in search of the Welsh sublime

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When I captured the first photo above – the dramatic view of distant Castell Dinas Bran radiant in the sunlight and mist – I felt as though I’d stepped into a painting by Thomas Cole, one of my favorite artists associated with the Hudson River School. (The thematic similarity of castle ruins immediately made me think of The Present, a painting I used to teach with almost daily in my previous job, but it could really be any glorious Cole landscape!)

I expected a grey, wintry Wales awaited me during my trip in January, so the verdant pastures and generally vernal signs of life took me by surprise. If only the bleak New England beginning-of-the-year could take some tips from Great Britain!

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all too Thun: scenes from Switzerland

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Now that seemingly eternal January has concluded at last, my journey through the cold land of engaging architecture feels even more distant – but I can’t let it slip away completely without sharing my first continental castle photographs!

My family spent a misty Christmas in Bern(e), Switzerland, and although it proved too overcast for quality Alp-spotting, the architecture appeared hauntingly beautiful against the wintry skies. These scenes document our holiday day-trip to neighboring Thun, where teal water and gold trim glistened festively!

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the grand canyon of the pacific

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Sometimes when I wake up in my little town on the Mainland and see the temperature hovering around balmy negative fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, I remember the island where I was born and how my foolish childhood self used to gaze admiringly up at the slopes of Mauna Kea and dream of one day living in a place where it snowed.

As the East Coast becomes increasingly miserable this January, I thought it an apt time to share some memories from the little detour to Kaua’i that my family enjoyed when I visited home this summer, including a visit to what I might humbly suggest is among the most phenomenal natural wonders the world has to offer.

Waimea Canyon State Park, often hailed as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” can hardly be captured in photographs, but I hope these fleeting impressions give you a slight sense of these Pacific mountains’ majesty!

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lake como in the snow

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Last year, I spent January 1st by the piers of Monterey and the final days of December next to these chilly harbors. Lake Como, as far as I understand it, is a celebrated summer oasis for boaters, architecture-lovers, and relaxation-seekers alike: of course we visited in the middle of winter, and spent our only full day dodging icy rain.

Yet Como’s weather deities smiled upon us at last during our final four hours in the area, and I had the opportunity to capture a waterscape unlike any I’d ever photographed before, pairing blue waves with distant snowy peaks!

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social morays

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Sometimes you just need to escape to Long Island Sound for a day and spend some quality time hanging out with eels and jellies and delicate pipefish and sea dragons, you know?

My “year of aquariums” (I’ve visited four so far!) continued this weekend with a trip to an institution in Connecticut that claims the title of the “best aquarium in New England”–and as I happen to have visited all the other aquariums in New England, I tend to agree. I appreciated the focus on the local ecosystems of Connecticut waters and the opportunity to take my best photograph of a moray eel yet! (You’ll have to click through to see him in all his glory: though if elongated, toothy fish don’t charm you as much as they do me, perhaps you should sit this one out…)

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lands before time

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I’ve returned from my brief trip through time to the Pleistocene–I mean, my birthday week hiatus! You’d be forgiven, though, if these photos did give you the impression that I’d popped back a few aeons.

I’m still yearning for those lovely mid-June days spent with the dearest companion, but I’m consoling myself by reliving our trip to a local natural history museum. These archaic bones and stone impressions comfort me: at least our time apart will be nothing more than the smallest blip on a geologic scale!

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you have my hart, linlithgow

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I promised you castle photos–now, castle photos ye shall have!

Linlithgow Palace in Linlithgow, Scotland, isn’t quite the oldest castle you’ll ever encounter–though in a ruined state, it’s actually looking pretty good hundreds of years past its heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Back then, it was a part-time royal residence, and today, it allows visitors (especially weird historians like me) to enjoy a thrilling opportunity to roam labyrinthine Renaissance halls and towers and dungeons completely unaccompanied. You can basically do whatever you want here, provided you respect the architecture! I even sang approximately three notes of a Palestrina motet to test the acoustics.

Most importantly, as the title suggests, there is a ridiculously adorable deer sculpture on its very ornate, extant, and functional fountain!

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