Thursday, November 22, 2012

Waxwings and Rowanberries

They're finally here, throngs of waxwings eagerly gobbling up the dense clusters of rowan berries that have gone overripe. I see them overhead, swarming like a cloud that slightly obscures the already dim light of the day.

On my way to work one morning, I was able to capture a horde of them with my compact camera. (Too bad I couldn't zoom closer for a close-up shot of a bird.) After apparently feasting on some trees, they soared to a higher altitude, congregated on the tops of the towering birch trees and perched there for quite some time, perhaps mulling over their previous banquet. A sudden whoosh underneath disrupted their stillness and scared them away.

They flew en masse to find another tree where they could perch in peace.


....A heartwarming sight....

"Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?"
- Matthew 6:26

Monday, November 12, 2012

All In One Night!

Forecasts for November 7:

Aurora borealis would be active.
The weather would be fine, with clear sky at night.

I was thrilled to read about this, and my heart became wild with anticipations. I worked the whole day with thoughts of these inspiring me. I had my jobs completed at past three, but it was already dark at that hour here in the north. On my way home, I kept glancing at the sky to check out for the dancing lights. It was still too early for that.

The aurora flashed up around 10:00 p.m. I went out searching for the right  place to view and shoot it, but nowhere could I find some place dark enough to capture its luminance, nor could I find an open space to view its entirety.  Our neighborhood is packed with street lights that obstruct skyviewing, and towering trees that conceal low sky objects, like this aurora, which was low in the horizon. The perfect viewing place would be in the countryside open fields, but the roads were quite slippery on account of the frosts, and we haven't changed our car's tires for winter yet. So I just accepted it as a  "miss".

In a way, at least I had this little tryst with the northern lights again and was able to capture them in different phases.

Before that, while I waited in our backyard for the aurora to show up, the vibrant stars in the clear night sky enticed me to shoot them. I aimed my camera to Jupiter and its surrounding, and set the shutter to 60 seconds. Unexpectedly, two or three meteors zipped across the constellations within this time span, which the camera captured! So here in one little piece of sky, I was able to capture the planet Jupiter (that brightest point), some meteors, Auriga, Aldebaran in Taurus, the Pleiades and Perseus! What a find!

And then I took a few meters walk in the neighborhood toward one playground where I set my tripod for the shooting.  The lights were there behind the spruce trees, moving slowly from right to left. I took these pictures successively  at 60 seconds exposure each.

When the lights started to wane,  I aimed my lens near the zenith to capture Jupiter and the nearby constellations one more time.

I then pivoted the camera to where the aurora had been to take one last shot of the heavenly bodies in Ursa Major, particularly the Big Dipper whose outline was so vivid. The greenish soft glow of the aurora still lingered behind the spruce trees.

Oh, what a night! The astronomer in me skipped with joy as I gazed at those  marvels that bedecked the night sky. Once more, I've had a soulful rendezvous with my celestial pals who joined me in lauding the One who placed them there with his own fingers.

"Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing." (Isaiah 40:26)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Defeated (?)

Some months ago, I received a mail from someone whose name didn't  ring a bell to me at all. And yet, I had not an iota of doubt who  that person behind the name was. I know her so well, or I think knew is more appropriate since it's been quite a long time that our paths or thoughts didn't cross.  I only came to understand a fragment of her present life from the letter she sent me, which was actually a short short-story about a person's giving in to defeat. I was sure it's her own story told in the third person point of view.

In that letter, she mentioned that she had always been a fan of my writings, and asked if I could rate or review her story. I felt honored to learn that my humble literary pieces were appreciated by a journalist who graduated from the best university in the Philippines, and one with a brilliant imagination and skills in story-telling.

I planned to respond at once, but then, I held back, realizing that I still could not communicate with her. She hasn't come out of her black hole yet, which makes it impossible for me to exchange words with her in any medium. I wanted to tell her of something that needed to be polished in her story, after which I'd encourage her to send it to some publishers. But I could not get in touch with her. Not yet.

But what interests me most in the short story is the story itself - a piece of her life. She admitted defeat, gave up on her one love and retreated to helplessness. My heart went out to her.

Recently, I saw a glimpse of her new life through cyberspace. She has a baby with the man she loves! Boy, I was surprised! I began to wonder what happened to her defeat. I've missed that part of the story where she was reunited with him and thus brought to the world a sweet baby that could strengthen their bond.

So, was she defeated? I don't have any clue concerning their actual situation. But this I know, that one of her dreams has been fulfilled. She had always wanted to have a baby of her own, to take good care of it, shower it with the kind of love that she had yearned but never tasted at all, and mold it to become a delightful person. I have no idea how she has been doing in this respect too. But I hope that she's living up to her ideals and expectations. I'm sending out to her the "force" that would help her pull through. I'm afraid that's all I can do for her in the interim.

As always, I'm still here thinking of her the whole time, missing her, waiting for her comeback, longing for our reunion as the closest alien buddies, and talking about a thousand things that have happened all these three years of unfathomable distance and silence that  have kept us apart. Yes, we are still galaxies away from each other, and I keep hoping for her to strive to get out of her black hole and be in the true light again.

May the Almighty's protective hand guide her to the light and his active force escort her to the REAL LIFE...

I'm keeping my hopes alive.

And I keep waiting....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Time to Look Down

Now that almost all the leaves have fallen, there's not a color left to see above except the evergreens standing side by side with the bare trees, and the profuse clusters of rowan berries which haven't been visited by the voracious waxwings yet, if ever they would still come. I think these are the last autumn colors that I have captured, and the rowan trees that are still laden with red berries.

