Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Primary Colors

These flags
running uphill
from the lake
must mean
something, marking 
plants, maybe,
each color
another kind.
Who cares?
What joy
they bring!
An outdoor
Mondrian boogie,
all waving
and flapping
and slapping
me happy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Small Step

In Abbo's Alley late this afternoon, an English professor led her class in what appeared to be silent meditation.  I stifled myself when I happened on this blossom, unexpected and fresh despite the strong wind and 30-degree weather.  Like the students pacing slowly, looking down, silent, I too took my time and erased thought.

In the 1970s, I learned Transcendental Meditation in a blue stucco duplex on New Orleans' Napoleon Avenue, not far from Baptist Hospital.  After a number of group lessons, I brought my handkerchief and offering, participated in a surprisingly moving ceremony, received my mantra from my teacher, and lost myself in private meditation.

Taking pictures -- plenty of bad ones and an occasional pleasing one -- has now become my form of meditation.  With my camera, I am never alone even without companions: I feel my breath and hear the creatures, feel the brush of dragonfly wings, see the smallest birds skipping from bank to bank along the leaf-strewn creek, and am happy.

I hope the students in the professor's class left the Alley happy, too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Two Views

Until last week, I saw like this:
Now, after surgery and new glasses, I see like this:
I'm lucky to live where what I see -- whether unfocused or focused -- is so beautiful.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Cold Wind

does little to prepare me for the coming insularity of winter.  Hold off, hold off, I want to say.  I am not ready for the inward-turning season!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Up with the Heathens!

Homecoming: an American college tradition. 

Here are a few highlights:
  • A 113-year football rivalry between Sewanee and Rhodes for the glory of the Edmund Orgill trophy came down to the last few seconds in a cold fog so thick no one on the Rhodes side could actually saw their boys win.
  • My friends' son Phillip was the first sprinting across the field to grab the trophy -- joyously -- for a game in which he played twice.
  • Over-zealous parents badmouthed the refs; one said, "Just let him come over here with his seeing-eye dog, and my dog'll take 'em."  Mind you, her dog, a young golden lab, was at that moment madly licking the head of a fan sitting below her master.
  • Old fight songs evoked college histories: Rhodes' song still includes its original name of Southwestern; Sewanee's proclaims "Down with the heathen.  Up with the church. --  Yea, Sewanee's right!"
  • The homecoming court reflects of the college, including two dozen couples: a caped fellow and preppily clad young woman huddled in conversation with an earringed young man and his date, a coed whose dark hair was shaved above the right ear and dyed bright red.
  • Even the weather was memorable: 44 degrees with strong wind and spitting fog.
  • Along the walk home, behind me, one student said to another, "Are you drunk?"  "No, man, not now." "Me either." " Yeah, man, I kept getting my father to bring me drinks."
I am not much of a football fan, but I am of Sewanee, and I am of my friends who came from New Orleans to see their son play in the last two weeks of his college career. 

On this day, the visiting team won, and I cheer the heathens.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Least of These

In less than an hour late this afternoon, the temperature fell at least fifteen degrees.  One season is ending, and a new one is rushing in on the wind and fog.  I will be sorry when the first freezing frost has descended, as I suspect I will have seen the last of odonata until the next shift between seasons.

The two single female Fragile Forktails I found at the lake just before the temperature plummeted warmed themselves in today's last sun.  They will nestle in grass tonight, finding what warmth they can.  Whether they emerge again tomorrow remains to be seen.

How many more days will the few leaves cling to branches and the few dragonflies and damselflies shimmer?  How many more happy moments will I have at the lake hunting the least of these?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sometimes It's Just about Color

Don't read too much into this photograph.  I don't.  It's not about patriotism, or about politics, or about the split between the natural and human worlds. 

As I walked into the post office, I heard the flag flapping, looked up, went in, finished my business, walked out, crossed the street, opened the car, got out the camera, and walked straight back. 

For no reason other than this: the color.

The glorious color.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ways of Seeing

Until today, I didn't really see.

