In Which We Gallivant and Relax

Four years ago, Tony and I had just completed the 1,000-mile journey from our former home in the north Georgia mountains to the lake riddled sandscape that we now call Narnia. Home. Narnia and Home. Because it is profoundly both. Despite long, cold, lonely winters and hordes of summertime mosquitoes, this place is surprisingly magical, and I have never felt more at home any place I’ve lived (that’s Ohio, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, and Michigan if you’re counting). So for us, this weekend was one for memories on a few different levels, and we commemorated in the way that best seemed to fit us.

Friday night we geared up for the much-anticipated Camelopardalid meteor shower. We nestled ourselves along a rocky outcropping on Torch Lake, and waited. Except for the chirping of wetland critters, the stillness of the night was absolute. The lake sat in waveless tranquility, reflecting the overhead constellations, making it a choice whether to gawk at the sky or the lake’s mirror surface. In almost two hours, I spotted a couple of meteors, and Tony saw one good one. Otherwise, we simply enjoyed the starry night and the bit of the Milky Way that peeked over the eastern hills before heading home.

See the constellation Cassiopeia? And how about that meteor the camera spotted off our back patio? (There’s one more coming soon from the lake)

Side note/rant: My above depiction of night on the lake is what life Up North is generally like. It’s a peaceful place, full of natural wonders. It also happens to be a place where there was still ice on the lakes (down here…there’s still a lot of ice on Lake Superior) earlier this month. This. Month. At about 1:30am, a party of hooligans came stumbling out onto the Alden Marina. I can only assume they were hooligans, because we could hear their drunkenness a quarter-mile away. They let off fireworks amidst shouting, clambered aboard a boat, and then rocketed out of the marina with boat engine screaming. From my word choice, you know where I stand on this, but aside from the mind-boggling rudeness (and at the risk of sounding like a complete prude), they were far too cavalier about safety. There’s no way at that speed and in that dark they could have seen anyone else on the lake…which is only about 40-degrees (4C). Allow me to conclude my venting with: argh and sigh.

Saturday morning arrived before I was quite ready, having gone to bed sometime around 5:00am. But it was a beautiful, clear day, and the mushrooms called. We’re training Petey to help us find them. So far, he’s doing a great job:

The real story is that Petey doesn’t stay still in the woods for more than a breath or two. He isn’t frantic, but he is “terribly busy.” Tony and I hunt and chatter, and Petey notes when we hone in on a place and he comes to check it out. He has a knack for walking just over our morels without setting his paws upon them, but that’s the extent of his skills.

My photo was taken after we discovered a patch with 38 beautiful mushrooms. Petey’s was taken after some excavation. Not sure who was happier 😉

The rest of our weekend was not so adventuresome, though we still did get out. We toured the Old Mission Peninsula seeking cherry blossoms, dropped by Petoskey (fodder for another blog, as those photos are still on the camera), and picked up a few plants from the nursery. A very busy, relaxing weekend with ample opportunity for reflection and strolling down memory lane.

Milky Way Monday

Tony and I sat out under the stars one night last week for about an hour and a half, taking well over 100 pictures. I pointed the camera at several different places in the sky, moving just in time to miss meteors every time I relocated. But you knew that; that’s how those things go.

We spotted loads of meteors – from quick and short-tailed to slow and long-tailed. It was a gorgeous night of sky watching. Eventually deciding it was bedtime, we packed up my gear and trekked back up to the front of the house for one last set of shots. Tony had the idea that it would be cool to have a shot of our house under the Milky Way, and I didn’t disagree. I dialed in my settings (f/4.0, 25-sec, ISO 4000, 18mm) and then lined up my shot. I photographed the house, and then panned up to capture more of the sky, and a bright meteor streaked directly into my frame. Jackpot!

I guess it’s true what they say: when you’ve stopped looking is when you find what you were looking for.

Image is linked to my Flickr, so if you click on it, be warned: it will take you to a larger version on Flickr 🙂
Our house is a very fine house

And all I got was this mug

Growing up, my parents had some friends who would go to Michigan to visit family (Big deal, I thought at the time – having been to Lake Erie. Ironically, the family they visited lives about thirty miles from me now!). Being good friends, they brought my parents back souvenirs on at least one occasion, one of which was a coffee cup that read “My friends went to Michigan and all I got was this mug.” Or something like that.

Last night we drove up to the tippy top of Old Mission Peninsula, armed with beach blanket, bug spray, camera, spare batteries, and an open view of the sky. We camped out under the stars for three hours watching the occasional meteor blaze by. Other sky gazers oooohed and aaaaahed when a particularly long-tailed one trailed through the Milky Way – like a really good firework, but more magical for being more elusive.

The night sky is like that. Countless stars fill the inky space, surrounded by even more planets. You can only see just a tiny fraction of it. It is So.Big. And we are a part of it. Little old us. How miraculous.

So anyway, we’re out there having our spiritual moments, taking dozens of pictures (using a remote), each of which takes 25 seconds to collect. We oooh and aaah and were truly amazed by the meteors, but all I got was this:
one meteor

One photo out of nearly 100 with a meteor.

Also, I took these when I gave up on the shooting stars:
Click for a bigger version (on Flickr, since I get practically unlimited storage there)
North Star

Old Mission Lighthouse under the Milky Way

The Perseids will be peaking for at least another night, so I’ll try again. And it’s not like I walked away empty-handed. Some things you only get to see when you’re not behind the lens – like all the meteors we simply watched.

If you can, get out there tonight and look up! Perhaps we can watch the stars together 🙂

In a Galaxy We Call the Milky Way

“Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go ’round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.”
The Galaxy Song, Monty Python, The Meaning of Life

Under mostly clear skies the other night, I took my first on-purpose images of the Milky Way. Hoping for more, and for some decent shots of the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend.

Images link to my Flickr account, which has much bigger versions…click if you want to examine in more detail 🙂

Milky Way-3
Milky Way
Milky Way-2