Tuesday, November 30, 2010


As sky and leaf appear in water's surface,so mother sparkles through daughter.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spots of Red

Amid the browning of winter, these spots of red.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Niece's Heart

Eatherley's heart
brightens a room:
an arrangement
of her own making.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Show Must Go On!

An Asheville outing: puppets and Aesop, blasts of Arctic air, The Laughing Seed, a photo op on Wall Street, Woolworth Walk, and ice cream. (Adeline's good taste in clothes extends to her taste in ice cream: bubblegum with chocolate.) Home again, the men of the family hang homemade Christmas lights, glowing like the two little monkeys who waited patiently for lunch and loved looking at the art. What delightful companions the Schultzes make -- any day!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hiking Attire

Adeline has style.

She selected this fashionable ensemble for a wintry outing, earning the praise of a passing hiker who said, "The perfect outfit for the day!"Who could argue with that assessment?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving after dinner served late in the day: a walk in fallow fields under lowering sky leaning mountain ridge -- dogs and children and extended adult relations wandered among loufas drying on chicken wire, blue tail feathers caught in dried grass, treed chickens. How lovely it is to live on the verge of yard and farm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My favorite car was a blue (later yellow) 1967 VW bug. Even when the sunroof leaked and I could begin to see asphalt under my left foot, I loved that little car. It amused me.

This one does too.

At the rental place this morning, I noticed it and assumed someone inside was driving it. I asked.
"You want it? It's yours!" Tristan said. It's going to storm tomorrow as I wend my way to Brevard, but the trip will be a little easier. I will be driving a bug!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Moon, Again

freezing leaf-
less trees,
like a half-

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Ginkgo

spreads its umbrella over leaf-strewn ground, stinking and inking sky and stone with gold-leaf tracery.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Silly Shoes

Cutting my apple, I glanced up from the wrapping table and saw . . . silly shoes. Probably the most exciting thing to happen at work today, these shoes made me smile because they're so . . . pointless.
When I asked the gentleman about his silly shoes, he laughed and said, "I wear them on the beach. But a lot of people use them for running." Then he told me the salesman said not just everyone can wear them.

I'll say. A person with little corn nubbins for toes like me would flop around and flail, making the silly shoes even sillier!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter Laid to Rest

When I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I was teaching eighth graders in a girls' school. My librarian friend Dianne had pre-ordered one copy of the novel, never expecting that our first reader would love it so much that Dianne would be forced to buy multiple copies more to satisfy the long waiting line. I witnessed the birth of a literary phenomenon.

When I read the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, the last of the series, I was in Portland, visiting an older friend at her daughter and son-in-law's house, where she lived following a stroke. I read the book mostly sitting on a bench just outside the living room's front window, in sight of Betsy in her favorite chair. At a key point, I spontaneously jumped up, shouting, "I knew it! I knew it!" When I went inside, Betsy said, "Don't tell me. I'm going to read it."
While many young people grew up with Harry Potter, I grew apart from a familiar place and from some I loved. That was my last trip to Portland to see Betsy, who died this summer, but whenever I see the novel on it the HP shelf in my bookcase, I think of her and that last shared pleasure of a reading.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Living on the Domain

It's a strange thing to live in a house you don't own but are buying, on a lot of land that isn't yours but are renting, and in a location that isn't yours because you don't work for "the" employer.

Sometimes, I feel myself in a kind of residence limbo.

Folks ask, "Where do you live?"

I say, "Sewanee."

They say, "Oh, what do you do at the college?"

How do I respond? Say, "I don't, but I live under its complete dominion of and at its will"?It is then that I feel a medieval shadow creep across me, and it is strange.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Sale

A silly thing, really, the sale of a single photograph.

But I may as well have hit the jackpot.
Like the nymph on the cosmos, I'm growing wings, tiny though they are.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not Just Another Postcard

She is saving them for special occasions, her mother tells me, so receiving one of E's postcards turns a day golden. What more can a proud great-aunt-English-teacher write. "Yes. I accept."

(Like a kid waiting for Santa.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lady Gaga Comes to Sewanee

I missed it because of the homecoming game, so I am thrilled that someone filmed it.

