Sunday, March 31, 2013


SPRING has Sprung.... in Rovaniemi, which for me means that this is probably the last time I'll have to light a fire under the engine of the bike to warm it up from -33°C and wait for half an hour before I try to start it.

But in all honesty I'm going to miss winter.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so how about I give you a quick ten thousand word summary of why I'll be missing winter.....

Winter just does it for me.

There are so many reasons why it does, from the the thick white blanket of snow that covers everything to the muffled stillness you feel when you're camped out in the middle of nowhere. The air is pure, fresh, clean and sharp.
There is a sense of serenity as the snow absorbs all the usual sounds of nature,  an almost eerie silence. It's akin to sitting in a sound proof room in a recording studio. 
Colors are much more intense and brighter in contrast to the soft and smooth covering of snow that seems to stretch on as far as your eye can see. 
It's also a challenging season. It's cold, very cold at times. My fingers and toes get numb quite often, especially my fingers as I photograph, but it's such a good feeling as I stuff them into my pockets and they start to warm up again. Or I sometimes start the bike and before the cylinder heads get too hot, lay them across them.
I've always loved winter from way back when I was a kid. And especially since we didn't get those snowy winters in Ireland too often, only every 4 years or so, I guess it made me love it more when it did come. So maybe my love of winter is my way or reliving my childhood?. If I had a therapist I'm sure they could enlighten me about that.

Everything becomes more difficult in the cold, and much more difficult living on a motorcycle in the cold in winter. However, due to the fact that it's a challenging season, it also lends itself to being a very physical season for ones lifestyle. 
You can't be too sedentary in winter. You need to keep moving in the cold, otherwise you'll just end up freezing to death. Ergo, winter is a season of heightened activity for most people, whether you like it or not. I like this aspect of my winter travels, that it forces me to move, or rather doesn't allow me to be lazy. And I know myself by now. If I can take it easy, I will.

I've been thinking a lot about how my life has gone these last 4 years, and felt that I've really been doing things backwards to a degree. 
Usually, when you get into your 50's you start to look toward slowing down a little, possibly even have enough time vested in your job that you could go for an early retirement by 60. Then it's time for the Florida trips, cocktails at the Tiki bar at 4, nice and toasty by 7 and then a few more before bed. Next morning it's over to the beach where you can lie out in 90° sunshine and take a dip in the nice blue Atlantic Ocean with the Gulfstream running a few miles offshore keeping it bathtub warm to swim in most of the year.
But here I am, now 51, voluntarily charting a course that is the total opposite of the bodies natural slow down that occurs as one's life starts to enter into the second half. Or, as I see it, the third period in my hockey game that is my life. I'm a bit of a realist in some ways, and see a particular number as a pinnacle that is about as far as I would want to go before I have to start to take too many medications in order to survive. I made a promise to myself after I quit drinking that if I ever got up in the morning and had to take a multicolored menagerie of little pills in order for my day and my general health and well being to function, well, that's not how I see my life. And I'm sure my kidneys will be happier with my decision too. 
How did I get on to this very personal vein?. It just happens every now and then while I'm writing. For the most part, I don't get too personal here about a lot of what goes on in my head. At the same time, if it comes out and I'm ok with leaving it down on print here, then I leave it alone and publish it.
I'm very happy about how I am living my life right now. Not so much 5 + years ago, but now I'm ok with myself, and very ok with what I'm doing. Even though my travels and direction could be, and have been, considered a very selfish and hedonistic pursuit, or, as one commenter on my DownShift YouTube video put it "Self to the max" he said, "go find homeless kids in Lagos and help them through the day", I do feel like I'm adding something to this life on planet earth. 
And adding something to some other peoples lives who either read my stories and see my photographs or want to do the same thing that I am doing right now but due to their circumstances or current situations, can't. So they do it through me and my life.
I'm not helping starving kids in Lagos, I may never even get to Lagos on my RTW trip, but if I do, I'll see what I can do to help. But thanks for watching the video and commenting Matthias (my naysayer on Youtube). 

Meanwhile, back in Rovaniemi I got my U.S.A. fix fixed the other day, a double header actually. The Artikum Museum and Arctic Science Centre here in Rovaniemi were having a lecture and photo presentation by Dr. Don Pettit, an American Astronaut and a really great photographer. On the ISS no less. Who, as far as I'm concerned, has the worlds most enviable photographers position.
Dr. Don has no less than 10 Nikon DSLR's on the ISS and the most spectacular views of planet earth to shoot with them.

"So this is where I live" said Dr. Don.

This is a great shot of Dr. Don in the morning as he was explaining about the hatches on the viewing or photography dome as they opened. It was such a thrill for me to hear him talk and see his absolutely spectacular photographs from outer space. When he talks, he speaks with such an enthusiasm and passion about life and what he does, really great to listen to. Astrophotographer Christopher Malin put together a wonderful video, a tribute video of his favorite, as he put's it "astronaut, poet and photographer". You can see the video HERE on VIMEO. 16 minutes of stunning beauty. Kudos Mr. Malin for a job well done.

So you think you got a good shot of the Northern Lights?. Nahhh, not really.
Nothing comes close to shooting the Aurora Borealis from the International Space Station as it cruises above the earth at an altitude of over 200 miles high and at a speed of over 17,200 miles per hour.

The Artikim Museum and Arctic Science Centre, Rovaniemi, Finland.

