Sunday, January 31, 2010

Going Over the Wall with My Inner Child--Send Help!

" Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life."
Herbert Asquith

Yes, our second big snow of the season at about 12 inches! Donning my adult responsibilities this morning I headed out the door to complete the task of freeing my car. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the snow was powdery and it took little effort to get it off.

This state of adult elation was soon replaced with a tinge of disappointment when my inner child pointed out that you can't make a respectable snowball with this crap. I found myself reminiscing about the tactical employment of snowballs--always have two at the ready. Throw the first high to get your opponent to duck and the second one goes into the face when they look back up. A smile came across my face remembering hitting a particularly annoying kid behind the kneecap and watching him crumble to the ground with the second snowball at the ready for the coup de grace--the ear or neck shot. At this point my parental instincts kicked back in reminding my inner child that such conduct was not very nice. And anyway there was work to be done.

Later in the day my inner child again came to the forefront. I was out taking some photos when I thought a shot of Hazel Run would be nice. I went across the street thinking I could cut through the woods and down to Hazel Run. I had forgotten about the 60+ degree incline to the stream. Piece of cake--was the response of my inner child and off we went. After a number of falls, and becoming soaked through to the skin, I reached Hazel Run. I then noticed deer tracks and my inner child said lets follow them. So we did. After another series of falls, and scraps going through bramble, and again climbing a steep slope in 12 inches of snow I reached a road. At this point my, aching, out of shape, wheezing, and bleeding 51 year old psyche cried out--What the (expletive deleted) do you think you are doing! As I wearily made my way home I still had a smile on my face.

There is more to life than getting from point "A" to point "B" as quickly as possible. Stop looking at events like 12" of snow as only an inconvenience or an obstacle that must be overcome. Instead take a moment to remember how you marveled and enjoyed it in your youth. Go ahead, pack that snowball good and tight, pick your target and let it fly. Then you can get in your car and join the rat race.

Yes Virginia...........

Dear Bloggers,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there are no snow plows in Fredericksburg to clear the streets. Papa says, If you see it on a blog it's so. Please tell me the truth; are there snow plows in Fredericksburg?

VIRGINIA (Probably not her real name)

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. There are Snow plows in Fredericksburg. Your little friends have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age......

OK so I took a little literary license here. So sue me.

Sun Rise Over Freshly Fallen Snow on an Ornate Fence That Serves No Purpose
The Jepson Center which is part of the University of Mary Washington College. Four sections of ornate fencing was donated to the University by an alumnist. Having nothing better to do with them the fencing was incorporated into the landscaping for the center. Someone gets a write-off and the college spends a few extra thousands to incorporate them into the project. Nothing better for the University to spend money on. Still it does add to the picture.
Lower College Neighborhood 9:38AM Sunday Morning
For the local skeptics among us I would note that the neighborhood streets had been plowed at least once by Sunday morning. Actually, the few e-mails and calls I received about the snow removal this time was rather complementary. Kudos to City staff for their hard work. I believe another factor in getting through this latest storm was that most residents seemed happy to be able to spend some time with family rather than being stressed out trying to battle the traffic and 19+ inches of snow to get that last minute Christmas shopping in.

307 Lewis Street--The Jane Beale House
A beautiful and peaceful scene today under freshly fallen snow. In December 11, 1862. Mrs. Jane Beale and her family were in the basement of this house during the Union bombardment of Fredericksburg. A shell would hit the bottom of the basement window on the right side of the house which dislodges a piece of wood which wounds her young son.
Taking A Stroll Down Princess Anne Street
A typical sidewalk scene in downtown Fredericksburg covered in a not so typical 12" of snow.
Once Upon A Time.......
This now snow covered path going towards George Street was known as Free Alley. What remains of this pathway was once the only place were slaves could freely travel to town without a pass.
A Moment of Contemplation

"I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree or yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines."
Henry David Thoreau

Untrampled snow has a way of uplifting any scene and bringing a sense of serenity. I am researching some of those buried here at the Confederate Cemetery. In doing so they are becoming old acquaintances whom I wish I could have had the opportunity to chat with, about nothing in particular, over a beer or two.
We Can Do This..........
Hazel Run after the snow. Please note the incline to the left. This was the easy part. I think it was the forth fall or the second tree I slid into before I realized my inner child was full of it. Yet even this realization did stop me from taking on his next challenge. Nice picture though.
Follow Those Deer Tracks.....Destination Unknown
After following the deer tracks for awhile I was getting tired of thorns and branches in my hands, face and legs so I deviated from the tracks to what I thought looked like a little less hazardous route. I found myself having to doubling back to where I had left the deer tracks. It took a few times before the lesson sank in--Deer are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. If I had been a little bit smarter I would have gone back the way I came.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Snow, Auld Lang Syne, And More Snow

“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!”

William Arthur Ward

Now that we have dug out, literally, of 2009--that is 24" of snow--we can put aside the snow blowers, shovels and scrapers, and with a faint smell of Bengay in the air, hobble into a new decade. In taking our first tentative steps into 2010 let us remember those we have met and helped us on our travels through life; and understanding that we can achieve nothing on our own, commit ourselves to help others who we may chance to meet in our travels through the coming year.

With the snow gone, and those little aches and pains subsiding, lets take another look-- without worrying about getting to work, or with last minute shopping hanging over us, or cursing the fact that the car was just plowed in after you just finished digging it out--at the snow storm of 2009 and a few other scenes and thoughts thrown in.......

