Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Robley and the Excellent, Enjoyable, Oh-so-good, Very Fine Day

A trip to Dury's in Nashville to

1. Inquire about developing and printing an old roll of film

2. Ask why two Canon G12 sensors failed and seek redress

3. Buy a lens cap

4. Look at macro lenses

5. Check out alternate compact cameras should the G12 be beyond salvation

6. Enjoy watching Chris ogle the Fuji four-thirds cameras

7. Eat a pretty bad lunch with a pretty good young friend.

All in all, it was way better than Alexander's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Missed Opportunities

Two years ago, I could not, no matter what I did, take a decent photo of a Lancet Clubtail on a multiflora rose blossom. Early morning, shade, pale flower -- I could pretend these were the problems. But. The problem was me. I didn't really know how to use the camera.

I still think of it as the one that got away.

Well, here's another. A luna moth on the edge of the woods by the path where humans and dogs walk (two and one walked right by me and exhibited no curiosity whatsoever about why I was stretched on the wet leaves). The moth was going nowhere, and neither was I. So I tried every setting I could figure out on the fly on the new-old camera. And missed shot after shot after shot. Pathetic. No one's fault, but my own.

I will always know this was the other one that got away.

Time to start reading the dadgum manunal.

Monday, April 28, 2014


I walked three strides from the parking lot gate toward the dam. Suddenly, the air shimmered with newly emerged Lancet Clubtails. Another few feet, and more flew toward the treeline and protection. Despite rain and clouds and more rain on the way, despite a temperature in the 60s, these hardy Odonates had decided, en masse apparently, to make their debut.

Such is the generosity of nature.

A friend wondered if I might like to try out her Nikon DSLR. She said, "I don't really need it any longer. I use my iPhone for everything and you take the pictures of my new knitting patterns anyway. Come over if you'd like to try it out."

I went over, but thought I couldn't use the camera. "How do you adjust the viewfinder?" I asked. "I can't focus on anything."

"I don't think you can. I never tried."

"Ah, then it probably won't work for me."

But she convinced me to try it out, and so I did.

I shot the cats successfully.

I leaned into the irises.

I shot at least one clubtail fairly well, though not in complete focus.

I struggled to capture a Violet Dancer, the first I've seen this year, but with a true macro lens, I'm sure I could do it.

Most importantly, I learned in five minutes how to adjust the diopter.

She called again after I sent a couple of snaps in an email. "I've found all the lenses. Come on over!"

"I'll bring my checkbook," I said.

Such is the generosity of friends.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

There's Photoshoppin' and Then There's Just Plain Ignorance

Still struggling with someone else's camera, but today there's a new wrinkle: strong wind. Tornadic storm on the way. A perfect time to play with Photoshop, not to disguise what I'm doing as a magazine just did with little Prince George, but to make something salvageable from the wild azalea.

Now if only my blog could have scent.

Overheard conversation: Four children swimming at the beach. One a teenage boy, overseeing the two girls and boy younger than he.

Teenage Boy: It's yin and yang, see?

Girl: Huh? What's that?

Teenage Boy: You know, those Korean symbols. Black and white.

Girl: Black and white?

Teenage Boy: Yeah. That Korean symbol. Like white is good South Korea. Black is bad North Korea.

Girl: Which am I?

Teenage Boy: If you keep doing what you're doing, you're North Korea -- black, bad.

Girl: Oh.

Teenage Boy: Yin and yang. White is good and black is evil. And that's always true.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Fortnight's Gratitude

Dear A,

I am remiss.

I should have thanked you before now for the loan of a camera.

But spring caught me unprepared, and the Nikon and I still struggle to make more than a passing acquaintance.

I have learned this: each camera has lessons to teach, and each person is not well suited to each lesson.

Nevertheless, I have stalked the slow spring unfolding now in flying things and ripening color.

May these thank you in my stead, for these are why I am grateful.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Living in the Light

The Shapes of Leaves
by Arthur Sze

Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.

Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple?
Have you winced at the orange flare

searing the curves of a curling dogwood?
I have seen from the air logged islands,
each with a network of branching gravel roads,

and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold.
I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field,
a single white whooping crane in the flock.

