2014 — In Review

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In 2013, I reflected on the year by posting my favorite photos. This year, we’re going to mix it up a little bit by adding a few thoughts and links. I hope you’ll stick around for the whole thing — I promise it won’t take long (and there will still be lots of photos).

Life Events

My nephew Bowen, the cutest kid in New Mexico.

My nephew Bowen, the cutest kid in New Mexico.

This year was a big one for your humble blogger. I became an uncle, was laid off, moved across the country and then got engaged!

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I was sad to be among 40+ people laid off by the National Wildlife Federation this year, but I’m also excited to help lead the Silver City Daily Press as it enters its 80th year of serving Grant County.

Unfortunately, with that opportunity came the difficult decision to temporarily live apart from Meredith, who remains in Baltimore with Nutmeg and Squishy. But we’re close to settling on a fall 2015 date for our wedding, and I think I’ve convinced her to come visit in February before we come up with a more permanent plan next summer.

On the Canadian side of the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara.

On the Canadian side of the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara.

A Big Year

It was also a year of firsts. This summer, I opened my first solo photography exhibit at Paula Geisler’s Common Ground Gallery. I also traveled to Canada for the first time, visiting Niagara Falls.  And I finally attended the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

The 2014 International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.

The 2014 International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.

Back in New Mexico

Golden Hour in New Mexico

Golden Hour in New Mexico.

Of course, being home in the Land of Enchantment this autumn was amazing. For the first time in 20+ years I visited the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (three times), and was able to photograph the cranes, ducks, geese and other waterfowl there (see the photo at the top of this post). It was an amazing experience, and one I hope to replicate this winter.

I’ve also reconnected with friends and family, including some high-school buddies I hadn’t seen since the 1990s.

Finally, I’ve fallen in love all over again with the trails, parks and wilderness around Silver City.

One of the many sunsets I've been privileged to see since I moved back in October.

One of the many sunsets I’ve been privileged to see since I moved back in October.

Fun Photography

It was a good year for my camera: we photographed a president, went to a few weddings, and saw America from the beach to the mountains, the desert to the city, and a lot in between. I also opened a print shop. But there were two events in particular that stood out.

The Star-Spangled Spectacular

The Diamond

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore — which Francis Scott Key witnessed before penning his famous poem — the Spectacular featured naval vessels and tall ships from around the world, and some aerial performances by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

I spent a few days in downtown Baltimore looking at the ships and awaiting the Angels’ performances, and on the final day of the Spectacular I boarded the Pride of Baltimore II, a replica clipper ship, for a cruise off of Fort McHenry. It was pretty awesome.

Waterfowl at the Bosque

I mentioned this earlier, but it deserves some additional attention — the spectacle was just too incredible. As much as I enjoyed the Blue Angels, they had nothing on the aerial display at the Bosque. I thought I knew what I was doing as I setup my camera one afternoon in early November, but when I saw a few thousand snow geese take flight I realized I was totally unprepared.

Flight of the Snow Geese.

Flight of the Snow Geese.

Of course, the real delight was the sandhill cranes, with their graceful silhouette and distinctive call. They’re quite a treasure for New Mexico, and something everyone here should see.

Some other favorites

Here are some other images that had some special meaning to me this year.

 Looking ahead

The Road Ahead.

The Road Ahead.

Of course, this isn’t just a time to reflect, but also to plan for the future. And knowing what I do, but realizing so much is up to fate, I think this photo might sum up my feelings on 2015: I can’t see what’s immediately around the bend in the road, but the horizon certainly looks promising.

The Loneliest Street in Baltimore

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Last Sunday, after I watched the Navy’s Blue Angels perform over Fort McHenry, I found myself stranded at the end of Frankfurst Ave. I had spent the afternoon aboard Pride of Baltimore II, and after we docked I called for a ride via Uber. Unfortunately, the Uber driver decided not to wait for a train crossing some tracks up the street. And, since I’d been out on the water for a few hours, my phone was dead.

I eventually walked about 2 miles to a gas station. I managed to convince the clerk to call me a cab, and I made my way home.

But yeah, Frankfurst Ave: don’t ever get stranded, because there’s nothing out there.

Fund Cystic Fibrosis Research, Win a Baltimore Print

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Did you miss out on a print during my Silver City show? Well, here’s a chance to get one while making a difference for people living with cystic fibrosis.

Katharine Scrivener is one such individual. Katharine is one of Meredith’s colleagues at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and this month she’s celebrating her 30th birthday. Katherine says this is actually a pretty big deal:

“When I was born in 1984, the life expectancy of someone with CF was just 25…”

While the celebration is warranted, she’s not just throwing a party — she’s raising research money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. As of this writing, Katherine is $1,675 away from reaching her goal of $15,000.

