Saturday, June 30, 2012


I didn't need the annual Sewanee butterfly count to tell me a lot of skippers fly all over town these days.  Some, like this one buried in the lily at the Saturday market, have discriminating taste.  Note the matching yellow-green.

Gotta love a bouncy skipper!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cool Heat

By afternoon, the temperature registered 100+. 

But this morning, when I biked to Lake Cheston, a breeze cleaned the air and leaves lifted like flags in first light creeping round the corner. 

At that moment, summer's heat melded into gold and bronze relief.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Learning from the Ebony Jewelwing

The Ebony Jewelwing
leads with her jaw,
leans into space
beneath tree canopy
above water and waits,
then snaps out and back
in one fluid motion.
She has much to teach
about appetite and

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Everyone Eats

In her Tuesday blog post, which I read this morning, my friend Sarah held a tiny bunny, eyes closed and ears back, and wrote a gentle scold, "I must not climb out of my nest box and get lost and cold and hungry."  A lovely post that encouraged me to write, "I hope that teeny thing didn't die!"  (It didn't.)

And then I remembered: that bunny is being raised to be eaten by Sarah and her husband. 

Walking later with a new friend at Lake Cheston, someone who has started this month to study and photograph dragonflies and damselflies, I saw a female Pondhawk haul her breakfast to a nearby bush.  "Look!" I said and crept closer.  He watched the gruesome event through his binoculars as I took pictures. She opened her great jaws (if one can call them that) and pulled the newly emerged, still living Calico Pennant in.

I ran into Sarah later, who told me when I showed her the photograph,  "That Pennant will provide all the food the Pondhawk needs for her eggs."  

Bunnies and dragonflies -- popular figures in art intended for children and the child-like -- cute and beautful and edible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ten Minutes with a Battered But Enthusiastic Bee

More than Enough
by Marge Piercy

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
mulitflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets.  Season of
joy for the bee.  The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its seedy seedheads
into the wind.  Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Another Day of Rest

Medical hiatus.  Back tomorrow, I hope.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Day Off

"Why aren't you out snapping dragonflies?" my California friend asked in a surprise call.

"Under the weather," I answered.

This is what I missed.  Remembered sky will have to do.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

So Many Gifts

Saturday's flowers, and bee flies,
and scones, 
and Sewanee friends,
and shocking chartreuse gladiolas,
and water's spray into night lights,
and my Facebook friend Francois,
who makes art from my snaps. 

So many gifts. 
So much to be grateful for.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Flora: Oh the Pollen!

Even the teeniest damselfly contributes to pollination: look carefully at its head!  See all those fluffy grains?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's Not Always about the Photographs I Take

Yes, the Calico Pennants are beautiful, the Slaty Skimmers impressive, the juvenile Widow Skimmer intricate, but they aren't what I will remember from this morning's walk.

While I shot a Slaty Skimmer, the bush trembled with a fluttering, settled, fluttered, then parted.  In the sun splash, a smallish bird appeared -- gray wings and head, white underpants, lemon yellow breast.  Just as suddenly, he disappeared, whether on wing or by leap I don't know.  A vision like a magic trick, unexpected and breathtaking.  Friend and blogger David Haskell suggested I saw a Yellow-breasted Chat, described by Cornell's All About Birds as "easily overlooked because of its skulking nature and the density of its bushy haunts." 

I rounded the hill to the beach path, where I crouched to shoot a female Calico Pennant just beyond my reach in a thicket of grass and wildflowers.  She tempted me to lean further and further in, and I lingered long.  In the woods at my back, a deer snorted and choughed, snorted and choughed, moving steadily from my left to my right, warning me that I was invading cervine territory.

The Chat, the doe, and I: fellow skulkers of morning.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Stuff of Nightmares

I photographed a Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus) today carefully laying her eggs on a cattail stalk. Lost in concentration, she (thankfully) ignored me and let me approach, again and again and again.

Had she not been so preoccupied, I'd never have taken her photograph because of the pain and potential danger of her bite.  When I first saw one of these several years ago, my friend Jill had to tell me what it was and what it could do to me.  The female, a carnivore, can "cut through the skin using razor-sharp mouthparts that are shaped like a knife or razor.  The fl[y] will then suck the blood up from the wound for several minutes."  She is one bad bug, well deserving of her "inky black cloak," to quote Hamlet. 

In eighth grade, I read Bram Stoker's Dracula and grew so fearful of bats that any noise at my window sent me shivering from my bedroom.  I might have known better: here's the true vampire and right now she and her kind have made Lake Cheston their birthing rooms.  I must tread with care.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Week's Worth of Leftovers with a Little Lagniappe

Keeping a daily blog means making painful choices, so . . . here's a week's worth of leftovers with a little lagniappe.

June 13: The first passion flower blooms along a vine tangled in grass at Lake Cheston.  Like a geode which, when cracked, reveals crystals inside, the little flower begins humbly as an unremarkable hairy pod, but when its lips part, a chorus sings.

