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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
A New (Temporary & Permanent) Home

A New (Temporary & Permanent) Home

I went up to Vermont this past weekend. I was not in search of anything in particular, but I found the process of driving the familiar country roads and returning to Middlebury to be both nostalgic and uniquely eye-opening. My college-aged self, the one who conceived of this blog a year ago and graduated in May, is now fixed in history and memory. It is, and will be, impossible for me to return to that version of myself ever again. Change is unavoidable, and certainly not something I fear or reject. I have learned and grown in the months since leaving Middlebury, and upon my return, I learned that the college and town has been changing too. There is construction in the downtown, a few shops have moved or closed, the co-op has expanded, the dining halls now require a swipe system, and the soccer team looks different than the squad that wore those same jerseys a year ago.

Of course, I went to Vermont to enjoy some of the same activities I loved so much when I was living there. I shared a few Vermont craft beers with friends, made coffee, breathed the crisp autumn air, and went on an outstanding trail run early on Sunday morning. I loved seeing so many people whom I care about and having that feeling reciprocated.

Chandler Ridge, October 2017

The trip was just what I needed, but as I returned to the city on Sunday afternoon, I felt a peculiar sensation of heading home. Vermont is a state that I have loved and a place I could so easily see myself down the road, but it is not my home right now. My home is on the twenty-eighth floor of a large building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And while I do not think I will be calling myself a New Yorker any time soon, I am proud of the space that Maddie and I have created for ourselves.

It is reasonably sized with big windows to let in light and a kitchen that is ours to use as we wish. We have a new bed that came in a box and plenty of design touches that evoke the rural settings both of us have loved all our lives. I feel comforted knowing that I was able to take bits of my homes over the years – the Berkshires, the Adirondacks, Vermont – and bring them into a metropolis of steel and concrete. It works for me.

This home is far from permanent, but it is the most permanent place I have lived since I left home in 2012 to set off on my gap year adventures and then attend Middlebury. Each dorm room there was a nine-month lease, and though I moved only short distances around campus over the four years, it was something new each year. Now I am settled in a space that I can call my own. It is a reassuring feeling amidst plenty that is still unknown.

The city is cooling down, days are getting shorter, and the leaves are just beginning to turn. I hope that in two weeks, when I head back up to Middlebury to celebrate my soccer coach’s thirty-third and final season at the helm, my timing aligns with peak foliage. I have a home in New York, and with the relative permanence that brings, I am beginning to wind down this blogging project. It has served its purpose and remained by my side over the course of twelve incredible months. The time and emphasis I have placed on the blog has not been insignificant – fifty-plus posts, a gallery of photos, my selected writing from four years at Middlebury, a few adventure guides and favorite selections. Most of all, it has been a running dialogue with myself – a means of capturing the highs and lows, the moments of elation and uncertainty, the beautiful little details and life-altering choices. I am proud of what I have produced, even if no one has read my posts or reveled in my photographs as much as I have, because it has pushed me to seek balance and mindfulness in my thoughts, choices, and actions.

I have two more posts lined up and then I will conclude the project. I plan to savor those last words and images, for they have meant a lot to me.

An oak coat rack that started in the back yard of a retired truck driver, found its way into the Middlebury wood shop, sourced Vermont maple tree taps for the hooks, and settled in New York City.
Design Thinking

Design Thinking

STARTING WITH SEEDS

At this time last year, I was relishing in my yearly three-week stretch of being a professional soccer player. That is, from the time my team gathered in late August to the first day of classes the second or third week of September, I devoted all of my time and energy to soccer. Preseason was always highly anticipated for so many reasons, and as a senior, I found myself relishing in my final opportunity.

And yet, with plenty of time to relax beyond the daily training sessions, I cherished the chance to reflect on the summer and mentally prepare for the school year. For my final year at Middlebury, I wanted to have clear goals in the back of my head that would remind me to take advantage of it all.

Peak autumn nearly a year ago in Middlebury

I did not know it at the time, but I was beginning to design my senior year. Goals, bucket lists, mindfulness, and clear intentions all contributed to the road map that I was laying out in front of me.

On the first day of classes, I stepped into my only course not required for my major and minor: Design Thinking. I expected it to be an easy class that I would prioritize last, but as I learned to understand the concept of design thinking and subsequently realize that I was already a design thinker, I found the coursework growing into something much larger than a series of assignments for the purpose of earning a grade – (this blog was a a product of that class, and here I am a year later, still pouring time and thought into it).

