Sunday, September 30, 2012


Paint chips lift
off the bench back
unmasking blue paint
one layer down
in much the same way
bark patches peel,
and above the pool
where a green heron
stood shadowed,
sumacs surrender
their brief blaze,
standing like soldiers
serried for winter war.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fire and Fog

Sewanee mood swings.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh No She Didn't!

Just as I reached for the can, stuck in the muck where water meets dam, I stopped.

See why?

Sunning itself, the lime-green katydid, who had previously hopped onto the Sundrop, looked up, languidly, as if to say, "Oh, please.  Don't."

So I didn't.

I've never had a Sundrop, advertised as an "exhilirating rush of deliciously citrusy flavors that both delight and refresh."

Delicious, citrusy, delightful, refreshing hopper and Sundrop.

Be careful what you reach for.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting My Mojo Back

Yesterday, I thought I had lost it.

Today, I think I found it again.

Got my mojo workin'!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Old Friend and a New Challenge

On the way to the library to check out the large print edition (two volumes!) of Cry the Beloved Country, I ran into an old friend: a freshly minted Gray Hairstreak sunning himself and waiting for a female of his kind.  I spotted him easily because of his hop onto the blossom, but when I tried to snap his picture, I discovered a new wrinkle: I can no longer focus on the camera screen.

Yowzer, I had somehow overlooked this potentially challenging result of cataract surgery with middle-distance lenses.

On the way to and from the library, I pondered my quandary.  Bifocals for walking?  Distance and really close?  But then I'd lose the middle distance that is so brilliant.  Distance glasses for walking and the naked eye for photography?  But then how shall I see the imaging screen?  Perhaps I should walk with a naked eye, wearing half-rimmed over-the-counter close-up reading glasses on an eyeglass leash.  Then I can yank them up when I'm ready to shoot.

My October 17 appointment for a new prescription (prescriptions?) looms larger than it did five hours ago.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Modern Medicine

When my father had cataract surgery, he had to stay in bed in a dark room for days.  He wasn't allowed to bend his head down or lift heavy things.  When it was all over, he could see better -- but he still wore tri-focals.

Unhappily, I inherited my father's bad eyes.

I've had to use both distance and reading glasses for years (never together because I couldn't handle bifocals), and I even required middle distance glasses for a period of time.  My vision deteriorated so badly when I was in my twenties that my ophthalmaologist had me tested for diabetes.  When I came to his office after he received the report, he said, "I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that you don't have diabetes.  The bad news is that your eyes are fifty years older than your body."

Happily, unlike my father, cataract surgery is no longer a big deal.  Yesterday morning, I had a second cataract surgery (my right eye was corrected a year and a half ago), came home with a patch, removed it 4, started eye drops, and resumed normal activites today. 

"Normal," though, already has a whole new meaning.  Because I opted to have both new lenses focused at the same point, I can see the computer screen clearly for the first time in my life.  And I am not even wearing glasses!

In a month, when I can get new prescription distance glasses, I expect to see a whole new world of wonders. 

Unlucky in eyes, lucky in modern medicine: that's me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oh the Sights I'll See!

Hold my hand over my right eye: the screen blurs, turning yellow.
Hold my hand over my left eye: the screen focuses, turning white.
Tomorrow, focus and clarity thanks to a new lens. 
Today, I saw rainbows in a Common Checkered Skipper's wing
and in a Swamp Spreadwing's eyes and thorax.
Tomorrow and beyond, who knows?
Oh the sights I'll see!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


First day of fall -- 
equilibrium before tipping toward winter --arrived on steady wind, shimmering leaves and water, sun spashing mini-novas on the lake.  Before Monday's eye surgery, I celebrate morning starbursts.

May the light wait for me.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Camera iffy.

Me too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

That Time of Year

when light
slow dances
& everything
turns gold:
one last song
of summer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Royal Family

Woman and her man.

Man and his woman.

Prince and His Court.

A Not-So-Secret Garden

One of the prettiest gardens in Bell Buckle can be found on Abernathy Lane.

