the first week-and-a-half of the second half of my final semester has been anything but straightforward. My thoughts exist in multiple planes and temporalities, seemingly at all times. Between two theses and their upcoming deadlines, woodworking projects, and the temptation of springtime activities, I have enough to crowd my vision – but that is just the present and nearest future. I am also considering my bucket list items and all of my commitments before graduation, the logistics of my post-graduation plans before I leave for Germany, and finally the reality of moving to New York and beginning my job there. It is not stress that I feel, but rather a desire to not let anyone down, especially myself. Every day that is unproductive or strays from the plan that I outline feels like a blow to this goal.

But I am moving forward, even if I allow myself to relish in long lunches on the Atwater patio, spend extra hours in the wood shop, or drink a beer on a weeknight. And I am allowing three facets of my life to spur me onwards. First, my fingers continue to write. The lulls in motivation to do so are there, but every day I am able to write something, and when I sustain focus, the results are impressive, even to me. Second, I have a new pair of running shoes – The Freedom ISO from Saucony (pictured below). They are the best running shoes I have ever owned, and they will be put to the test in races this spring, beginning with two that I have signed up for at the end of April and first weekend of May. With a spring in my step, I am getting fitter and faster. Third, and most notably, Maddie and I have signed a lease for an apartment in New York. We will be on the first floor of a newly renovated building on 58th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, and though the space is significantly smaller than our setup in the Townhouses on campus, it will be the first time we can call a space our own. We are particularly jazzed about the location (both of us can walk to work), the tiny-house concept applied in the design to maximize the utility of the space, and the small patio out back for sitting in the sun or grilling on the weekends. There will be many details to come about the apartment, especially as I begin to build furniture for it, but for now, I am thrilled to know that come September, Maddie and I will be settled into New York life together.

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