Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bells, Bells, Bells!

Sunday, while some prepared for church and others were in church, I tried shooting pictures through campus arches. Just as I finished and turned out of the courtyard, the bell ringers started their morning changes.
I listened for a long while, giving thanks in my own way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Wind, the Sun, and the Moon

The Wind, the Sun, and the Moon
by Anne Stevenson

For weeks the wind has been talking to us,
Swearing, imploring, speaking like a person.
Not a person, more the noise of a being might make
Searching for a body and a name.  The sun
In its polished aurora rises late, then dazzles
Our eyes and days, pacing a bronze horizon
To a mauve bed in the sea.  Light kindles the hills,
Though in the long shadow or Moelfre, winter
Won't unshackle the dead house near the marsh.
Putting these words on paper after sunset
Alters the length and asperity of night.
By the fire, when the wind pauses, little is said.
Every phrase we unfold stands upright.  Outside,
The visible cold, the therapy of moonlight.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Grade Report

Dear Winter,

I have been waiting.  Where the heck are you? 

Oh, I know you blustered three teeny little "winter mixes," but surely you know that an hors d'oeuvre does not substitute for the entree.  What about the knee-deep snow and blue shadows?  The low temperatures and ice?

You've been generous with rain and fog, but seriously, spring brings those as well.

Is this it?  The end of the no-show season?  You sure as heck better show up next year, or I'm not even bringing out the wool!

I am sorry to report that you have earned an F for lack of effort.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

What's All the Hoopla?

Homemade soup!

Sunset simmered
in a pot, ladled,
the slurper

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Language of Stone

hear stone
sing, peal,
ring green!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

All Together Now!

A soft clump of moss:
a silent mosh pit,
or a class of first-graders,
or stadium wave,
or a mountain of prayer flags.
Sporophytes celebrate
the warmth of winter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Woods Walk

Along both sides of Highway 56, otherwise known as Jumpoff Road, Franklin State Forest offers trails. 
Down a graded road lies a lake I've not seen before, with gently sloping shoreline, perfect for dragonfly spotting this spring and summer.
One trail leading from the lake winds through a laurel arcade that reminds me of summer camp, offering shelter and shade and crisscrossing a rocky creek.
Thanks to my friends Dave and Greg!  Spring appeals more and more every day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh, Sun! Oh, Roof! Oh, Tower! Oh, Bells!

The sun, a roof, a tower, the bells; of the sun, a roof, a tower, the bells.  And of all the dark days behind us. 

We come now to celebrate the departure of fog.
However brief.

British Soldier Lichen

That's the official name, but when I saw it, I thought cauliflower and tiny radishes.  I would have missed it altogether had the ground above Lake Dimmick's spillway been drier.  After our weeks of rain and fog, the soil sucked my feet in, so I skirted the edge of woods, paused to un-suck my walking stick, and glimpsed the little red caps.
Lichen are truly weird and wonderful: not one being, but two working together better than any pair of people I've ever known.  Wikipedia explains it more clearly than I can, so you might wish to read more about it there.

If you do, you will also see an image from one of Ernst Haeckel's miraculous studies.  On the advice of a friend, about a month ago, I watched the film Proteus about Haeckel who brought together art and science, understanding their symbiosis with the same elegance this lichen demonstrates.

British Soldiers?  Maybe, but there's nothing military about this tiny organism.  Perhaps I shall think of it as something more like this: Cheerful Little Cherry-tipped Lichen on Cauliflower Stalks a la Haeckel.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Little Sun

makes everyone happy.

Looks like I'm not the only admirer of the red berries in front of Carnegie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All Work and Some Play

Although I haven't enjoyed my own birthday since I turned 17 only three months after my mother's death, I love my great-nieces' and great-nephew's birthdays.  I spend an inordinate amount of time working on their presents.  Witness my lost weekend.  Squeezing time between paying jobs, I selected and uploaded photographs, designed and tweaked calendars, edited and revised them, and saved them for fresh eyes in the morning.

Neither child a reader yet but both in love with wild things, may my North Carolina greats who celebrate February birthdays enjoy their gifts and those of this world. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What Happens Elsewhere

is sometimes far more "snappish" than what happens here, especially on another foggy day.

Benjamin Vogt, for example, had way more excitement than I.

See what I mean?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why do vultures make even a man's man (an automobile mechanic) ask, "What are you looking at?" and shudder.
A vulture isn't good or bad: it just is what it is. 

