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Saturday, February 27, 2010

All Natural Goodness

Yesterday I arrived home just as the sun was beginning to break beneath the clouds and I had a feeling that a beautiful sunset was a definite possibility. Excitedly, I retrieved my camera equipment and arbitrarily picked a direction, just like I do every time. Sometimes by chance my travels provide an abundance of photogenic opportunities and other times not so much.

My travels yesterday would turn out to be not as photogenic as hoped. I ended up riding into an unexpected rain storm and emerging from it along the Canadian boarder in time to catch the sunset just a little too late. The faded reds in the sky signaled that I had missed an incredible scene and now, as the rain cleared, it was just too late and too dark to capture photos. Maybe I was just trying to hard. I just can't force taking a good photo... It has to happen on its own.

This photo was taken while I was driving. Yes... behind the wheel, with a camera in my hand, on my way to work. We will not discuss safety and traffic hazards at this juncture either. But I actually LOVE this photo, like that photo I took with my cell phone another disappointing morning a while back when I didn't have my "professional camera". No one that drives on that road shown above would expect that it could make such a great photo, especially where I snapped it. When something is natural and instinctual is when it seems to be the most beautiful. You just can't force good...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cardboard Sled Racing and Snowy Annihilation

What is more fun on a snowy winter afternoon in a small town than neighbors getting together for an old fashioned sled race? Seriously, I can't think of anything! In Island Pond once a year a good chunk of the town gathers at Applebee Hill (what a cool name for a sledding hill!) to show off their cardboard creations and then put them to the test.

All the sleds were homemade creations, completely made out of cardboard. There was not a contest for best sled (there should have been!) but most everyone put in tons of effort painting and creating a stylish sled. A guy on the fire department created one for himself that resembled a firetruck!

Applebee Hill is quite a hill and perfect for sledding. The course we lined off and tons of spectators gathered to watch their neighbors, children, and relatives careen down the hill for pride and bragging rights. And just like NASCAR, there was the draw of the inevitable whipe-outs that would ensue.

Pardon all the junk on my camera lens....

The main show was the children sledding. Kids were bracketed off in a form of double elimination racing until one sledder remained. Nothing draws spectators like watching little kids careen down a hill at top speed and watching their cardboard sleds upend just before reaching the finish line. Its kind of sadistic, like the little two year old in the video above, but don't worry... he wasn't hurt.

And then, after dozens of wipe-outs, and one ambulance call (don't worry it was nothing serious....) the adults stepped up to the plate. Instead of bracketing off like the children and doing double elimination they all decided to race at once (notice the guy dressed in his fire gear and goggles!) Twenty or so sleds, side by side, all going down the hill at the same time. We all knew it was going to be mayhem and everyone of us was excited.

Of course, there was a massive collision of sleds, cardboard was ripped, and helmets flew off (fire helmets that is). It looked like a mass casualty incident at the bottom of the hill, but everyone was all smiles. Both the sledders and spectators were laughing so hard I am sure it echoed across town. Nothing brings a small town together like a little harmless carnage in the snow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I spy.... Winter Sport Edition.

Look closely....

Do you notice anything in this photo? Maybe nothing jumps out at you right away. It is taken from far away. This is a photo of Mount Pisgah in Westmore Vermont. It is one of the mountains that makes up the famous Willoughby Gap. Its a fabulous area full of recreational options year round and those giant ice coulombs are the center of a unique winter en devour. Did you figure out what's special about that photo yet? It's full of ice climbers! Can you see them now?

There were NINE ice climbers scattered across the giant walls of ice. I circled them because it is very hard to see them! I was down along the lake shore when I took this photo, because there really is no better vantage point of that face of the mountain. Even from that far away you could hear the climbers yelling to one another.

I enlarged a couple of the climbers because it really is hard to see them, but they are there! Mount Pisgah is actually a world renown ice climbing location in an unexpected location and about the only place I know where you can watch ice climbers in the North East.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Hierarchy of the House

While I don't have children (yet...) I do have three dogs. Yes, THREE dogs. They are all INDOOR dogs too, especially because a good part of the year the temperatures do not allow for dogs to be outdoor pets. So with having three indoor dogs they have developed their own sense of hierarchy when it comes to designated snoozing spots, which I find quite comical...

The biggest dog gets the most uncomfortable, smallest chair. Naturally. Poor Sutton, he is such a mild mannered happy dog that he doesn't put up a fight. Boy that looks uncomfortable, but he doesn't seem to care one bit.

Then Clyde, the male beagle, gets the comfy recliner. No one ever really uses the recliner, its mostly there to fill in space in the living room or double as a dog bed.

And the smallest, most high maintenance, and the only female dog, Bonnie, gets the large luxurious couch. Notice how she sprawls out as long as she can so she takes up the most amount of space that she can. Typical female... (In a tongue-in-cheek way. ha.)

