Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Birthday To You, You Live In A Zoo

I did not expect a great deal out of my birthday.  My parents are coming to visit this weekend, and my friend Laura, who's talked for YEARS about us doing something wonderful and exotic for our 25th birthdays, will be here mid-July.  (A weekend in Pocahontas County is probably not what she was envisioning, but we'll see what kind of shindig we can cobble together when that rolls around.)

I was up extra early to drive Vista into Bath County, VA for her spay procedure.  She spent the night there, and it was so very odd not to have my second shadow, as Kat calls her, all day.  At about midday, Tamar mentioned a hiking trip, and while on any other day I would have shunned the prospect of driving to Lewisburg on a whim, I decided that it was my birthday, dang it, and I was going hiking.  So Em and I drove up, met Kat, and then Tamar and I headed to the Greenbrier State Forest!  (When I got to Tamar's place, the banner in the top photo was waiting for me.  Happy Kelly.)
Don't you love Tamar's leash-as-belt styling?  I was very impressed.  Vista missed out on the trip, but Barley had a good time!
The original plan called for dinner at Biscuit World, but in the end I played the birthday girl card and changed the venue to the Irish Pub.  I am super glad I did, too!  They had Woodchuck Cider on draft (which I got for free when it was mistakenly left off of my check.  I pointed out the error, and Tamar hinted heavily "Maybe it was because it's your birthday!" and the waitress decided to run with it) and owner Patrick O'Flaherty kept up a stellar stream of songs in English and Gaelic, switching between so many different instruments I stopped keeping track.  I'll definitely be going back there!

For those of you who were concerned, Vista is now home and recovering.  I was worried that she'd have a bad night, but--unsurprisingly--everyone at the clinic fell in love with her and gave her lots of attention, which I think kept her worrying to a minimum.  I'm pretty sure I had a worse case of separation anxiety than she did!  I'm not going to lie, I said goodnight to her, then realized I was talking to an empty room.

Thanks for all of the birthday well-wishes, on here and Facebook!  It felt almost like being at home.

*Note: the title of this post was totally inspired by the 20 minute conversation I had with my mom, the Small Mammal Interpreter and Naked Mole Rat Aficionado (she's also quite fond of Golden Lion Tamarins), about Black-Footed Ferrets while she was on her way to the Zoo.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Which My Life Resembles a Sci-Fi Flick

This blog was briefly going to be called "Holler Back," based on a conversation I had with a real estate agent while trying to find a house down here.  I'd gone so far as to put a header together before I decided on something a bit more me (both snails and whales are things which make me smile, always).  After this past week, however, I found myself contemplating yet another name change.  Something like "Adventures in Moths Flying Into My Eyes" or "Invasion of the Bat-Sized Bugs."  But more on that in a moment.  First, photos:
This little dude paid us a visit last week, and again yesterday.  He's sweet as blueberry pie and I think must live somewhere close.  He came in, escaped the sun for a spell, drank some of Vista's water, and then went on his merry way.  Yesterday, with Vista at the vet, he stopped by, accepted a few treats, and then went off to get into some trouble with another little friend.  I don't know his name, but I call him Speck.
Photo from the square dance.  I'm on the left, and the lovely redhead next to me is Renee, another VISTA.  Tamar took this photo with my camera.
The second band which played for us at the square dance.  They were all instructors at Allegheny Echoes.  The second fellow from the left, on the fiddle, is Chance McCoy.  We heard him play Friday at the Instructors Concert, and I picked up his CD.  He's amazingly talented (but I should note that EVERYONE we heard at the concert was!).
Photo from the concert.  It was standing room only when we got there!  This was the last band of the night, who called themselves the Big Brothers.  I wish I could find out more about them!  The thing I love about bluegrass is that everyone is always having a fantastic time.  It was probably a good thing I was in the back, since I could not keep still in my seat with all that music playing.
Which brings us back to the bugs.  I've been hit by moths while watching tv, reading in bed, and--in one particularly hilarious instance--in the midst of washing my face.  But this guy?  Totally took the cake.  After the concert Friday night, Tamar and Jerry spent the night with us.  I was in another room when I heard Tamar call out to me.  "Kelly, there's a moth the size of a bat in here."  I laughed.  We'd had moths, sure, and even some big ones.  But bat-sized?  Then I walked into the living room.
Yeah.  This doesn't even accurately do it justice, since my hand was held back to keep from scaring it off.  I am pleased to say that by using a salad bowl and a Netflix envelope, this fellow was successfully relocated outside of the house.  Which would have been the end of our bug adventures except that the next night, Emily discovered a beastie at least as large as this guy in her room.  I hesitate to call it a moth, because while it had wings, it also had PINCERS ON ITS FACE.  My unholy horror aside, it was also successfully relocated.
And here's your moment of zen.  Vista at the Hillsboro Little Levels Heritage Fair on Saturday.  She was about the only dog there, and being as quiet and sweet as she is, was approached constantly by people looking to give her love all day.  Good times for a pup.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Which Sawdust Flies

