Happy Graduation

Standard

graduation

A quick post here about a recent event we are especially proud of. Sam graduated from Bowdoin College on Memorial Day weekend, and we could not be any more proud of him. The rain stayed away and despite some cool temperatures, the outdoor graduation went off without a hitch. Bowdoin College has been an exceptional four-year experience for Sam, and we are proud to be able to call him a Polar Bear.

It really does seem like only yesterday when we were dropping him off as a freshman, but it’s already been four years, and a lot has happened since. Ignore the cancery old man on the right, and admire the happy and gorgeous rest of the family to the left.

Can you guess which one is Sam? None of us know where he gets the tall genes, but he’s always been a big (and kind, and smart, and athletic, and genuinely nice) boy. Jack (10) is growing up too, and if he follows in Sam’s footsteps even slightly (and he has already started), then we’ll all be thrilled. The two of them are exceptionally tight as siblings, and we love to see them interact. Sam’s going to be home for the summer before heading off to work in NYC, so we’ll all have some time together – that’ll be good.

My lovely, lovely Lori… what can I say? She is the most caring and loving mother and wife that one could ever imagine. She is so strong in times of adversity, and she always knows what to do and say at the right moment to make you feel safe and loved. Obviously the boys benefit tremendously from this, but so do I.

Happy Graduation!

Bigshot Camera

Standard

4-12-14 bigshot1

Trying to come up with creative gifts for Jack at Christmas time, I stumbled on the Bigshot camera – billed as ‘the camera for education”, it is a really cool concept and I jumped at it immediately. For any educator interested in combining science, math, engineering and, most importantly, the arts – this one’s for you!

The enormous appeal of the camera can be used to turn it into a compelling tool for learning. We believe that a camera designed for education must have three features. First, it should be designed as a kit for assembly – putting the kit together should expose the user to a wide range of science concepts. Second, it should include features that cannot be found in other cameras, allowing the user to explore new creative dimensions. Finally, it should be low-cost, making it accessible to the less privileged. Bigshot has been designed with these goals in mind. There is another important feature that sets Bigshot apart from virtually all educational kits – once you have built it, it is a fully functioning digital camera that you can use everyday!

Basically, you purchase a kit for making your very own fully functioning digital camera, and along the way as you assemble the camera, you explore and learn about a variety of technical and creative processes that go into the ultimate expression of making a photograph.

4-12-14 bigshot2

It was on one of my short stays in the hospital getting hydrated that Jack and Sam took on the task of assembling the camera…. needless to say, it was the most amazing surprise and the perfect moment when I learned about their little adventure together. I love that they spent the time together to make the camera so that it would finally get done – Jack and I had been meaning to get to it but as you can tell, time got away from us a little bit! Great little camera that you crank to generate your own power, and has a lens wheel that allows all sorts of creative possibilities like panoramic, 3D, wide angle… so much fun, and when you roll in the level of ownership applied to the entire process, then we have an absolute winner.

4-12-14 bigshot3

The accompanying web site resources are excellent, and they really aid in the educational aspect of this project. I hesitate to call it a project – makes it sound a little sterile and maybe too much like school – but I know that both Jack and Sam had a blast putting the camera together, and I’m very proud of my little scientist/engineer/photographers. Well worth the investment if you have a little one interested in learning more about science, digital photography and creative expression. Bigshot Camera.

 

Last Hurrah…

Standard

10-26-13 rugby1

Wasn’t it just last fall we were dropping Sam off at Bowdoin College for the first time and helping him settle into his freshman dorm room? Time sure does fly… just like that, and in what seems like the blink of an eye, he’s already almost halfway through his senior year. We have thoroughly enjoyed our weekend visits to Brunswick to see Sam and cheer his rugby team – they’ve come a long way as a team and a program over the past few years, with this fall season being one of the most successful in a long while. As a coach myself, I always appreciate seeing a group of young people coming together with a shared goal, so I was very proud to see Sam play an integral role in the evolution of the Bowdoin rugby program – both on the field and off.