Don't let the dogs fool you either. We have several dog beds, one for each of them. Usually they go neglected in favor of the furniture. Can't say I blame them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Photography Anticholinergic

My creative juices seemed to have dried up, which, in a tongue-in-cheek way, is what anticholinergics do - dry things up. I have been studying far too much pharmacology and forgetting too much about photography, but I guess that is to be expected when I am paying thousands of dollars to studying pharmacology, among other nursing related subjects, and not very many people are paying me to take photos. I'm a realist, but I also am a photographer so I am feeling the need to adjust my aperture, snap my shutter, and venture outside with my camera. It may not be the ideal condition right now, but there has to be SOMETHING to photograph. I just have to get my creative juices flowing again....

This winter hasn't been a TOTAL loss. I did enjoy an escapade around Echo Lake in Charleston one very cold afternoon. As usual the "No Trespassing" signs were no deterrent for my camera and I (although I do not condone trespassing... "Don't Do what Donny Don't Does"). I wandered around the numerous closed up summer camps that were along the shore line. There is just something about photographing these camps. Seeing them in their frigid abandon is almost unnatural, but very beautiful.

The sunset wasn't as spectacular as I had hoped, but I did manage to take advantage of a rare moment this winter where the sun is visible. It seems like such a long time until the green returns and with it beauty, but at least I have taken advantage of one afternoon this winter...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thin Ice

Up here in Northern Vermont we have a TON of ice. Almost two feet of it here in Island Pond. Even with that amount of ice I am still nervous and have reservations (even though they are ignored) about driving our vehicle out on the ice. There is just something about having fathoms of water beneath our very nice and expensive truck that I dislike, but then again I am the nervous type. But there is nothing like a trip to Lake Winnipesaukee to put everything in perspective.

The ice down there is NOT almost two feet. Not even close. There were open pools of water all across the lake. What I and my brazen husband, who regularly drives our truck out on lakes, did not expect to see as we drove along the lake's edge were dozens of shanties and vehicles mere yards from open water. Excuse me, but that takes some balls.

There can't be more than a couple of inches where those vehicles are, especially that SUV with a trailer. How they work up the nerve to drive out there I don't know. 'Thin Ice' signs dotted the edge of the lake and just beyond those shanties was another large pool of open water. As Shawn politely said to me... "maybe now you'll nag at me less for driving our truck out on Island Pond."

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm Married to a White Helmet

In honor of the upcoming Valentines Day and keeping with my recent habit of fire related posts I am dedicating this post to my White Helmet Husband.

Anyone in the fire service knows the significance of a white helmet. It signifies authority, command, and chiefdom. When you are a little peon firefighter you never question the experience and authority of a white helmet lest you want to roll hundreds of feet of hose. My husband has claimed a white helmet on our fire department here in town for the better part of a decade, something that makes me proud, and love him even more.

Sometimes having a white helmet husband isn't isn't easy. He is the last to leave the station after a call, first to arrive for a meeting, attending functions and impromptu committees at a moment's notice, and involved in all sorts of headache-causing politics. But that doesn't seem to bother him. In fact, he loves it.

Whenever we are at a fire scene he makes sure we get to experience the most firefighting we can, the whole time explaining fire behavior and firefighting techniques. With that helmet on he is transformed into a confident and strong commanding officer. Is it weird that I swoon when he tells me to get my pack on and grab a nozzle or when he is talking firefighting strategy with other chiefs?

Sometimes I have to pay attention to what I am doing on a fire scene because its so easy to get caught up watching him wear that white helmet and wield all the responsibility (the turnout gear doesn't help either--- there just is something about firefighters in their gear...) Seriously, I am so lucky...

Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Water Water Everywhere... Except at the Fire Scene

EVERYTHING seems to be burning this winter. In the last month and a half I have been to three structure fires. To put it in perspective... the last structure fire I had been to before this winter was in 2007, the BEGINNING of 2007.

Each fire has been a little different, but all of them have been COLD. We were called to Norton, a town that abuts Quebec, for a heavily involved structure fire . So we loaded up into our open cab fire engine for the sub zero, fifteen mile trip to the boarder town. The little town has no fire department of its own. Its fire coverage is shared between our department and another department, Beecher's Falls Fire Department.

We arrived to find smoke billowing from the building and dissolving into the gray skies. Fire engines, personal vehicles, and boarder patrol vehicles (the closest thing to police you have up there within an hour's response time) clogged the roadway.

While waiting for an assignment I snapped a photo of the house and realized that almost right next to me was the owner's daughter, crying. They had returned home just as their house began burning significantly enough for passerbys to notice and call 9-1-1. The owner broke two windows in an attempt to get the dog out of the house, but that proved to be a bad decision. The dog perished in the fire, refusing to leave the home, and with fresh air flowing in from the broken windows acting as fuel for the flames the home was soon ablaze.

