I am slowly beginning to figure out nighttime star photography, and tonight I thought I would try something a little bit different by venturing a couple miles from my neighborhood and shooting the stars along with light from around the area.
Once my shift ended at work this evening, I drove out to Airport Road just north of the Chehalis-Centralia Airport, a perfect spot situated between Chehalis and Centralia. Recent construction to the north has rendered this stretch of road unimportant for the time being, so I pulled off to the side and click-click-clicked a few photos.
The clouds were just drifting away. I felt it relevant to include them in my photos as a sort of symbol of one of the last giant rain systems of winter pushing its way out of Lewis County, giving way to bright skies and a greater view of the world above us.
For those wondering, I used my Canon Digital Rebel T2i and my Rokinon 14mm lens. Everything was manual: Exposure of f/2.8 and 20″ at 200 ISO. I didn’t have my tripod, so I improvised by jamming my wallet between the lens and the roof of my car, clicking the shutter and just watching as it gathered the exposure. Worked rather well.
I drove to Longview yesterday, and on the way home I shot a photo of one of my very favorite buildings, the Longview Community Church by Lake Sacajawea.
It is a very historic church with some wonderful architecture, and some of my favorite sounds are the hymns its belltower chimes out to the neighborhood every hour on the hour, publicly praising the Lord.
But the church is not well-lit at night, and on a rainy night it seemed to have a sort of mysterious ambiance to it. I think it looks even more so in black and white. What do you think?
This afternoon, I read about the death of Jamie Coots, a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher made famous by a cable TV show and pastor of a rural Kentucky congregation.
For those who do not know, Jamie Coots was bitten by a snake and died Saturday evening after refusing medical care, according to CNN.
Reactions across the Internet have varied — some ridicule the man and say he had it coming if he was messing around with snakes that long, others just laugh at the absurdity and still others just shake their heads.
(Before you continue, if you’re unfamiliar with snake handling, check out a pretty decent Wikipedia article that explains it a bit.)
I find no humor in the fact a snake-handling preacher died of a snakebite. In fact, my personal reaction was one of great sadness.
First and foremost, death is a very sobering thing. That is a God-breathed human being that has lived on this earth for a time, and now his time has ended. Mr. Coots has left behind a family who will likely grieve for a long time. That is a terrible, terrible thing and my heart goes out to them.
Secondly, and the discussion turns practical here — Mr. Coots died after refusing medical care. Medical professionals were available and on hand to help if they had the okay. They did not. Mr. Coots held on to a belief that God would bring him through, and he held on to it until he died. His death was needless, for all practical purposes.
Thirdly, the Christian faith requires a good deal of common sense. Snake-handling is essentially Russian roulette with a religious fervor, and at some point the bullet is going to fire by random chance. Jesus did not call on us to take chances with our lives to prove His power or grace. In this situation, nothing has been proved and everyone loses.
Fourth, and speaking of everyone losing, the wide circulation of this story across the Internet feeds a negative perception of Christianity as a whole. I know Mr. Coots pastored a somewhat small congregation and it’s obvious to many in the Christian faith that the snake-handling brand of Christianity is not representative of the faith as a whole. But it still “feeds the beast” if you will among nonbelievers, and I can assure you many atheists and non-Christians alike are having a field day with this story.
Fifth, I don’t really see snake-handling as an evangelistic tool. That sounds weird, but the Great Commission from Jesus is to go and make disciples of people in the world. I’m not sure that the death of a preacher who believed that a snake bite would not harm God’s anointed people will bring people to Christ — and I’d venture to guess there are some in his own church that have their own faith shaken from the incident.
And finally, the hits just keep on coming for Christians whose views are not represented by folks like Mr. Coots. It wasn’t long ago that young-earth creationist Ken Ham got absolutely blasted by thousands of people across the Internet, many of whom were Christians who are trying to find a way to reconcile their Creationist view with science. Ham did nobody any favors then, and this story isn’t doing Christianity at large any favors now. Nonbelievers — especially those who have made up their minds that there is no God — have been armed to the teeth recently with reasons to abhor the Christian faith, and it’s people within Christianity that have given them that ammunition. That is a hard pill for me to swallow.
Did Mr. Coots love Jesus? I think it’s pretty obvious from some footage taken of him that he did. Did he lead people to the Lord? It’s very plausible that he did. After all, his church wasn’t all about snake handling. It’s unfortunate, sad and needless that the practice caused the death of a preacher whose life could have continued on to essentially bring more people to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
On a personal note, I tend to keep things a bit simple with my faith. My faith is grounded in a belief that Jesus Christ simply has a will for each and every one that believes in Him to preach the Gospel, choose self-denial over selfishness, make it to heaven and show others the way to get there too before you breathe your last bit of air.
The less extracurricular stuff, the better. I never liked snakes anyway.
