Winter and Covid and Feeling Confined

I remember watching “The Wizard of Oz” on TV every year and noticing that as I got older, I got more confused by Dorothy’s quote near the end, ” if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further (NOTE: should that have been ‘farther’) than my own backyard because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with”. I remember immediately going on the defensive in my mental debate, “What the heck, is that telling me… that travel isn’t important, is that saying I won’t find happiness outside of my own neighborhood. Why my husband is the result of a long distance relationship?” It sounded like a lot of hooey.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that “my own back yard” isn’t a step off the back deck. It’s ourselves. Our heart’s desire starts within our hearts; we have to work on our own issues before we can begin to open up to what the world has to offer. And that sounded profound and good, and I was satisfied with my interpretation, except I was still getting hung up on the part that she “never really lost it to begin with.” So I did what any sane person would do with a decades old conundrum – just focused on the backyard and all it has to offer.

We’re having up to 4 snow storms in under two weeks (one alone swamped us with 18 inches of the stuff). Between the snow and the pandemic, I’ve been feeling a bit more trapped than usual, feeling sorry for myself because I just can’t get out and explore new places for my photography. So today, as the plows honked their horns at 8 a.m. to evacuate all vehicles from the condo parking lots, I took my camera and ran…. around town, well, small city actually – Haverhill, Massachusetts. I gave myself an hour and a half off and looked for every joyful thing I could find within the confines of my 35 square mile city and the 90-minute deadline.

These are the photos of what filled my heart in Haverhill today after the second of four storms. They aren’t all award winners, but they are all heart elevators, at least for me. I hope I can share my joy with you.

Text and Photos (c) Alison Colby-Campbell


Signs of Spring

There is always some date in February when the urgent call of spring renewal defeats the leaden desire for inaction, baked goods and pasta. And when I heed that call, I am compelled to spend some time outside walking and engaging with like minded plants and animals. February 23 was the day this year, when I needed to and had the energy to slug off a long hard winter hibernation.

This is what I saw.

Can you identify my garden plants from their sprouts?


One bird’s love song is another birds dinner bell. The hawk was waiting for dinner to be served. The barn bird had a nest hidden beneath the loose shingle. You can see the buds on the trees in the hawk photos.


It was nearly 60-degrees when I went strolling. Many neighbors shared the roads and pathways with me. Ultimately I put in about 3 miles and was energized more than tired by the excursion.

There are white birch in the woods behind my house, but this one is the one that ventured farthest from the other clusters and closest to our property.   And well, pussywillows, need I say more. The barn is the home of many wild birds and once I saw a raccoon had made its home inside as well, but that was when the farm grew more corn.



All photos and text (c) Alison Colby-Campbell.

Maine Takes A Stand Against Winter

IMG_6746 Maine March Blog Sohier Park Nubble Light
Nubble Light York, Maine as seen from Sohier Park.

A recent ride along coastal Maine showed me the resiliency of Mainers. They acted like petulant adolescents shouting “You’re not the boss of me” to Mother Nature. And Mother Nature shouted back “you will accept perpetual winter because I said so.” An obviously poor retort from someone who IS the boss of us all. A chink in the armor so to speak.

IMG_6809 Maine March Blog MArginal Way Donation station

And MN, as we like to call her, stomped two feet of snow on them in mid March to prove her point. But the depths of snow slithered back from the salty shore, and the temps edged above freezing and tangoed with the 40s. Warmth than cold, cold then cold, then warm-ish.

And the adolescent inhabitants of the planet in the area of Maine shouted back, “We do not subscribe to your norms of weather and dates. It’s a beach day when we say it’s a beach day!” And off they went with buckets and pails to build their ephemeral castles of sand. She blew the sand back in their faces.

IMG_6597 Maine March Blog York Beach winter clothes on the beach

Others took advantage of her raging fury to look for treasures among the stones heaved from the depths.

IMG_6799 Maine March Blog York Metal Detector

More Mainers  joined them at the shore and brought their canine friends to frolic on the ocean’s edge.

IMG_6625 Maine March Blog White dog with walking problem york beach
This beautiful, very happy white dog, perhaps a Great Pyrenees seem to be afflicted with short spine syndrome, and note I do not say suffered from it because a happier dog does not exist.

And Mother Nature pummeled the water in anger, promising harsh retaliation.  The sea  frothed up like Neptune’s cappuccino.