Peace on Earth. Good Will Towards Men
Fredericksburg-- Christmas has become too frantic for me. And with my children grown up, and my grandchildren about five states over, the wonder and joy that the season has brought in the past is gone. However, scenes like this remind me of Christmases past both as a child and as a parent. And soon I am also remembering what we are really celebrating.
Rooftops of Old Town Fredericksburg And A Learning Moment
This photo was taken from the top of our downtown parking deck. The deck roof was closed with police tape which I slid under. After trudging from the back corner entrance to the front corner of the deck through 3' snow drifts, and gasping for air, I began to understand the reason for the "Do Not Cross" instructions on the tape. My next thought was to wonder why I hadn't walked around to the front entrance which would have meant I would only have had to trudge maybe 4' feet to the corner where I took the photo. Well in 2023 when the next storm hits I'll remeber to enter from the front.
Welcome to Fredericksburg
Looking into downtown Frederickburg from the Chatham Bridge. You may wish to question my sanity for strolling down a main road into town with sidewalks covered and lanes restricted by snow! Fear not my friends any vehicle traveling faster than 5mph would drop there transmission after hitting the potholes farther down. It is actually safer now to walk down the middle of the bridge than drive on it.
It Doesn't Snow in Virginia
Lewis Street, Fredericksburg. I've lived in Virginia for 40 years and can probably count the number of significant snow falls on one hand. Winters here can get cold but precipitation is usually an occasional freezing rain. The last big snow fall was 1996! And yes, the great Commonwealth of Virginia, the father of Presidents, home to writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and great military leaders like Washington, Lee, Marshall and Patton, is brought to its knees with the fall of the first snowflake.
No One At Home
While we were digging ourselves out some people were away in balmy Arizona lounging around in shorts sipping exotic drinks with little thought of what their friends were going through at home. I know this because they didn't even bother sending a postcard. In Fredericksburg residents are supposed to have their sidewalks clean within 12 hours of the end of a snowfall. This photos was taken at least 18 hours after the snow ended and the sidewalk is still covered!
I guess the rules don't apply to everyone.
Festive Covering of History
Fredericksburg--Federal Hill was built in 1790 and is a blending of the Georgian and Federal styles of architecture. During the Battle of Fredericksburg the house and grounds were occupied by Union infantry and artillery. Fire from this area is said to have killed General Cobb who commanded the Confederate troops defending the Sunken Road. Cobb's parents had been married in the house. Later it was used as a hospital and the grounds for burials.
The snow, gas lamps, and wreath provide a more festive and tranquil picture.
Coming Home
Hanover Street in Fredericksburg, late afternoon. Three more blocks and I'm home. Home to e-mails and phone messages with questions about when streets would be cleared, complaining about the City's snow removal priorities, and providing insight in how we should have dealt with the storm. Downloading the 136 photos I took during the day would have to wait.
The Story Behind the Name
A Union soldiers musings on witnessing a camp burial.....

"...we, his fellow soldiers, his comrades, hard hearted wretches, calloused by many similar scenes will never give a second thought. How little, very little, we think of the grief produced by wars calamities. For every soldier who falls in battle , some one mourns. For every man who lies in hospital wards and of whom no note is taken, some one mourns. For the humblest soldier shot on picket. and of whose humble exit from the stage of life little is thought, some one mourns."

Ira M. Whitaker served with the 13th New Hampshire Volunteers. He was 16 years old when he died in camp of measles. Unlike the majority who died during the war he was not left where he fell, or placed in a shallow trench with the other battlefield dead. He was placed in a coffin fashioned from cracker boxes held together with saplings. A bottle was buried with him which contained a note with Ira's name and regiment written on it. His remains were later moved to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.
Just Take it In
This past weekend my wife and youngest son took a road trip to Madison County. Unlike in Fredericksburg the snow is still on the ground here at the base of the mountains. Note the snow is undisturbed. I just stood for a few minutes taking it all in before taking the picture.
Falling Off the Wagon......Again and in a Big Way
You glance over to your right and you are taken by the variety of colors and textures and the urge hits you! You know that its time to play with reality....again. On Photoshop Edit there are ten enhancement options and I used them all and maxed out some on this one!! This is a shot from Sophia Street in Frederickburg. I've posted a similar photo way back when but did not enhance it. Sorry folks I couldn't resist.
Beavers, Bobcats, and Meadow Jumping Mice Oh No!
OK, OK it ain't the Yellow Brick Road. Actually this little track is somewhere in King George County. And yes I did my research to document that you can find beavers, bobcats and meadow jumping mice in King George. Actually in my search for Virginia wildlife there are some doozies like the Rafinesque's big-eared bat or the Stone's southern bog lemming. But unfortunately none of the more interesting mammals call King George home. Got to admit this picture does remind you a little bit of the dark forest in the Wizard of OZ. Just a little....right? Well it did for me.
A Stop on the Road of Life
Before taking my first steps into 2010 a glimpse over my shoulder back down the road I have traveled. New Years 2009 marked the passing of my older brother Father Mike. His loss was a tragedy for the family. But in his passing I learned that one person can make a difference in the lives of many with nothing more than selflessness, humility and a sense of humor. I hope to carry those traits forward in the coming year. At the end of 2009 my little brother Dan ended his career in the Marine Corps getting his boots dirty in places like Somalia, Kossovo, and Iraq. I've come to realize that one can learn something from younger siblings. No matter how good or bad life becomes family will always be there for you whether you like it or not.