Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cloud Collecting

Before I read about and purchased The Cloud Collector's Handbook, I started my own collection. Now perhaps I'll be learn to name them correctly, though till then they are just plain beautiful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Day of Birds

The bluebird couple arrived early this morning, perched on the wires near my porch, swooped into the suddenly-green mossy grass. He made certain they had first and last dibs, flinging himself again and again at his reflection in my hall window, holding onto the screen every now and then, battered, I imagine.

The Carolina wren who lives under my front porch, among the hydrangea and azalea limbs and leaves, called out morning's reveille with such cheer that I couldn't help coming to listen and look. When I "planted" my bird tree, I never imagined that a living bird would so enjoy temporary residence among metal ones.

Later, at Lake Cheston, as I stood on the dam, two birds knifed through the air, one after another, in a circling ballet of -- what? I don't know. Was I threatening a nest (where?)? Were they pursuing one another in a mating dance? One, more than the other, zipped and zapped every now and then, almost stopping mid-air like a basketball player, to stare and challenge me, and then zoomed on. Now high, now low, he circled and circled and circled.

On the other side of the lake, I spied a robin, huddled with its back toward the path, sitting in weeds. When she (she seemed a she, though I don't know why) heard me, she turned, head over shoulder -- first left, then right -- to look. I made no move, yet she hopped awkwardly further and further into the growth, finally settling, half hidden. She closed her eyes and dropped her weight into earth as if more than sleeping, as if waiting. Once, she opened her eyes and stared at me, then closed them again.

While I looked, another woman came striding with exercise poles around the path's turn. "Here's a robin," I said. "I think she might be injured, a broken wing, maybe."

"Very likely," the woman said, without looking at me or the bird, and strode on.

I couldn't and I can't -- stride on, I mean. Don't be silly, I remind myself. Millions of birds probably die every day. That robin is just one of legions. But I didn't see legions; I saw only that one particular robin on this one particular day. Finally, I walked on, thinking suddenly about my friend Betsy, who would have turned 84 yesterday (she died about three-quarters of a year), and our student Gifford, who would have turned 37 today (she was murdered 11 years ago).

My own birthday comes tomorrow, fast on the heels of a melancholy day of birds, and mortality.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere

Recently, I stumbled upon macro photographs a fellow had set up, as if in a studio for an exercise. He explained how to capture the reflection of a flower in a raindrop clinging to a flower of the same kind -- say, a shasta daisy. He intentionally creates the effect he wants by picking flowers and placing them strategically behind a blossom. Then, he drips water.

I mean, come on. It's not that difficult. Why manufacture something that nature has already created?

The challenge is getting a single decent shot. The joy is in the looking for that shot, whether decent or not.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

To Become Part of the Scenery

stay still.
On a foggy day even
atop a three-step ladder
a person can
become un
and birds return.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Today,I completed a getting-to-know-you survey for work, on which I was asked my favorite color.

What a question! That's like asking
Andrew Zimmerman if there's anything he wouldn't eat.

Favorite color? All of them!

Today, everything is leaden like lint I pull in globs from the dryer: I will not risk my camera to snap that gray.

Instead, I return to a few days ago when the Pee-Wee-secret-word-of-the-day was SABLE -- the color of soft fur that makes you think of your mother's strokes on your hair, kisses on your fevered forehead; the color of furred warmth like black night sky that shelters and causes wonder with vast twinkling light.

Sable was sand and light and
killdeer with their neck-scarves, who stalked slowly before me, stopped to stare, stalked, stopped, stared, and finally lifted, turning and scissoring air with veed wings.

Even their calling -- a high-pitched tear tearing open the afternoon -- for me was sable, sable, sable all in the air.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Day for Red

Everywhere I looked today, I saw red:

Red-bellied Woodpeckerfoxbridgemaple fruit pussy willow
Downy Woodpecker:
fiery beacons of heat in the cold before tonight's storm.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Grammar

"Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons." -- Gretel Ehrlich

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Redbud Song

Spring plucks
pizzicato buds
bare limbs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There Is Nothing Major

about Bombylius major.

Bombylius minor
is more like it: this fellow is teeny. Were it not for the tell-tale shadow on packed soil, I might have walked right on by. Instead, I sneaked up on the little bugger and snapped just in time to capture his sizable beak.

One in a flower; now one on Lake Cheston's dam. Soon his like will hover round my crab apple all day long.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Answer

As I started across Lake Cheston's dam, my new lens caught the tiny flicker atop a mound of dung: one beat, wings opened, question answered.When would butterfly season begin? Today, the Question Mark butterfly announced. O, lens! O, Question Mark! O, spring!

Puffed Up

Elizabethan dandies in miniature, Bleeding Hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis; formerly Dicentra spectabilis) and Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) prance from arching branches, perfectly puffed-up.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Time of Firsts

Each spring brings its usual blossoms; each year, filled with firsts.

First bee fly.First Spring Beauty.
First bluebells.
First anemone.First Dutchman's Breeches.First trillium.First trout lily.First Celdandine Poppy.First descent into Shakerag.Till the last, I shall not tire of firsts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Between Times

Today, a former New Orleanian told me, "I love living in Birmingham where there are four seasons."

But there are more than four, I wanted to tell her. What about those in-between seasons? The time between winter and spring, say?

Spring officially starts tomorrow, but for me it began when the crocus poked their heads up and the witch hazel stretched out tendrils of line-yellow and other little blooming things pushed up through winter's trash. A bit of sun and warmth followed by a bit of fog and cold followed by a bit of .
. .

I most love the in-between-seasons when what-goes and what-comes slide together into one technicolor dream of NOW.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Georgia O'Keeffe

body-snatched me.

It didn't hurt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Yes, please. I'll take two.

Of a kind.Or otherwise.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Random Acts of Art and Spirit

Another foggy, cold day in Sewanee, and I wish I could

drop a coin in an Art-O-Mat for an amusing work of artor

seek refuge in San Miniato al Monte to marvel at stone and space


run an errand in one of three New Hampshire towns and stumble upon one of my friend Julie's tsatsas.

I could use a random act of art today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tiny Things

Once, when I was in elementary school, I cut down a tiny pine in the back yard; with my father's help, nailed a wooden cross-bar to the trunk end; and set the tree up in my room for Christmas. Somewhere, my mother and I found tiny, thin-glass balls, which, with one small strand of white lights, decorated my tree.

Since then, I haven't been a big fan of tiny.

Until I started carrying a camera with me everywhere I go.

Now, the tinier the better.

Yesterday, as I headed over the dam at Lake Cheston on my way to the car, I saw something zip by, land, take off, and I decided to investigate. Mating flies! (I don't know what kind. My entomologist friend said I could call them "big-headed dipterans," a moniker I love.) They flitted from bald spot of dirt (think the size of a quarter) to grass blade to dried out weed, with me in hot pursuit. Now that I have one good eye thanks to cataract surgery and one good camera lens, I actually saw these tiny bugs and snapped them in macro.

Today, on a walk with a friend in an otherwise brown forest, I glimpsed a lovely little clump (think a small hand's worth) of moss dotted with little bits of red. Through my new lenses (anatomical and photographic), I saw furry stumps of gray-green growing upward and out, each terminating in a scarlet dot (or white with an even tinier dot of red waiting to burst forth). Who knew moss blossomed?

Now I know, and I know to keep my eyes peeled for the smallest things, because -- like packages -- they promise the best surprises.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tied in Knots

Lake Cheston,
you untangled
my knots