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I just got back from a much-needed trip to Lake Tahoe to spend some quality girl time with one of my best friends, snowboarding, cross country skiing, soaking in the sunshine, and lounging by the turquoise Yuba River on a 70 degree day.
 

4x5

02/01/2011

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I've been learning how to shoot with large format film with an old Graflex 4x5 press camera, warming up the shutter, measuring light with a meter, lugging around heavy gear, getting one and only one shot, and then dipping and dripping the print in the dark room with the smell of the chemicals, a dog roaming at my feet, and a patient dad to teach me. It's been fun, challenging, and sometimes confusing. It sort of reminds me of when he tried to teach me to drive a manual car. To this day I still don't know how, so I'm determined to make sure I learn this from him instead. This is my first photograph and first print of a cold day along the Rappahannock River.
 
 
Wildlife and nature are big. Real big. Not since the age of Romanticism has nature been so cool. Of course, these days they're calling it "modern rustic." Perhaps that's how wildlife biologists, ecologists, environmental nonprofits, and even lobbyists and policymakers should start touting their work. I can hear it now. "We need to protect this very modern rustic landscape from ATVs." Maybe, despite all the disbelief of global warming, a second era of Romanticism is actually booming - an era full of "modern rustic" design; and folks who recycle, compost and grow their own food because they really love their land; box stores that sell organic clothing; a time when wildlife protectors can make a decent living. Even the thought of that happening is super, super foxy. I like to believe that most of us really do love nature. To prove it I've included a few highlights below, focusing first on the fox.

Desire to Inspire shows quite an amazing must-have bathroom (the photograph is by Heiner Orth). This bathroom, however, is amazing because it has this great mural of a fox photograph. Not sure if that is Orth's photo of the fox or not, but it is superb. Who wouldn't want a fox jumping over their bathtub?
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Etsy: Foxes are very in with the artists on Etsy. Click the photo to see the artist's store.
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The Fantastic Mr. Fox (with a tribute to the wolf, might I add): Wes Anderson is the epitome of indie cool.
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P.S. Bonnie has an often striking resemblance to a fox. Note the red hue to the fur, the pointy nose, the white-ish belly. Lovely girl. You should see her deftly dash through the forest after a squirrel or deer. Bad girl.
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We had quite the ice storm last night in the DC area. Every piece of twig, weed, branch, every blade of grass, was covered in ice, droplets of crystals, a showcase of glass. It was a welcome addition of pretty sparkle to the otherwise gray skies.
 
 
Sporting-sails.com
These Sporting Sails have been soaring around the Internet lately, here on Patagonia's blog, and here on Best Made (the maker of the axe?), and here in this documentary about skateboarding through Morocco. The sails spark that little surge of hope, excitement and wonder that little kids get on Christmas morning when they see their new toy, or when you got new sneakers that made you feel you could jump a mile high, or when I watched "Up" (love that movie!). It seems longboarders can go scary fast on roads using the sails, but would the sail really add any speed or lift for a snowboarder or skier? I'm gonna have to get my hands on one of these things. (photo by Sporting Sails)
 
 
A few of my friends from the Sonoma, CA climbing community have created Professional Climbers International - a new nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the value of the sport for climbers, its industry and the environment. Board members include legendary pro climber Lynn Hill; one of the most humble guys and greatest teachers around, Kevin Jorgesen; fun-loving and super-strong climber Sarah McKay; climber Rusty Klassen who never ceases to impress with his great stories; and David Traversi (father of climbers Carlo and Giovanni Traversi). Sonoma County has one of the greatest climbing communities around and I feel so lucky to have befriended such fun and talented folks while I lived there. Check it out.
 
 
The Dirtbag Diaries are this century's version of the armchair traveler - podcasts perfect for daily commutes or while stuck in the car on long road trips when you'd really rather be playing outside. Yesterday on my way home from work I listened to what I think is the best Dirtbag Diaries podcast ever, "What We Had." Listen to it now. It'll make your day. It's the tale of two childhood friends who reconnected decades later to fly fish and wander through the Alaskan wilds. Their trips eventually bring together a group of disabled adventurers  - dealing with prosthetics and wheelchairs and even Multiple Sclerosis, who make first descents on remote Alaskan rivers to fly fish in nearly untouched wilderness. It's pretty amazing.

In fact, I think it ranks right up there with the "Enemy Camp 2010" episode of This American Life. You know, it's the one that talks about incredible parasites that instinctively know to crawl up blades of grass to reach the height of their future hosts? It's the one that talks about a man who traveled barefoot to disgusting, dirty, unhealthy feces-bound areas in search of hookworms to cure his allergies? It's the one with that disturbing story about a man's transformative girlfriend? If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you must also go listen to this one. You'll be gripping the steering wheel, yelling "OH NOOOO. HE DID NOT!!!" just like I did.

Both of these rank up there with the memorable TED Conference speaker, Joshua Klein, who touts the intelligence of crows, who, as it turns out, only live near humans and are highly adaptive and smart animals (they can recognize individual humans). Klein proposes that we teach them to pick up garbage in efforts to clean up the planet. (It also comes in the form of a podcast).

It seems I haven't come far from those childhood afternoons spent playing with grasshoppers and worms in the backyard.
 
 
So did you notice what was in the background of the Moby photo below? Clogs! Full circle, baby.
 
 
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There went my big plans to a) use the big snowstorm to test out my snowshoes, or b) go on a long hike with Bon because the temps were in the 50s. A: we didn't get a big snowstorm around DC - only further south or further north. B: it rained all weekend. I miss the Rockies.

So instead Bon and Moby (pictured) and I caught up on "Pit Bulls and Parolees" - only one of the BEST shows on TV (and why I justify spending hours upon hours on the couch). The dogs really love it, too, but then again, my combined family has three Pits and a crazy cattle dog who only knows Pits. And they're all rescues, so of course we're all big fans. And of course, I cry every episode.
 
 
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In the past year I've whipped out the old credit card (thank you airline miles) more than a few times for the wildlife organizations on behalf of the wolves and polar bears - especially Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity. You see, they send me these emails, or they call me (I know, I know, they know me now), and I get suckered into opening my wallet. But they do good work by providing scientists, lobbyists and lawyers to protect various species and ecological balance. And how can you say no to furball baby wolf pups and huggable (ok, not really - they're actually dangerous so don't let the Nissan Leaf commercial fool ya) polar bears losing their habitat? (I might watch too much Animal Planet and NatGeo... Bonnie is a big fan so I leave it on for her - she likes to bark at the animals.) Yes, I am a wildlife sucker.

A donor for the Center for Biological Diversity is triple-matching any donations made by Dec. 31 to protect a polar bear reserve. But you can choose your own cause, too, and let me know how you supported it! It's good karma for the new year. I'm just sayin. (Are you opening your wallet yet?)