Attending the Don Pettit lecture on Space Photography was my second visit to the Artikum Museum
My first visit was a little over a  month ago. Heikki, the president of Karu MC bought me a gift of a museum ticket to get a little history of the Lappish culture and see some of the exhibits there. Kiitos Heikki.
Being a photographer with a valid Press Pass I was able to secure an Artikum Media pass which allowed me to roam freely through all the exhibits and photograph them without restrictions. Some of the exhibits, like the Sámi peoples exhibit, were not allowed to be photographed.

Some really great photography adorned the main hall, mostly scenes of the twice yearly Reindeer events, the "Earmarking" of the reindeer calves in June/July and the round ups from the end of September to January. I think I'll have to do a more in depth article on Reindeer Husbandry and the Sámi people here in Lappland in the coming year. Which means coming back to Rovaniemi and Lappland. Which I'm fine with as I really like it here a lot.

Most of the lower floor of the Artikum was devoted to the indigenous Sámi peoples life, clothing, jewelry and some traditional modes transport in the form of canoes and sleighs. A really fascinating look at some Sámi items that you  don't get to see every day. The following photographs are but a small sampling taken from this exhibition.

Homeland of the Sámi people.

Both of these color prints are circa 1900 and I found them on Wikipedia and include them here as a fascinating look back in time. As photographs I found myself staring at them for quite some time. They have an otherworldly quality to them.

I could extend this post for quite a long time, delving into the Sámi culture, the how's, why's, land boundaries, territories, culture and so on. In fact, the more research I do about Lappland and it's people and history, the more I feel I could probably do a whole months worth of articles about this subject and still have more to write about.
Through Heikki, the Karu MC club president, I got to meet Ari and Irene Kangnesniemi, who have a traditional handicraft business called Hornwork

Ari and Irene carry on the old traditions of the Sámi and Lappish culture of jewelry making, artistic handicrafts, knives, drums, chandeliers that Ari makes from reindeer antler, all different types of Lappish handmade items. As their website says "Lappish nature is our material".
And interestingly, a blog commenter from Australia left me a note to look up Irene and Ari while I was in Rovaniemi. Small world.

My visit to Ari and Irene at Hornwork last week was where I received my gift from Irene of a really nice Moose antler, so it got grafted onto the front of my outfit. Kiitos Irene. Kiitos is Finnish for thank you. 
Irene also sent me away with some Lappish food gifts, some reindeer meat, some frozen fish that Ari caught earlier in the year and a traditional fish dish here in Finland of Muikku in tomato sauce.

I paid them a visit yesterday and brought them both a pot of the reindeer soup that I made with the reindeer meat they gifted me. I let it simmer for 4 hours and the flavor of the reindeer chops in the soup was amazing.
Irene is such a vibrant person. She just has a really has good energy about her.
More on Ari, Irene and Hornwork in next weeks post.

And, this weeks photos and many more photos too were brought to you by Computer Network Solutions in Arizona in the USA. 
I had a "Dohh" moment last week while trying to free up more start up disk space. I just went in and deleted my downloads file and somehow it deleted nearly 70GB of RAW file and Jpeg images from my Lightroom4 program. I was sick to my stomach as I hadn't backed up those files. So I called Alan at CNS and thanks to him and the installation of DiscWarrior recovery program, I have a lot of files recovered. Kiitos Alan. Alan has been a great friend since our meeting at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2010 and has got me out of some difficult computer situations over the course of the last 2 years. Thanks for your continued support and friendship Alan.

Again, I hope you all enjoyed the read. The comments section is now open, please feel free to vent and leave me your thoughts.

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Until next week, I wish you all a very Happy Easter.


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This material my not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Rod said...

Such a great journal Murph! May Easter be memorable for you!
Best regards Rod

Unknown said...

Another great post, bro! But I'm glad it's you and not me in that cold. I might be pretty, but it's not my thing. You can have my bout that? LOL!

I'm tryin to get cars ready to race on the salt...I had to replace the headers I used last year...they weren't coated like they advertised ' the salt ate 'em.

Stay safe and take some time to smell the roses if ya get a chance.

Positive vibes being sent out into the cosmos for ya, amigo!


IRISH Murph said...

Hey Ray,

I'll take your share thanks. Spring is here and it's already too warm for me.

Best of luck at Bonneville this year, give my regards to all who remember me there.


Anonymous said...

Hello Murph! I saw you yesterday, driving in front of me (near the university). I saw your blog address and decided to pay a visit. Wow, you've been on the road for such a long time already, I truly appreciate that. Lappish spring isn't usually this cold in April, at least here in Rovaniemi, but this year has been somewhat phenomenal. I recommend that next time you come around you also pay a visit to Pilke ( if you didn't already. It's right next to Arktikum. I also hope that you stay in Lappland during summer, so you can see the midnight sun. I guess it's prettiest in the very Northern Finland. Your photographing skills are amazing, keep up the good work. Have a safe journey!

-Emmi from Rovaniemi

IRISH Murph said...

Terve Emmi and thanks for writing.

Yea, I've been on the road for a good chunk of time now, but the longer it goes on the smaller the amount of time becomes.
In the beginning when I was on the road a year I thought it was a long time, but now in year 4 it's become my new normal I guess.
And yes, Pilke is on my list, I missed it on the Artikum trip.
I may be here for some of the summer, not sure yet, but I've never seen the midnight sun, something to look forward to.

I'll be here for another week or two so see you around town,