Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Loan from a Friend

My friend Ronn has let me borrow his monopod or, as my friend Greg calls such things, his "stick." The monopod has a universal mount, so I can set my camera on it to steady my hand when shooting in super macro. The response time of a digital camera like mine is unforgiving: the slightest breath or involuntary muscluar adjustment spoils the picture.

Short of owning a stick, Ronn's loan is a treat indeed. I can't wait to experiment with it.

Farm Fresh

This is a test.
I dare you to describe their color:
plated sun
school bus shards
squirted aureolin
blunt lemon
clotted gold.

Fresh farm eggs must be seen to be believed.

(This should have been posted Saturday, but because of Internet connection problems, it could not be. There is no Friday post for the same reason.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Roanoke's Mill Mountain

Tonight, I chatted about the beauty of Virginia with a sometime neighbor and suddenly found myself thinking about summer visits to Roanoke. As a child, I loved Mill Mountain from which a star glowed in the night. For me, the star was a mysterious beacon in an otherwise dark sky.

Several years ago, I went to Roanoke for a friend's installation as a college president. I stayed with my youngest first cousin, who took me on a sentimental journey to important family sites -- my grandmother's former house, the cemetery where she and my aunt and grandfather and many other family members are buried, the family church, my grandfather's bridge, and Mill Mountain.

The drive up the mountain is as beautiful as I remembered it, and the city below glowed gracefully in the setting sun. It was the star, though, that held my attention. Now it is just a large sculpture of glowing neon and metal, no longer a mysterious beacon or familiar talisman of the place my mother's family called home.

It's strange the way the mind works. A glass of wine with two Mississippians and I slip into the smell of boxwood and the flicker of fireflies and rounded vowels and egg cups and a big man-made star on a scar of a mountain. I'm not sure what to make of my memory tonight, but I do know that I enjoyed taking this photograph years ago and remembering Roanoke in the summer tonight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Birds

All afternoon, the woodpeckers cried raucously like a crazy chorus of children. A bluebird chattered, the goldfinches warbled and flitted about, and the chickadees chattered. I love living among the birds that sing all day long.

I only wish I could do what Lloyd Spitalnik does: capture them in photographs as brilliant and bold as their singing. Although I can't, I can enjoy his and study them while I listen to the symphony in the woods.Thank you, stranger and friends, for the gifts of your pictures and music.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Burst of Creative Energy

Sunday I enjoyed a burst of creative energy. I made three books and a number of cards and printed a photograph as an experiment.

Yesterday, though, I managed only to price and label everything. Otherwise, I had no snap, partly because I spent an inordinate amount of time fretting about a poor Internet connection.

Bursts of creative energy are energy-making, not just for the mind but for the body as well. If only I knew where they came from, I'd have them more often. With writing, the act of writing encourages more of the same. With reading, the act of reading encourages more of the same. But there is something about bookbinding -- perhaps the time-consuming nature of pulling materials together, perhaps the expense, perhaps the tentative nature of what will happen next -- that makes it difficult for me to have these bursts often.

Sunday's lesson, however, invites me to the paper and boards. In fact, I think I'm headed that way now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The stone bridges in Abbo's Alley are all of friendly size: mossy stoned and small, the bridges invite a walker to cross and pause with ease.

What is the peculiar charm of a bridge? The promise of the other side? The breaking of a barrier? The entrance into a new space?

For me it's the leisurely crossing itself. The step, and the pause, and the glance down to the stream below, looking as Pooh, Piglet, and Christopher Robin do for whatever floats down or doesn't, or the glance upward at sky or building or tree and leaf or blossom.

My childhood home had a bridge of railroad ties, and my current community has many of stone. I love them all for their endings and beginnings and for the vignettes they offer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


When I took photographs of this spider yesterday, I wasn't thinking of anything except taking the pictures. Tonight, however, I remember two spider tales from childhood.

Tale 1: A large hairy wolf spider sat in the middle of the basement steps, stopping me and my brother David (Billy, were you there?) from going any further. I think we were in Sunday clothes. My mother was impatient with our queasiness, so she strode past us with one spectator pump in her hand. She slapped the spider and kept going, missing the scores of little spiderlings flung in all directions into the basement. Unforgettable creepiness about which I have written.