10-26-13 rugby45

As the President of the club and a senior, he has provided strong leadership and organization off the field, and as a player he has consistently given his all. Sam knows that he can be proud of what he helped accomplish within this group, and that the recent foundation he and his classmates have built ensures that the rugby program at Bowdoin has a bright future. I’m glad that his last hurrah was with a group of guys that he has such a strong affinity with, and I’m glad that he got to experience what it feels like to be a part of a true team.

10-26-13 rugby50

10-26-13 rugby60

A semester abroad

Standard

1-27-13 sam1

Sam’s studying abroad this semester, so he’s missing out on all of the growing up changes we are seeing with Oliver (and Jack). He’ll be back home in the states just in time for his birthday in May, but in the meantime, we’ve been making do with Skype sessions to keep in touch. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… the ability to use your phone/computer to video call with someone halfway around the world in real time… that’s quite sci-fi and very Star Trek like.

He’s a Government and Economics major at Bowdoin College here in Maine, so the time spent in Europe studying and visiting many of the important political institutions will give him a better understanding of how part of the world’s economy works. He’s based in Freiburg, Germany, but what’s especially cool about his semester abroad is that he travels to a lot of places as part of his study program.

So far he’s been to Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Frankfurt, Basel and Paris… and in the next few weeks he’ll be visiting Paris (again), Barcelona, Geneva, London, Tallinn and Munich. He has seen places like the Bundestag, the Louvre, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, the European Central Bank – now that’s pretty cool. Here are a couple of photographs from his travels…

1-27-13 sam3

sam1

sam2

sam4

sam5

I vant to suck your blood

Standard

So… obviously Jack decided to be a vampire for Halloween this year, and although it’s maybe even a “normal” choice for this event, I’ve been trying to figure out why he chose this path. I know it’s not because of the pop culture craze for all things fanged that we’re currently mired in – as a third grader with parents who kinda keep an eye on what he reads and watches, he hasn’t seen anything True Blood or Twilight related – so what’s the deal? My best guess is that since both Jack and Sam grew up watching Count von Count doing his number thing on Sesame Street, maybe that’s what got him excited to be a vampire. Although I can’t remember if the line, “I vant to suck your blood” was ever really uttered, I do know that we would all use it enthusiastically when trying to scare each other with corny stories about blood-sucking vampires. I guess vampires are just iconic in nature and cool – blood, slicked back hair and an awesome cape… what’s not to like?

Supporting the big brother

Standard

We’ve had the good fortune of seeing quite a few of Sam’s Bowdoin College rugby games this season, and there’s no-one more excited about cheering for the Polar Bears than Jack. His big brother plays the game hard, and as you can see from the color of his uniform, he isn’t afraid to mix it up and get involved in the game. We’ll miss seeing Sam play in the spring – he’s heading overseas for a semester abroad – but we’re all eager for next fall to come around when he’ll be playing his senior season. Senior season!?! Wow… where does the time go!

Gentlemen playing a hooligan’s game…

Standard

The title of this blog post describes the sport of rugby, and although the origin of the quote might be difficult to trace, if you were to watch a game in person, it wouldn’t be all that hard to understand why the game was described as such. Standing on the sideline close enough to hear the bone-crushing tackles, the normally secret sounds of the game, and the thunder of the traveling pack… that’s when you truly get a feel for the game. Between the lines, rugby is an incredibly physical and highly demanding team sport, one that requires a willingness to both give, and accept, a level of physical abuse that borders on barbarism… all in the name of stopping your opponent, gaining possession, and advancing the ball down the field.

As with most team sports, the concept is really quite basic… one ball, two teams each defending their own territory, and, within a given a set of rules, one team trying to get the ball into the area the other is defending. Sounds simple, eh? When the whistle blows, rugby players engage in what looks like a violent battle, apparently willing to rip each other apart to help their team win. Even as the carnage ensues though, traditionally there is still an air of honor and civility afforded the opponent. Like someone once said… gentlemen playing a hooligan’s (or thug’s) game.

