Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or


Spotted a new (to me) dragonfly today at Lake Cheston: the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum).  At first I didn't believe what I saw: blue eyes, white face, gray-blue thorax, dark brown-black and yellow stripes on the red abdomen, yellow underneath.  I kept snapping, and he kept letting me.

I watched him prepare the sperm packet, grab a female, alight in the grass, on the concrete, and then on my too-white shoe.  Alas, no sharp photo of the female, but now I know where they are.

I shall return.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sacred Space

Today, I began an adventure with some fifteen or so Sewanee-ites.  Under the direction of artist Julie Puttgen, we are placing small tsatsas (tiny Buddhist stupas) in sacred places, leaving them for passerbys to find.

And as I started the adventure, I (re)found magic at one of my most sacred places: Lake Cheston.  Rounding a curve along the path from hill toward dam, I saw a darting twinkle, followed it round a tree, and saw a mated pair of Autumn Meadowhawks, he steering and she depositing eggs in leafy water.

At the metal trestle bridge, I watched five pairs, one of whom landed briefly on my red jacket.  On the bridge to the dam from the woods, another pair mated on the wooden planks, backed by warm sun.  Where had they spent the cold night and other cold nights previous? I wondered.  Even on the beach, a pair landed at my feet, their winds sparkling like sugared sand.

I had thought dragonfly season was well over.  Magic happens even when you're not looking, and if you're lucky -- like me -- you might glimpse it every now and then.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sewanee Boogie-Woogie

red & yellow leaves & berries
gray limbs & branches
blue sky & water 
white clouds & cross arms
paths & forest, hill & valley --
Sewanee Boogie-Woogie


Friday, October 28, 2011

My Perfect Tree

Of the many I've planted, one dogwood has rooted itself firmly in my yard.  It flames outside my study window, warming cold fog like a promise to a loved one: Just wait; I'll be back.

Meantime, I burn.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

As the Weather Turns

The weatherman just said, "Things are gonna change.  The weekend's not bad, though we'll be frosty tomorrow."

Yesterday, sun and wind and warm temperatures.  Today, clouds and fog and spitty rain and descending temperatures.

How can one weather be "good" or another "bad"?

Weather just is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


One bowl of oatmeal and one cup of tea do not offset the effects of an opioid pain pill.  Woozy is not what I should feel at water's edge on a short hike to the plateau's rim.

Piney Point overlooking Roark's Cove, accessible by stepping from one rock to another across a deep gap, makes me giddy even without an opioid pain pill, especially on a glorious fall day.

Staring across Sue's front yard at a hawk guarding a squirrel in its talons, I nearly lose my balance, head spinning at the sight.

red-tailed hawk photographed by Sue Ridyard

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Little Luck

Oral surgery yesterday meant no photo walk, so this afternoon's visit to Lydia's garden -- despite discomfort -- lifted my spirits.  

Two monarchs, at least two Common Checkered Skippers, two Guly Fritillaries, and a number of other assorted skippers probed fading flowers for the last of their nectar.  There was plenty of action.
But it was stillness that I found enchanting.  A smile of spiky caterpillar slept in a tendril curl, rocking slightly, as if by an invisible mother, into slumber.
A little luck brings such unexpected pleasure.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar, maybe?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Words Made Concrete

Cement: L > caementa:
stone chips in mortar;
& concrete: L > com:
together + crescere:
grow; & Daddy
Long-legs (1814), an arachnid:
GK > arakhne: spider;
& tripartite leaf:
L > tri: three
& L >  partitus: divided;
leaf: OE > leaf: leaf
of a plant or book;
& shadow: OE >
sceadwian: "to protect

Saturday, October 22, 2011


First, glorious organ music in All Saints' Chapel.

Ears still ringing with the pipes, I walked out, took a few paces, looked up and to my left, and nearly stumbled.  Jupiter!  Shining like a huge whitewhitewhite nightlight in the sky.

From the bottom of South Carolina Avenue, the planet hangs in the black sky, bright enough to compete with streetlights and campus lights.

What a night!  Jumping Jehosaphat!  Jupiter, how beautiful you are!

Friday, October 21, 2011

What Next?

Last night after a reading at Ed Carlos' art barn Iona (hear Julie Puttgen's lyrical essays here), my friend Pete asked, "So what are you going to photograph now?

That's a good question.  Now that the dragonflies and damselflies have gone, now that the butterflies are disappearing, now that winter approaches, shooing away my bugs, What's next?