I am apparently taking a break from my huge photo-heavy posts of late.  I frequently have a lot of downtime at work, but not today!  Today in the woodshop we have Stan Cook of Mestari Designs, giving the guys (students, experienced woodworkers, and board members alike!) a quick and dirty lesson on how to make gorgeous pieces using a lathe.  I say dirty because, I mean, just look at poor Colt's arm in the photo above.  There's sawdust everywhere!  But the results will definitely be worth it, as you can tell by looking at some of the pieces for sale on the Mestari website.

Quick Square Dance Post

This will be a quick one (i.e., fewer than 10,000 photos).  Last night I went to a square dance at the Opera House, thrown as a part of this week's Allegheny Echoes music camp.  Tamar and Renee, another Greenbrier County VISTA, came to town for the occasion and we had SO MUCH FUN, y'all!  Lots of photos were taken, but the best are on Tamar's camera, so I'll save the larger post for when I have those to show.  For now, here's a little video of the dance!
Tamar, Renee, and I are in the top group, closest to the stage.  I'm wearing a black skirt and a white tank top.  Two bands played, and they were both amazingly good.  I hope I'll have the opportunity to go to another square dance at some point this year!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scenic Sunday

On Sunday, I decided to take Vista on a hike.  I had no clue WHERE to take her, but Mrs. H had given me vague instructions on how to get to a pretty river at one point, and they involved the Highland Scenic Highway.  I'd never been, and it seemed a good place to start.  The Highway bisects the Monongahela National Forest, and is peppered with overlooks and clearly marked trailheads.
We stopped at all of the overlooks we passed, because why not?  This is from the first one.  I love the sky out here.  It's so unbelievably blue.  When I take a photo like this, I won't even touch it in Photoshop, for fear of spoiling that perfect blue.
We gave the Williams River Trail a try.  We went right first, until it got too overgrown, then backtracked and headed left.
The Williams River (no relation to me).  I've heard tell that the fishing is good.
This was Vista's first time off the leash on a trail, and she was great!  She'd run ahead a little ways, then turn around and come back as soon as I called or she realized she couldn't see me.
This is the face of a ridiculously happy dog.

After walking that trail for a little while it, too, got a little overgrown, so we headed back to the car.  One of Vista's many fears is that I will get in the car without her and drive away, and for some reason that fear kicked into overdrive after our hike.  Rather than waiting for me to open the back door like usual, she leaped in as soon as I opened the front passenger door, and gleefully got muddy pawprints all over the front of my car.  There was even mud on the gearshift.  Just another normal day with Vista's neuroses.
Covered in mud, we drove on until I saw a sign for Tea Creek.  It sounded interesting, and when I crossed the little one-lane bridge over it, I was so enchanted that we stopped.  It was shallow and filled with easy-to-navigate boulders, so we hopped on in.
We made a brief stop for photos and a bite to eat.
Vista was so funny on these rocks.  She'd hop from boulder to boulder, then splash happily into a deeper section of creek, then scramble out onto the banks and start the whole wild loop again!

Finally, now that we were wet AND muddy, we headed back to the house.
Stopping once more at an overlook, of course.  Sometimes I think about home, about the crowded suburban area I was born and raised in, and find it almost impossible to reconcile that place with this one.  It seems impossible that the two worlds could coexist, much less be located mere hours from one another!

But this is where I live now.  This astounding beauty is my backyard.  Or, at the very least, the backyard of the lovely green-thumbed woman who lives next door and lets me play around in her garden from time to time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Greater Glimpse of Lewisburg

 Okay, not MUCH more of a glimpse, although I think you can see more in this photo of the theatre than you could in the polaroid.
I love this sign.  I've almost taken a photo of it every time I've been in Lewisburg, but stopped because I could never find a composition I liked.  Turns out I just needed to wait until dark.
Super, super jealous if Tamar's plants!
Barley and Vista, hanging out.  They got along really well together, and we think some of Vista's quietness (she makes almost no noise at all) rubbed off on Barley (who makes a great deal of noise, all the time).  Unfortunately, the influence might have worked in reverse, too--Vista started barking at the rain Saturday night!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Which I Fall In Love With Polaroid. Again.

