Backward and forward: a look to the past and future

A month never seems that long on paper; It's living the month of break that makes it feel much longer.

At the beginning of break, I had trouble dropping the feeling of running on a tight schedule, and now, a week before I head back, I'm trying to remember what it felt like to plan my weeks in advance.  It's only been a month, compared to the three UMass has off for summer break, but the feeling of a new year, and coming of a new semester, is in the air.

I can't lie: I'm looking forward to getting back; when I visited my friends last week, we ended up at one point perusing my pictures and reminiscing about the year.

I decided I wanted to share some of my favorite moments from the past year with you, as well as what I'm looking forward to in the coming two semesters, in chronological order.

#10: Hiking in the Holyoke Range
No one could say Sabrina and I weren't prepared.  The morning we decided to head toward the mountains for the first time, we made sure to stock up at CBS on our way to Mt. Norwottuck. Between us, we had a can of bug spray, four pints of water, countless fruit and granola bars, a bag of almonds, and a roll of toilet paper, all shoved into our two bags.  Of course, the wikiHow pages we read in preparation of going hiking were more than likely meant for those intending on descending into the wilderness for the greater part of a day, if not longer, but a newbie mistake that over-prepares is better than one of not preparing at all.
I don't remember very much of the hike up, only that we kept stopping, at my request, for a break or photo on the side.  Once we made it to the top of the mountain that we thought, at the time, was Mt. Norwottuck, but later discovered to be its neighbor, we dropped our bags on a rock and looked out over the Valley.  We had made it to the top in a little under an hour, and had, luckily, completely overestimated our need of toilet paper.  The view this sunny morning was glorious.
We headed back about 45 minutes later, after we had gotten our fill of the gorgeous view from the top.  As we approached Route 9, Sabrina asked if she could make a pitstop at a hair supply store, which brings me to...

#9: Spur-of-the-moment hair dye decisions
I had just finished my work for the night when I heard the familiar knock on my wall. With two quick rasps from her side, Sabrina wanted to know if she could come in.  I opened the door for my neighbor, who was holding a new bottle of hair dye.
"Hey, I'm about to bleach my hair, you want in?"
At the time, my hair was, once more, colorless.  I didn't really know how to dye my hair freshman year, but I certainly gave it my darnedest.  The summer before sophomore, I told the stylist that I wanted to get my hair cut and, really, cut off as much of the embarrassing blueish greenish tips as you like.
"Yeah, definitely."
I remember donning an old night shirt for myself and giving one to Sabrina before we headed to the sinks.  We bleached our hair and waited several hours, saying we'd dye the next day to let it settle first.  Predictably, we give up on waiting and globbed on the dye, hoping it would still work.  Sabrina came out with pink bangs, and I wound up with several dark blue strands of hair that I'm still holding onto.

#8: Long-exposure photo shoots
As a photographer, it feels appropriate to include at least one act of taking pictures on my top ten list.  I had been promising some friends a photo shoot for ages and, having found a night when we were all free, sent out a text about it.  The plan was simple: Meet me in my room around 8. I'll supply the music and the lights.
Long exposure photography and I go back years and years, to my sophomore year of high school when I was trying to explore new photographic techniques.
Beyond the camera settings, there was very little technical about this shoot.  I handed my friends finger lights, glow sticks, and anything stuffed with LEDs.  With a longer shutter speed set on my camera and the flash on, I caught both my friends' faces and the tracks of light made by their accessories.  The shoot went on for hours and yielded a batch of new profile pictures, as well as some of my favorite shots at the time.

#7: Route 9 Diner trips
Every town has that place: the 24 hour coffee shop or restaurant that holds a sort of midnight charm, drawing groups of students at late night hours to consume early morning food.  For many of us, that place is the Route 9 Diner.
The first time I was there was mid-winter freshman year; being freshmen, two of my friends and I decided to, as we called it, go on an adventure at 2 a.m.  We wandered through campus and ended up on route 9, heading in the direction of Northampton.  Our final destination was the Diner, an event I only partially remember due to sleepiness.
Since then, the Route 9 trips have only been able to happen when certain conditions are met: a group of friends must all be willing to a) go out in the cold b) to buy food c) at some strange hour of the night.  This has only happened a few times, but each one sticks out to me.

#6: The Peace Pagoda
The hills of Leverett were possibly the last place I would expect to find a Buddhist stupa, yet the New England Peace Pagoda sits atop a mountain in the forested town.  It's only a short drive away, but it certainly doesn't feel like it.
Evan and I had both been there before, though that didn't make finding the cite easier.  We got a little lost on the roads there, but finally arriving was worth it.  That afternoon, we watched insects crawling around by the pond and wandered around the stacks of balanced rocks on the silent grounds.  The Pagoda in the woods continues to grab my attention and hold my respect, as it is probably the most interesting and peaceful place I could spend an afternoon.