Yes, they might not be beautiful according to a human aesthetic, but what they do is beautiful.  They clean up after death, consuming what has been consumed by disease or accident or killing.  What could be more beautiful than the cleaning of the carcass, put to good use in feeding another creature which, when dead, will be cleaned and consumed by another?

Children and dewy-eyed adults (I count myself among that number) wax poetic about The Lion King and "The Circle of Life."  Isn't the vulture part of that circle?

At this time of year when large flocks of them roost around here, I rejoice when I see them circling and soaring.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Red

Stone, wood, glass, arches, and the red berries of winter. 

Who knew paying the garbage bill could be so spectacular?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Motion Sickness on Winter Afternoons

spindle into bluing sky
crossed by vapor trails,
buzzards circling,
& I wheel as if
on a houseboat
pitching atop 
another's wake.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Handyman

When I first met him, I was hunkered down, blocking the path skirting the beach end of Lake Cheston, photographing a newly emerged female Calico Pennant.  He and his dog Buckaroo walked round the rocky shore and then sat on a little footbridge, and waited patiently and quietly for me to rise. 

I sat and called out, "Sorry!"
When they joined me, he wanted to know what I was photographing, and I was happy to point out the tiny insect.  We chatted then, a long time about dragonflies, and then about mushrooms which he forages, and then about where he lives.  Suddenly, I knew who he was before he told me: my friend Jill has recently sung his praises because of his good work with her on her yard.

He's Dave!  A serious spelunker, who -- when out of work because of the recession -- sold his Harley and built a 12-by-12 cabin on his land, using his own trees, and working to buy the things he couldn't make.  A one-time soldier, he can flake beautiful arrowheads and carve peace pipes, complete with turkey feather flourish.  He eats at the Senior Citizens' Center each day and works with his head and hands otherwise, helping folks like me do the jobs we can't do.

So far he has caulked and sealed my tubs; changed one of the shower heads; stuffed a mouse hole; cleaned my gutters and fixed the gutter guards incorrectly installed by the previous house owner's father; stopped a leak in the hot water heater in my attic and corrected the faulty run-off line (in which he discovered evidence of someone's sabotage: a big chunk of insulation stuffed up into the PVC); and replaced two porch lights.  Tomorrow, he will install the lattice to discourage the raccoons from entering the crawl space; mortar a hole at the base of the brick foundation; and repaint the ceiling marred by the leaking hot water heater.

Dave's a delight: a self-made man with a smart mouth, big heart, and talent for fixing things.  And he hoots like an owl too, even while balanced on an extension ladder!  Dave makes my house and me smile.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's That Time of Year

when the woods wear brown, of all hues and saturations.

A friend likes the woods best this way, saying that she could walk and look, and walk and look, imagining all the fibers she could spin and dye. 

It is not the time I like woods best.  I miss color in bloom and bug. 

But on occasion, I make more-than-do when I notice fungi catching the few rays of sun between a succession of gray days.  Like cooling butterscotch, one colony slides up the slab of a fallen trunk, while another fallen limb sports green turkey tails luxuriating on lime moss.  

Then I fall to ground to take a closer look.  And then, the woods aren't quite so brown and spring returns to my step.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Return to Cedar Hollow Lake

Last summer, silence reigned at Cedar Hollow Lake, approached down a sloping lane lined by tall pines.  Today, water rushes beneath the footbridge where salamanders and snakes once sunned, and the trees have been culled, resulting in a rutted avenue of mud and woody debris.

I love the sound and macro vista, 

but struggle to adjust to the new long view.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Solar Magic

Sun today, full, for the first time in a long time,
but stuck inside till just before sundown,
I enjoyed it only indirectly.

Still even as reflection,
sun beautifies what it touches,
making it "other."

A Good Night's Sleep

I sleep better when my neighbors are here,

not because I take comfort that they are just beyond my driveway should something happen, but because my home feels empty without their light and life.

This morning I celebrate neighbors whom I love.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Dusting of Snow

reveals what
I see
but don't notice.
Oh, tiny
plants pushing
up through cold soil.
I love these green bits
and their instruction:
surfaces are surfaces:
underneath life

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wintry Mix

Maybe we need a new word for the bipolar weather phenomenon that makes living here unique.