And I have traveled along the contours 
of leaves that have no name. Here
where the air is wet and the light is cool, 

I feel what others are thinking and do not speak,
I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,
I am living at the edge of a new leaf.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Southern Prep

Spent Kwanzan cherry blossoms litter the weedy, clover-filled yard: it's been a Lilly Pulitzer kind of spring.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Three Good Things on Earth Day

1. A colony of pink Lady's Slippers blossoming, in shade and sun.

2. A Russian photographer's macro magic show. Oh, Vyacheslav Mischenko, what wonders you us to behold!

3. The week's bounty, thanks to my half-share in a local CSA.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Comforts of Home

These are highly satisfactory cats.

Tiny Doodlebug and Bacee (Big Ass Cat) sleep on my work sweater.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Dear Parents of Young Children,

When you visit Lake Cheston to swim, picnic, or stroll, please take all precautionary measures. Should you see a woman in a red jacket, more than likely sprawled on the ground, balanced precariously on rocks or roots near water's edge, aiming a camera or two at something so tiny you can't see it, beware!

These days, because her camera is dying, she is using a borrowed camera, with which she is surprisingly clumsy. When she fails to get the shot she intends, like the one below of a Springtime Darner (the only mature one she has ever seen alit), she is likely to curse loudly and colorfully in language you may not wish your children to hear.

If you see said woman, it is recommended that you cut a wide path around her and hurry.

Thank you,
The Management

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Three Sure Signs of Spring

A newly emerged Odonate invited to Miss Spider's Tea Party.

Lady's Slippers. (I stopped counting at 36.)

Students at the lake, some fishing, some reading, some debating philosophy, one chillaxin'.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Steep Learning Curve

Learning to use a friend's old Nikon Coolpix makes my head hurt.

The Blue Corporals and Common Baskettails didn't mind, however.

Heck, they didn't even mind the snow and sub-freezing temps.

They have way more gumption than I.

R.I.P. Canon G12.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Gallery with Heart

I traveled to Chattanooga today to meet my friend B, and together we met a miracle worker at

  The HART Gallery
click above to go to gallery

What's the miracle? The healing power of art. Imagine a gallery, therapeutic community center, studio, community garden, little free library, meeting space all together in one beautifully appointed refurbished building. 

"How did you get the idea for this place?" I asked Ellen (a visionary doer) as she worked on lunch (a hearty lasagna).

"One day, I noticed the courtyard obelisk covered with beautiful tiles made by homeless folks, and I knew what I had to do. This is the result," she said.

I enjoyed my outing with B -- brunch, Niedlov Breadworks, the Hunter Museum of Art's special exhibition of African-American art, cafe au lait, happy chat with a friend -- but it's the gallery and the angel who created it and the blind man debarking a bus, asking "Are you friends of Ellen's?" on entering for lunch and the art-making heart-mending community that I'll remember.

What lasts?

A reminder that there really are good people in the world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Worth Waiting For

High wind, rain, ice pellets, snow.

Then, finally, late afternoon, the sun broke through (now I understand sun breaking through) the wall of winter-tease and lit up the kitchen like Christmas.

Just look.

Worth waiting for, don't you agree?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dogwood Winter on the Way

Last Supper
by Charles Wright

I seem to have come to the end of something, but don’t know what,
Full moon blood orange just over the top of the redbud tree.
Maundy Thursday tomorrow,
                         then Good Friday, then Easter in full drag,
Dogwood blossoms like little crosses
All down the street,
                    lilies and jonquils bowing their mitred heads.

Perhaps it’s a sentimentality about such fey things,
But I don’t think so. One knows
There is no end to the other world,
                                    no matter where it is.
In the event, a reliquary evening for sure,
The bones in their tiny boxes, rosettes under glass.

Or maybe it’s just the way the snow fell
                                         a couple of days ago,
So white on the white snowdrops.
As our fathers were bold to tell us,
                                    it’s either eat or be eaten.
Spring in its starched bib,
Winter’s cutlery in its hands. Cold grace. Slice and fork.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Celebrate Spring

now because the end is in sight: 20s and ice pellets. Tuesday's forecast.
Tonight, may I dream of white crabapple blossoms and green bees, my two dogwoods just bleaching from green to white, the redbud -- all blossom and no leaf, the Kwanzan cherry with its fluffy flowers.

