A happy new year!

I do not doubt most of us have seen changes, big or small, in our lives over the past year. A lot can happen in a year even though, cosmically speaking, a year is only a turn of the head — a nanosecond in time.  Still, we humans have a tendency to assess things annually – looking back thoughtfully while setting our hopes and sights on the coming future.  Both are existentially essential, I would say.  I do know some folks who sort of just plow through the days without much regard to looking forwards or backwards.  That’s fine for them and probably a good way to cope sometimes, but I think they lose something valuable in all that bulldozing.

Personally, our extended family(s) had quite a few bumps to haul over health-wise in 2008 (having aging parents) but at this point in time everyone is doing very fine and I say:  all’s well that ends well.   Blessings abound in my life and for the friends, the family and the love – I am always grateful.  You know who you are; known and not so well-known.

I normally like to sit back and think about things quietly. Every once in awhile I am keen to rant too, but some thoughts just need a hot cup of coffee and a good, long gaze out the dining room window.  There are some things which are difficult to consider, true.  There is an awful lot of hurt and harm in this world which requires immediate attention. The suffering often rests heavy on my heart. However, some remarkable changes occurred this last year and now I have more hope than I might have imagined. Great effort is required and all I know is – we are all going to have to pitch in and take care of one another better.  And I’m writing those words to myself because I am willing.  Some things I can help with or impact by volunteering my time, and some things I simply have to acquire more faith for because they are too big for one person, President, or country.

Regrets and hopes:  I have pangs about what I might have done differently over the last year, sure I do, but then those little blips on my radar help me to move forward too. It’s true for playing music and it’s true for living —  I like how I played that phrase but I think I might change the tempo of the next one. You can’t really say you’ve lived if you don’t know the difference between a waltz and a jig. One ends up gathering in a lot of information on this road of life.  Hopefully I do learn from some of which has come my way.  Metaphorically & literally speaking, I’ve heard some sweet tunes, seen great beauty over the last year; contemplated many rushing waters and stepped onto many beautiful roads. It does not often get much better and I’m grateful and hopeful to continue the journey.

My life is like a viola; it might not stand out in the orchestra but it plays a deeper tone.

My heartfelt New Year wish for you all is that life plays true and deeper for you in 2009.

Free Celtic Harp Music – Crescent Moon

Here’s a new harp piece I wrote based on inspiration from Christine’s recent poem. It’s in an unusual tuning, a hexatonic (6 note) scale that I thought evoked the feeling of a winter evening, a rising moon and a deep northern sky. It’s a new year’s gift to all of you.

Crescent Moon click to listen (or right-click and save file to download to your computer)

My Dusty Strings FH32 was recorded direct to a Zoom H2 digital recorder, set in 96khz/24 bit mode, using the custom harp pickup system I developed for our albums. Editing was done in Audacity. Final MP3 conversion was done in Itunes.

Stardust ~ OSI

The night held no bright herald
nor an angel jubilee
not one shepherd watched over
the empty, dark pasture
while snow fell deep and lonely, frost-heaped
but each moment a thousand tiny snow stars
drifted to earth.