#5: Humans vs. Zombies
I know, I know, quite a quick jump in subject matter.  First of all, no, I didn't play Humans vs. Zombies, and, yes, like everyone else, I always wondered what exactly they were doing.  I started covering the game for a multimedia class project.  I went in expecting to cover a glorified game of freeze tag, but came out with an understanding of a game based around strategy, with a unique plot, characters, and missions.
Covering this game definitely changed the way I viewed it; when I saw a NERF-clenching bandana-wearing student sprinting ahead of an organized group of zombies, I now wondered where they were headed, if a mission was going on and where the plot was.  Humans vs. Zombies administrator Chris Kimball told me the best part of the game was that "you form a special bond of friendship over a silly game with NERF guns,” and isn't that all that really matters?

#4: Puffers Pond
Like the Peace Pagoda, I've never gone to Puffers Pond to get something done; rather, I go there to remove myself from the bustle of the day and the stress of classes.  One warm day last fall, I got a text from Sabrina.
"Tommy and I are going to Puffers Pond. Come on."
I was done with classes for the day and ran outside to meet them.  As far as nice days go, very little can beat the smell of crisp air, the chill of cool water, and the feeling of wandering through the woods with friends.  We parked on the street and spent the rest of the day just sitting on the banks and talking about our day.  I've been back there since, both on my own and with other people, but this perfect day is still my definitive representation of the pond in my mind.

#3: Halloween Weekend
My friends and I are not expert planners.  Yes, we could have gone to a Halloween show or one of the many seasonal events in the area, but the weekend before Halloween at my friends' house was shaping up to be "let's put on costumes and play video games in them."
As a photographer, I wanted very little more than to have something cool to take pictures of; I was really hoping my friends would find something to do so I could get some shots of people masked and glittered on the one day it was socially acceptable.  When I thought I was out of luck, Evan came through.
We decided we would go walk around Northampton dressed in our costumes.  He donned a green army jacket and became James Sunderland from Silent Hill II, while I threw together a red dress and a basket and became little red riding hood.  We drove out to Northampton; certainly people would be walking around in their costumes, right?
"Shaina, nobody's in their costumes. I told you it was too early."
We wandered through Thornes and got coffee looking only slightly out of place (pictured above) before we decided to explore streets we had never been down before.  This exploration yielded the knowledge of a new record store, the discovery of a goblin-themed art exhibit, and many cool pictures, which can be seen here.

#2: Election night
I was excited both as a journalist and an American.  Last November was the first time I could vote in a presidential election; I hopped off the bus to the fire station and cast my vote among a throng of other UMass students.  As soon as I got back, I slipped of my civilian hat and threw on my journalism one.  Whatever happened, I was there to get reactions.
My night was filled with runs down to the Collegian office, back up to the Cape Cod Lounge, over to a Dining Commons and back down again.  I live-tweeted, I instagrammed, I photographed my way through what seemed like the longest wait of the year.
The announcement that President Obama had been reelected hit subtly at first, then exploded.  It was announced mid-newsfeed while I was in Berkshire Dining Commons, and seemed to go unnoticed for a minute or two.  The realization rolled slowly over the crowd and soon I was snapping pictures of hugging, yelling and crying.  I had covered my first election.

#1: Seeing stars
I ran into James on the bus. Last year, I wrote a story about his interest in astronomy and his history of watching meteor showers with his father.  It seemed almost fate that I should run into him the night the Leonids shower was going to begin.
James left the bus a stop before me, promising to text me when he was heading out to watch the showers.
When I got the text around 12 that night, Evan, Sabrina and I were halfway through watching Silence of the Lambs for my politics through films class. We paused it, grabbed our coats and headed to the car.  Minutes later, we arrived at James's house, a two-floor dwelling with a garden outside and a baseball diamond across the street.
From the bleachers of the field, the nigh sky was notably clear, and the light pollution as reduced as we could get it. The air was freezing, and I depended on the mug of tea I clutched to keep my fingers warm.
We were out there until the early side of 3, by which time I had counted 4 shooting stars.  Evan dropped me off at my dorm building, where I sat until 4:30 a.m., scanning through my pictures of the starry night.

Looking through my old pictures always manages to energize me about the semesters to come.  Next year's going to be a busy one without doubt, but this doesn't stop me from creating a list of goals for the coming twelve months.  As of now, the top five are as follows:

#1: Bike to Northampton. I've always wanted to follow the bike trail to NoHo some early morning.  I got close last year, turning back right before the bridge over the Connecticut River.  This year, I want to finally make it across.
#2: Hike Mt. Tom. I always see the road signs indicating the exit for Mt. Tom, and I'm always so tempted.  This year, I want to finally plan, get up early enough, and hike the mountain.
#3: More photo shoots.  I finally feel like I'm getting a handle on portraits and want to experiment with what I can do with them.  I'd really like to try more planned photo shoots this year.
#4: Write more.  Whether for work or pleasure, I feel like I've fallen back on photography over the years because I feel comfortable with it. Before I became a photographer, I had dreams of being a writer or author of some sort.  While those goals have shifted, I'd really like to write more on the side, as well as give writing for the Collegian a shot.  This is more of a resolution than a goal; I always say I'm going to start writing, then put it off further.
#5: Internships!  One of the most-stressed aspects of journalism is experience.  I've shot for the Collegian since freshman year, but it's becoming time to get a little more experience out there in the big, scary, real world.