In his youth, Sam played just about every sport, dabbling in soccer, basketball and even football, before he settled on baseball as his chosen sport. Growing up playing sports myself, and still coaching soccer today, I totally get the lessons to be learned and values to be shared by being part of a team, so when Sam arrived on campus at Bowdoin and embraced not only the sport of rugby, but also the group of guys he got to hang out with, we were very pleased for him. Most of us have an innate desire to belong, and as a parent seeing their child leave the house and take a step into a brand new world filled with strangers, we have been thankful for the welcome he has received from his rugby playing friends (and the Bowdoin College community in general). Being passionate about whatever you do in life is one of the most important traits any individual could have, and as we spent a bright, spring morning proudly watching Sam (#5) and his friends play rugby, it was very obvious how much this game – and his teammates – meant to him. Go Polar Bears!

Our April Fools baby

Standard

Jack was born on April 1, 2004, and here he is… 8 years old already. Needless to say I had camera in hand right as he was born, and I got a great picture of his very first breath… and scream! I’ll spare you that one though, and instead show you him and his birthday party posse at the local pool. He’s the one with the rabbit ears 🙂

Here’s a couple more of him and his big brother from the early days. Quite the cutie, eh? Happy Birthday Jack!

A great granite hill…

Standard

…that’s how author Christopher Camuto describes the mountains of Acadia in his book, “Time and Tide in Acadia – Seasons on Mount Desert Island”. Anne Mourkas (thanks Anne!) loaned the book to me through Lori, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading someone else’s well-chosen words as they described their most intimate feelings toward a place that I too love.

“The mountains of Mount Desert Island – really no more than great granite hills – will school you in the art of walking.” – Christopher Camuto

As the temperatures unexpectedly spiked to near 80 degrees last week, Sam and I set out on our first hike of the season with the goal of conquering the South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain (1,532 ft). Normally this hike might be considered no more than a brisk walk, but I hadn’t done anything that even resembled exercise for the previous six months, so not surprisingly, it kicked my backside. In hindsight, perhaps for the first hike of the season we were rather ambitious in tackling the 7.5 mile up and back route, especially on such a hot day. For those of you who scoff at such normally manageable temperatures, here in Maine we should be experiencing low 40’s right about now, so it’s all relative, and the “heat” we felt was definitely real! Anyway, as I lumbered up and down the mountain, I couldn’t help but think of some of the words I had read in Camuto’s book.

We chose the South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain Trail for several reasons; a) we figured since a good part of the trail was going to be on exposed granite, that it would be relatively dry. For those of you familiar with mud season in Maine and the impact of the spring thaw, you will understand our concerns about trekking through the lower part of this trail where it is usually quite wet, and b) quite simply, this is one of my all-time favorite hikes in Acadia… in Maine… anywhere.

We began our hike just above Blackwoods Campground on Route 3, and any concerns we had about it being muddy were soon dispelled as we made good time through the dense forest. We did encounter a couple of wetter spots as we criss-crossed a seasonal stream, but this was nothing more than you would expect, even on a rainy day in the summer. I really thought that there would be more water making its way from high to low, though after the warm day we had, even the wet spots we found are probably now gone. The first mile or so of this trail meanders through a lush forest carpeted with pine needles, tree roots, and boulders of all sizes, though before long you start to step out onto huge slabs of exposed granite… a precursor for what you will find further into the hike.

Before long the coolness and shadows of the pine forest give way to almost treeless granite slabs where the sun’s rays are welcomed and absorbed. Rock cairns guide you upward toward the summit, but before you get there, you have more than a few sights to take in. Scattered all over the ridgeline are glacial erratics deposited here some 18,000 years ago by an immense and powerful ice sheet. Their presence and origin seems remarkable to me, and I can’t help but stop to touch and photograph them. To read more about the geology of Acadia National Park, check out this information sheet from the National Park Service.

Despite my lack of preparation for the upcoming hiking season, I immediately felt right at home on the mountain trail. There’s something magical about being on the granite ridges that stretch from north to south in Acadia, and with 360 degree views all around you, there’s always something interesting rest your eyes on. On the way up, to the right there are spectacular views of Gorham and Champlain Mountains, with Schoodic Penninsula beckoning from further off in the distance across Frenchman Bay. To the left is an up close view of neighboring Pemetic Mountain, the equally stunning Sargeant and Penobscot Mountains, and then the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. Don’t forget to turn around… for that’s where the many islands dotted throughout the Blue Hill Bay can be found sparkling in the blue water for as far as the eye can see.