Only the decorative gates never open.

Otherwise, all are welcome and none are strangers to those who live within.

There, love blooms all year long.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rainy Day Amusements

Rain today, too much for me and my camera.  Off and on, it pelted the roof, bringing black walnuts down with it in an explosive cannonade.  Inside, I worked online, and read (for work), and worked online some more.  In between bouts, though, like a wine connoisseur, I cleansed my palate: no words, just kittens and a mama cat, being kittens and their mama.

Watching them, I slide down memory to my first cat, a marmalade, and all those since.  Such pleasure in something seemingly inconsequential: the biggest of the litter leaping about, the little white several paces behind, the creamy one patting his mother so she'll turn to the side and offer a nipple (my own cat pats me like that when I am about to fall asleep, only she wants petting), the last one falling asleep with its head in the hole of a cat play toy. 

I dare you to watch and not smile, even if you're a dog person.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


For the Slaty Skimmer
Strung on silk,
Libellula incesta,
you hang
as from a cross
wings out
spread but still.
Dancer of air,
wearing blue
like a tuxedo,
you once perched,
patrolled, hovered,
pivoted and spun
round challengers,
balletic wrestlers
in a theatrical show.
Now in spider’s
embrace, your
color blanching,
you startle still:
your veined wings
holy light.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Perfect Gifts

Scary things of girlhood -- bugs, spiders, ghosts, sci-fi shows on TV -- no longer fill me with fear.  I can watch anything on television without lacing my fingers over my eyes, and books don't keep me awake at night, listening for the telltale whoosh of bat wings at my window.  Had I come home to this praying mantis in childhood, I would have frozen and waited for an adult to take care of it.  Instead, today, I threw my things on the porch, pulled out my camera, and started snapping.  I felt welcomed by a perfect gift.

Welcome, too, is the special thrill of giving someone the thing she most wants for her birthday, knowing that she will tremble and gasp at the Dementors, hold the covers tight during Black Arts, and widen her eyes at the Shreiking Shack.  Her stomach will drop and skin goosepimple.  She may even cry just a little or whimper.  But E already knows that bugs are beautiful and words live only in imagination. 

The world as it is has already brought her grandmother's death, and the world as it is imagined will also bring the loss of fictional loved ones, but E lives in and loves both worlds, perfect gifts as they are.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The friendliest face I saw today --

my distanct cousin,
the Blue Dasher,
not dashing,
just hanging,
letting me get to know him.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Accidental Photographs

Just when I decided this would be a snap-less day, these happened:
I have grown to love my happy accidents. 
Now if I could just figure out how to make them more frequently!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No Triskaidekaphobia Here!

Many consider the number 13 unlucky, but not me.  Today, it's my lucky number.

A short while ago, I received confirmation of the identity of a damselfy I photographed yesterday: Rambur's Forktail (Ischnura ramburii).  That makes 13 damselfly species I have photographed and positively identified.

This, my friends, is exciting stuff!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Forgetting and Remembering

Some years ago, my father came to my aid when I had major jaw surgery.  On the way home from the hospital, my face so swollen I couldn't put on my glasses, I steered him home, despite his driving my car in fifth at 40 on the freeway and despite my having given him the directions before my operation.  He failed to follow any of them, causing me -- in pain and under the influence of serious drugs -- more distress. 

The next day, when a friend came to see me, she told me he was in my back yard, in his white boxers (nothing else), looking for his keys, which I did not know he had lost.  The next day, he left -- no warning, just goodbye, and out the door.  He remembered something he wanted, perhaps, or something he missed, and had found his keys, so off he went.  I never understood how he found his way to the freeway or the way home over the next six hours.  That is almost the last thing I remember about him.

