Archive for the 'Pennsylvania' Category



Slice of Life: a spider’s feast

Slice of Life

On Tuesdays, participating bloggers share a “slice of life” and post the link at Two Writing Teachers.

I wrote this one in the fall of 2012 while living in Duncannon, Pennsylvania.

The spiders thrive here because of the river’s bounty of bugs to munch. I not only cohabitate with spiders, but I routinely clean dead insects from the floor, bookshelves, heaters and window sills. The spiders come in all sizes, like the 2-millimeter arachnid dangling lazily by the board game shelf right now, or the inch-long ones that scuttle across the floor. There’s one that’s been in the accordion folds of the air conditioner for weeks. I guess it’s dead but I thought I already cleaned that exact same kind from that spot.

The outdoor stairway to my apartment wears robes of cobwebs. The other day there was a bug’s corpse that was almost as long as my hand, lying supine by the mailboxes. It had wings like a cape and large antennae protruding from its head. It repulsed me. It was the miniature image of what could be a human-sized bug in a horror movie.

Susquehanna from Duncannon

The proximity of the Susquehanna River is the only reasonable explanation I could come up with for the number of spiders living in my Duncannon apartment.

Celebrate 2013! #CelebrateLU

celebrate-imageInstead of celebrating the past week for the Celebrate Link-Up today I’m going to celebrate the past year. In 2012 I shared 5 things that made me smile. As the year wrapped up last week I couldn’t think of a way to capture the highlights in one umbrella like that, but the Celebrate Link-Up gives me a chance.

Here’s what I’m celebrating from 2013.

1. Speaking out about poverty and helping to build an organization that’s fighting for human rights in Pennsylvania.

2. Finding old friends in new places.

LT and Kara

My good friend and former travel companion, LT, and me at Muir Woods in California. I visited the west coast for a journalism conference in May 2013.

Kara and Jill

I met Jill at a journalism conference in Mexico and we both worked in Palestine later that year. In October 2013 I visited her while she was home with family in Montreal. We went apple-picking.

3. Initiating a public art project celebrating people in recovery from mental illness and their supporters. (See related posts.)

4. Getting to know Leah.

Leah Clouser

Leah Clouser was a participant in the Faces of Mental Health Recovery project. She can’t drive, so I brought her to our activities and because of that I got to know much more about her life and the impact of our project on her.

5. Being part of a community-focused arts organization.

I served on the executive board of the Perry County Council of the Arts in 2013 and also sold handwoven scarves at the PCCA gallery in Newport. Leaving the wonderful people involved with this organization (staff and volunteers) was the saddest part of leaving Perry County at the end of the year. There’s great talent in that community but what I loved is that the focus isn’t the esoteric or elitist promotion of high art. The PCCA and its people are building community. And the FoMHR project wouldn’t have been possible without my feeling connected to and welcome in that community.

6. Hiking a lot.

I didn’t complete all of my 2013 physical challenges (I only went on one long bike ride), but I surpassed the challenge to do 5 new hikes. I also did plenty of hiking on familiar trails. I just hope that I maintain that habit now that I live in a city.

Appalachian Trail

A view from Peter’s Mountain on the Appalachian Trail, northeast of Duncannon. November 2013

7. Landing a dream job.

I hesitate to say “dream job” because it’s not the only job I’ve ever wanted, nor do I expect to do it forever and always, but it is something I’m passionate about and have been working towards, so here’s the story.  At a journalism workshop in 2010, when I had just ventured into international journalism, I said to someone, “if I were to do journalism back in the States, I’d want to be on the education beat.” I’ve been covering schools as a freelancer or general assignment reporter since 2011, and in November I started as a full-time education reporter at a daily newspaper.

The Blain Hotel, or, A Morning in the Life of a Rural Journalist

Sometimes when you’re a journalist, you write about businesses opening under new ownership.

Janel Beaston

Janel Beaston, 22 years old, bought the Blain Hotel restaurant in May 2013.

If you’re a rural journalist, that business might have been a restaurant that was the center of social life in a town of 252 people. You might have heard people buzzing about its return to operating for months beforehand. You might have learned that the restaurant existed since before the Civil War.

Blain Hotel

The Blain Hotel closed in the fall of 2012. It re-opened on Sept. 16, 2013.

You might go to the restaurant to take photos and meet a waitress who’s worked there for 20 years.

Waitress Lou Ann

Waitress Lou Ann Campbell

You might discover that the group of 23 senior citizens she’s serving made their reservation months before the restaurant re-opened. They might be gathered there for a school reunion.

Red Hill School Reunion

The third man in from the right, Ken Morrow, is the oldest in the group at age 96. He was the grand marshall of Blain’s 250th anniversary celebration parade in August 2013.