“Walking across these granite domes, enjoying spacious hours, you will feel keenly related to the sky and to the sea, to the rock underfoot and to the life of things here.” – Christopher Camuto

As we made our way above the treeline, we saw more and more examples of the geological forces that helped shape this island, and about 45 minutes into our hike, we arrived at what is probably my favorite part of the trail. Just before reaching the small glacial pond called “The Featherbed”, and just off the trail to the right, there is an unusual little area of life tucked away. Water catches here in hollowed out areas of rock, forming what appear to be mini-tarns. There is abundant life here that has survived the harsh winter and is now just waiting for springtime. Patches of grasses and wildflowers grow here, and if ever you get a chance to explore this area later in the summer, you will be in for a treat.

Just shy of two hours into our hike we passed the Blue Hill Overlook on our way toward the summit of Cadillac. It was kind of eerie being there on such a gorgeous day with not another soul in sight. The road to the top of Cadillac isn’t scheduled to open until mid-April, so the parking lot was strangely quiet. We enjoyed the delicious Dysart’s sandwiches we had carried to the top for lunch, and as always, the views were absolutely stunning. Though my muscles and joints were definitely hurting by the time we got off the mountain, we both agreed that there is nothing better than spending time exploring and appreciating this most majestic of mountains… or as Camuto called it… “a great granite hill.”

Growing up playing sports

Standard

A composite of several photographs showing Sam's baseball swing

I grew up playing soccer. From I was no age at all, I was playing soccer… morning, noon, and night. I played non-stop, and it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I played every morning before school, at recess we threw jackets down for makeshift goals and played, I hurried through lunch so I could have even more time to play, and you guessed it… I played every day after school until it got dark and we couldn’t see the ball anymore. In fact, I was that kid who literally dribbled a ball on the way to school and back… seriously… there are pictures somewhere to prove it!

I spent my younger years in a part of the world where there is a tremendous passion for the game, and as a kid I was certainly swept up in it. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED playing soccer – or football as it is rightly known – and I needed no encouragement whatsoever to devote countless hours to doing what I loved. However, looking at that experience through my “parent” lens today, I can see that it did take up an awful lot of time, often at the expense of other potential enriching pursuits. Maybe that’s why Lori and I have been reluctant to push too hard with the boys when it comes to youth sports?

Sam at the plate

Despite our reticence when it comes to youth sports, Sam dabbled in most activities while growing up, and although he is still an ardent fan of just about every game, he eventually settled on playing baseball, which he excelled at. As a teenager, he spent endless days practicing on the Little League fields, and I can remember playing some serious catch with him on the side of the yard as he honed his pitching skills. The heel of my left thumb still hurts when I think of the times spent kneeling as a catcher trying to deal with his fastball. When he learned to throw a curve ball… forget about it… my days as catcher were over!

Sam on the mound pitching

Anyway, we have been really hands off with Jack to this point when it comes to organized sports. We didn’t want to push him into team activities, but at the same time we don’t want him to miss out on what we believe can be a very positive growth experience. He has played rec. soccer the past couple of years and although he enjoys the game, it doesn’t seem to be something he is especially passionate about. Lately though, just as we began feeling a little guilty for not signing him up for more activities – quite coincidentally – he has started taking more of an interest in baseball. Maybe it’s the poster sized photograph of his big brother Sam playing in the Senior League World Series that hangs over his bed, or maybe it’s because his friends are all getting into that scene? We also just rediscovered the huge collection of baseball cards that were accumulated when Sam was younger, so it does appear that Jack is genuinely starting to develop an affinity for the game.

