Saturday, February 27, 2010

Purple Thumb

Pale-skinned thumbs, inked purple: two crocuses pushing through stepping-stones in Trink's yard, on the verge of unfurling.Her daughter had told me to tread carefully and look down. Suddenly there they were, so tiny and fragile I had to lie in grass to photograph them.Their petals held tight like secrets to the vest, the white and purple crocuses sport yellow throats, fuzzy spat-like stripes, and yellowy centers waiting to burst.
Sure signs of more blossoms to come, these early-comers. From now on, I walk looking down to avoid trampling on other spring fingerlings.

Friday, February 26, 2010

O, Moon!

Full Moon and Little Frieda
by Ted Hughes

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark
and the dank of a bucket --
And you listening.
A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming -- mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there,
looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath --
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.

"Moon!" you cry suddenly, "Moon! Moon!"

The moon has stepped back like an artist
gazing amazed at a work

That points at him amazed

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Look what's Back!

So what if it's 31 degrees now and heading downwards tonight?

For now, the snow and rain have stopped, and their effects are literally turning heads: the daffodils lifting their chartreuse buds from the base of the black walnut tree and the woodpeckers are cackling and crackling seed.

Today, I need nothing else.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


On February 16, Gwen Ifill discussed public anger at Congressional incumbents with editors Amy Walter and Stuart Rothenberg on the PBS Newshour.

As usual, I was listening and roaming the Internet. When Ifill asked, "Is it just people are so unhappy in a kind of inchoate way, that they just want to lash out at somebody?"
I stopped mid-typing.Inchoate? On the air?

And everyone understands the word?

Because I was on Facebook, I immediately posted: "Wow! Gwen Ifill just said 'inchoate' on TV and her guests understood her!" Within five minutes, six of my friends clicked the "Like" button.

I don't remember exactly when I first heard inchoate spoken aloud, but I do know it was a professor who spoke it. I wrote it down in my notes and experienced a major AHA moment: I had known the word from my reading but had always assumed it was pronounced "in chote." How lovely, I thought then, to learn the pronunciation and to know someone who uses it so easily.

I just looked up the word online and discovered the etymology, which like many etymologies, is both logical and surprising. Like the part of that yoke being prepared to be attached to the plow, I felt something lock in place that day. I also felt something lock in place when I realized that two of the six "Likes" had been posted by former students, who learned something permanent, too. How lovely to know such people.

How lovely it is to know such people who know and love words.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Missed in Winter

I am not fooling and the aching absence of yellow and orange.

Theme in Yellow
by Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Homes and Home

Recently a former student saw this photograph, assuming it was my home. Not exactly: Rebel's Rest is a Sewanee guest house.

My own home, though not historical, is cozier. When I return at night, golden light and my friend Pringle's blown glass ball glow in welcome.

When I return in daylight, the forest -- either leaved or no, green or gray -- welcomes me.

Sometimes a place for guests, my house is where now I work as well as live. My home holds a cat, many works of art, more books, and even more photographs of the people I love most.

Only my family are missing, but they too make my house my home because they live in me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010


In a New York Times article (9 Feb. 2010) titled "Will You Be E-Emailing This Column? It's Awesome" by John Tierney, this statement appears: "[Awe] involves the opening and broadeningof the mind,’ write Dr. Berger and Dr. Milkman, who is a behavioral economist at Wharton. ‘Seeing the Grand Canyon, standing in front of a beautiful piece of art, hearing a grand theory or listening to a beautiful symphony may all inspire awe. So may the revelation of something profound and important in something youor seeing a causal connection between important things and seemingly remote causes."

And so, an awesome dozen snaps of the ordinary over one month:

1. Fog

2. Tornado swath

3. Handmade paper nest with eggs

4. Dogwood bud

5. Cardinal in freezing fog

6. Silver trees

7. Barberry nipple

8. Allee

9. Blue sky

10. Stained glass reflection

11. Pileated woodpecker

12. Pansy

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Afternoon Reflection

Donald Hall -- poet, memoirist, children's writer, critic -- visited Sewanee yesterday in recognition of his receiving The Sewanee Review's Aiken Taylor award.

I arrived early, expecting a stained glass light show. I was not disappointed. The sesquicentennial window celebrating the University's history threw itself onto the adjoining wall with cabinet with such vigor and deep color that I could not stop watching, even when the program began. After a deeply personal and fascinating introduction by a neighbor/friend/poet, Donald Hall offered reflections, too -- on loss and living on his family's rural property, Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire. Hall spoke of "changing" his poems to make them better, even some written decades ago but changed as he gave recent readings. Never once did he sound pompous, but made the writing seem a craft as natural as making hay or growing roses. He read several of my favorites -- "Names of Horses," "My Son, My Executioner," "Old Roses," "Weeds and Peonies," and others.