Today, I put on a new pair of glasses over my eyes with new lenses and everything snapped into focus.

I stood atop the Lake Cheston dam, looked down some fifteen feet to the water's edge, and saw two bluets chasing one another.  Mind you, a bluet is about 28 millimeters long.  Then I noticed the single Rambur's Forktail (about 34 millimeters long).  Far to my left, I picked out a wheeled pair of Autumn Meadowhawks (about 35 millimeters long) looking for just the right leaf. 

This is amazing!  This is 20/20 vision!

Filled with fall fever, I headed over to the campus late this afternoon to watch light move across stones and down trees.  I saw three boys playing soccer at All Saints', ginko leaves yellowing, and a little lime-green plane (which my friend Bill identified as an Aircam, "designed to fly low and slow with extreme visibility and the security of two engines") buzzing us all.

Those two flyers surely had an amazing view.  But so did I.

Correction: so do I!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Have I Mentioned the People?

Saturday, I spoke with two entomology students wading near the metal bridge.  I told them where to find the mating Autumn Meadowhawks, and they showed me their larvae.

Sunday a woman walking with a cane stopped twice to talk with me on the dam.  "I was going to mow my lawn this afternoon," she said, "but maybe I'll just look for dragonflies instead."  As she walked away, she added, "Thanks for making my afternoon so special."

Monday, Julie and I chatted.

Today, while I was watching the Meadowhawks slapping eggs into the water, a fisherman arrived, pulled out his rod and his popping bobber, and started talking.  "I've been fishin' here since I was a boy.  I get plenty of bass here, but I always throw 'em back.  In the spring, it's bluegills.  They make good eatin'."

I asked, "Have you ever caught a snapping turtle on your line?"

"Oh yes, and they make good eatin', too.  Some snappers in here are prob'ly 50 years old," he said.

Lake Cheston isn't just about bugs and blooms.

It's people, too.

Those I know and those I meet for a conversation.

And I love them all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Painterly Day

Julie wheeled her little red wagon to Lake Cheston, took out her materials, and headed down to the beach, where I found her.
"When I took out my palette, a dragonfly landed on it," she told me.
Her youngest child has just started kindergarten, so Julie has time again to do something she loves: paint.  She is by training and temperament an artist, apparent in the beginnings of her landscape.
"I'm glad you're doing this for yourself now," I said and walked on.
We're kindred spirits: Julie creates her vision on canvas, and I, in digital photos.
Both of us prove that autumn offers gifts for the eyes that see them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Happy Hour

Twenty-for-one and free for all.  
Bottom center, in the water grasses, a mated pair flies.
One hour in the weeds on Lake Cheston's dam at noon, and I am drunk with Autumn Meadowhawks: looking for mates, mating, fllying to camouflage, ovipositing, having just mated, resting, posing.

The mating wheel (on my right shoe).
Three's not a crowd all the time.
Quicker than liquor, these odonates provide my natural high.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Otherwise Occupied

I was photographing the butterfly.  When it flew away, I noticed what else had been there all along -- a crab spider dispatching a bee or hoverfly (I'm not sure which).
I stayed on another twenty minutes, hunkered down into the brush (reasoning that ticks and chiggers must be on their way out), and kept shooting.
Sometimes being "otherwise occupied" is not such a bad thing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rule of Three

Golden slice of sun,
burnished tulip poplar leaf,
yellow jacket. 

Moonrise Kingdom, 
poem masquerading as film,
Peter Pan without treacle.

Walking stick
at the front door
waiting to welcome me home.
Lucky charm.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October Is the Month for Painted Leaves

So said Thoreau:

"October is the month for painted leaves.  Their rich glow now flashes round the world."

So says the water.

So say I.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Peculiar Form of Prayer

Mary Oliver suggests that "pay[ing] attention," "kneel[ing] down in the grass,"  and being "idle and blessed" are a kind of prayer. 
For me, too. 
Sometimes the attention is hard.  Beautiful and hard: like life, when death, the mantis, embraces each of us and returns us to the earth from which we came.
And so I watched, and I paid attention.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Day of October Sky

Fall's vault of heaven, blue like Mary's cloak in an illuminated manuscript and that valuable. 