I don't know why this episode surfaced today, but I think it has something to do with a quotation friends posted today on Facebook.  The post read:

A thoughtful comment on this day from my friend John J. Thatamanil:

The phrase, "Never forget!" is vacuous or dangerous, either meaningless sloganeering or a provocation. The vital question is "Why remember?"
Many, especially in New York, remember 9/11 because they cannot forget; the traumatic grip of memory is severe and unrelenting. What can "Never forget!" mean for those who cannot forget even if they should so choose?

For most, pausing to remember requires an act of deliberation. We who elect to remember must ponder our motivations. Do we remember to nurse grievance, to fuel Islamophobia, and to divide neighbor against neighbor? Or do we perform the work of memory to honor the dead, support the traumatized living, and to recommit ourselves to the difficult and delicate work of healing and reconciliation? Given the enormous power of memory, everything depends on the why.

© Sewanee: The University of the South
 I don't know the why.  I prefer remembering, but I don't know why I remember most of what I remember.  Like standing at the end of the driveway as a child, writing down license tag numbers and the makes and colors of cars.  Or stepping over baby rattlesnakes late at night outside a summer camp cabin.  Or taking a photograph with a now-deceased friend.

But sometimes I know why I don't want to forget. Like today, for example. Three thousand and more people died in New York, Shankstown, and Washington, D.C., on 9.11.01.  I remember that.  And I don't want to forget that a classmate's son died that day or that many more thousands of people have been maimed, terrorized, and killed as "collateral damages" during long brutal wars spawned by that day.

I do know why I choose to remember this day: it is the birth day of my first great-niece, a child whose energy and humor and zest for the emotions of living fill me with joy.  She and other children are acts of reconciliation and healing in and of themselves.  They point the way forward.

I hope that as adults they will know the route and not depend on medicated leaders.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's Strange

Sometimes, people out of context are startling.  Like the former teacher you run into at the pharmacy counter or someone you taught years ago who suddenly lives across the street.  It's strange, we think, the ways our lives intersect.

Just yesterday, I discovered that one of my oldest friends (the kind whose parents were friends of my parents) and I descend from the first folks of Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Our 17th century ancestors knew each other.  Now that's really strange.

It's strange that right now as I write this, a rover is on Mars that we sent there and that folks here on this planet are sending it signals that will make it rove, but not now since it can't respond immediately, and it's even more strange that photographs captured by the Hubble show stars being born that died eons before we ever saw their birth.  Now that's more than strange.

Why am I thinking about what's strange?  Because I saw something that I misunderstood when I saw it the first time and when I saw it the second time, but when I saw it as a photograph on my screen, I think I understood it.  To wit: I thought I saw a snake carcass with a lizard still caught in its jaw.  Duh.  A snake carcass, all right, but with its former skin.

What's also strange is that I happened to be there when two vultures silently alit on a branch and then silently dropped to the ground.  One saw me and lifted -- not so much flew as floated -- across the beach; the other, hungrier perhaps, beaked something up from the ground, the something and the bird too far away from me to decipher.  I tried sneaking, but this vulture too was spooked by my strangeness and flew off, leaving me to walk on and find what they were eating.

Note, please, that when I returned from my tour of the lake, more than an hour later, what's missing from the deadly scene.  And isn't it strange that even then I didn't realize what I was seeing?

And isn't it strange to think how much we are all missing every day?  Because of limited knowledge (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing) or because of bias or because of limited vision -- visual or intellectual, or just because?

Now that is strange.

Sunday, September 9, 2012



A former student's former student posted this article on her Facebook wall, and when I saw it, I read it, seduced by the notion of ignorance fueling science.  I have always, even as early as my student years, wondered why science was taught as if it were a done-deal.  It isn't.  It can't be.  I was alive when Watson and Crick produced the double helix, when the first man landed on the Moon, when computers moved from multistory buildings to desktops. Surely no one believes that "the scientific method" resulted in any of these innovations.  And now Stuart Firestein has written what I always suspected:

"It's an old adage, it's anonymous and says, it's very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room especially when there's no cat, which seems to me to be the perfect description of how we do science. I know most people think that we, you know, the way we do science is we fit together pieces in a puzzle. But it is a puzzle of sorts, but of course, with real puzzles, the kind you buy, the manufacturer has guaranteed there's a solution, you know. The puzzle we have we don't really know that the manufacturer, should there be one, has guaranteed any kind of a solution. So we really bumble around in the dark. We bump into things. We try and figure out what's what and then somebody eventually flips a light on and we see what was in there and say, oh, my goodness, that's what it looked like. And then it's right on to the next black room, you know, to look for the next black cat that may or may not be there. And science is dotted with black rooms in which there were no black cats."