Yesterday I took a day trip to one of the more charming and quiet places I’ve visited in recent memory.
Puget Island, Washington is home to about 800 people who all seem to enjoy a very calm lifestyle, away from the bustle of the city but close enough to populated areas that one can easily make the trip. Puget Island is located just south of Cathlamet, Washington and is home to scores of people of Scandinavian heritage who settled the island.
The island is located in a unique area where the Columbia River splits into two channels. Because of this, the only two ways onto the island by vehicle are via State Route 409 south from Cathlamet and over the Julia Butler Hansen Bridge, or by the county-owned ferry Wahkiakum, which shuttles people and their cars across the Columbia River’s south channel to and from Westport, Oregon.
I drove onto the island and parked my car just off the ferry terminal, where I stopped and chatted with an older woman who was walking her dog. She told me I would enjoy a bike ride across the island, especially around the areas that had some dairy farms on the island’s west side. She wouldn’t be wrong.
The starting point of my ride was the ferry terminal, at which point State Route 409 begins. Note the “Welcome to Washington” sign — this is as far south in this portion of Washington as one can go on land.
I attached my GoPro to my bicycle and began to ride the roads that traverse the island. Here are some still shots from the trip:
All told, I rode 27.2 miles across nearly every road on the island, including a trip over the Julia Butler Hansen Bridge for a bit of some incline training. Over the course of the ride, I was surprised at the number of cars — or lack thereof — that passed me on the left. My spirits were lifted by the drivers of the cars that passed in the opposite direction, as nearly every single person gave a friendly wave.
The scenery was gorgeous, and the weather was beautiful. Blue skies, hills with evergreen trees on the horizon and a historic community that one can tell takes visible pride in its heritage made for a very inspirational ride. The island is home to vacation houses, dairy farms and a small refuge for the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer.
Speaking of deer, I passed a few that were calmly grazing in people’s yards and walking along the road. They didn’t seem to be scared of me.
If you search the Internet for information about Puget Island, you’re not likely to find too much other than a few websites — and I get a feeling that might be alright with the fine folks that live there. I truly believe Puget Island is one of the Northwest’s hidden gems that lies just off the beaten path, as not many people who come from outside the area would deviate from State Route 409, which takes cars between the more well-traveled State Route 4 and the ferry.
Thanks, Puget Island, for a wonderful afternoon and a joyous excursion! I will be back to visit again soon.
I took a test shot of sorts using the HDR feature on my Moto X phone today. Some people love the camera, others hate it — but I found it to work rather decently for what I wanted to do, and that was to see if I could get a usable shot of a building that was in essence blocking the sun.
Everything looks better in black and white, I think.
The flu virus is ravaging our region like no other, and I fell victim to it one week after my arrival in Centralia.
I’m STILL not 100 percent, and it’s been one week since I suffered worst from its attack.
The flu has had a history of sidelining me during some pretty important events and times. I spent last Christmas lying flat on my back, alternating between sweating and shivering. This year, I felt generally pretty weak around the time of my move but I continued to soldier on.
Last Friday, my body just said STOP EVERYTHING and revolted against the frantic pace at which I had restarted life in Centralia. The folks at work were gracious to me and let me take the day off, and I needed it — I became very weak over the weekend, and I took Monday to work from home. All this week, I’ve been on a steady diet of small portions of food and large portions of fruit juice. I think it’s working.
A lot of folks I know have been felled by the flu over the past few weeks. Some exhibit symptoms for days, some remain sick for a couple weeks. I’m somewhere in between that. I’ll take it, I guess.
I’m thankful that it didn’t hit me while I was packing my stuff in Missouri or traveling. And I’m really thankful it’s the sickest I’ve been in a year.
On the plus side, I haven’t had a cluster headache since I moved back (knock on the wood table on which this computer sits).
E’r'one out there, be healthy and do whatever you can to keep yourself from getting sick. This flu strain is particularly nasty.
I’m home again.
I arrived in Centralia, Washington on Saturday after three days of driving and 31 hours of total time behind the wheel. The journey brought me from Springfield, Mo., on Thursday to a city just over 2,000 miles away — and it puts me 50 miles from full circle once again.
It feels just a little bit surreal that I am actually here. Over my two years in Springfield, I began to foster an intense fondness for the Northwest that I never knew I had. I missed my home like never before, but at the same time I knew I would return someday.
While it feels surreal to be back, it’s been very calm. My return has been carefully planned out, and I’m working once again for the newspaper I once served for two years from early 2010 to early 2012. My first day of my “second term” as a print reporter at The Chronicle went well, with me writing a couple briefs and interviewing a few folks for stories.
It is necessary to take a moment and reflect on my time in Springfield. While I missed the Northwest more than ever, I developed many friendships in the Queen City of the Ozarks that I will carry with me for years. Over a two-year period, I matured greatly and much of that was thanks to friends who were not afraid to speak some sense to me at times (Aaron B., I’m looking at you in particular).