For starters, I need to learn to shoot still subjects in Manual.  A morning walk in Abbo's Alley (with cold fingers) proves that I need to learn something new about my wonderful little camera.

Here we go!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This morning, I tried to help a Chinese student understand an essay filled with abstractions. 

If only I could have pointed to something like this dogwood leaf and said, "See?  Sinuous."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seasonal Puzzlement

I will never know how Lucy knows I have turned on the space-heater for the first time.  She trots downstairs from the bedroom, where she has slept all day under the covers, to the study, and worships at her shrine of heat.

A cat is a marvel to behold.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Holding On

Today, after tutoring a Chinese student, I started thinking about expressions we take for granted, those cliches so embedded in our language that we use them without thought.

Like holding on.

We hold on to ideas, habits, beliefs, behaviors, memories, things -- whether good or bad or indifferent to and for us.  We hold on to detritus (old documents and files), each other's hands (in joy and fear), an interpretation of the past (the Lost Cause), or hopes and plans for the future (America, the land of equal opportunity).

Climbing down to Bridal Veil Falls yesterday, I held on to my borrowed hiking stick, and once there I held on to a tree at the edge of a long drop (thinking of my deceased sister-in-law who fell to her death).  

The day before, at the forestry cabin pond, Autumn Meadowhawks and Eastern Pondhawks held on to flight and procreation despite the lateness of the season and a single lady beetle held on to the slim stem of a weed, tossed about by what for the beetle must have been a hurricane.
Even in dying, my friend Charley held on to joy in living, laughing, reminiscing, commenting on contemporary politics whose results he knew he would not see.

Holding on is more than an idiom: it's a way of being.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Fever

Oh, I've got it bad.

I sit at my computer, and I work, and all I hear is the tinkling of the capiz wind chime, and all I feel is the steady breeze through the study window and the hair on my arms standing on end, and all I want to see is color writ LARGE: alizarin crimson and burnt umber and lime green speckled with brown age spots and honey gold and . . . blue blue sky the color of Paul Newman's eyes, cloudless and so sharp it almost cuts my eyes,
I get up
from the desk to walk
or drive from spot to spot
 to feed my fever with leaf.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fairyland Farewell

My walk to Cedar Hollow Lake, my favorite of the Domain ponds and lakes, is under construction, or rather deconstruction.  

I saw the proof today, having heard about the tree removal two weeks ago from my Equestrian Center friend and having read about it in the paper and community email this week.

Sometimes loving a particular forest is hard.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hungry for Red

Yesterday, I chatted with a woman whose red house sits in the woods facing the Community Gardens.  I have long admired her house -- for its peculiar shape (three floors and narrow; "like something out of Harry Potter," she said, and she's right) and its color.  She had read somewhere that too much green makes a person hungry for red, so red the house would be.  She was right about this as well.

Today, thanks to this hardy fellow, I am sated with both.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011


As leaves and dragonflies surrender to the changing season, butterflies surrender to the nectar they find, sometimes burying themselves so deeply into the folds of blossom that they become one with flower.

Not sulphur butterfly, not morning glory, but Sulphur Glory.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Forest Fire

Fungus sprouts
from fallen trunks --
ringed and marbled
agate oyster aflame. 

 Even water smolders.

Postscript: These may be turkey tail mushrooms, as I just discovered today (1 December 2011).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October Water

painted by Chuck Close or Joseph Albers might look like this.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Charles E. Sanders, Actor and Friend

In some cultures, mourners wear white, like today's sky -- blank and hard to look at, its flat whiteness searing.

Charley wanted to live long enough to escape searing heat and enjoy sitting outside, looking at the sun slide across the ridge above the Frio.

He lived that long.

Charley wanted to make it to fall, the sliding season of dying leaves and flowers, and he did.

He lived that long.

Charley wanted rain, and rain it did, hard, on Saturday night as he began to slip away.

He lived that long.

When his widow spreads his ashes on their beloved Texas hill-country property, and when the wind carries him into water and land, under white or gray or blue sky, I will know that he lives still, in that place and in what lives and grows there.

Charley will live still.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Creatures of Habit

I have discovered that Common Green Darners are creatures of habit.

Three mornings straight, I visited the sunny spot on a short trail where a threesome warms for the day.  Each time, I spotted two males and one female.

The third day, the female sunbathed like a shameless teenager, spreadeagled high atop a sumac, allowing a special under-body opportunity.
Both red and green and splotched brown, they made a lovely complement to each other and contrasted the hard blue sky of October.  
The leaves and she will be gone soon, in their habitual surrender to fall, but until then I shall make it my habit to visit that sunny spot.