Shoulder-season weather gets a bad rap in a lot of mountain towns. There’s not enough snow to ski, but too much for bagging summits or climbing crags. Town empties out. The tourists leave, and so do most of the locals, packed off to beaches in Italy or Costa Rica for a bit of sun and surf before the real storms let fly.
But if you’re willing to put up with snow in your summer hiking shoes, there are rewards to be had on these three-season days. You leave the heat of summer behind in the valley, climb through autumn past ripening myrtille and tiny, tart framboise, up toward the bright white line of winter.
Moving up through the seasons in this way is a bit like experiencing a sped-up version of real life: like all changes, it rewards adaptability. The temperature might swing through sixty degrees; banks of cloud roll in, parting minutes (or days!) later; snow morphs from ornament to objective hazard. It’s messy and un-straightforward. You have to change your mind. So to enjoy it, a certain mental flexibility is required.
It’s good practice, though, experiencing change. It’s uncomfortable at first. You get attached to reaching such-and-such a summit, only to find that you’re knee deep in snow with cold feet and hundreds of meters left to climb. So you turn back, cross the col instead of the peak, and soon find yourself back among the berry bushes. It stops feeling like giving up, and starts feeling like something else: moving forward.
It’s still summer in Chamonix. But the occasional storms are drawing the snowline down like the tide. It’s an exciting taste of the winter that lies ahead. But I can wait. There are plenty of summits still to try for, and berries left if I have to turn around.
It seems no one is exempt from rethinking their carbon footprint—not even Santa. According to this clever infographic by Ethical Ocean, Santa’s ancient sleigh, oversized reindeer, and energy-sucking factory up north are spreading more than just joy and holiday cheer. Apparently, St. Nick’s yuletide tour could run a cleaner operation.
Chinese artists have been attracting more attention recently; both from the international art community and—more troublingly—the Chinese government. With the detention, release and subsequent $2.2 Million dollar fine “back taxes” imposed on dissident artist Ai Weiwie, China is proving itself to be both a dangerous place for artistic expression, and—ironically—one where such expression matters most.
Check out the awesome bike sculpture Ai Weiwie welded up from hundreds of frames made by the Chinese state-run bike company over at Adventure Journal.
It’s that context which makes the impressive trompe l’oeil photographs of Liu Bolin more than simply grand optical illusions. And it is a great illusion: one doesn’t need to understand the politics of political repression in China to appreciate Liu’s clever trademark of painting himself into the Chinese landscape. In each of the massive prints—up to 5′ wide in a recent exhibit titled “Hiding in the City” at Stockholm’s Fotografiska Museet—he is literally painted into the landscape.
Ostensibly, the purpose of the project is to “explore the relationship between people and their environment.” But given the history of censorship under the Chinese regime, enforced by a chilling ability to make artists literally disappear, it’s also a powerfully revealing work of camouflage. And, as the exhibit draws crowds to art galleries around the world (including New York—check out the film below), it’s proof of the power of art to make change.
See more of Liu Bolin’s photographs from The Invisible Man project, visit the website of the Eli Klein Gallery.
Back in 2010, we challenged visitors to our New York pop-up shop to join us in creating change half a world away, by helping to build a well in Ethiopia. For one night, we donated 10% of sales to Charity:Water, an organization championed by Adrian Grenier, and which he’d shared with us during the shoot for our ongoing Portraits series. [See the film here.]
“Charity:Water does something very important, but very simple,” Adrian explained. ”It brings clean drinking water to people in developing nations. I believe in the goal. Clean drinking water is at the root of good health, and allowing people to take that next step toward their own success.”
Eighteen months later, the 175 more people are taking that step. Through the work of our friends at Charity:Water—and the communities they work with—that gift 18 months ago has created change. As Scott Harrison, Founder and President of Charity:Water, writes:
The gift you’ve given will bring life, health, hope and dignity to people you’ve never met. For many people, your gift was an answer to years—sometimes decades—of prayer. For others. it was a sudden realized and unexplained hope in a forgotten place where dreams of a better future had died long ago. That change has now been realized, and thanks to you, the people of Golomye no longer have to drink water that makes them sick. You’ve done an amazing thing, and I’m so truly grateful for your support.
Today, we’re pleased to pass those thanks along to the people who really made it happen: you, the supporters of the New York Pop-Up shop whose generosity allowed us to make this gift. It’s a reminder that change can be easy when made collectively—whether it’s for communities around the block or on the other side of the world.
Besides their award-winning film, Truck Farm, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis (our 2010 Grant for Change winner) are about to plant another big idea— traveling farms for kids. This summer the filmmaking duo will launch a fleet of 25 mini-Truck Farms across the US. Their goal? Make sure every urban center has its own school-based truck garden that will teach kids that food doesn’t grow from a wrapper and farming can be just as fun as recess.
Set to launch on Earth Day, the Truck Farm armada (financed by a generous micro grant from Truck Farm) will host a national school garden contest as well truck planting events in select cities across the US. So grab a rake and friend and join a movement.
He’s tall. He’s handsome. He’s this month’s snapshot winner. Congratulations Mark McCambridge, your shot by Nicolas Blandin captures you to a tee.
Nau’s love affair with Mark began at Sydney’s (the old Brecken) back in December 2006 and we’ve had a crush on him ever since. We’ve been lucky enough to share a carefully brewed coffee with him about every six months in recent years as he’s moved from Alaska, Brazil, Valencia, and finally Annecy. Like any consuming crush, we had to set him free to see if it was meant to be. We’re still hoping there’s a chance he’ll come back. There’s always a chance…. right??
Until then, we’ll continue to get lost in his photos and dream about our next reunion. One of us might need to hand deliver his new M3 Hoody.
And for everyone else, do you want to win a prize of your own and have us write a blog post all about YOU? Send a photo to email@example.com of you and your friends wearing your favorite Nau threads. Next month we’re giving away a men’s or women’s Wafter Pullover. We’ll announce the winner here on the Thought Kitchen on Tuesday April 12th.
Congratulations to Justin Castillo for answering last month’s trivia question correctly. Portraits subject Jeff Curtes shot the photos for this season’s on-mountain styles near Mt. Hood’s Elliot Glacier.
Justin, an M3 Hoody is headed your way. It’s a staff favorite, enjoy!
Our Collective Snapshot winner – Brandon Smith – submitted his photos from a WWOOF assignment in Japan. He sent us two shots taken during a trans-Atlantic crossing last May. It was the first leg of an international adventure that included stops in France, Germany, Holland, England, and Japan. His next stop? India. Thanks for keeping in touch Brandon, we look forward to seeing photos from the snowy slopes in Japan (wearing your new M3 Hoody, of course).
Whether you’re on a world tour or visiting your local mountain on the weekend, send us your best shots of Nau in the snow. Next month’s winner will receive a men’s or women’s Shroud of Purrin Hoody. Send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep in touch, next month’s winner will be announced on February 8.
The Thought Kitchen is our effort at collective inquiry and its power to effect change. Have you ever noticed how the party is always in the kitchen? There are more walls to lean on and people are energized by the proximity to food and drink. Well, welcome to our kitchen, where we hope to tap into everything we love about that feeling—community, vivacious exchange, food for thought.