As I internalized the design thinking process, I found myself applying it to countless ideas and challenges. It factored into everything from my thesis projects to my job search to my woodworking, and especially here in this space. “I Would Be True” is a product of that Design Thinking course and the ideas we tossed around that classroom. The question: “What would you do with your own domain on the web?” I went through many iterations of designing this site and choosing what kinds of material I wanted to display, and even now, I am still tweaking it to suit my goals – always looking forward while continuously circling back to the original question.

Pawling, August 2017

I occupy a different space (physically and mentally) than I did when I conceived of this blog. This site has served its purpose for me, and though I am not putting the lid on it quite yet, I am thinking beyond this space. My job has provided me plenty to keep me busy, and New York offers endless possibilities for fun and adventure. But I also have new windows of time on my hands – during evenings and on the weekends. I have found myself considering new seeds of ideas, and as I begin to pursue other endeavors, I know that the design thinking process will help them grown. New York is a great place to start anew, and as I enter my first September that will not be dedicated to kicking off a soccer season and heading back to school, I want to keep my ideas flowing so that I remain enthusiastic and creative.

Design thinking, for me, is both a label that I can place on my desire to create and a process intended to steer my ideas into actions. I like knowing that I have it in my back pocket any time I get bored or stuck with something that is problematic. And I appreciate that every idea requires many iterations; I will not always get things right the first time, but I can find joy in the process of revision.

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

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
A Coffee Table, A Personal Manifesto

A Coffee Table, A Personal Manifesto

MY FINAL CLASS AT MIDDLEBURY

I am done with classes at Middlebury College. It came as a sudden halt to the whirlwind of action that has enveloped me over the past week. For the final class, my wood sculpture course, I was tasked to prepare an object that physically supports my weight and metaphorically supports a personal manifesto.

I am including images of the coffee table that I build, as well as the text of the manifesto that I delivered. The project involved acquiring the pine slabs in Hardwick, VT, storing them in Westport, NY, hand planing, sanding, and staining, learning to weld, and putting it all together. It is an object that I am proud of, and I am sure that it will remain with me for many years. But I will let the table and the manifest speak for themselves.

“Space, as told through pine, steel, fire, and coffee”

Growing up a child in Western Massachusetts and a product of summers in the Adirondacks, Middlebury seemed an obvious choice. Leaving home to go off to college is a leap for anyone to make, but rooting myself in a place so similar to my hometown did little to take me out of my comfort zone. As I settled into life in Vermont, I found it easy to seek out spaces of my own—an early morning run on the TAM, a quiet window seat in Axinn, a weekend overnight in the Adirondacks when I needed to escape. When life was challenging, I could always step into the warmth and comfort of my favorite spaces and take a deep breath.

Now I face a different leap—one that is more daunting and perhaps a bigger risk than anything I have previously chosen. This summer, I will begin a job in New York City and move into an apartment that is three times smaller than the dorm I live in now. It will be the first time in my life that I will be unable to look out my window and see mountains.

In New York, I fear the cold anonymity of being an outsider and the searing heat of living in perpetually overcrowded spaces. I fear slipping into a routine dictated by straight lines and a life where I spend the breaks at my job scrolling endlessly through my phone.

This coffee table is an effort to bring Vermont to New York City; the pine tabletop was given to me by a family friend who lives in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, and the steel is representative of the manmade construction that is New York. The table is my reminder to myself that the intersection between these two places can be a thing of beauty and ingenuity. Though I will not be able to sit in my back yard and build a fire, I can carry with me the creative spark and fuel for adventure that the natural world has given me all my life. I can also utilize my practice of mindfulness and intentionality as I make my space in New York my own. Though it may be small, I can always invite over a friend to sit around this table. We will put down our phones, share a cup of coffee, and make the space grow with every story we share.

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!