I'm sure you've noticed that I'm something of a shutterbug.  I almost always have a camera on me, sometimes two or even three.  I have a large Canon DSLR, a tiny Sony Cybershot, a 40-year-old Yashica SLR which belonged to my mom, a Diana and a Holga (both of which shoot lomographic film), and a Polaroid 600-series.  I love each camera for different reasons, but my favourite, hands-down, is the Polaroid.

I got into Polaroid photography knowing that the company had announced that it would no longer be making instamatic film and that the end was near, but I just couldn't help myself.  I love the instant aspect of it, I love watching the film as it develops in my hand, and I adore how fleeting it is.  Polaroid film isn't cheap (especially now), so if you take a crummy photo, that's a few dollars wasted.  However, if you get a good one, oh, but it feels wonderful.  It's like you've someone beat the odds, triumphed over the gods.  It is for me, anyway.  The only place currently making film for my type of camera is The Impossible Project, and I've been eager to try it out.  My mom was kind enough to send me a couple of packs for my birthday, so I got the opportunity much sooner than I thought!

I thought I'd finished with the last of my color film, but there was still some left in the camera, and as much as I was dying to check out the new film, I couldn't bring myself to waste the old.
This is my spider plant, Tooey.  Named after the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, Tooey has beat the odds and my black thumb and stayed quite alive, thank you.  He's a lovely little plant.
Vista, of course.  She actually obeyed the "stay" command and let me get far enough away to snap this.  She's learning, slowly.  Don't you love her star?
I spent Friday night in Lewisburg with Tamar.  It was so strange to be in a town with any sort of nightlife!  We'd gone to see a concert, but were unsure whether it was worth the $10 cover change, so we sat on a bench listening to it for awhile.  Across the street was the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, all lit up.  The shot came out dark, but I find it a bit enchanting.  The Greenbrier's playing The Seafarer right now, which I saw in London and adored.  If you're in the area, there are one or two dates left!
The next morning, we met Jerry and Long-Lost Cousin Lilly in town at the farmer's market, where I realized that my color film was gone and finally broke the new stuff out.  I gotta say, I'm pretty much in love with it!  It's got this gorgeous sepia tone that I can't get enough of!
This is Barley, Tamar's dog.  Vista came along with me and the two dogs had a fantastic time!  I think he looks wonderful on film.
Today, I decided to take Vista for a hike.  I drove along the Highland Scenic Highway, and then we hiked a little along the Williams River Trail.  It was pretty overgrown, so we got back in the car and drove to Tea Creek.  We didn't really find a trail there, I just sort of parked on the side of the road and we hopped in the creek.  Vista had the time of her life, hopping from boulder to boulder and splashing as much as she could in the water.  I've got photos on my Sony camera, too, but those will have to wait until Monday.

All in all, the weekend has been wonderful and so is this film!  Expect many more polaroids in the future!

A Story About My Dad, and Moose

Years ago, when the family took a vacation to Alaska, my father decided that it was his goal in life to see a moose.  He was pretty determined, anyway.  He also decided, seemingly out of the blue, that if the moose could only hear his newly discovered moose call (it goes something like "M-M-M-M-M-MOOOOOOSE!"), they would be compelled to appear.  So he gave this moose call.  All the time.  In public.  Effectively mortifying his two teenaged children.

It was fantastic.  Now fast forward the better part of a decade.  My parents were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, near where my brother will be working this summer.  In the middle of the day, I get a phone call--it's my dad.

"Kelly!" He shouts--my dad is pretty much always shouting--"Kelly, guess what we just saw!"

"Was it a moose?" I asked.  They were in Wyoming.  It was a fair guess.

"It was a M-M-M-M-M-M-MOOOOOOOSE!"

It's moments like that which confirm that I am most definitely my father's daughter.  We're just too weird to be related to anyone else.

Happy Father's Day, Pop!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recent Docs

When I first committed to being a VISTA in Pocahontas County, I did a lot of contemplating about what my new life would be like.  I would be living in a town much smaller than what I was used to, and a quick Google Maps search informed me that the nearest cinema or bookstore was an hour's drive over a mountain away.  I tend to be a big tv watcher (I love anything with a strong story and compelling characters and have watched the entirety of quite a few series), but I knew that the house I was living in did not have cable, and I wasn't at all sure what the deal with internet access would be (we're getting it today, actually--yay!).  Between the local library and my mother's Kindle, which I thoughtfully hijacked, I figured I was pretty well set for books.  But I know myself and how I react to boredom, so I decided to take the next step--I signed up with Netflix.