On Sunday, I went to church for the first time in awhile. It was good to be back at Life Center, the church I attended for the majority of my time here a couple years ago. It felt like home instantly, and many of my friends gathered for a dinner later that evening to welcome me back. It was an incredibly warm welcome from them, and it warmed my heart to once again be in the presence of beloved friends.
It feels like Lewis County is much the same way I left it, but with a few positive changes. There are a lot of people here that are working to make the community better, and you can tell their efforts are bearing fruit. There is a lot of work to do to make Centralia great once again, but again there are people here that can get it done.
Yes, I returned here because I missed it and I really missed working for the newspaper. There was nothing quite like being a go-to reporter for your specific beat, and it’s great to fill that role once again. But I also realize this time around that the second iteration of my life in Lewis County carries a higher calling, and that is to reach out to those in need.
I will soon be seeking out some volunteer opportunities to help disadvantaged people in as many capacities as I can. I spoke with my dear friend Holly from Tacoma on the phone yesterday and shared with her that I feel my time here will be different than last time, simply because I feel a tremendous burden on my heart to take my focus off of myself and put my energy into helping others.
My time here in Lewis County will be about putting the greatest lesson I ever learned into action. I look forward to doing so.
It’s great to be home, that’s for sure. I feel a peace about being here, and I know for a fact it is where I’m supposed to be.
Hopefully I’ll be here awhile. A long while.
Here’s a look outside my apartment window in southwest Springfield, Mo. tonight as the snow flew.
Forecasters called for up to two inches of snow in our area today. They later revised it. I think we have close to 4 at the apartment — on top of 7 inches of snow that has stuck around since last Friday, when 24 straight hours of snow made our area a picturesque white.
We haven’t seen temperatures above freezing in days, though. We’re expected to on Wednesday, so we might thaw a little.
Personally, I love snow and I wish it could stick around — that is, until I begin traveling home Jan. 2.
I knew I was going to return to the Northwest. It was only a matter of time.
In just a little over a month, I will pack everything I own, ship it off and say farewell to the Show-Me State. I’m returning to the Pacific Northwest, and believe it or not — I accepted a position as a business and education reporter with The Chronicle, the daily newspaper in Centralia, Washington.
Just like Grover Cleveland served as President for two non-consecutive terms, so shall I return to the world of print, and exactly in the same beat I covered before moving to Springfield in January 2012.
In early 2010, The Chronicle’s editors took a chance on a journalist that had only written two major articles before for any newspaper, and who had been laid off six months earlier from a job as a multimedia journalist for a newspaper in Springfield, Mo. That was nearly four years ago, and I went on to serve two years as the business and education reporter there before moving back to Springfield to do some Internet work for two TV stations.
It was because of The Chronicle that I got the position here in Springfield, and it is also because of them that I will go back to serve them and the communities in Lewis County again.
I fully believe I was meant to be here in Springfield for the time that I was. Two years that have been markedly different from anything I’ve known in the past have been essential for my spiritual growth. I truly believe I have been able to help a few people that have needed someone to simply be there and pray for and with them.
I have had a desire in my heart to return to the Northwest for a time now. The mountains, the ocean, the friends that I have made over the years there — and more than anything, a true sense of belonging. The Northwest is home and will always be for me.
When I informed my supervisors and my friends at work about my departure today, my words were returned with understanding, support and joy. My friends here know I wanted to go home, and I was touched deeply by their support today and well-wishes.
Speaking of them, the people here in Springfield that I have had the opportunity to know and work with are tremendous. I will always treasure their friendship and fondly remember them, and speak well of them to my friends back home.
But the voice that resonates and reminds me of home persisted. Today, my heart is at a peace knowing that I will return home — and it just may be like I never left at all.
The timing of the offer today is assurance that it was definitely meant to be. Ten years ago, my family was mourning my grandmother’s death, and we held her funeral just a day or two shy of the Thanksgiving holiday. Today, my family is rejoicing that I return home, as I accepted the job offer just shy of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday.
I am positive that Oma is smiling right now.
I am beyond excited at the thought that I get to drive home and be with old friends, write for a local newspaper and serve a community in need once again. The joy I feel is different in that it is subdued and peaceful.
Coming to Springfield was necessary for me to grow as a journalist and Christian. Returning to the Northwest will give me the chance to show that I have.
There’s so much history in Kansas City, Mo., that I couldn’t help shooting photos of selected spots in the city while trying to maintain a historic or at least vintage type of aesthetic.
A few friends and I took the three-hour trip north yesterday, and while I shot roughly 50 photos, I tended to like five the most. The first is the city as viewed from the Liberty Memorial, the next two were shot inside Union Station and the remaining two were shot downtown.