IMG_6829 Maine March Blog Beach day froth

And the people shouted back, “Hold my cup.”

IMG_6825 Maine March Blog Surfer

IMG_6823 Maine March Blog SurfIMG_6861 Maine March Blog SurfingIMG_6848 Maine March Blog Surfing

IMG_6634 Maine March Blog York Stand Up Paddle boarding

And the stoner Snowy Owl looked out from on high, got distracted a bit then giggled.

Mother Nature fumed, “What’s so funny… you want more Maine winter?”

IMG_6710 Maine March Blog Snowy Owl Sohier Park Nubble Light

The owl, temporarily obsessed with his own pretty toes, didn’t answer right away.

IMG_6717 Maine March Blog Snowy Owl Sohier Park Nubble Light

Slowly he remembered that a question had been asked and the smile crept back…

IMG_6666 Maine March Blog Snowy Owl Sohier Park Nubble Light

He said…. I am vacationing here from the Arctic Tundra. It’s definitely beach weather to me.

And Mother Nature, her fury spent, released spring upon the land, and she chuckled in her wicked way, as she realized they thought she caved in to their demands. She shouted back “Be careful what you wish for” and in spite set loose the sand fleas, no see ums and mosquitoes to populate the beach in numbers far greater than people worldwide.

She regained her composure. She wielded control. For she possessed a very particular set of skills; skills  acquired over a very long career. Skills that make her a nightmare for people like you and me who visit the beach in Maine.  And the great white shark moved farther north along the coast.


About this story. The story was inspired by a trip along the Maine coast on March 23, 2018, that is when everyone of these photos was taken. The trip wound its way along backroads through Kittery  to Kennebunk, to Old Orchard Beach, then worked from Portland to Harpswell, Bailey’s Island and then back through Brunswick, before heading home.

The owl was at Sohier Park  in York where one can view Nubble Lighthouse. The surfers and stand up paddle boarders, treasure seekers and castle makers were in or about York and Ogunquit. And though Great Whites have traveled to New England of late due in part to warmer waters, I have not seen one yet, and I am still figuring out if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell


Showing Off My Beautiful Neck of the Woods & River

Dizoglio collage v 5

Very very honored to have been commissioned by State Rep Diana DiZoglio to create a photo collage. As Diana explained – she wanted to share the beauty of the Merrimack Valley communities she represents: Methuen, North Andover, Lawrence, and Haverhill. And she wanted mostly winter scenes and as many as she could fit on her card, so I was thankful the weather cooperated and I was able to get a few more images with snow before she printed.

The final collage was similar to the image attached though dimensions were changed and I removed the watermarks (my name).

(c) Alison Colby-Campbell

Pieces of My Heart for Sale

Jon Campbell & I were invited to exhibit some of our photos at the Ipswich River Watershed Association 40th Anniversary event. The reception is at IRWA HQ on Sunday Nov. 5 2017 from 1-4 pm at 143 County Road Ipswich. The Watershed includes 21 cities and towns and the Ipswich River with its 45 tributary streams cover an area of 155 square miles. Both of my photos were taken in Middleton, one of only three communities that rests 100% within the watershed.

“End of Season with Picnic Table” was taken on the Ipswich River in Middleton.  What appealed to me in this image was that it looked like a black and white photo until the brown leaves and matching picnic table pop off the page. That snow topped table in relation to the only partially frozen river, instilled in me a certain wistfulness. Winter hadn’t quite taken hold yet, and I had in the back of my head been hoping for one more day of Indian Summer. This scene made that hope seem pretty much hopeless.  Finding this photo again in November, was especially poignant as we head back into the season that robs us of dining outdoors options. With effort, I remind myself there is a plus side – it minimizes bugs and ants.

DSC01463 Middleton Ipswich River Water Shed Exhibit photo from 2010 11.25 x 14.35 w watermark

“Misty Trees” was taken in Middleton along the Cuchnea (SP?) trail abutting Prichards Pond.  It is one of the few photos of mine that stops me in my tracks every time. It is a photograph that I miss when it’s spent too long in the deep archives of my photo collection. It was never a big prize winner in local photo contests but it continues to speak to me, and I find, a few other people who are drawn to it. I’ve framed it three or four times now, but this new frame is the best of the lot.  “Misty Trees” earned an honorable mention in the Middleton Stream Team Competition, and at the competition I learned that within a few days of my taking this picture the area (a tree farm) was clear cut. No one will ever see this image again except through photography.