At first, I filled my queue with episodes of a couple different beloved British murder mystery series, and was content.  Then one happy day, I stumbled across what would become my favourite category on the Netflix site: Documentaries.  I love to learn, but have trouble getting into nonfiction books.  However, having information presented in an audio or visual medium is right up my alley.  I've seen more than a few docs over the last weeks, and since they've become such an important part of my life, I think I'll periodically share them here, just in case anyone else decides to check them out!

Cracking the Maya Code - This tells the story of the centuries-long effort to decipher the written language of the Maya people.  I have always loved the visual look of Maya glyphs and my brief visit to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula only whetted my appetite for more information.  The doc, produced by PBS and only 50 minutes long, is FASCINATING.  I could watch it over and over again.  Of course, the story it tells is the main reason it's so interesting, but the film is clear-cut and flows very well.  Best of all, watching it is super easy.  It's available in its entirety on Hulu, Youtube, or on  You can also get the DVD from Netflix or watch it streaming.

My Grade: A+

The Rape of Europa - This film is a must-see for lovers of art and World War II buffs alike.  Telling the story of the art stolen by the Nazis during the War, as well as the efforts by groups such as the Monuments Men to save as much of Europe's treasures as possible, this is a feature-length film (2 hours) and makes every second count.  This is an extremely compelling doc, which unfolds like a well-written drama.

My Grade: A+

Expo: Magic of the White City - I added this to my queue even though the reviews it got on Netflix weren't great, because I love the history of world's fairs, and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in particular.  Because I am a giant nerd.  The information was good, but the cinematography was laughably bad at times.  Especially one bit of film which was used over and over again of a belly dancer.  It wouldn't have been quite so irritating except that it was a modern recording so it stuck out like a sore thumb and the maker used it in odd places.  If you really want to learn about the Expo, read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  All the info you could want about the fair, plus a serial killer!
My Grade: C

The World's Greatest Fair - Now this is a film about a world's fair done right.  Unlike the previous fair, I knew next to nothing about the 1904 fair, beyond what I learned from my many viewings of Meet Me in St. Louis as a girl.  I loved this film.  It relied on contemporary photography in a sort of Ken Burns-esque way (and did it well) rather than trying to fill in with modern film clips like the ones which irked me so much in Expo.  It's broken into several chapters, many of which deal with the rampant racism present, whether intentional or not.  All in all, I learned a ton from this film and loved every minute of it!

My Grade: A

The Vikings - This is another PBS-made documentary, originally appearing on NOVA, but unlike Cracking the Maya Code, it's twice as long.  I will admit knowing next to nothing about the Vikings, and except for a great admiration for Norse carvings, have never had much of an interest in learning more.  I don't know what made me add this to my queue, but I am SO glad I did.  It was a great film, entertaining and informative.  They used a fair amount of clips of modern reenactments of events, but they were done so well that they didn't bother me a bit.  Although it was made in 2000, the companion website has a lot of neat things, such as a video of a simulated Viking village and a program that writes your name in Runes.  Fun!
My Grade: A

Others I watched: Journey into Amazing Caves (B), and Grey Gardens (DNF - Did Not Finish)

Please let me know what you think of this--I had fun putting it together, and would love to do others (I have quite a few more docs in the old queue).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Journal of the Traveler

This is Adam, 11 years ago (you might recall a more recent photo here).  Our relationship has had its ups and downs.  We were friends, then I hated him, then we were best friends, practically inseparable.  And that was just high school.  In my life, Adam has been a bane and a savior, but he's been there for a long time.  11 or so years, in fact.

A little while ago, Adam had a dream that he was 14 again, on his first day of high school.  The only difference was that he knew everything then that he knows now.  He was being given a gigantic UNDO button.

"Haven't you ever wished you could do it all again," he asked me, "knowing what you know now?"

"God, no," I responded, "Knowing that it's over and done with is enough for me."

"All I could think about was the things I could do differently.  The possibilities."  He went on.  "What about 9/11?  We started high school in 1999, two years before the attacks happened.  What if you could prevent them?"

I thought about it.  "I hate time travel stories."

Fortunately, Adam doesn't.  And rather than spend the day musing about it, he decided to turn the odd and troubling dream into a short story, told entirely through electronic modes of communication, many of which were only in their infancy in 1999.  Blogs, e-mail, text messages, and wikipedia entries are only a few of the methods he chose, and they work very well.

