Today, I realized it's been a year since I defended my PhD in Modern History (accepted "as is," which is rare, might I add!).
My degree had been mailed to my parents' house, and I have not even seen it till I visited them just a couple of weeks ago. It's a strange feeling to be so calm about something that has taken five years of one's life and so much external effort in terms of outside work, excessive coffee in the wee hours of the night, and barely existent sleep.
Occasionally, I smirk when see people's eyes fade rather shamelessly--as they lose interest--when I tell them that I left the academia and the urban environment, gave up my job in the corporate world, and moved out to live in the mountains. To them, I could've had the prestige of being an overpaid government bureaucrat or the glamour of a university professor teaching a popular, yet entirely useless Postmodern field!
Yet, instead I chose to translate and edit independent books, and engage in graphic design and image-creation in the middle of nowhere (stunning though it is).
Despite the upbeat, sunny landscape, I don't know what the future could bring, nor am I an optimist. (You knew that already, because I'm Russian, and we're all brooding Dostoyevskivites through and through!)
Nonetheless, right now, a year after the fact, this seems to have been the right decision.
Perhaps, the latter explains my feeling of calm, or maybe it's just the result of another Rocky-mountain sunset.
Dozens of radiating shadows cast by fir trees in the woods converge at a single point, as if to say, "Head toward the Sun!"
This afternoon, I played a strange mix of soccer, handball (more like hand-and-dog's-mouth-ball), and fetch with Polly in the rain.
It felt like autumn.
Tongue out, and basset ears flapping, Polly was quite resilient. As the game continued, the following rhyme manifested itself in my mind:
Polly plays soccer really slowly.
At times, she's a striker, at times--a goalie.
Her basset howl is loudest of all,
As she runs chasing that tennis ball!
This is not the first time the clumsy and lovable red beast inspired spontaneous (kids') poetry or stories in me. I just hope that some day, out of this collection emerges enough decent material for a children's book.
Writing and illustrating one of my own has been a dream for about ten years. But, you know, work, college, work, Master's, work, work, work, PhD, work, work...
I walked through a prairie aspen grove just before noon.
"One, two, three? Don't touch me!"
Even the trileaf poison ivy, littering the way, parted to let me through.
And the aspen themselves bowed before me, and their leaves did whisper my name.
But I can't be sure. It might have been the breeze.
At the end of our late-evening walk with Polly, the basset, the Canadian prairies decided to give us a bit of a light show with the Sun's descent.
Me, in particular.
After all, I had recently blogged about the lack of differentiation in the prairie sky as compared to the mountainous terrain.
I was wrong.
Here are those gloomy, low-hanging clouds with a slight purple tint. My favorite!
And this--later--version of the sunset is a what-NOT-to-do with a wide-angle "fish-eye" lens.
But, sometimes, I cannot resist the temptation:
What happens if you've got the wrong lenses with you, and you're trying to photograph out of a fast-moving vehicle?
Images like these:
No fun angles and little control over lighting.
But that is the best I can do.
I only have a few more days left here in the middle of Canada, and rain isn't helping. (Okay, it's helping reduce the 40C / 105F (with humidity) weather!)
I just wanted to show you these prairies around harvest season: bright, geometric strips of color with the largest being bluer-than-blue sky. My current residence in the Rockies is often referred to as having a "big sky," which, of course, is a polar opposite of this: low-hanging clouds over mountain peaks provide a lot of differentiation.
Despite prairie flatness, this kind of a landscape, too, has its own distinct charm, I think, especially because it shows man's connection to the land through agriculture.
This weekend in smartphone photography, everyone has a job to do. Polly hunts, fields prepare for harvest, trees reach for the sun.
And I? I can't stay away from swimming in warm prairie lakes.
Despite my earlier threats, I did not spend Friday's afternoon photographing rolled and sunlit hay bales against the backdrop of an endless prairie sky (or something just as stereotypical).
I did capture something equally idyllic--my parents' basset hound, Pelagea (Polly), and spent a bit of time at a provincial park here, in the very center of the continent.
Polly is an untamed beast much like any other red-haired woman!
She was my surprise gift for my mom two years ago, after our first family dog had passed away. She was also the sister of my first basset hound, whom I lost at mere six months of age due to an unforeseen health condition. This remains a rather painful subject to discuss.
It suffices to say that I feel an additional connection with this clumsy and outgoing dog who greets me with hysterical barking whenever I fly in for a visit.
And even if that weren't the case, how could you not fall in love at first sight with those endearing basset wrinkles?
Idyllic, isn't it?
Last night, a friend of ours relayed his recent experience of visiting a national park in this area, watching adorable marmots running about...only to have one of them carried away by a coyote minutes later to gasping, vocalized horror of all the tourists!
He had pictures to prove it, too.
Whereas the tourists' reaction was expected, it reminded me that people here, by and large, have lost their connection to Nature to such a great extent that they no longer realize its unsightly attributes, its dangers, and, most important, death as a fact of life. The philosophical, overarching reasons thereof--linked to Modernity and Postmodernity (which are quite obvious to some)--are beyond the scope of what I normally post in this essentially visual blog of mine, but there are more immediate, pop-culture-specific reasons, too, such as the proliferation of "unlikely friends" animal photos in news media and infotainment.
Admittedly smile-inducing images of pigs cuddling with tigers (well-fed and in a controlled zoo environment!) are often used for some sort of feel-good social commentary along the lines of "we, humans, should all get along!". Not only does the latter reinforce the above misconception, but it also makes us forget that in addition to being beautiful, Nature is hierarchic and violent.
So why the cute little bunny?
My two tiny dachshunds--they both feast in canine Valhalla now--used to team up, chase wild rabbits, and, yes, sometimes catch them, too. It was never a pleasant experience for us, owners, but it certainly demonstrated the Janus-like character of Nature.