I was assigned to the down-wind "B" side of the house, where the fire was the heaviest. The winds were sustained at 15-20mph with single digit temperatures (you do the math on the windchill!) We were charged with attempting to halt the fire's advancement and extinguish what we could from where it was guessed to have started, in a laundry room. Armed with hand tools and a hose line we stepped gingerly into a side entrance. When part of the roof became unstable we had to back out and begin more defensive firefighting tactics. Myself and another firefighter positioned ourselves and a hose line outside the B-side of the home, flowing water into the second story. And then in my hands the line went limp. No water.... Just as the fire seemed to be succumbing to our efforts.

"I have no water!" I exclaimed and notified an officer. I wasn't the only one making such an exclamation. The entire fire ground was out of water. My engine didn't even have enough water to circulate. Without a reliable water supply established and no water on scene we were forced to watch the fire move unchallenged through the house. So our efforts turned from firefighting to possession saving. The only part of the house not then touched by flames was the garage. A half dozen of us rallied and pulled every possible thing out of the garage. It was all we could do. We knew then that the house was a total loss....

Water supply was eventually reestablished, but by then it was too late (and my camera batteries had died from the extreme cold). The nearest water source that we were using was a dry hydrant almost two miles away. Initially we were shuttling water by tankers from there, but it had been literally sucked dry to the point where it was useless. The water level was to low to draft from the dry hydrant. There was no quick back up plan. By the time a new water source was established AND additional tankers were called in too much time had passed. We were just too far out in the middle of nowhere and too far from additional help.

For all the gallons of water in the white stuff on the ground and falling from the sky there wasn't a darn thing we could do to get it on the fire....

Friday, February 5, 2010

College Student on a Power Trip

I was in a great mood. I had just aced my Medical/Surgical Cardiology II exam, sat through four hours of lecture, and was about to head home. As I got into my car all that changed when I noticed there was something on my windshield. ...a parking ticket! A college issued parking ticket at that.

What on Earth could the ticket be for? It was for NOT having a parking permit displayed in my vehicle. My issue with that...? I DID have a parking permit displayed in my vehicle, clearly visible, and in the correct spot. In fact, its been there for the last six months. With my happy mood dissolving I decided to call the public safety office and investigate just who "Officer #16" was and why he wrote me a ticket for not having a permit sticker that I clearly had.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello, This is Jen from Lyndon Rescue. Who is Public Safety Officer 16?

Officer: That would be me, why?

Me: Well you wrote me a ticket for not having a parking permit.

Officer: And?

Me: And... I do have a parking permit sticker.

Officer: Well, I didn't see it. It needs to be displayed on the lower passenger side of your windshield.

Me: That is where the sticker is. I have commuter permit #1745

Officer: You can come in to the office and fill out an appeal form within seven days and your case will be reviewed.

Me: I am not filling out an appeal form when I already have a permit. Can you come outside and I will prove to you the sticker is in my windshield?

Officer: No, I can't leave the office.

Me: But you left the office to write me a ticket.

Officer: You can come in to the office and fill out an appeal form and your case will be reviewed.

Me: Well since you can't leave the office surely you can look up my permit #1745 registration form in your files?

Officer: No. I can't do that.

Me: So you can't come out here so I can prove I already have a permit sticker in my car and you can't look up my permit form on file.

Officer: Exactly. You'll have to appeal the ticket or pay the $50. You need to have a permit sticker to park in the lower parking lot.

Me: Are you serious? I know you aren't illiterate because you wrote me a ticket, but you are clearly blind so maybe it was your helper monkey that wrote the ticket. Either way you are incompetent and I will just deal with your boss.

-- Hang Up --

Five minutes later I called the direct line to the office of the head of college public safety, who I happen to know, and told him my story. He apologized and told me not to worry about the ticket, that it would be thrown away. Just like that the ordeal was over and forgotten... I just had to plow through a college student on a power trip first.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Losing the Farm, but Saving the Cows

Things never burn down when the weather is nice. They also never burn down when you are at home, relaxing, and thinking "man, I really want to get up and bust my ass fighting fire right now." Things do burn when its ten below, snowing, with gale force winds.

It was cold... but not the coldest fire I've ever fought. And this is only the second one I've ever really fought so that says two things. We NEVER get fires and its REALLY cold when we do.

There were six departments at this fire, which was a centuries old farm house that was connected to a barn full of cows. We saved the barn and the cows were never in danger, but the house was a complete and total loss. It was disheartening because the owners are extremely good people. The kind of people that fit the image of the hard working rural Vermont farmer. They lost everything... except the cows, their livelihood.

Up those stairs is where the fire was and where I was. I was ripping, tearing, and wielding tools next to men on mutual aid departments. Some were shocked and amused to realize I was a woman. I love how wearing an SCBA and full gear masks your gender. Everything is equal when you are inside the fire.

The best part of the fire was when I was able to wield a nozzel up in the attic to get to the seat of the fire at the very peak of the roof. They couldn't reach it from the outside, but I kicked its butt on the inside. Watching the flames flick over the rafters as I am staring straight at it about to extinguish it is a feeling that I'll always love and never forget. I'm proud of myself and proud of my fellow brother firefighters (I was the ONLY woman firefighter there). You can't save them all, but at least we can save the cows.