I urge you to check out his story, Journal of the Traveler.  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  I unloaded a ton of suggestions on him after reading it, so perhaps it will continue to evolve.  I'll be sure to let you know if it does!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Which More Weekend Adventures Occur

This was a pretty full weekend!  I wrote about Saturday yesterday, but completely skipped Friday and didn't even get to Sunday.  Here we go!

Saturday, we had a meeting with all of the VISTAs in Pocahontas County.  There was only one person I hadn't met, and she'd just arrived, so it was a fun time.  I'd gotten all my hours in already, so I had the rest of the day off!  After hanging out at the library, researching and writing the aforementioned e-mail ("aforementioned" is one of my all-time favourite words.  Up there with "albeit" and "behoove"), I rescued my poor abandoned dog from her cushy prison and walked into town.  Armed with a book of West Virginia ghost stories (spooky things are a personal weakness), the plan was to grab some food at the Dirtbean, then walk to the river to read and eat.
My lovely roommate Kat, rather than making the long drive into Lewisburg after the meeting, had taken up residence in the cafe and was essentially "working from home."  We don't have internet at the house, so the Dirtbean often feels practically like home.  Poor Vista was forced to hide in the shade outside while I waited for my food, but finally, after watching the world's largest family get fed (not really), we set out, wrap-in-hand.

The river was gorgeous (see top photos), and very shallow.  Since Vista is part lab (probably), I'd wondered if she would prove to be a water dog, but since she'd never shown any interest is jumping into our little creek.  I decided to test her.  I waded out into the river with her on the leash, and she was interested, but hesitant.  Which is pretty typical.
We walked back to shore, and I sat myself on a tree root and pulled out my book.  Vista, off her leash, wandered back to the river but didn't go in.  So I grabbed my camera, hid my bag in the tree trunk, and waded back out.  This time, Vista wasted no time, immediately darting about, splashing happily through the water.  She tried to make friends: no avail.  She had just the best time, though!  I've always wanted a water dog.
(She's actually standing in the river here, it's just so shallow that it's growing things)
Fortunately we'd walked, and by the time we got back to the house she was almost dry.  (Have I mentioned how much I love Vista's fur?  It is the easiest to clear and dry.  So long as one doesn't mind that it gets EVERYWHERE.)  But the best part of the whole experiment was how much it exhausted her.  I had a documentary waiting for me back at the house (I am a big nerd, in case you hadn't noticed), and in no time at all she was conked out.
On Sunday, I baked cheese biscuits, using a box mix I found on sale and all of the leftover cheese in the house (some shredded cheddar and a Mexican mix) and made a gigantic pasta salad (lunch for weeks!).  In the afternoon, the roomies and I drove into Lewisburg to make a Wal-Mart run.
(Do not be concerned: we were parked when this was taken)
First we stopped in town to see what was open.  The Bookstore, below, was not open, but one clothing store was.  We all tried on $50 shirts and $100 dresses, then went to Wal-Mart and bought $7 shirts and $20 dresses instead.  It is the VISTA way.
All in all, a very good, very full weekend.  There are other stories to tell, such as the tale of Vista's very determined gentleman caller (who arrived via the creek, if you can believe it), but I haven't discussed with her whether she wants me to share it.  After all, a girl's got to have SOME secrets.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saturday, What A Day

I generally find vestiges from earlier times fascinating, and covered bridges are no different.  That I'd never seen one in person before Saturday never made any nevermind to me.  I'd read somewhere about the Locust Creek Covered Bridge and how it was the only covered bridge left in Pocahontas County--I'd even found it on my county map and circled it in purple marker.  I didn't want to forget to check out this bridge.  Well, while I was driving home from my excursion to the Droop Battlefield, I noticed a Locust Creek Road.  Since I had no plans, I decided to turn down the road and see if I couldn't find myself a bridge.
And hey, guess what!
I freely admit to getting really spooked while walking through it, but it was so worth it.
It's no longer in use, of course, and the modern bridge is to the right of it in this photo.
I loved these stones, laid out on either end of the bridge.

I made another discovery along Locust Creek Road, actually.  If you've ever seen the movie Patch Adams, with Robin Williams, you might recall that the real Patch established a clinic in the wilds of West Virginia.  I don't think I ever knew where it was located, which is a claim I can no longer make.  Here's the sign as you're driving from the bridge...
And here's the front!
I don't know if it's the power of suggestion or what, but as I stepped out of the car to take these, I was seized with a fit of sneezes.  Well played, Patch Adams.  Well played.