Our newest little baseball player

So, when asked if he wanted to play organized baseball like his friends this spring, he immediately jumped at the chance. Last Saturday we headed out to the local sports store to buy him a new glove… one of his own that will fit him until his hands grow big enough to use Sam’s old glove. He was thrilled to be able to choose the one that he liked, and we went straight to the gym to try it out and break it in. He is a good little athlete (some say he gets that from his mother’s side of the family), with pretty good hand/eye coordination and a willingness to work hard, so it looks like we might be jumping in with both feet to see if baseball becomes Jack’s thing. It might seem strange considering my upbringing and association with soccer, but I absolutely love everything about the game of baseball. Perhaps Jack will too, and that would mean I get to shoot sports again… and maybe it’s also time to feed the fire and schedule another trip down to Fenway to see the Red Sox!

Little old ladies who knit…

Standard

Growing up back home in Ireland, my mother would constantly be knitting – and I don’t mean goofy colored scarves or odd-sized mittens – no, she was hard core. She would knit for real. I can hardly remember seeing her sitting in the living room without a pair of knitting needles clicking away and a big ball of yarn unraveling on the floor as she worked. She would transform a simple thing into something beautiful… like art.

As a little kid I was often the recipient of her handiwork, and being the youngest in the family, I can recall being happy about having something to wear that I could truly claim as my own, and not another hand-me-down from one of my older brothers. The classic Aran wool sweater was a favorite pattern of hers, as I’m sure could be proven by taking a quick peek at the family photo album where Ronnie, John, Joan and I each at one point probably sported our own homemade woolen masterpiece. I genuinely believe though that it was me who benefitted most from my mother’s knitting – the fuzzy memories of a variety of colored woollen sweaters filling my limited pre-pubescent wardrobe still reverberate.

I don’t think it was until I got closer to my teenage years that I began to realize why my older siblings didn’t share my enthusiasm for wearing clothes that our mother had knitted. Not surprisingly, as my voice began to break and the world seemed to get a little more complicated, I too did not want to be seen dead in a big woolly jumper (western European for sweater) that had been made by my mother. Ah, teenage angst!

Fast forward a few decades and I now look back on those times with a much different lens. My mother passed away a few years ago before she even had a chance to meet Jack, and as the time seemingly flies by, I find that my memories of her are becoming more and more vague. A couple of old family photographs remain, but as much as I try, there doesn’t seem to be much else to hold onto. That was until Sam came wandering downstairs one morning during his college winter break wearing a big, hairy, woollen sweater.

I noticed it right away, admiring the workmanship and remarking how much it reminded me of the sweaters my mother used to knit. He laughed and told me it was one that Granny Miriam had made! Apparently, some twenty plus years ago, I had carried it with me from Ireland on one of my trans-atlantic trips, but over time it had somehow managed to become forgotten, working its way toward the back of a rarely-used closet. Sam had stumbled on it one day while rummaging through some old clothes, and with an intense appreciation of his Irish heritage, he knew immediately that he had struck gold.

I’m so glad that Sam uncovered something as precious and meaningful from our family past, and I’m even more happy that he wears it so proudly.

Happy Holidays!

Standard

My auld Irish home…

Standard

Isn’t that part of a line from a song?

It must just be the time of year… time when I start wondering what it would be like to go back home. Seems as though the older I get the more I want to visit… strange, I would have thought that it would be the other way round. It has now been more than 23 years since I got on that plane, and as always, you wonder where the time went. Feeling nostalgic, I took a wander through the archives from the last two times I visited home. It seems so long ago already, but here are a couple of never before processed photographs from the first morning Sam and I landed in Ireland. Arriving very early, we had some time to spare, so we took a run up into the Wicklow Mountains just outside Dublin. As we explored what was very remote terrain, we were treated to some wild light wrestling with fast moving and rain-heavy clouds… welcome to Ireland!

Champlain Mountain, Acadia National Park

Standard

Waking this morning, we were greeted by chilly temperatures that had dipped down into the mid-30’s, and the frost-tipped grass in the front yard battling the warming morning sun was a timely reminder that our amazing summer is now over, and before long the cold, dark winter that I loathe will soon be coming our way.