Glorious and burning: now robin's egg, then azure, or lapis, here ultramarine, below denim. 

Under October sky, rock, leaf, cloud, Air Force jet, stripped bark, red jacket, slate roof -- every thing shimmers, transformed, transforming me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking in the View

Cloudland Canyon State Park: the name almost says it all.  A beautiful place with racing water, thundering waterfalls, deep gorge, long vistas, and fluttering fall leaves tricked out in technicolor -- a place so inspiring and so impossible to photograph.

A friend and I took in the view today, picnicked, and did a little hiking, and I fear I may have bored her with my honest but too-often-repeated "Wow" comments.

I will be coming here again.  And again.  And again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Long Way Round to Something Spectacular

It's a long way round Lake Cheston on a blustery gray day.  I looked and did not find a single dagonfly, though one female Fragile Forktail, a lot of grasshoppers, and one leafhopper tempted me.  Not only that, but half the leaves I saw yesterday on limbs collected in quiet pockets, littering the ground and the water, crenallated with wind.

Only when I reached for my car door did I find the something spectacular I always hope to see: a tiny fly.  Investigating the window framing and then the glass itself, the fly probed and studied and stuck until finally it decided to surrender and lift off.

Marsh Fly

And I remembered this:

The Fly by William Blake

Little fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Looking Up, Looking Down

A painterly day, long-awaited, sunny and autumnal. 

The temptation to look up intoxicates: so many shimmering leaves, chattering in the long wind, twisting, flying off, and racing across the sky like the butterflies they join.

The temptation to look down intoxicates: male and female Fragile Forktails stab into strong grasses and Autumn Meadowhawks fight the wind to mate and tap the shoreline, shaking loose fertilized eggs.  Exhausted, they return to the land, separately, to catch their breath and depart.

I would I did not have to depart, ever, from such glory.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday's Leftovers

About all the nuts and berries that have fallen this fall: some say that means we're in for a hard winter.  I'm beginning to think it means we're going to have an early one, too.

Another rainy day; another day without pictures.

This leftover will have to do.  Like the tiny fly balanced on the flower cup rim, I so wish I could peer into folds of orange, sink into the petals, and stare up at October sky.

Oh, bowl of blue, please return.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Horrid Voice of Science

by Vachel Lindsay

"There's machinery in the butterfly;
          There's a mainspring to the bee;

There's hydraulics to a daisy;
          And contraptions to a tree.

"If we could see the birdie
          That makes the chirping sound
With x-ray, scientific eyes,
          We could see the wheels go round."

And I hope all men
Who think like this
Will soon lie

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Puffed Up

Like Chinese lanterns
waiting to rise, 
silverbell seeds
hold their breath,
waiting to fall
into winter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Old Friends

Betsy came for an overnight visit, hitching a ride with other friends from Asheville headed to today's Convocation.  Fancy cheese and fancier crackers, Piggly Wiggly Squeal wine, tasty soup, easy conversation, chocoloate chip scones, a walk round Lake Cheston and another to Piney Point: old friends are the best, like rolling hills, plateaus, or mountains -- at once big and comforting, a view moving out to the horizon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Only Color

another rainy day:
a scattering of leaves
in the shallows.

Rain, rain,
please go
away and come
back (maybe)
some other day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Everyone Needs the Sun

Suddenly, the sky cleared.  Just like that.  What had been slate turned blue.  The best kind of blue -- that fall/winter blue like lapis lazuli, the perfect setting for beautiful things.  

And the sun warmed everyone.

The red fox squints at the sun, soaking it in.

The white and fuschia blossoms stretch toward the sun.
Even the black walnuts -- hanging like lethally hard softballs -- soften against the sky and glow in the sun.

Everyone needs the sun.