** A HUGE SHOUT OUT AND MASSIVE THANKS TO JUDY AT LIFELESSONS FOR GIVING ME A LESSON IN HOW TO WORK AROUND THE STUPID PHOTO SIZE LIMITATION IN THIS NEW STUPID WORDPRESS BLOCK(HEAD) EDITOR WHICH STILL SUCKS. YOU ROCK, JUDY! **
If you read my post from yesterday, this one is exactly the same but with larger pictures. You’re not obliged to re-read it, of course. But don’t you think it’s worth it? Yeah, I do too.
One of the positives about living in the middle of a 30,000 acre state forest is that you’re ideally situated to ride out a pandemic. Other than the occasional terror inducing dash to stock up on dried apricots and Depends (don’t ask), that 30,000 acre barrier between you and any germ spewing Trumpster is more reassuring than a Chinese freighter’s worth of counterfeit N-95’s.
One of the negatives about living in the middle of a 30,000 acre state forest is that there is 30,000 acres of state forest between you and your preferred hobbies, unless your preferred hobbies all involve forest pursuits.
Of course during a pandemic where you’re discouraged from congregating in groups of one or more, that’s a moot point. You can’t do it even if you want to. For yours truly that has meant the curtailing of weekend bus trips with my frottage club, giving up hope of making the US Olympic javelin catching team this year, and severe restrictions on my “Selfies in a Speedo” project which was intended to take place in front of every state capital.
But I do have 30,000 acres of forest just outside my front door, so at least I have some outlet. For instance I can, uh, walk in the woods. Or jog in the woods. Even skip gaily through the woods. The possibilities are endless, so long as they involve traversing the woods.
So I’ve been doing just that on days when it isn’t too hot or too hurricaney. Walk… jog… skip… prance… canter…. I do it all. Even amble. In fact, it was on one of the days I was ambling that it hit me: I own a camera! And one can amble and camera at the same time. Why had I not realized that before?
The next day I strapped on my new fat hiking boots AND my Nikon D5500 and hit the trails. And you know what?
I was bored as shit.
I think it was after I snapped my 318th picture of a tree that I realized woods are comprised of pretty much nothing else, and unless I was lucky enough to be attacked by a bear, or a tectonic rift opened and started spewing lava before my eyes, I was not gonna get anything different on my 319th picture either. I trudged home and formatted the entire memory card.
But then I remembered I have a macro setup, which if you’re not familiar is basically the setup you use when you want to photograph tiny, tiny things, like your entree at a nouvelle cuisine restaurant. Woods are full of tiny things! Like, as I’ve found out many antibiotics ago, ticks and spiders. And molds, and lichens, and…uh…dirt, I guess. Tiny, tiny dirt. Whatever. I was determined to use that Nikon, and if it had to be by making artsy close-up pictures of dirt, so be it.
The next day I popped my macro lens on the camera, screwed on a front mounted ring light, attached the speedlight with a snap-on softbox modifier, and pinned my “MACRO PHOTOGRAPHER” bib on the back of my shirt to make it official. Out the door I went. And you know what?
I was bored as shit.
Just kidding. It was GREAT. I got some nifty pictures of tiny spiders that looked like “Godzilla vs Spiderdon!” monsters in the macro lens, some interesting tiny mushrooms, oddly patterned lichens and molds, and, yes, dirt. Which still looked like dirt even under macro magnification. Go figure.
The only problem I had, and this is something anyone else who’s fat will sympathize with, is that constantly squatting down to take a picture of something only 2mm tall is a bitch. I had to resort to almost Cirque du Soleil level contortions trying to position the camera past my Jabba the Hutt of a gut.
It was during one of these Cirque du Soleil level maneuvers that my 12 dollar Walmart blue jeans finally had enough. With one foot up on a tree stump, the other wedged between two rocks below and to the left, and bent over 130 degrees at the waist, I heard riiiiiiiiip and suddenly felt a cool breeze wafting over Little Elvis. The seam down the left leg exploded. It was completely rent from my crotch to my knee.