DSC05122 Middleton Misty Trees with watermark - Copy (3) - Copy - Copy - Copy

Exhibits require the very nerve wracking process of updating my bio. Ugh, so much less fun than taking pictures. So I put together the panel below in the hope it said enough.

No such luck. Bios, I am told, need more words. Usually I love writing but writing about myself is such a hideous task. Ultimately I settled on this, at least for expediency’s sake. It will be tweeked again, I am sure, but I just don’t want to look at it anymore.

Bio and profile Alison Brain4Rent made for Ipswich River Water Shed Event


What started out as a means to keep personal memories alive and share the irrepressible beauty surrounding us, is taking over more of Alison Colby-Campbell’s life.  A long career as a professional marketing consultant exposes Alison to composition and messaging, both of which play into the positive stories she likes to tell through her photography, her calendar, blog and Facebook page, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography, and her articles for Haverhill Life Magazine. Alison credits The Middleton Stream Team Photo Competitions with encouraging her through a series of wins to place more emphasis on her photography.

Alison and her husband, Jonathan W. Campbell, who live in Haverhill, Massachusetts, find shooting photographs together provides an opportunity for collaboration, support, and competition that stimulates and encourages artistic growth. When she puts the cameras down, she usually finds she misses the perfect photo opp, but it does give her time to care for 2 giant and surly house rabbits, a weed ravaged garden, super lengthy Haverhill Cultural Council meetings, and binge watching Stranger Things.

Awards and Recognition:

  • November 2016 photography exhibit with her husband at the Massachusetts State House sponsored by State Rep Diana DiZoglio
  • First Place and a Best in Category at Topsfield Fair fine arts competition, and First Place in Agriculture photography at the Fair, too
  • The Heartbeat of Haverhill 2016 Calendar was selected for a city time capsule
  • First Place and People’s Choice Award in the Essex National Heritage Area photo competition
  • Cover photos chosen for the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce (GHCC) Members’ Guide, GHCC Visitors’ Guide, and Haverhill Life Magazine


(c)Alison Colby-Campbell


Farm Focus – Tattersall Farm, Haverhill MA

Tattersall Farm in my city of Haverhill, MA at  542 North Broadway needs to occupy a lot more of my time. I photographed there basically as a fly by, stopping to preserve my mood after a kid missed the bus to the high school or on my way to hike trails elsewhere, or to check out the community gardens.

This photo retrospective reminds me there’s a lot to see in any season. Disclaimer – My initial thought “well, maybe not spring”, shifted when I wrote a recent article for Haverhill Life Magazine on the trails here. I was delighted by the surprise of single daffodils peeking out above the grass and dandelions to mark the trail across the field.

With hiking trails, community gardens, wild flower areas, arguably the oldest living oak on city property, heritage apple trees, a daffodil lined path, and bobolinks, tree swallows, turkeys and hawks arriving for their photo ops along with a few deer, even the barren trees offer a beauty worth sharing.

If you are interested in purchasing prints of these images contact me through this blog. Prices range for matted prints:  Up to 90 sq inches $50, Up to 150 sq inches $80. For larger sizes or to license photographs for digital or commercial usage, please call for a quote.

(c) Alison Colby-Campbell Text & Photographs

IMG_6142 HAverhill Tattersall Apple TreeIMG_6138 Haverhill Tattersall Farm Winter SiloIMG_6132 Haverhill Tattersall Farm snow tractorDSC_0962 Haverhill tattersall Farm SunflowerIMG_2630 Haverhill Tattersall Summer 2016IMG_2620 Haverhill Tattersall Summer 2016IMG_2613 Haverhill Tattersall Summer 2016IMG_2591 Haverhill Tattersall Summer 2016IMG_2582 Haverhill Tattersall Summer 2016 community GardenIMG_2568 Haverhill Tattersall Summer 2016 Black eyed susansIMG_5218 Haverhill Tattersall edited and straightenedIMG_5145 Haverhill Tattersall editedDSC_0478 Haverhill Tattersall Farm May 2015DSC_0475 Haverhill Tattersall Farm May 2015DSC_0474 HAverhill TattersallDSC_0456 Haverhill Tattersall Farm May 2015DSC_0352 Haverhill TattersallDSC_0320 Haverhill Tattersall Farm May 2015IMG_0774 Haverhill Big Oak at tattersall Farm color intensifiedIMG_5196IMG_5157 Haverhill Tattersall edited