The carillon is such a fine romance!

Desire and Reality

A better camera: I think about my desire every day, every time I take another photograph.

If only I had a stronger macro lens, I could sharpen that spider eye, reveal the wrinkle in a beetle's leg, catch the reflection in a drop of dew.

If only I had a stronger telephoto, I could stop the flight of a butterfly, shoot the moon in a black sky, see what's beyond and beautiful.

But the reality is that I cannot afford a new better camera, so I make do.

And sometimes strike it lucky.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In the Eye of the Beholder

Leaf on sunny day: poetry.Forest on foggy day: fiction.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

College Football

is a peculiar thing.

Young men slam into each other while their parents scream "Take him out!" and curse the umpires and question injuries (until one of their own staggers a bit). Meanwhile, girls throw each other up in the air, boys in kilts arrive late and drunk, and dogs bark and prance.

Phillip didn't play, but he looked threatening all suited up, and his parents were as proud of #21 standing on the sidelines with a clipboard as they would have been had he banged around on the field.
As for me, I enjoyed the spectacle played out under a blue blue sky. Even though the tigers lost, the weather announced that yea, Sewanee's right!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bells, Bells, Bells

Living in an Episcopal college town brings it pleasures, not the least of which are the bells, bells, bells. A tour today of the carillon with the carilloneur offered more than a hundred metal steps and fantastic views of the college, but it was the ringing that held my attention. If I could without losing my hearing, I'd join the bronze lady peeping over the cap of the largest, the bottom bell, just to ring the reverberations through every sinew and bone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Howard Finster recorded the number, date, and time (down to the minute and second) of each artistic work he completed. A peculiar compulsion, perhaps the result of the same manic energy that drove him to paint all night through each night and to preach to every person he encountered. My step-great-grandfather, an inventor and businessman, liked records too. For a period of time in the late 19th-century, he kept a daily notebook that fit perfectly in a breast or jacket pocket. He recorded the sizes of all eight custom-made bicycles for his children, his daily purchases (small and great), his thoughts about the son who moved to Texas and whom he missed. About these record-keepers and their compulsion, I wonder. Did Howard believe that his works were so important that their numbering might confer value? Did he number them because he wanted to measure his own production? Did he mark them down out of the same compulsion that drove his inventiveness? Did my great-grandfather, also a maker of things, note his days in reflection, in an attempt to maintain privacy in a full house? Was he attending to details in the same manner he did when designing machines? Was the record-keeping a kind of Bach invention to limber the mind?

Record-making and record-makers -- I don't know what to make of them and of my own daily recording in this blog. Perhaps we share this: the simple pleasure of noticing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kathy Kemp, Writer and Friend

At the close of Charlotte's Web, E. B. White wrote of Charlotte A. Cavatica, "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true writer and a good friend."

My friend Kathy Kemp was a true writer and a good friend.
Although I met Kathy, a journalist, through my work in community theater (we first met after she reviewed a play in which I acted; happily, she complimented my performance), our friendship widened to include our mutual interest in folk artists.

I gave her tips from time to time, and she followed up on them, producing moving prose portraits of then-new and important artists like Lonnie Holley, Reverend Benjamin Perkins, and Fred Webster. She articulated what I couldn't -- what made them so special.

Some years after I moved from Birmingham to New Orleans, Kathy called me to chat about a new book she was writing. She wanted the photographer to visit me and photograph works in my collection for Revelations: Alabama's Visionary Folk Artists. She said she had discovered someone really special, a painter about whom no one knew anything.

There was a pause and I filled it with "Are you talking about Myrtice West?"

She was, and she was speechless to discover that I had met Myrtice years earlier with a mutual friend. She was even more surprised that both of us had managed to keep that visit secret from everyone.

When her book was published and I received my copy, her descriptions of the artists I love were deeply moving and deeply true. She made no judgments about their living conditions, their worldviews, their precarious holds on reality. She presented them lovingly, with an abiding curiosity and respect for their individuality and ingenuity.

Kathy Kemp died today, after fighting breast cancer for a decade. Her words will live on as will the gentle company she kept and friendship she made with all who knew and read and loved her.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall's Magnolia

leaves wear low sun like bronze.