Before winter gets here though, we have what is my favorite season still to enjoy… fall. I love being in Acadia as autumn begins to grab hold, so with Sam home from college for a brief fall break, he and I grabbed the opportunity to spend a wonderful morning hiking a couple of trails we hadn’t been on before. Bright sunshine and a cool breeze greeted us as we began the ascent from the Sand Beach parking lot up toward the Bowl – a shallow glacial pond nestled between Champlain Mountain and the back of the Beehive – and then on to Champlain Mountain. I had been to the Bowl before, and I can remember looking across the water to the southern slope of Champlain Mountain knowing that someday I would climb it. Today was the day.

Some amazing restoration work has been done to the trail up toward the Bowl, with a series of impressive wooden steps having been recently installed. These new steps certainly made the trail more accessible, and I am sure that they also serve the purpose of protecting the trail from erosion and wear. We had a deadline to meet, so we cranked up the hill toward the Bowl in record time. As always, Sam could have easily left this old man in his wake, but instead he chose to stay close enough so we could chat as we hiked.

After rounding the Bowl, we entered the low forest canopy typical of many Acadia mountain hikes, and the hidden streams which were full of energy after a solid week of rain were always somewhere within earshot. Using hands and feet at times, we were soon on the upper slopes of Champlain ascending above the trees and being treated to broad views of either Dorr and Cadillac to our left, Frenchman Bay and Egg Rock to our right, and if we stopped and turned around, we soaked in the Bowl from above and the long granite ridges that lead toward the southern shores of Mount Desert Island and the Cranberry Islands beyond.

Neither of us is a big fan of out-and-back trails, so after summiting the 1,058 ft Champlain Mountain in pretty good time, instead of returning the way we came, we decided to explore going down the North Ridge Trail to where it would meet the Orange and Black Path, and we would then complete the last leg of our hike back to the car by following the Loop Road to Sand Beach.

The views from the North Ridge Trail toward Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands were breathtaking, and as you can see from the photograph above, there were a couple of enormous cruise ships anchored just off shore. Once we hit the Orange and Black Path we descended pretty quickly. A marvelous example of the art of trail making, much work has obviously gone into making the stone steps of this trail relatively accessible, while at the same time maintaining the natural look and feel of the surrounding environment.

The granite ledges of Acadia hikes are probably my favorite places to be. I am perfectly happy exploring any of the glacially crafted southern mountain slopes of Sargent, Penobscot, or Cadillac, and the panoramic views you are rewarded with are exceptional. There is something about those sun-warmed pink granite slabs that make me feel very comfortable at any time of year, but as the fall foliage colors slowly begin to show (still about 7-10 days away from peak), what better way to spend an early autumn day than hiking in my favorite national park with Sam, followed by an awesome steak and cheese from Epi sub in Bar Harbor 🙂

A new friend

Standard

Just the other day we read a distressing article in the local newspaper which described how the Bangor Humane Society had become swamped with cats whose owners could no longer care for them. The shelter was desperately seeking help from the public in adopting and providing homes for the 250 cats they were now temporarily housing, and cat-lovers that we are, Lori and I didn’t need to talk long before we unhesitatingly decided that this would be a great opportunity for Jack to gain a better understanding of what it takes to care for a pet of his own, and at the same time, add another little bit of love to the family.

Driving to the Humane Society, we all agreed that if we had our choice of kitten, we would really like a tabby – just like our 13 year old Maggie – and that a boy would be a great fit. As we excitedly explored the crowded “cat room” where most of the cages were occupied, it felt good to see that a lot of the animals had already been spoken for, and most of them probably only had a couple more days before their new family would bring them home. So while we encountered plenty of cuddly and cute cats, we actually struggled to find many that were still available for adoption. But then we saw him… sitting upright in his cage with his head tilted to the side looking right at us, a gorgeous little male tabby named Chester who had not yet been adopted. We all looked at each other incredulously, and together wondered what the chances of finding exactly the type of cat we had talked about were… but there he was.

We asked the shelter staff if we could “visit” with Chester and they brought him to us so we could say hello and become acquainted. Instantly he started purring, instantly he was comfortable with us, and instantly we all fell in love. He’s this tiny little bundle of fur with ears too big for his head, huge feet that suggest he is going to grow into a large cat, and the longest tail that I have ever seen! We paid the adoption fee, his neutering surgery was scheduled for the next day, and we left the shelter eagerly anticipating when we could return to pick him up and bring him home.