Owl and coyote sang true
in the blue covered twilight
and the guides of hope
kept our thoughts fixed and calm
all through the endless dark
waiting patiently in the night
to be touched
by ancient cosmic dust.

~~~~

See other offering of stardust at One Single Impression and Lirone at Words that Sing.

The Aeropress Coffee maker, a review…

If you are like us here at Quiet Paths, you love coffee. And since you love coffee, you’ve been through every method of making coffee known on this planet. You probably have owned at least a couple of french presses, you have burned through several thousand Melita cone filters, and you’ve even ( in a fit of insanity) purchased a Bunn drip coffee machine that would have been more at home in the Whistlestop Cafe. You’ve owned several espresso machines, and a couple of aluminum stovetop espresso makers from Italy. You’ve even served your prospective spouse “cowboy coffee”, and went on to fall in love and get married anyway. So when a totally new way of making coffee shows up on the radar, you sit up and take notice. And when it makes very good coffee like the Aeropress does, it gets your full attention.

The Aeropress is the invention of Stanford engineer Alan Adler, better know perhaps for his flying toys such as the Aerobie. It consists of two polycarbonite cylinders, one that holds the ground coffee and one that has a rubber plunger that acts as a syringe to force the coffee through a paper filter under considerable air pressure. It produces intensely strong shots of espresso-like coffee that can be used in a variety of ways, from making lattes, mochas and Americanos to iced coffees and flavoring for other drinks. The concentrate the Aeropress produces, though strong, is very low in acid. A bit of milk mixed with a bit of concentrate, topped off with water produces an incredibly fine tasting cup of coffee; smooth and complex with the actual flavor of the coffee being used.

The whole thing weighs very little and is easy to take with you if you travel. All you need is access to a means of heating water. Alternatively, since the Aeropress produces such pure coffee that keeps for quite a while, one could make up a bunch of concentrate at home and take it along to add to hot water later.

The Aeropress costs about $26 at Amazon. It’s built like a tank, and should last for years. You get about 300 filters with it, and new filters are about $4 for roughly a years worth. So, for roughly the price of a few days of stopping at Starbucks, you too can achieve coffee Nirvana…

We got ours at Amazon, though you may find one at your local trendy hipster coffee hangout. (Or you may, if you are like our son Ian and his sweetie, get one as a Christmas present…)

Over the river

My sincere apologies for the unintentional silence these last days.  As I mentioned in my prior post we’ve been having internet problems.  For the time being, at least until the next snow storm hits, our service seems to be stable.  It is the day after Christmas – the English Boxing Day.  I don’t think it is too late to say that I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas.  It was a White Christmas here but I might have mentioned that matter of snow already? Please click to enlarge ~ the massive volume of snow.  This is just one little corner of one minor parking lot.

On Christmas Eve afternoon we found ourselves in Missoula doing some extreme, last minute shopping. We normally don’t shop much anyway because I truly dislike it.  However, this week it didn’t happen because our car has spent most of two weeks in the garage and us in the house, snowbound. So, we really didn’t shop. However, we ventured out despite it all and also because my brother is working on a house in Missoula and we were afraid that he, being chronologically impaired, had lost track of time and didn’t know it was Christmas Eve. He did not have phone service, thus we had to go find him. We arrived at this little house which is undergoing a major overhaul, and sure enough he had only just figured out what day it was, whilst holding a mudding trowel in his hand.  I would like to believe that we saved him from the ghost of  Christmas plaster.  He promised us as we left that he would be heading up the road shortly.

OK. Moving on to other sights after visiting muddy brother…  This is a shot of the Clark Fork River taken on Christmas Eve. The Clark Fork is a newly unrestricted, undammed upriver at Milltown – the dam was permenently removed earlier this year.  Who ever heard of such a thing as a river becoming not dammed. There isn’t even a word for this newly acquired ecological state.  And if there is, I don’t know it yet.   Yes, the Milltown Dam is a Superfund site and the dam is gone but they are still working on this vast restoration project.  This picture of the river was taken from the Russell St. Bridge.  The link above has a lot of great photos of the project and the history of the dam.

And this is a picture of it snowing on Christmas Day where we spent it with my folks and yes, my brother made it also. You see that white stuff? That is snow.

Holiday Hospitality

If anyone wishes to come visit us during the Holidays you are most welcome here.  Let me show you your accommodations. Hey, I even cleared a path to the door, sort of.  Come on!  Only two feet of snow here; it’s the banana belt at a balmy 10 degrees above.  This challenging temperature will provide you with a bracing run to the bathroom in the morning!

Joking!

Speaking of challenges, we’ve been experiencing technical difficulties with our wireless tower here in town.  We basically had no connection at all yesterday. The snow must be interfering with service and right now it is only a very, ponderously slow internet.  (Did I mention infrequent?)  We are expecting someone to come by today from the service provider.

Waxwings in flight

This morning was bitterly cold and snowing lightly. There was a fine white veil drifting over the hardened snow of eight inches we already have on the ground. Around noon the sun came out shining brightly until dusk, which on this last day before Winter Solstice, darkness begins at 4:30 pm.

During mid-day a breeze began lifting up wisps of snow off rooftops and trees; trailing the snowy gauze through the air while the sun caught the single snowflakes in spontaneous sparkles, rather like glitter off a chorus line of tiny white dancers. All of a sudden, as if this was their cue there appeared waxwings by the hundreds in the trees across the street. (I believe these are the Bohemians as they infrequently congregate here in the winter; usually they wait until January to make their appearance.) As if one body the Waxwings settled calmly in the bare branches.

They didn’t appear to be feeding on anything, they were simply resting, making plans, or taking in the white, frozen world below where everything for the moment is so still. Then, a door opened on the house directly across from us and all the waxwings took to the air.  This photo which Matthew caught displays the birds in various stages of flight.  It must be their Solstice poem written on the air.

Tastes like ~ ginger

If you are looking to collect your yearly requirement of ginger in just one gulp; this will do it. Holy ginger root Batman, this stuff is gingery! What do they put in there anyway?  Like 20 pounds?  I could open up a Chinese restaurant with this one, little can.  Just pour it all over the sauteed veggies and you’re good; albeit a little on the sweeter, fruity side….

No, not exactly the Canada Dry Ginger Ale I grew up with.  Knudsen’s color-scheme looks really quite in the Christmas spirit though.