Fortunately I was just about to pack it in for the day anyway, so I just turned the camera off and trudged home. And you know what I discovered? Cool breezes wafting over testicles feels GREAT. (Did I mention I was going commando?) I decided to keep the pants in their new configuration for future expeditions.
NewWifey(tm) nixed that immediately, though.
I opened the front door, gave her a breezy wave, and began, “Honey, you should see the great lichen shots I – “
“Why am I looking at Little Elvis?” she interrupted.
“Oh that” I said. “I was walking down the trail and I surprised a bear taking a shit behind a bush, and it took a swing at me but because it was in a poop squat it just scraped the front of my pants instead of disemboweling me. But it tore the seam.”
She looked at me like she always looks at me when I give unvarnished accounts of my adventures. “Are you sure the seam didn’t just split because you were bending over to take a picture and you’re so fat now that it couldn’t hold it?”
I was emphatic. “No! It was a bear! I’m telling you, they’re very hard to see when they’re behind a bush. Very stealthy poopers, they are. I was lucky to have escaped with only a torn trouser!”
“Uh-huh. Alright, hand them over and I’ll stitch them back up. And next time, wear underwear. I don’t need to see that again this close to dinner time.“
I kept the jeans on. “Thanks, but I’ve decided I like having an open window for the boys, so I’m gonna leave them as is. AND go commando.”
This time she gave me the look she always gives just before she strikes. I immediately pussied out.
“Fine. Patch the jeans” I said.
“And underwear. Wear them.”
“Oh come on!” I said, “It’s hot out there, and the boys need to breathe! Besides, I’m the only human organism within 30,000 acres when I’m out on those trails.”
Her eyes narrowed to slits. “Underwear.“
I sighed. “Fine. Again. But don’t blame me if Little Elvis collapses from heat stroke and has to be rushed to the hospital where some cute Filipina nurse gets to bathe him in cool water for an hour.”
“I’ll take that chance” she said, and went to get her sewing kit.
The next day I pulled the jeans, with its newly stitched seam and reinforcing fabric strip, over my Ren & Stimpy collectible briefs and headed out for more lichen shots.
The light was excellent that day, so I found myself wandering farther than usual as I took advantage of it. Normally I just wander down one of the small trails that branches off from my house until I get to the main fire trail about a mile away, and then turn back. But this time I decided to continue on down the fire trail itself and see what I could find there.
I figure I probably walked another mile, mile and a half, when I spotted the cutest little mushroom growing on a small ledge. It was nicely framed by a small arc of a twig and some leaves, and I just had to get a picture of it. Of course, being a mushroom it was growing low to the ground. Very low.
So: right foot up on a stump, left foot down in a gully, bend low and to the left to get the shot. And –
Goddam it. I have GOT to lose weight. NewWifey(tm)’s gonna run out of thread.
So there I was, two, two and a half miles or so from home with a pair of novelty cartoon underwear proudly displayed for all to see. Worse than that though was the reinforcing strip that NewWifey(tm) had sewn in. That also came free – all but the bottom few stitches. It ended up looking like – VERY like – a…a…well, see for yourself:
Flesh colored, too. Very thoughtful of her.
I didn’t mind, though. Like I said, other than pooping bears and microscopic disease vectors, I was probably the only sentient being for 30,000 acres. I laughed, waggled the thing for effect, laughed some more, and pressed on with my photography.
I guess it was about an hour later when I heard a rather high pitched keening in the distance. It sounded like it was getting closer, and as it did it lost its keening quality. Was it…singing? It sounded too high pitched to be human singing though, unless it was Japanese. And Japanese are few and far between this time of year in the woods of New Jersey. I couldn’t figure it out, and the sound was getting louder. I climbed up on a rock and looked as far down the trail as I could.
Within a minute or so I spotted off in the distance what looked like a herd of panda cubs walking single file up the path towards me. That would be even odder than a Japanese person appearing, if that’s what it was.