Chester had been left on the side of the road as a kitten before someone found him and tried to care for him. They hadn’t been able to give him the care he needed, so that’s when he was brought to the shelter. When we carried him home, he was still a little sore from the surgery, and he also had a bit of a cold. We were given medicine to treat his cold, and since we wanted to have him fully recover from the surgery before he met Maggie, we set him up in the guest bedroom with everything he needed.

Fast forward… it has been a couple of days since Chester joined us from the shelter, and I am happy to report that he seems to be recovering nicely from his surgery, his cold is easing considerably, and he is eating and drinking well. He has already figured out his litter box, and the toys that Jack picked out for him to play with are a big hit. It almost seems as though Chester is overflowing with gratitude for having been rescued, and our new and affectionate little friend is a most welcome addition to our family.

Photographs of Chester shot at f2.0 using a 50mm f1.8 lens on a Canon 5D Mark II.

How to name your child

Standard

When I first came to the United States in 1985, it was to work as a camp counselor at Camp Burgess, a YMCA summer camp in Sandwich, Massachusetts. I had just finished my junior year at the University of Ulster in Ireland where I was studying – and I use that word quite loosely – and I was looking for something to do for the summer months. I can remember being incredibly excited to see what life was like on this side of the pond, but little did I know how much that summer on the Cape was going to shape my life.

Anyhoo… a summer spent listening to Billy Ocean singing Carribean Queen on the radio (remember radio?), learning to waterski on Spectacle Pond, being introduced to the Red Sox through the Boston Globe, making lifelong friends, and generally having the best time of my life all went by in a flash, but I can still remember it as if it were yesterday. My cabin at Burgess was Mohawk… nearest to the dining hall and home away from home for the summer. Here’s a rare photograph with me in front of the camera… I’m sitting on the steps of Mohawk reminiscing about the great times spent there with my crazy campers and the three times in the first session that my nightmare camper Russell Brogle ran away.

Sam is working as a camp counselor at Burgess this summer, and here’s a shot of him and Jack right before we left home to drop him off on the Cape. I hope he enjoys camp life, and when it comes time to share stories about why he chose to work there, he can tell everyone that he was named after the camp where his mom and dad met. So, Samuel Burgess Patterson is now following in the footsteps of his parents, and I am sure that if he has half as good a time there as we did, he will make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Both Camp Burgess and Camp Hayward (the name of the sister girls camp and what Sam’s middle name would have been if he were born a girl) looked remarkably similar to what we remembered. There were some new buildings in places, but many of the old familiar scenes looked the same, including the Camp Burgess waterfront above. As we wandered around camp, waves and waves of wonderful memories came flooding back for the two of us, and we drove away feeling very proud of our oldest boy and new summer camp counselor… Samuel Burgess Patterson.

The moment was better than the photograph

Standard

This is one of those instances when the moment of actually being there was better than I was able to represent with the camera. Sam and I had arrived at Ross Castle in Killarney with plenty of time to spare before the sun was scheduled to rise, and as we walked from the parking lot toward the castle, I couldn’t help but notice this scene.

The morning air was cool and damp, and I never get tired of that feeling of expectation and excitement you get when exploring somewhere new in the pre-dawn light. An almost eerie mist on the water off in the distance helped create a mood of tranquility and peacefulness like you wouldn’t believe, and there wasn’t a soul around as we stood on a little bridge admiring this scene and listening to the sounds of the wakening morning. The reflections on the still as glass water were remarkable, and as the sun slowly climbed in the sky, I was once again reminded of why it is important to get up at this time of day.

In the photograph below I broke out the longer lens (70-200mm f4) and  tried to bring everything good about this scene a little closer. The two-dimensional world of photography can be somewhat limiting when it comes to truly representing an experience, but at least I have these two images to serve as a reminder of a wonderful morning shared with Sam… in a place and at a time only he and I experienced… pretty neat.

The birthday boy!