Tale 2: During a TV commercial, I went into "my" bathroom next to the den and came straight out. A huge spider was in the tub. David said he'd get it, but he came out just as quickly as he went in, having done nothing. I have no memory of what happened, but I think we left the spider to its own, and by the time I went back in hours later, it had disappeared.

This spider was neither threatening nor threatened by my presence.

(Hmm. I just looked up wolf spiders on the Internet, and they look like my spider. I'm glad he wasn't aggressive. The bite is fearsome.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pink Buds

These buds look good enough to eat.

In fact, they look like the little sugary rosettes used to decorate cakes.

At birthday parties when I was a child, I used to scrape icing off a cake slice and trade it for cake. But there's something about icing little rosettes, whether homemade or purchased in birthday decoration packs, that still entices me.

Just as these little buds do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Electric Bugs

Who'd a thunk it?

No one dreams of





If I didn't have their pictures, even I wouldn't believe what my own eyes saw.

Oh, how I love Lake Cheston

and natural weirdness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Catch the Wave

That's what the ads say for the wave petunia. I caught the wave several years ago when my friends F & TJ planted so many of them I felt dizzy.

This year I have only one little pot on my deck. Limp petals flop in a breeze like ladies' summer hats, and the petunias brush their pepto-pink faces against the leaves, looking like preppy stripes loosened from a shirt's weave.

Aren't they cheerful?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

An Hour of Sunshine

A breezy, unseasonably cool day ended with a delightful hour of sunshine spent in Abbo's Alley.

Of 179 photographs winnowed and adjusted, I celebrate green with five.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

(Peter) Rabbit

Only in late spring do rabbits hop into my yard. This bunny frisked about my bird feeder, enjoying the seed spilled by the raccoon who had raided the larder the night before.

As I watched him chew and hop about, I thought of Beatrix Potter's delightful Peter Rabbit, which has entertained generations of children. Written in a letter for the child of her former
governess, the tale, published for the equivalent of 5 pence, has sold millions of copies in many different languages.

The simple tale of four little rabbits was inspired by her own pet rabbit. Like so many writers, Potter wrote from what she knew and loved. I imagine she would have enjoyed watching this rabbit in my yard, though she would have been able to draw him, while I managed only to sneak a photo through the deck rails.

He is inspiring, isn't he?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pleasant Surprise

My friend Jill told me the Mountain Messenger announced I had won. When I went to the gallery today to pick up my book, I discovered I had. What a pleasant surprise!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Disappearing Signs

Aging buildings wear hand-painted signs with grace I don't find in contemporary neon and machine-made graphics. Once, men (and they were undoubtedly men) climbed scaffolds with bucket and brush and painted bricks or wood with finesse.

Witness this disappearing advertisement on the side of a decrepit building.

I'm glad I caught it before it disappears forever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Soft Serve

I have always loved soft-serve ice cream, especially vanilla with a chocolate covering. After my mother died, my father and I sometimes drove out on a warm evening to the Dairy Queen on the old Atlanta highway or another on Greensprings Avenue just to eat large swirled cones.

It's no surprise, then, that upon seeing the old-fashioned dairy bar on Highway 28 in Whitwell on Monday, I knew I'd have to stop at the end of work
one day. Today was the day.

First, I ordered and then I asked the owner, whom I had seen earlier in the day at a neighbor's lawnmower repair shop, if I could wash my hands. I explained that I had been walking around all day. She said, "Come on around, honey."

Just inside the screen door, another woman and three young children sat, reading and playing games, an after-school ritual I suspect at a family business.

After drying my hands, I walked out and around front, where two high school students were placing their orders. Before I got to the window, the owner came outside and around the corner, handed me my chocolate-covered cone, and said, "It's on the house, sweetie!"

I protested, but she would not take my money.

Now that's what I call soft serve.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And the View from Here

The (unevenly) stitched photo speaks for itself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Feet

These are my happy feet.