First this.
And then this.
All within about twenty minutes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Am Not Ashamed

to admit:
I love lunch.
A little thing:
          egg salad on Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal White
          Snyder's twists
          one fat navel orange,
          still bagged.

Like a poem
lunch packs
a punch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wildness and Will

At the Chattanooga Aquarium, a newly emerged butterfly lay on the ground in a heavily traveled spot.  I reached down, offered a finger, and noticed the crinkled right hind wing.  I placed him on a leaf, waited to make sure he could balance, and moved on.
But all the way through the exhibits, I thought of that little butterfly, trapped in deformity.  How long, I wondered, before one of the fantastically colored birds made a snack of him.

Even in the hu-manufactured environment, the wild exerts its will.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Head in the Clouds

Why is it always a bad thing to have one's head in the clouds?  In winter especially, though not exclusively, folks in Sewanee have their heads and their every-other-parts in the clouds quite often, sometimes even all day. 

In my experience, clouds do not make me feel flighty or unrealistic or spacey or out-of-touch.  On the contrary, I feel in touch, energized, and turned indoors -- to work, or create, to read, or bake, to wander and wonder at the inward turnings of the mind's world each of us carries.

We share the cloud, but not what we make of it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Something Beautiful

A year ago yesterday, Gabby Giffords was shot in the head.  Last night, CBS news reminded viewers of her remarkable strides and the equally remarkable discoveries made about the brain and its capacity for repair because of her injury.

The brain is a beautiful thing, as is the courage of those who surface, small and large, from the icy stillness of trauma. 

Today I celebrate Gabby and Elizabeth and all the doctors, nurses, families, and friends who help them break the ice.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Like a Mantra

repeating, holding and reaching, Yes, yes, yes, you can.

Friday, January 6, 2012

For Three Strong Women

My friend Cathy and her daughters are famous in all the right ways, and they will all bounce back.
I hope.  I know.  I am pulling.  We are all pulling.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reaching for the Moon

Missing doesn't always mean landing among the stars.  

But many are reaching now for those they love anyway.
And some of those loved ones will land back where they belong.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hope Is the Thing

with feathers, says Emily Dickinson.

Not today.  See it: a swirling vine strung with worry beads of rosy buds and one pinkish white flower.

Day wanes, temperature drops, but still a flower blooms.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Ties That Bind

In a crisis, I would want a girl posse like this.

One of them is facing serious health challenges as a result of an accident, and the others have leapt in to do all they can for the family and their wider circle of friends.

When I first knew them, they were 13.  They are 30-somethings now, and impressive in ways I could not have imagined way back when.

I am proud of them.  I love them.  And I join them in wishing Liz well.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Still Running

the way
leaves float
not moving
caught, speared
by rock, pent up;
the way
one leaf
burns, upright,
a gentleman
among ladies;
the way
pebbles collect
like gossips
chattering rock-
bottom news;
the way
water eddies,
swirls, then
flows, falling
down stream;
the way
silver sky
pocks a pool,
a mirror
shadowed by
sinuous rivulets:
the way
my mind
tumbles &
steadies &
races &
pauses &

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Losing Balance

On our way to the Stone Door, my friend talked about her elderly neighbor's selfishness.  He won't wear a medical alert button to call someone should he fall, and he falls, often.  He's over 90.  "What about those who worry about you?" she asked him.  He answered, "I don't care what happens to me."  My friend does, though.

On our hike, I couldn't telescope my walking stick, which proved useless for maintaining balance among roots and stones and slushy leaves along a trail lined by twisting trunks and trees.  My nephew, stronger than I, tightened something days earlier, which I couldn't release, so I finally just carried the pole, somewhat awkwardly to the great stone shelf.
While my friend sat above, enjoying winter sun, I climbed down the stairs of the stone door into a burst of light below.  From either end -- above or below -- the rock is impressive: a convoluted upheaving of layered stone in rolling green and amber, blue and tawny red.  A passageway, my friend said, once used by Indians.
At home, soon after arriving filled with the salmon light of sunset and pleasant conversation, I lost my balance on unexpected news.  A loved former student, the daughter of a loved friend, lies in a hospital, after a serious accident, hovering in a twilight of pain and uncertainty.
Suddenly, as in the Ted Hughes' poem I mentioned earlier to my friend, the light drained from day, turning the stone door into metaphor: may Liz walk through the door of trauma to the other side, where her family and friends await her safe return.