Although I didn’t have binoculars on me, or a telescope, I did have a 300mm lens attached to the Nikon. I raised the camera and looked through the viewfinder. The picture was crystal clear.
It was little girls.
Little girls in panda print coronavirus masks, walking single file up the trail, singing as they marched. They each wore matching brown skirts with brown vests over a white short sleeved shirt, and each vest had patches sewn all over.
Brownies! A troupe of little soon-to-be Girls Scout “Brownies” dressed as pandas were trooping through my woods! This was a rarer sight than even actual panda bears. Good thing I had a camera with me. NewWifey(tm) would not believe me otherwise.
At the end of the line appeared what must have been their handler, a large rosy faced woman in cargo shorts, sweating visibly even at that distance. She was not singing.
It didn’t take long for the line of hairless beavers to get near enough for me to take some good closeups. They were so cute, I just had to!
I remained standing on the rock, camera pressed against my face, snapping picture after picture of little girls in short skirts and panda masks.
Completely forgetting I was wearing this:
I was reminded of it rather quickly, and forcefully, though when the florid faced matron finally spotted me. And by “reminded”, I mean she screamed bloody murder while simultaneously raising a cell phone in one hand and a rather deadly looking cudgel in the other.
When I realized what cause her reaction I tried to defuse the situation. “Wait miss, I just wanted to take pictures of little girls!” I yelled. But for some reason that didn’t mollify her. She bolted at me like a she-bear who’d just spotted me skinning one of her cubs.
Now I may be pretty fat*, but I’m also pretty reckless. And reckless has saved me in many a similar situation. So quickly tucking the Nikon under my arm I threw myself backwards off the rock, hurtling down the ravine on the other side. I was just in time. A mere second after the leap I heard the thud of a cudgel slamming the rock face where I was just standing. I stumbled, rolled, and generally crashed my way to the bottom of the ravine, where she couldn’t see me any more. She wasn’t going to leave her little ursine charges to come looking for me either, I was pretty sure of that.
I was correct. Despite the hubub from their leader, the little girls never broke rank, or even slowed down. I heard their singing grow dimmer in the distance, and I had to presume the she-bear had re-joined them. I climbed back up to the trail and, sure enough, they were gone. All of them. I headed back home.
Strangely enough I didn’t tell NewWifey(tm) that particular part of the story. “Honey, I was taking pictures of little girls….” is a tough way to start a sentence if you expect a nod of understanding from your significant other. I decided to just let the color drain from her face when she saw the cloth phallus, and explain that I stretched too far again trying to get a picture of a mushroom when it tore. She was already mad enough about that. No need to raise her blood pressure any further.
Whew. All that typing has left me rather peckish. I know it’s dinner time, but for some reason I’ve got a hankering for Thin Mints. Who’d like to dive into a small box with me? (Stupid but relevant old joke: “How do Cub Scouts become Boy Scouts? They eat a Brownie.” Thank you, thank you.)
* But not as fat as when I wrote my last entry. I’m down double-digits, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. Operation Hottie 2020 is on track to be a smashing success. Eye on the prize, tubby!
Ok, since you were so good about reading all this way, here are a few of the pics I took.
This is the overlook just down from my house. At certain times of the year you can sit there and watch eagles, hawks, and kestrels pass by at almost eye level with amazing frequency, as this is right along a raptor migration route:
Here’s the mushroom that tore my pants the second time:
This is the what I see as I exit the woods, Dangerhouse on the left:
And just a couple others:
There are a LOT of mushrooms in these woods.
And now there are apparently tiny panda bears also. But I’m not putting up pictures of them. Sorry. A certain she-bear might be reading this blog for all I know. I can’t take that chance. That was a big cudgel.
Oh, and I’d like to end by saying how much this new WordPress editor sucks. “Sucks moose cock” is the correct phrase, I believe. I’m actually thinking of jumping ship over this.
But until then….