Thank you, Dianne, for a wonderful birthday present!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thanks to the Gardener on Otter Falls

peony --eye candy.

Friday, May 8, 2009


has snap today.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Pink Lady's Slipper

On the first sunny day after many stormy ones, I happened upon a fertile garden of fairy-like flowers. Pink lady's slippers bloomed in a boggy glade dotted with mounds of emerald moss. The breeze bobbled their veined blooms, puffed up like small balloons.

Just now, I read that lady's slippers are orchids in the genus Cypripedium, a word derived from Greek (Kypris or Venus and pedilon or shoe or little foot). Also known as American Valerian, pink lady's slippers have been used as sedatives to treat mood disorders and depression.

They certainly lightened my mood today, even though they honestly don't look much like slippers to me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maybe if I had one,

I wouldn't think goats are cute.

But I do.

Think they're cute, that is.

How anyone not like this face?

He looked at me without fear or reticence. He held my glance. He didn't blink or turn away. He didn't bleat or butt the fence or stamp and snort.

He just looked, politely, and with interest, and with the hint of a smile.

I did the same.

And then I moved on.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The One That Got Away

Picture a healthy peacock facing a green field and slate sky, astride a rusting cattle feeder, his back turned and tail draped across the metal.

He leapt off and fluttered away before I could snap his photograph.

I wish I could see him again with my eyes, not just my mind's eye.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Rumble of a Train

Because of where I live, I often stop for trains, long ones, filled with cargo to deliver, or empty and en route to deliver the cargo. Stopping for trains I found myself wishing that I had occasion to ride one again. Though never entirely comfortable, I loved riding the train: watching the changing scenery; overhearing conversations; visiting the dining car and writing out my order with a little pencil on a little card (I loved club sandwiches with the little orange or red flags); admiring the conductors' and porters' and waiters' balance; dozing and reading and sleeping, rocking to the sway of wheels on track and lullabyed by the clickety-clack.

Once, when I was 17, I awoke on a train sometime in the transition from night to morning, somewhere between Nashville and the Tennessee border with Alabama. I could hear the quiet breathing of sleepers around me, and beyond the window, deep snow, still smooth, covered the fields out to the rolling horizon above which hung a perfect moon, shining like a new dime.

Alone in company on a train under the moon -- that was a lovely journey.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The View from Here II

Even on a rainy day when I park on the couch, book in my lap, the view to my front yard rewards me with green surprise.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Missed Opportunity

All day I have thought about what I missed instead of what I have.

I was supposed to drive to Birmingham to attend my great-nieces' dance recital rehearsal. When lightning and thunder woke me before 5 AM, I hesitated. After reading the forecast (which wasn't fulfilled) and after thinking about yesterday's severe weather, I made a difficult decision. I stayed home.

Instead of celebrating with family, I worked, cleaned, shopped for groceries, cooked, laundered, uploaded, and thought about E and V all day long.

I missed the rehearsal and tomorrow I will miss the recital.

But here's what I forgot: I love the girls and their mother and father so much that thinking about them should not make me sad. I could choose to celebrate my love instead.

And so, E and V, I say this: Break a leg tomorrow!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Perfect Sandwich

Cream cheese and olive on sturdy bread: the perfect sandwich.

Do I love it because it reminds me of childhood? Perhaps. For road trips, my mother packed a large picnic basket with fried chicken, cream cheese and olive sandwiches (on white Merita bread), Golden Flake potato chips, and cookies (probably toll house chocolate chip cookies). I remember paper napkins, a red checked tablecloth to spread on the grass, a thermos and cups, and sometimes a watermelon found along the way.

Do I love it for the smoothness of the cream cheese and the surprisingly vinegary bite of the green olive? Perhaps. I have yet to meet a milk product I dislike.

Do I love it for the cheerful appearance? Perhaps. A peaked fluff of with dots of green and red. What's not to like?

Do I love it for the flavor and the combination of creaminess with the snap of a chip? Absolutely!

For whatever reason, cream cheese and olive (melded with a bit of heavy cream just the way Mother made it) satisfies the palate on a rainy day.