As he read, I listened and reflected, like the stained glass, letting his words throw my memories on the cabinet of mind.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Act of Charity

Every living thing needs sustenance, especially in 5-inch snow.

Today, I let him eat.

Tomorrow, I chase him away again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Shock of Blue

silvers snow,
silhouettes trees,

even if only

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And More Snow



shoulder snow in shawls of sugar and rock candy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Real Snow

Bells, brook, and birds in Abbo's Alley sing in the snow.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Busy Day

A little snow makes for a quiet day everywhere but here, where bluejay, cardinal, chickadee, crow, dark-eyed junco, goldfinch, house finch, nuthatch, squirrel, titmouse, towhee, woodpecker (downy and red bellied), and wren take turns at the feeder.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Colon and Cardinal

A colon stops the reader:
the sentence pauses, then moves on.

Like a single cardinal,
a colon deserves notice.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Colorful Snow

Checkered glass and snow:

tranquil flurry.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Unexpected Consequence of a Great Christmas Present

My nephew and niece-in-law gifted me at Christmas with 50 pounds of black-oiled sunflower seed, far and away a most delightful present that keeps on giving pleasure.

Witness the charming four-legged creature outside my study window, happily snuffling up spilled seed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sister Gertrude Morgan

Over the last five days, I have enjoyed communications about the annual Outsider Art Fair in New York -- one with a gallery owner and collector who lives not far from here, one in a blog post on Deep Fried Kudzu, and one with my brother in NYC. Even if I am lucky enough to attend the fair one year, it cannot match the memories of my having known many Alabama folk artists whose work is bought and sold like commodities, sometimes by people genuinely in love with the work, sometimes not.

affair with Alabama folk art began in 1973 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In a shady spot framed by pegboard panels on which hung her paintings, Sister Gertrude Morgan played her tambourine and belted out spirituals, using a cut-off Clorox bottle as her megaphone.

photograph by Robley M. Hood

Mesmerized, I sat in the grass and listened and looked for a long long time. When Sister Gertrude took a break, I walked around and around the pegboard panels, and then I sat, and I listened. Finally, I selected a painting, an unusual one -- I now know (and as Bill Fagaly confirmed when he saw it) -- depicting the bridge over the Zambesi and proclaiming "God's gonna trouble the water."

That fall her work, along with Clementine Hunter's and Bruce Brice's, was shown in the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City. The next year, I purchased two of her paintings shown in New York from the Borenstein Gallery, and for several years I
visited the gallery on the rare weekends when Gertrude appeared to sing and preach. Before leaving New Orleans in 1976, I bought one more painting, my last.

I was living in Denver when I read the rave reviews of Sister Gertrude's work in the Corcoran's Black Folk Art in America and when I learned of her death. I wasn't surprised by the glowing comments, nor was I saddened by her death. She had always been a great artist and she had always said that Jesus was her airplane. I know she believed she would fly with him.

Sister Gertrude sang:
Jesus is my air

Plane, you hold
the world in your hand, you
Guide me through the land
Jesus is my air Plane I
say Jesus is my air
Plane We're striving for
that promise land. Come
on, Join our Band let's make
it in that Kingdom land.

As for me, I fly every morning and night because the first and last beautiful objects I see are her paintings, reminding me of her raw vision and energy. She was a goddess at whose creativity I marvel.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who Dat and Red Beans

Simmering in the pot on Sunday, though Monday's traditional, red beans smell like New Orleans: sausage, kidneys, garlic, onion, celery, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper.

What's not to like on the day the Aints tear off their brown bags and watch the Saints play The Super Bowl?
Super food for a super game.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday: A Dusting of Snow

Waking to this:
a dusting of snow
like powdered sugar on lace cookies -- crunchy and oddly sweet.

The first of a year of Saturday photos of the view from the deck.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What I Want to Snap Today

is what I can't:

a nasturtium burning in sun.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Light

these tiny houses exhale: comfort for a cold day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Birthday Aplomb

My great-nephew, the surfer dude who lives in the mountains, wears pink, clay necklace, and birthday with secure aplomb befitting his new age: 5.
As my father used to say, "Ain't life grand?"

Monday, February 1, 2010

I'll Take Both

Fire or ice?

Both, please.

All the time.