Coming Full Circle, With Help From the Nor’easter

Coming Full Circle, With Help From the Nor’easter

I often measure and differentiate winters, as I am sure many New Englanders do, through defining events or characteristics. Last winter, the record warm temperatures and meager snowfall were the highlight (lowlights), although I will always remember waking up in Waitsfield, VT over February Break to a foot of powder when the forecast only called for a dusting. The winter of my sophomore year was particularly epic, but the most memorable feature was the stretch of six weeks where temperatures did not rise above freezing in any location in the entire state of Vermont. As a freshman, the single moment I will always remember is the mid-March blizzard that dumped close to three feet on Middlebury’s campus – by far the biggest snowstorm of the year.

Despite wonderful wintery weeks over the past few months, and despite the most enjoyable skiing days of my life, I believe the Nor’easter that is currently dropping snow on Middlebury and the rest of the Northeast will define 2016-17 for me. For one, we already had half-a-day of classes canceled – a first for the college in decades. This is the largest storm of the winter, and it reminds me of the March blizzard from my freshman year. At that point in my life, I did not fully appreciate winter, nor did I know how to fully take advantage of it. Though I woke up this morning with mountain biking and trail running on my mind, I am in no way complaining about this storm. It means one more pow day for me and the potential for another handful of days on skis, especially if the temperatures stay as low as the long range forecast is predicting. I am glad winter decided that it had one last round left to fight and that it was able to unleash all its fury.

UPDATE: Having posted this yesterday evening in the midst of the storm, I had no idea how much snow it would dump, and I was blown away to wake up to nearly two feet in Middlebury – with reports of 25-30 inches at Mad River Glen and 40+ in the Adirondack High Peaks region. Even better, it made my (potentially / probably) last pow day at MRG the best one yet. Cruising in knee deep snow on the groomers felt like floating, and bouncing around trees was a pillowy joy ride. It was the deepest snow I had ever skied, and one of the most enjoyable afternoons of my years as a Middlebury student.

Short But Oh So Sweet

Short But Oh So Sweet

I fear this winter will not again reach the heights of this past week. The warm temperatures and rain forecasted for the next few days won’t make it difficult to spend time getting to better know my thesis carol, and while I’m there, I can draw inspiration from my recent adventures to Mad River Glen and Craftsbury – cumulatively, my best week of skiing in the past two years.

Blue skies and deep snow made for excellent photo opportunities. Above: riding the single chair at Mad River Glen, February 14. Below: the barn in Murphy’s Field at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, February 17. This one is perhaps my favorite I’ve been able to share on the blog thus far.

Craftsbury, VT
Last First Day

Last First Day

SITUATING SPACES FOR CREATIVITY AND CREATION

How is one supposed to feel when commencing his or her final semester of college?

Today was truly my last first day as a Middlebury student, although I certainly didn’t spend it doing typical first-day-of-classes types of things. No bookstore visits or dropping off “add cards” to the registrar. Instead, I battled the snow day crowds at Mad River Glen and found the best powder turns and tree skiing of the season. The East has been getting hammered with snow recently, and this storm was the icing on the cake. 14-18″ of fresh, fluffy white stuff at the best ski mountain anywhere. I was fortunate to have a few friends join me, and we quickly concluded that it was the best first-day-of-classes ever.

The reason I was skiing and not inside listening to a professor? I have only three courses this semester, two of which are theses, and the third being a woodworking class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I take independent work seriously – (see the athletic nutrition guide that Maddie and I made during Junior year) – but I trust myself enough at this point to know that I won’t procrastinate away my time. As I set aside wide open blocks of time each week, I know that if I can use these hours productively, I can afford myself timely adventures. Taking advantage of the best skiing conditions of the year was an adventure of which I wholeheartedly approved. So will be midweek overnights in Westport, hikes in the ‘Dacks, a few more powder days (hopefully!), and random excursions with close friends.

Now as I ponder the magnitude of launching a semester that I have anticipated so eagerly and for so long, I realize my biggest challenge and priority will be to carve out space. I’ve given myself time and trusted myself to use it productively, and to do so, I’ll need to do my best to find spaces that encourage creativity, eliminate distractions, and allow for sustained focus. These spaces are physical – establishing a thesis carol is high on my to-do list – and temporal – creating routines that give me the best chance to think clearly and operate efficiently. Keeping a daily “theses grind” journal of morning check-ins will be a way for me to stay on track, and dedicating my “20% time” to this blog will also give me purpose and opportunities for reflection. And if I stay on it, that will mean a comprehensive critical thesis, wild and poignant poems, more time in the wood shop, and the freedom to take adventures.

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