To help Katherine, I’m donating a choice of print to one lucky person who donates to Katharine’s campaign. You can learn the details about the giveaway here, and see below for the prints available.

Putting Up With Grandma

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A few months ago I was putzing around on Medium when I came across this article about canning/preserving. I was a little bit intrigued, to say the least — I have so many memories of my Grandma Flora putting up jars and jars of apricots and peaches. I remember the time my grandpa took me across town and had me climb a tree to pick plums for her (to this day, I have no idea whether we had permission). When the apricot tree in my grandparents’ backyard actually produced fruit, it was a wondrous summer of warm empanadas. But she would pull down a huge mason jar of peaches in thick syrup in the fall and winter and delight us with a cobbler every now and then as well.

There are so many things I wish I could ask my grandparents now, and it seems almost petty that so often my thoughts dwell on food. They all lived pretty remarkable lives, though I did actually spend quite a bit of time asking them growing up in the Depression and raising their families. In high school, I recorded an interview with my Grandpa Gary about his time as a medic in World War II, though he wasn’t really forthcoming on many points (likely to my benefit). My Grandma Marie and I often spoke about her childhood in northern New Mexico, of her washing clothes for money and neighborhood kids being caught in the arroyos during floods.

But more than anything, especially with my grandmothers, I think of food. Food was the thing that brought us together most often in my childhood and — naturally — the same held true in my adolescence and as an adult. Until we were about 10, we spent our days and most evenings at Grandma Flora’s house, where my favorites were chicken dumplings or a piece of catfish my grandpa had caught that afternoon, fried in cornmeal. For lunch in high school I’d often take my friends to my Grandma Marie’s for bean tostadas, and when I was a reporter at the Daily Press I’d save a few bucks when I could by grabbing a bean burrito at her house for lunch (followed by a nap on her couch).

When it comes to cooking, I don’t know that anyone will ever match the simple flavors my Grandma Marie perfected over decades in front of the stove. She’d be up at 4 a.m. (or earlier) making a batch of tortillas, and she’d make papas that were crisp on the outside but perfectly tender inside. Her frijoles were amazing, and that was before they were refried — I maintain to this day that there will never be anything so delicious as a spoonful of those beans on a tortilla with some cheese.

My Grandma Flora, on the other hand, could hold her own while cooking, but her true talents were in baking. In that regard, I can claim some small (miniscule, really) measure of parity. But there are things I never learned from her: the secrets to her cobbler crust (which didn’t really need a filling at all), her recipe for pineapple upsidedown cake, or how she “put up” her peaches and apricots.

I’d thought about doing some home canning in the past, since the farmers’ markets in Baltimore have the variety and quality of fruits and vegetables that could make it worthwhile. And my friends are doing it as well: Leah does her jams and jellies and Dominique puts up a few (50 or so, if I recall) cans of tomatoes every year.

But after reading this article about Kevin West, and his desire to reconnect with his roots via canning, I added his book Saving the Season (trust me, get the hardcover) to my wishlist and awaited its publication. Finally, a couple of weeks back, Meredith returned from a trip to Missouri and told me she wanted to make some bread-and-butter pickles. And I knew that I wanted to do some canning of my own. I’ve started easy, with the six jars of pickled beans seen above. But I’ve been stalking the peaches at the Farmers’ Market as well — they’re next. Who knows: maybe there’s a cobbler in my future.

Looking Back on Memorial Day

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10 years ago I was giving the whole college thing a second try, and about to begin an internship with then Sen. Jeff Bingaman. My first weekend in D.C. was Memorial Day, and I had managed to get a pass to the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.

I’ve told that story before.

Much has changed in the past decade. The crowd that day was vast (more than 150,000 attended), and so many veterans made the journey. Their numbers grow thinner every year. Of course, there’s a new controversy about our treatment and care of veterans (and not just those from World War II), a significant change from the high praise the VA earned in 2004.

I’ve also come to realize how young I was then, how silly I was: what an opportunity to speak to these men and women, but I was too shy and timid to approach them, or ask them for their stories and their names. I’m reminded of the wasted opportunities I had when my grandpas were still alive, of all the times I should have asked them to tell me about their lives.

I’ve had a number of veterans in my life: grandfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. I’ve been grateful for them all. And looking back, I’m grateful I was there for that dedication — to see so many heroes gathered in one place, and help celebrate their sacrifices for freedom and country.