If I could have just one, shining always like this, on my desk, I would bask in its reflected light happily.

Monday, November 8, 2010

All Creatures

Francis Walter presided at the Episcopal memorial service for a friend today. When Francis first met me, I was a child, perhaps 9 years old. My mother made the stole he wore when he became a priest. Francis did not know Mary, the deceased woman memorialized this afternoon, but after the service and spreading of her ashes in Abbo's Alley, he said he wished he had. He would have liked her, he said, and I know he would have, and she him.

Mary and her husband lived in New Orleans in the early 1970s; he even enrolled in the same degree program in which I earned a degree at Tulane. She knew an artist then with whom she worked. When I first met Mary here in Sewanee and she learned of my
years living in New Orleans, she asked if I knew that artist. I did. I had worked with her, too.

As of this afternoon, part of Mary is now part of Abbo's Alley, one of my favorite rambles for photography. I will run across her often, and I will marvel at the forest garden in which she has been planted. And I will think of the hymn we sang for her:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

All things bright . . .

The purple-headed mountain,

The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

All things bright . . .

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

All things bright . . .

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright . . .

I don't know about divinity, but I do believe in little flowers and little birds, purple-headed mountains and rivers running by, pleasant summer sun and cold wind in winter, and eyes to see and lips to tell.

All things are bright and beautiful, especially those mysterious connections that weave us together as one.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Leaving

A breeze ripples the water of Lake Cheston, the leaves reflect the rippling water, the leaves waft in the breeze: fall leaving.

Friday, November 5, 2010


My friend Lonnie Holley, a visual artist, wrote this to me on a painting: "To see art is to see."

I see art everywhere, mostly now with my camera and my (poor) vision. I no longer focus sharply on objects far or near, however, though I see shapes, shadows, shades of color. I rejoice in those. I could stand long and look at one leaf, or one butterfly, or one fleck of pollen on a blossom's cheek.
What I can no longer do is read for pleasure. Thanks to a cataract, the words on a page will not come into focus, will not cohere in one line; they slide and shimmy, instead, in some kind of taunting dance of defiance. After only a few minutes, my head hurts, my eyes hurt, my concentration is broken.

I try to remind myself that even the blind see, though with senses other than a lens. Cold comfort when I cannot hold a book and see the stores created by the squiggles on the page. I miss that miraculous act of envisioning.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Small Gifts

An unexpected package of small gifts arrived from Portland, where my older friend Betsy lived the last years of her life and died this summer. Her daughter and son-in-law sent me two lovely things: a clay book with leaf and one of Betsy's hand-blown glass objects.

When she lived in New Orleans in her small shotgun house, Betsy lined her den windows with glass -- birds and paperweights I mostly remember. The room caught late afternoon light, lending a kind of ethereal glow to a jumble of books and newspapers, stationery and cat toys.

I don't remember this slender oil lamp, in color and shape so like a flame, but I see Betsy in it. She was a flame, whose fiery spirit lit everyone. In her glass, I feel her spark still.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Individual and Group

Saturday night, I watched the beautifully realized biopic Temple Grandin about the autistic genius responsible for more humane treatment of beef cattle in over half the slaughterhouses in the United States.

At the opening of a new plant built according to her plan for a calm cattle walk to death, Temple waits at the killing station. When the first cow arrives, she places her hand on its soft hide, feeling the beating heart beneath the skin. Then the machine thumps the cow on its head and death is instantaneous. Temple says, "It was an individual and now it is gone. Where do they go?"

I don't know, but I do know I can't witness the going unsentimentally as she does.This morning, the annual beetle infestation of The Lemon Fair began in earnest. I swept up somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 of the little bugs. When I leaned in on the window shelf with my small brush and dustbin, I stopped because of one waving head and one forelimb. I looked more closely and snapped my camera, but I didn't linger, even to focus, because at once the bug became one rather than just one of many pests.
I took the ladybugs outside, tumped them into the dirt below the blooming asters, and turned back inside, where no other dying creature lay in sight.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Goodbye to All That

October burns
now only in memory,
the fiery primary-
colored leaves,
skies, pools, ponds,
shadows cutting
a long view fallen
to another season.