And the perfumed air. A long wait for a small reward.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Swan Song

This dragonfly nymph hauled itself out of the water, scuttled across the bridge abutment, and insisted on tucking itself into a tiny crack between stones. How, I wondered, would it ever survive.

I returned in late afternoon and had to scrape out the sodden odd remainders. It appears my fears may have been well founded.

For the last week, my camera's sensor has begun failing. Four good shots, then a white one or two. Then I turn the camera off, turn it on, and it might work again, or not. Ten percent, then twenty the rate of failure.

Two G12s. Two complete failures. The first in fall, the second in spring, just when Odonates appear.

Alas, for spring's losses.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Seasonal Invitation

Every year, as soon as the first crabapple bud opens, lime green bees appear to plumb the flowers, head first, plunging in till they can go no further.

And every year, I am reminded of one of my favorite poems.

To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shadows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is as common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I met some chickens yesterday, beautiful, ornamental, fantastical chickens. Even their eggs made Faberge confections look cheap. Just look at their natural Easter-time beauty.

Those chickens happily ate some worms, offered by my friend and their human keeper. I kept thinking of the chickens I eat, in those cramped cages in hot chicken houses, their bodies unnaturally plumped for our super-sized appetites.

A chicken is not just a chicken.

Everybody eats. Take damselflies, for example. They and dragonflies are masterful predators. As naiads living in the water, they'll eat anything they can: small fish, big fish, each other. In their final stage as emerged fliers, they eat any insect that can catch, including each other.

I have watched them do this, and I have been fascinated.

Of late, I have been possessed of an appetite for British mystery series -- Vera, Luther, Above Suspicion, Single-Handed. I can't get enough.

I can't enough of good-tasting things, too, especially sweets. Twenty-four macarons lasted less than a week. I consoled myself with the shipper's warning that they would be fresh for five days.

by Paulann Petersen

Pale gold and crumbling with crust
mottled dark, almost bronze,
pieces of honeycomb lie on a plate.
Flecked with the pale paper
of hive, their hexagonal cells
leak into the deepening pool
of amber. On your lips,
against palate, tooth and tongue,
the viscous sugar squeezes
from its chambers, sears sweetness
into your throat until you chew
pulp and wax from a blue city
of bees. Between your teeth
is the blown flower and the flower's
seed. Passport pages stamped
and turning. Death's officious hum.
Both the candle and its anther
of flame. Your own yellow hunger.
Never say you can't take
this world into your mouth.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Slow Day

A lake wander among tiny beetles and swimming nymphs, wild violets, and Cirque du Soleil ants climbing dandelions. A walk with a friend to Bluebell Island, where we couldn't cross the river to see the bluebells, but could enjoy more trillium, trout lilies, and spring beauties than I've ever seen. A visit with her animals -- including ornamental chickens -- rewarded me with Easter-colored eggs.

A day filled with surprises.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Learning to Love a Tree

Tulip poplars shadowed the creek where I played in childhood. I didn't know their name; I never looked up. I aimed at minnows with my BB gun, read my book, played cowboys and Indians. Only as a grown-up, wandering the creek on a visit from home elsewhere, did I realize some tree flowered and dropped beautiful sherbet-colored teacups to the ground and water below.

But I didn't know its name.

I learned to recognize tulip poplars here Sewanee, where they tower over my house, attract lightning strikes, weaken and die, lean with tornadic winds I have learned to endure, attract woodpeckers, threaten to flatten my house, and me.

At the lake I have grown to love tulip poplars. There, they do not threaten me or my property. Instead, the bud, and flower, and leaf, and shimmer in summer wind and sun, turning wind into whispering or rustling of yards and yards and yards of satin flung, shaken, crinkling.

Today, I celebrate the fleur-de-lis unfolding of leaf. 

Welcome, springing.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Lazy Afternoon

After a rousing game of Mousey-in-the-Basket, what are teens to do?

Snuggle, of course. With the sibling. On the cuddly blankie. In the high chair. Looking out over the yard. Where critters roam.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian Day 10: K

K for Knowledge

A slow walk around the lake today finally offered one reward: an emerging Springtime Darner (Basieaeshna janata). Unlike last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before, I knew its name and sex, and I knew how to look for one. Knowledge is power.