Most of you readers would be aware that we purchased an old Hardware store early this year in an attempt to solve many problems our business was facing. My wife needed a bit more convincing than I did that this was the right building to purchase, but supported me as the contracts were signed and the work began to renovate the space so we could move our business from it’s much, much smaller leased space into this larger owned space.
Nearly 7 months later……I’m beginning to wonder if she was right and I was wrong. This HARDWARE store has been alot of HARD-WORK. And not just the physical kind. There has been much mental and emotional effort as we’ve pushed through roadblocks, jumped through hoops, cut red tape, and all those other metaphors of reaching and pushing past challenges that have been placed in our path.
Although the Hardware Store had been closed for years, inevitably when we would be there working someone would walk through the front door, pause in surprise as they saw the construction in progress, and ask, still puzzling a bit, “Is there a Hardware Store around….?”
So we decided it was time for the HARDWARE letters to come down to avoid this confusion. Instead of pulling all the letters, I made the decision to only pull the last A and E and replace them with an O and K made from black tape.
We were well into the project and still without a solid completion date in sight. I spelled out what our experience up to that point had been, and what the fortune tellers would tell of our future.
Each year my brother-in-law and I have created a tradition of hitting The Dutton to go elk hunting. I’ve grown to love and look forward to it every year. Typically I find myself stressing over work which only adds to the anxiety of dealing with horses on a mountain for three or four days (I’m not a cowboy and will never claim to be. I prefer to ride the four wheeled type over the four hoofed type). But once I’m there the mountain slowly calms this stress and anxiety as the cool winds and wide open vistas overtake me.
This year, I knew it would be extra busy being in the midst of this building project. I chose not to get an elk tag so I didn’t have that obligation weighing on me as the dates for the hunt neared.
I was excited as the stars began to align as we discussed the hunt. Work at my business had eased giving me a break from my duties there. At the building, the power company needed to shut our power off for a few days so they could remove the overhead lines and run underground lines. The weekend we planned for The Dutton was just right for this process.
All we had to do was arrange for trenches to be dug and schedule an inspection for the following Monday. The plan was set and we were ready to go!!!
Well, to keep a long story short, it wasn’t that easy. Instead of having a few days of time away, I ended up wracking up the miles on my truck with back and forth trips from the mountain to the building, troubleshooting, making phone calls, hand digging portions of four foot deep trench, and slopping through the thick mud that the torrential rains brought.
To be honest, it wasn’t devastating to me or even that surprising. I had prepared myself for disappointment because I was a bit skeptical of everything seeming to line up so perfectly. I was, however, grateful for a couple of quick overnight stays on The Dutton with my brother-in-law and a couple of other great guys. I also enjoyed the quiet drives as I went back and forth, beating the same pavement over and over again. It gave me time to think, to listen, and to reflect.
I also very much enjoyed the dark, cool evenings out under the stars. I have said it before and I will testify of it again; I am quite certain the stars up on The Dutton are multiplied over any other night sky scene I’ve witnessed. Somehow I am forced to take pause each time I look up.
On my youth camp trips with my dad, not only would we always plan to catch a sunset, but often he would extend the legs of his tripod and aim his lens at the sky after dark had come. He explained once how he could open the shutter for an extended period of time and actually capture the rotation of the earth as the tiny small dots of stars would extend into streaks over the minutes. I don’t recall every seeing the finished sample of one of these shots, but ever since I purchased a camera of my own I have wanted to try this for myself.
I have thought about making this effort over and over again all summer long. But I just never made the time, or occasion, to make it happen. October is too late in the season to really capture this type of night sky photography. But I was there, under that beautiful sky with a break in the clouds, so this was my chance.
I extended the legs of my tripod and aimed my lens to the sky. Being a novice, I had to take several shots playing with the various settings until I found something that seemed to work. My first exposure was for 2 minutes, trying to utilize the natural light as much as I could. I opened the shutter with the Bluetooth link from my phone, instead of a cable release, and waited for the shutter to close.
What showed was not what I had hoped for. The stars were there, they just didn’t quite match what I was aiming for. My expectation was so much higher when I compared what my eyes saw versus what was displayed on the small screen on my camera. I tried a few more times, adjusting settings just a little bit. But continued to achieve the same result. The vibrant scene I was hoping to capture just wasn’t quite there yet.