I have been composing a workshop on effective writing, something I have thought about and sought to practice and support through teaching for many years.  Ironically, I never believed myself an effective writing until I completed my Ph.D. and one member of the dissertation committee extended his hand and said, "You are a good writer, Dr. Hood."  His saying it made me recognize the truth: I am a good writer.  But I am also a writer who doesn't and has never fit the standard teacher's mold: write a thesis statement; create an outline; prove something or argue something; write deductively (think "the scientific method"); draft; correct; submit.  I did not think myself an effective writer because I could not follow this proscriptive process. 

You see, I write inductively: like the scientist described by Firestein I am a data-gatherer, collecting thoughts, images, memories, facts, intuitions, writing my way toward -- not away from -- an idea.


Another former student posted a friend's link to this New York Times article on cultivating idleness.  In it, writer Tim Kreider states:

"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. . . . More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. 'Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,' wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ 'Eureka' in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking."

I value idleness each day: I walk and wander in the same way I write -- without knowing what I will find but trusting that it will be interesting.  I can't help thinking that Mr. Kreider and Mr. Firestein might have a lot to say each other.


Today, because I am a dragonfly data-gatherer, I saw what I have read about.  Two years ago, before my committed life of idleness, I didn't even know what I didn't know about Odonates.  Today, my data-gathering tells me there is much more to learn.

Common Green Darners, the female ovipositing


I have learned a lot from my former students.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Cry

Photographing dogwood berries -- more than I've ever seen on the tree, I heard the telltale cry of a hawk, looked up, and saw him or her perched in my black walnut.  I snapped, but the gray sky and jerk of my hand produced only a shaky image, not nearly so bold as the call and call and call to a young one in the woods behind my house.

The red berry, hawk's cry and flight into the woods, chilly temperature and foggy rain -- all excite me: I can't wait for fall, and winter, and spring, and summer again, for each unexpected moments of pleasure.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Yesterday a flock of ducks flapped and slapped water, lifting aloft, circling back, skiing across water before lifting again, angling from dam toward beach. 

Today, an older Slaty Skimmer, wings chewed away like worried cuticles, sunned on sumac leaves, reddened with coming fall.

Such beauty, arriving and leaving, fills me with longing, like leave-taking of loved ones: joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Buggin' with a Bug Class

One of the great benefits of living in a college town is an invitation to join a class of lively undergraduates studying something I like to study too: bugs.  Today, Professor David Johnson invited me to his lecture on aquatic insects, showed a few of my photos, and directed a few student questions to me. 

Then we went buggin'.

A little looking, strolling, water netting, identifying, and joyous smiling, even from the one non-student and one non-insect in these photos. 

You may not see me, but you must know this: I was the one smiling.  Non-stop.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Cure for What Ailed Me

Labor Day in North Carolina with my niece and her family provided the balm I long needed.  My niece E said sometime Sunday evening, "You're such an easy guest."  That's because all I wanted was time with four of my favorite people and time is what I got.

C and A scouted out spiders and big leaves and caterpillars for my camera.  O made me the best cocktails I've ever drunk and took us all to Shining Rock Wilderness where, despite the rain, we fished and swam and laughed at the Red-spotted Purple that landed again and again on Kiva, the family dog.  E showed me her van and place of business.  And we played games and watched The Gruffalo's Child and The Lorax and ate popcorn, and while E read Harry Potter to C, I read Miss Spider's Tea Party to A.

Better than vacation, Labor Day was homecoming.