So now, my head is often bent down, unless there are some interesting things that show up in the sky, and my eyes keep searching for something nice on the ground.

Of course, where the trees are, there's beauty underneath. What nature-lover or fall-lover isn't  charmed by the mass of fallen leaves carpeting the base of the trees? I, for one, am so enchanted by such sights that I couldn't help taking lots of pictures in many angles. I have an entire album of such pictures HERE.

A week ago, we had enjoyed some days of sunshine and blue sky even though the temperature fell below zero.  The lowest we have experienced so far in our city during this period is - 9 degrees celsius. That would mean snowy days or frosty nights and mornings, a pleasant treat for ice crystal, snowflake and glitter lovers, an exaltation for macro photographers. How my heart heaves with ecstasy as I look at the blades of grass and fallen leaves all coated with varicolored ice crystals that sparkle like diamonds!

Some days ago, though, temperature rose above zero,  and was accompanied by occasional rain showers that melted out the thin layer of snow and frosts. Still, the upshot of the rain and the thaw was amazing. Here are macro shots of a tiny mushroom with snow and after the snow melted.

Yesterday and today, the temperature dropped below zero again, -7 degrees C yesterday and -3 at this  moment, but the sun came out warm and radiant during these two days. It had snowed a bit in the night, and the ground was blanketed with fresh layer of snow. The sky was clear blue most of the day.

All is well in this piece of the earth. Pretty little things abound underneath our feet. One only needs to take the time to look down to find even just one little thing that can spark hope and joy within himself.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

In the Lap of Stockholm

First time I went to Stockholm was a period between autumn and winter, when all the leaves had fallen and the air was misty. But through the mist, I could see the colorful buildings that studded the hills right across the bay. I could imagine how stunning the city would be in spring, summer or autumn. But then, it wasn't the time yet.

Second time was early spring, when the snow hadn't completely melted out yet and the trees were still bare. We were just passing by en route to a ferry cruise destined for Tallin, Estonia. So I really didn't see the place so well.

And then my wish materialized this past summer when I finally found myself tramping the streets, alleys, squares and parks of the city.

While we were in Vadstena (July 2), we met a friendly German couple in the camping site who suggested to us a popular and comfortable camping place in Stockholm, which was just a walking-distance to the railway station. That's the first thing we sought upon arriving in Stockholm on July 3. We easily located it, and checked in at once. The camping area was spacious but it was almost fully occupied when we got there. We put up our tents in a corner beside a maple tree.

When everything was in place, I and Raquel took a short walk through the little meadow leading up to a hill with a view to dense forests and a section of a bay. There we took lots of pictures of anything that caught our fancy.

Later, we went to the city center by car to have a brief survey of the ins and outs of the city. The fleeting glimpses that we had during the quick drive fueled our eagerness to walk around, enjoy the sights and take tons of pictures.

Stockholm is indeed a city full of wonders. It may not be as overhyped as Paris, London or New York, but it is regarded as the most beautiful capital city in the world. Like what one travel writer said, it "captures the heart of every visitor." Find out why by following these links:

That day was not our time yet to move around extensively as evening had already fallen, though it was still bright. Back to the camping site, we met campers/tourists/adventurers from different countries, who came to be our "neighbors" and communal kitchen mates. I spent some moments to visually scan and admire the different tent designs and campers lying all over the area. Tents kept on changing as campers would come and go.

Day over, we retired to our tents for the first time in Stockholm. I went to sleep, dreaming about the sightseeing adventures that lay ahead for several days.

The days came with sparkling promises of multi-faceted splendor that studded the city.  My mind was feverish with excitement at the thought of luxuriating in the hub of Sweden's capital. From the camping site, we took the train that conveyed us  right to the city center, where we ambled through the streets, squares and parks.  My heart leaped wildly as I looked  at all the grandeur and the magnificence of the edifices that adorn every corner of the city. The juxtaposition of the ancient and modern architectures appealed to my sense of versatility.

A must-see for all tourists is the Gamla Stan, or Old Town, with its medieval streets, cobblestone alleys, well-preserved houses and the Royal Palace.

The imposing City Hall is another favorite hang-out for tourists and a fascinating subject for photographers because of its awesome architecture and the reposeful atmosphere around it.

A well-loved place for excellent relaxation is Skansen, the world's first open-air museum. This beautifully structured spacious area captivates people of all ages, even those who are not museum fans. I compiled all the things there that have delighted me in this ALBUM.

We also had the chance to climb to the "top of the world" in Globen and savored the panoramic view of the lovely city. From the base of the Globe Arena, we boarded the spherical gondola that slowly glided to the top, where it paused for some minutes to let us feast our eyes on the city's circumferential scenery as seen from above. Afterward the vessel slid down the other side of the Globe. More pictures HERE.

Aside from visiting these main attractions, we also ambled around, pounding every street and alley we could find, eating and snacking in medieval restaurant and cafe, window-shopping for souvernirs in Gamla Stan, strolling along the waterfront, admiring the majestic sceneries and preserving all the things that our eyes found pleasant through our cameras.

More images I captured are stored in these links:

Stockholm 1: Camping, Old Town, City Hall & Some Parks

Stockholm 2: The Royal Palace & Other City Scenics & Architectures

Four days of getting around the city gave enough nourishment to my wanderlust and my fascination for new sights. Those joyous days ended with the dismantling of our tents and a quick drive to Arlanda airport to drop our friend who was scheduled to fly back to Dubai that day.

Undeniably, Stockholm is a place teeming with diverse attractions, natural and man-made, medieval and contemporary;  a place whose splendor is permanently etched in one's memory;  a place one yearns to visit over and over again.

...And I'm still yearning to go back there...

...Someday...and more thereafter....