Feeling a bit let down, but realizing that each 2 minute shot seemed to take a very long time. I decided to just set a longer exposure and go for the shot my dad had described years ago. So I adjusted a few other settings to compensate for the longer exposure and then triggered the seventeen minute wait.
I wandered around in the dark, stood by the fire and shuffled a few of the burning logs with my shoe, stared up into the skies and let my mind wander free. My thoughts jumped from the building project to my family, from some malfunctioning lights inside my truck to the following days’ weather and what it might bring.
Feeling like I had killed enough time I meandered back over to the tripod. I could see the face of my phone, that was managing the exposure, and was surprised to see that only about 10 minutes had passed. So, again, I walked back over to the campfire to soak in a bit more warmth, becoming mesmerized so easily by its lapping flames and popping sparks.
After several more seemingly random thoughts had crossed my mind I headed back thinking for sure time would be up. My phone was on the final minute and half count down. I stood there patiently waiting for the shutter to close, making sure I kept my distance so as not to create any vibrations that might blur the image. Finally the shutter clicked close and I anxiously awaited for the image to appear.
I was a bit disappointed at first. The image looked blurred and distorted, but upon further inspection I realized that the stars had streaked and the milky way had smudged just a bit. I literally had captured the earths rotation just as my dad described. The image was not the vibrant array of streaking stars that I was expecting to see (I tend to set a pretty high standard for myself) but it was very clear that the motion of the earth was represented well.
It wasn’t until I viewed these images on the larger screen of my laptop that I also realized that even the 2 minute exposure had captured a small portion of the earth’s rotation. The stars were not small light spots, but small light streaks. Very subtle, but quite obvious as well.
It surprised me. It didn’t seem like 2 minutes would be long enough to notice a 24-hour cycle in progress. But there it was in front of me on the screen. 2 minutes was nothing, but yet progress continued during that two minutes whether I perceived it or not.
The thing that really scared me was when I compared the 2 minute exposure to the 17 minute exposure. The streaks lengthened out, the Milky Way was much more visible, and even the pattern of the stars was clear, showing the axis of the earth’s rotation.
What really struck me was the undisputed evidence of time passing. It was almost as if I felt like I had control to speed time up and to slow it down. Like if I didn’t acknowledge that an hour or a week had passed, it didn’t really happen. As if time was somehow gauged off of my behavior, activities, or efforts. But what was laid before me was proof that I didn’t have control. That something much worse was happening; time passed without acknowledging me.
I remember once being up on the mountain to cut a load of winter firewood. I was slowly driving down a dirt back road scanning the forest for dead and fallen trees that I could harvest. I spotted a candidate near the edge of the road up ahead and pulled up next to it.
Often when these trees lay on the ground for any period of time they rot quickly rendering them useless as firewood. Typically the thump of a kick or breaking of some branches will be a quick indicator if the wood is solid or rotten. So I pulled up next to this tree and jumped out to do a quick assessment.
With my truck having a manual transmission, I just threw it into neutral and didn’t bother putting the parking brake on because I was on flat ground and it felt like it was going to stay put. Besides, all I needed to do was give this log a kick and that would tell me if I was backing in to cut and load or heading on down the road.
As I stepped over to the fallen tree I began hearing gravel behind me. I turned to see my truck slowly inching backward. Again, we were on level ground so it didn’t concern me. I watched waiting for it to settle and stop again. But it didn’t. It continued to slowly roll and began to gain speed.
It still wasn’t moving any quicker than a slow walk so I walked back over and around the door I had left open to brace myself against the door jam so that I could bring it to a stop again. But what I learned was that 7,000 pounds of rolling mass doesn’t stop very easily and to add to the momentum the truck was now aiming towards the edge of the road where the road sloped off and would soon meet a steep downhill grade in the forest.
I pushed harder only to realize that the heavy diesel truck didn’t even notice I was there. I knew this was a loosing battle so I hopped into the drivers seat and hit the brake finally bringing to truck to a halt before disaster.
That same feeling of insignificance was what I felt as I stared at those streaks in that night sky. The mass of time was pushing onward, rolling forward, without bias to anything or anyone. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second would see it’s progress forward. I was foolish to feel that I some how had control or was somehow weighed into its progress.
My only control over time is how I spend it. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second…….I better make it count!