June 14: A Pipevine Swallowtail finds a sweet spot -- a bit of moisture, or a bit of sun.  Winged things, I have learned, can fly whether deformed or aged. This one has grit.  How many birds have nipped away at those beautiful wings?

June 15: Kismet: copper-burnished beetle balanced on orange leaf.

June 16. Home after a movie at Boo's, I find a visitor waiting on the front door: a Clymene Moth just like the one I had seen a week earlier in the weeds near Cheston's sandy beach.  What a welcome home!

June 17. Blue-plate special: three treats served up in small bites.  A Wheel Bug nymph lounges along a limb, for all the world more glamorous model than heartless assassin.

 A Red-banded Hairstreak warms himself.

The shore sports weeds cheering on the morning sun.

June 18. A first last look at Farm Pond, soon to be subsumed by the expanding Equestrian Center pastures.  I shall miss the little gem where Halloween Pennants fly.

June 19th's Lagniappe:  Two boys on the prowl: the Double-ringed Pennant and the one-inch Little Blue Dragonlet.  I hope they got lucky!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Oh, the Blackberries!

Click to see Seamus Heaney read his poem "Blackberry Picking," and enjoy!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

People or Insects?

Riffing on a line from the movie We Bought a Zoo, I ask, "If you had to pick people or insects, which would you choose?"

Seems like a loaded question.  Of course, you'd say people.  I would too -- usually.


Here's what a thoughtless person does:

Now look again, a bit more closely, and what do you see?

See it?  That tiny insect? 

An American Bluet cleverly perches on the rim, casually bobbing and floating, waiting and watching for a female ready to mate.

Human callousness or insect ingenuity?

Now which do you choose?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Orange Conspiracy

Everywhere: the color of sun.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Flora: Under and Over

Across the path,
twining vines
shoot out tendrils
like hope
for something
to hang onto.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lessons from the Turtle

Old for a reason, turtles -- first appearing some 215 million years ago -- have survived and thus have much to teach us young ones.  Watching one this morning, float/walk a few feet, poke nostrils and eyes out in slow motion, then rest on the bottom, I found myself thinking I am like a turtle.

People who sort of know me make assumptions: because I am lively in thought, articulate, dramatic, outspoken on topics about which I know something, they might think I'm impatient and extroverted.
Quite the contrary.

Ask one of my many doctors or nurses (too many over the years) about me, and they would say I am patient and not just a patient: I follow instructions assiduously and I wait to heal, believing that I will.  Ask anyone who knows me well, and he or she will say I'm an introvert, preferring silence to sound, my mind and the play of my own thoughts to those of others.

Like a turtle, I will stick my head out when I need to, but I prefer it pulled in, hidden from view, where I wait.

Walking the same path each day to hunt Odonata for some time now, I have practiced turtle.  This morning, at the bottom of the hill, working my way round the curving lip of the lake, I glimpsed a set of wings thrust forward, with darkened edges, and knew Swift Setwing.  Too far away for strong focus, either with my eyes or with my camera.  And too quickly gone in flight.

I might have walked on.  But I didn't.  I moved closer to the branch and waited, and waited, and waited -- until the Setwing returned and basked on a sunny leaf next to my right knee.  I studied him and got my photograph, the first decent one since finding one the first time a year ago.

I have learned this about turtle: it isn't that slow and steady wins the race as Aesop would have us believe; slow and steady is the race

At least when it comes to stalking insects and the rich rewards of patience.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lake Cheston Chiaroscuro

A confession: I am a Caravaggio fanatic.  (See this post and this.)  I swoon before his paintings, in which strong directional light pulls form out of shadow, defining space on a flat plane.  The play of light and dark create an illusion of intensity frozen in space and time.  A master of chiaroscuro (chiaro [clear, light, bright] + scuro [dark]), he served up drama.  (And I majored in drama.)

Chiaroscuro: light-dark 

This morning, early, I walked around the lake, struck by sharp light knifing into the shadowy inner forest away from the water.  Standing at the edge of the trail, one arm shadowed and cool and the other spotlit and hot, I started thinking about Caravaggio, and everything I saw performed, as it were, on mini-stages like tableaux vivants.

Chiaroscuro: bright-dark

Then later, over lunch, a friend told me about his decision to speak up, bringing his light into a group's deep darkness, and I thought again of the characters thrust into the light created by a singular angular vision.

Chiaroscuro: clear-dark

Sometimes, what's clear makes the darkness more dark, sometimes less so, but always darkness makes light more beautiful, and those things in it stars.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Of Shells

One great-niece whines I can't when she wants something that requires asking, say a cup of water in the ice cream shop.  Another great-niece says I will and then leads her older sister to the counter where she requests water for them both.

When he was a child, their father, like his oldest daughter, suffered in silence before asking a clerk for anything.  Once I took him to McDonald's, but refused to order for him.  He wanted a burger and fries so badly that he finally spoke to the counter clerk, though not without suffering greatly.

What is it that makes some people so reluctant to speak up and others so willing?  Some carry can't like a protective shell and suffer anyway, while others leave it behind.