Standard

Jack doesn’t read the blog, so I think it’s safe to talk a little bit about his special day coming up this Friday when he turns 7 years old… where does the time go?

He has been counting down the days for a while now, and it is fun to hear him get so excited about his big day. I think maybe because his birthday is relatively late in the school year – and he gets to see all his friends already celebrate turning seven – that the anticipation and excitement has steadily built for him to the point where he can hardly wait for Friday!

Our little April Fool’s birthday boy hasn’t once talked about presents yet – I think he is so focused on the big day actually arriving that he has all but forgotten he is due some goodies. Among other things, a shiny new green (his favorite color) big-boy bike with gears, brakes, and a water bottle is hiding down in the basement, and I can’t wait to see his face when he sees it!

The other thing he asks about constantly is whether or not Sam will be here for his birthday. We’re working on that, especially since he broke down sobbing the other day when we told him Sam would probably still be at college. He was having a rough go of it with homework that day (don’t get me started on the value of homework), and maybe he was tired… but I’ve never seen the kid cry like he did when he found out that Sam might not be here. So… if the forecasted 6-12 inches of snow can be avoided, a midnight run to Brunswick might be in order to bring the big boy home for the night… and what a great surprise that would be for Jack.

In the meantime, in lieu of some big brother time, he has been settling for iChatting back and forth on the computer. It isn’t quite the same as them being together in person, but who would have believed ten years ago that something like this would even be possible? We will probably have Granny and Grandpa live from New York with us virtually when we sing happy birthday to Jack and help him blow out the candles on his cake. Skyping or iChatting has already become “normal” as a standard communication method… jeez, and I can still remember hand-writing letters!

My son the photographer!

Standard

Sam goes about his business with the camera pretty quietly. When I ask if he got anything he liked, he always shrugs his shoulders and tells me maybe. I warned him that I would want to see some of what he had done, so when asked to hand over the goods, this was the first photograph he shared with me. He had already made the choice to convert it to black and white, and to be honest when I first saw it on his computer, my jaw literally dropped!

Since I recently upgraded my camera, I was able to let Sam have my old 20D for this trip. I borrowed a 28-135mm lens from a friend so that he could at least get sort of wide, and away he went. Getting the hang of the technical side of photography can be challenging, but as you can see, Sam already has a pretty good grasp of what to include (and exclude) within the frame. In many cases he and I wander off to do our own thing when in a particular place, and since he sees things differently from me, I am always eager to catch up and see the results of his time spent using the camera.

Here are a couple more of Sam’s photographs from the trek we made along what were narrow, narrow roads going up toward the Gap of Dunloe in County Kerry. I wouldn’t say that we got lost on our way there, but I would go so far as to describe our journey through this valley as an exploration in search of a destination. The scenery was spectacular, and methinks my son – the photographer – more than did it justice!

Making Plans for Ireland

Standard

In just over a month Sam and I will be jetting across the Atlantic from Boston to Ireland with Aer Lingus. We are both incredibly excited about the trip, and as our departure date gets closer, we have been making plans for what we want to do and see while there.

Arriving on Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland isn’t a bad way to start our trip, and we are looking at spending the day (and evening) in Dublin to appreciate the festivities. We only have a week to spend in Ireland, and during that time we want to visit with family and enjoy some time exploring other parts of the country we haven’t seen yet.

As I poured over a map last night trying to decide where we should go, I couldn’t help but be drawn to that part of the country on the western shore between Limerick and Galway. The area in and around the mouth of the River Shannon is rich in tradition and heritage, and I know that the scenery will be absolutely gorgeous. Also, I have always wanted to explore the remarkable landscape of The Burren, so as of now, it looks like this might be where we spend some of our time.

The images in this post were from a previous trip back home. On a typically wet and windy summer’s day, we had the entirety of the beautiful and picturesque White Park Bay in County Antrim all to ourselves. I loved the textures in the first scene… the wet sand, the cold northern Atlantic, and the stormy clouds… and the peacefulness of the scene below is typical of what we experienced everywhere we went along the Antrim coast. I can still feel the rain pelting down, and I can still remember wondering where the sun was!