They might show you sketches of the one-room schoolhouse they all attended four decades before you were born. You might hear stories about “pen the teacher out day,” when students locked the teacher out of school and bunked off. (Which, you might be told, usually happened during hunting season so that the teacher, if he were male, could go hunting instead.)

Red Hill School Reunion2

Red Hill School alumni

Sometimes when you’re a rural journalist, this is your life. You might need to ask your questions loudly.

Faces of Mental Health Recovery: Wheat pasting!

Faces of Mental Health Recovery is a public art project that engages people in recovery from mental illness, as well as their supporters, in learning photography and producing poster-sized black and white portraits to display publicly. In early September, I led a photography workshop in Landisburg, PA with the project participants. Last night we reconvened at the Perry County Council of the arts in Newport and wheat pasted the portraits onto 21.75 x 32-inch wooden panels.

The process was simple, though we learned some tips as we went. First, I made wheat paste by combining 1 part flour and 4 parts water and heating on medium while whisking constantly. Second, we applied a layer of wheat paste to the panel using a roller. It shouldn’t be gloopy, but get plenty on there.

Wheat pasting our portraits

Brendan

The third step took three people. Two people lined up the top of the poster to the edge at the top of the panel, while one person at the other end held up the poster so it didn’t drop onto the wheat paste.

Wheat pasting our portraits

Shelley and Rog

The two people at the top slowly pressed the poster down, smoothing it out from the center.

Wheat pasting our portraits

Our title poster was printed on heavier paper than the portraits, which meant it had less wrinkles. Though we like the character and texture that the wrinkles give to the portraits.

After making sure every corner is applied, the final step was a top layer of wheat paste rolled over the poster. We’ll also add a layer of polyurethane once the panels have dried, to make them more weather-resistant and add a bit of gloss.

Wheat pasting our portraits

Shelley was the smoothing master. All that decoupage practice paid off.

Faces of Mental Health Recovery

Faces of Mental Health Recovery: Jasmine (PCCA’s fantastic creative programs director), Bill, Brendan, Shelley (my co-conspirator and co-organizer for the project), Todd, Paul and Nikki. One participant, Tracey, couldn’t make it that night.

These panels will be hung outside at Landis House, 67 N. 4th St., Newport PA. An accompanying indoor photo exhibition will open with a reception at Landis House on Oct. 11, 6:30 to 8 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., on first Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. It will run through Nov. 22.

Photo of the Day: Cat and Cow

Cat and Cow

O’Toole Acres dairy farm. Loysville, PA. August 2013

Think they do yoga together?

Faces of Mental Health Recovery: Portraits

Faces of Mental Health Recovery is a public art project that engages people in recovery from mental illness, as well as their supporters, in learning photography and producing poster-sized black and white portraits to display publicly.

The portraits below, taken by participants and me, will be wheat pasted on wooden panels and hung outside at Landis House, 67 N. 4th St., Newport PA. An accompanying indoor photo exhibition will open with a reception at Landis House on Oct. 11, 6:30 to 8 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., on first Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. It will run through Nov. 22.

Leah Clouser

Leah Clouser

Bill McHenry

Bill McHenry

Brendan Bayer

Brendan Bayer

Nikki Miller

Nikki Miller

Paul Boyer

Paul Boyer

Shelley Bishop

Shelley Bishop

Todd Stephens

Todd Stephens

Tracy Acker

Tracy Acker

Kara Newhouse

Kara Newhouse

Faces of Mental Health Recovery: Perry County workshop

The photography workshop I taught for the Faces of Mental Health Recovery project last weekend went off without a hitch. Great weather, fun people, and a beautiful location in western Perry County. Here are some photos from the workshop in action.

We held the workshop at Support the Journey House, a business owned by my co-conspirator, Shelley Bishop (front, right).

We held the workshop at Support the Journey House, a business owned by my co-conspirator, Shelley Bishop (front, right).

After openings, I introduced the group to basic photography principles, like the rule of thirds, composition and perspective. (Photo by Bill McHenry)

Then they got to work!

Then they got to work!

The first activity involved taking photos that represented the I'm the Evidence values: belief, hope, giving, connectedness, action, example, encouragement and possibility.

The first exercise was taking photos that represented the I’m the Evidence values: belief, hope, giving, connectedness, action, example, encouragement and possibility. This photo by Tracy Acker represents belief.

This photo by Leah Clouser represents encouragement.

This photo by Leah Clouser represents encouragement.

Later in the workshop we took portraits of each other, which will be the main feature of the Faces of Mental Health Recovery exhibition at Landis House next month. I’ll post those photos later this weekend!



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