May all my Greats move through their lives, strewing shells of former selves to make room for the people they become.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Random Eye Musing

The dragonfly's head is mostly eye.  Each eye is made up of "30,000 facets, each of which is a separate light-sensing organ or ommatidium, arranged to give nearly a 360⁰ field of vision" (Red Planet, n.d.).

"The approximate field of view of a human eye is 95out, 75 down, 60 in, 60up.  About 12-15temporal and 1.5below the horizontal is the optic nerve or blind spot which is roughly 7.5high and 5.5wide" (Human eye, 2012).

I see better than either of these Calico Pennants, even though I have two lenses to each of their 60,000.

Nevertheless, I wonder what they see when they see me, as they clearly did when I snapped and snapped and snapped their mating wheel.


Human eye.  (2012, May 28).  Retrieved from

Red Planet Inc.  (n.d.).  Dragonflies of North America.  Retrieved from

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Day of Rest and Restoration

Lately, I have been unable to sleep without stirring and shifting again, and again, and again.  But driving to Sewanee from Birmingham in a spitting rain made me nod and long for bed.  Even a walk in mist failed to energize me, until I came upon this tiny bee fly, Hemipenthes webberi
His formal attire like black velvet, his damp cushion of clover head, his triangular shape and angled posture, his light hold in a sway-making wind -- all these returned the energy driving had sapped from me. 

Perhaps this is why I walk and this is why I look at small things: to wake and enjoy my waking.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

At the Birmingham Botanical Garden

A rose
by any other name
would smell as sweet,
but no rose
smells as sweet
as these three
Hood women!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Beautiful Place

Tonight, over beer and crackers, my sometime neighbor, a friend, and I chatted.  The neighbor is not so sure she wants to return with her husband to live here for many reasons, among them the retrograde politics in the state.  Our friend, however, made the point that she is living in the most beautiful place she has ever enjoyed.
I feel the same way.

I can't control the big issues out there -- war, health insurance, bigoted policies -- and I can't waste too much of my time in a swivet about them.  Oh yes, I read the news, and I complain, and I wonder why my votes don't seem to make a difference.

But I am becoming more like Thoreau with every passing day.  I want to focus on what lasts, like this moment at a pond where a single dragonfly rests and think, I am lucky to be here.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To Lake Dimmick

White horse
watches me 
watch him.
Four days
in a row
we stare
on my 
way in 
and on 
my way 
out. He
stands, face
ablaze and
I think,
if only
I could

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Palling Around

My friend Lydia told me that she spends much of the day in her garden by herself, but she's never alone.

I know the feeling.  I spend much of my time walking by myself, but I'm never alone either.

Today an American Snout palled around with me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Robley to the Rescue

A short walk -- less than an hour -- all that my busy day allowed brought action: two dragonfly rescues.

One required my standing at the lake edge, an area usually under water, and reaching a stick out to a Widow Skimmer teneral that had fallen into the lake.  With wings not yet hardened and strengthened, it would have drowned had I not been able to coax it onto my stick and then onto higher blades of grass.

The second, a much easier rescue of a female Blue Dasher, caught in a web at the trestle bridge.  I pushed my hand into the web, and she climbed on, dazed at first, then grooming herself.  Recovered enough so that I could urge her onto the bridge rail, she flew into a bush and then onto a cattail, where she waited for sun to warm her.

The dying or dead weighs heavily on this watcher, but saving even one -- sometimes two -- of the lovely creatures brings joy as weightless as the living being in the palm of my hand.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Good Luck

I'm not an especially lucky person.  I've won two things in my life: a department store drawing when I was six and some soap on Cudzoo Farm's Freebie Friday this spring.  Neither made me rich.

But looking at what's there, just waiting to be seen, makes me a millionaire every day. 

This morning, I got my season's first happy photo of a mature Blue Dasher and a close-up of the face of a Citrine Forktail.  I also saw and snapped American Bluets, Swamp Spreadwings, Eastern Pondhawks, Slaty Skimmers, Widow Skimmers, Fragile Forktails, Banded Pennants, Calico Pennants, a Black Saddlebags, two Great Blue Skimmers, and a mystery darner.

Then this afternoon, I ventured out to Lake Dimmick, and as soon as I walked into the overflow area, I found a Comet Darner, the first of several as it happened.  I also saw and shot many of the same odes from my morning stroll as well as one Eastern Amberwing, a beautiful teneral female Lilypad Forktail, and a new species -- the lovely Little Blue Dragonlet.

Honestly, just let me walk into a space with water and greenery and I'll find something spectacular, often something I've not seen before.

Maybe I should start thinking myself lucky!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Old Sheets

A cold night and morning in a too-hot bed. 

I miss my childhoodsheets: white cotton, sun-dried, ironed.  No matter the weather, they made sleeping easy, a bed-slide for my body, at once cool and warm, their white puckers shadowed blue, like the petals of this wildflower.

And just as happy.

Friday, June 1, 2012


flag flying.