Monday, June 30, 2014

The Ubiquitous Day Lily of July

The Ubiquitous Day Lily of July
by David Budbill

There is an orange day lily that blooms in July and is
everywhere around these parts right now. Common.
Ordinary. It grows in everybody's dooryard—abandoned
or lived in—along the side of the road, in front of stone walls,
at gas stations and garages, at the entrance to driveways,
anywhere it takes a mind to sprout. You always see them
in clusters, bunches, never by themselves. They propagate
by rhizomes, which is why they are so resilient, and why
you see them in bunches.

There is an orange day lily that blooms in July and is
ubiquitous right now. The roadside mowers mow a lot
of them, but they don't get them all.

These are not the rare and delicate lemon yellow day lilies
or the other kinds people have around their places. This one
is coarse and ordinary, almost harsh in its weathered beauty,
like an older woman with a tough, worldly-wise and wrinkled
face. There is nothing nubile, smooth or perky about this flower.
It's not fresh. It's been around awhile and everybody knows it.

As I said, it's coarse and ordinary and it's beautiful because
it's ordinary. A plant gone wild and therefore become
rugged, indestructible, indomitable, in short: tough, resilient,
like anyone or thing has to be in order to survive.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

On the Verge of Verbal Exhaustion

Too many words. These days, my head holds too many words, others' words written and spoken, but not my own. And when I try to find my own, the letters and sounds emerge as though from a Holi-dusted fog.

Nothing coheres.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Taste of Summer

still wet
with afternoon rain

Friday, June 27, 2014

Even a poor photograph

of a much sought-after insect begins a day well.

Behold: the male Amber-winged Spreadwing!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Little Bit of McGehee's

came to Sewanee today and made me smile.

Then, I discoverws that SWD's oldest daughter has been at camp with my neighbor's oldest daughter for the last two weeks.

Finally, my neighbor's sister, on hearing where SWD is staying tonight and tomorrow night in Monteagle, said, "Oh I know R! From New Orleans!"

Small world. Smoke and mirrors. All over again

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Something Old, Something New

April 2011
As I rounded a turn on the Cheston path, something turquoise and lime fluttered on the path. I took the photo, poorly. My first snap of an Eastern Pondhawk, barely recognizable in the blurry image. I didn't know the dragonfly, and I didn't know the camera.
June 24, 2014
Another adolescent male Pondhawk flitted down in front of me, this time on the pebble path at the golf course. Now I know the dragonfly and the camera. Both are sharp -- in the image and in my mind.
June 25, 2014
With a friend's new Leica, I used the superzoom to hone in on yet another adolescent Pondhawk. I didn't have to lean in and compromise the light as I must do with the Canon. The image quality is equal to that of the Canon, and maybe with practice I could learn to use a camera like this one.
June 26, 2014
What next?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Search of One Thing, Finding Another

I asked permission and was given it with this proviso: "Be careful. There are a lot of bad golfers on this course."

The cart track and the utility path took me downhill, below the most picturesque green, where I found the pond. Drained before the golf course was rebuilt, the pond shimmered today, encircled with flowers and thistle and cattails and leafy greenery all round. Missing, though, is the old bridge with its iron rails, access to the center of pond activity now cut off.

"What are you looking for?" the student asked.  "Odonates," I answered, guessing (rightly) that her waders and other gear suggested naturalist study. "You?" I added. "Salamanders," she said. "I'm doing a study, and I must say it's hard work. But fun."

When one golfer finished the third green and before others managed to shoot to it, I climbed up the hill and paused, taking in the view of the plateau and Shakerag Hollow, Roark's Cove and beyond. On my way back to the golf house where I started, three men stopped their golf cart and said, "We saw you up there. What were you looking for -- birds or balls?" "Dragonflies and damselflies," I answered. They looked puzzled, and one said "Ah!" as they drove off.

I am glad of the new course, the spectacularly lively pond, and the clutch of Halloween Pennants balancing on winds of changing weather. Sometimes change is good, even when challenging.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best Root Canal Day Ever

Two Spot-winged Gliders hawked back and forth, back and forth, between the endodontist's office and patio fountain. One even "belly-flopped" several times in the chlorinated water. Every tooth appointment should begin like this.

A trip over the bridge to New Hope in search of river access. Instead, I followed a sign that said "SHRINE," uncertain of what I'd find. Past trailers, homemade houses, McMansions, and a couple of stately old farms I found this: a folk art church created by a Marionite.

And look who awaited me on the altar.

And look who I found in the grass outside.

And look who perches above Mary.

And then, as I reached for the car door, this fellow flew past me, close to the ground: my very first Black-shouldered Spinyleg.

A wander to Nickajack Dam, where a fisherman told me, "No catfish for the last two years, even since that spill in West Virginia. I've fished here for fifteen years and till two years ago, I caught all the catfish I wanted." And where when I asked two workers emptying the garbage cans how I could get down to the water, one answered, "You're a grown lady. You can go down that closed-off sidewalk and then walk down on the rick-rack. It ain't goin' nowhere and ain't no snakes up in here." No snakes, but plenty of Blue-fronted Dancers, Dusky Dancers, a few Common Whitetails, and one (or two) Cyrano Darners.


That's what Odonates and I have in common.

And the outdoors.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I really want to see one of those Amber-winged Spreadwings! I surprised myself by saying this aloud, despite my being alone.

I stepped across the spongy pond shore, still wet and muddy after morning rain.

And then I saw him: flying up from the water, large and baby blue, then hanging from one of the grasses. As soon as I slid my camera across my chest, he flitted up into the tree branches and then beyond, out of sight.

After searching for another, I climbed out of the pond, walked down the old farm road, and re-entered on the opposite shore. I immediately saw another male spreadwing, but once again as I approached, he flew away.

Taunting me, he hung from grass in the water, just beyond the reach of my camera.

The camera is limited by distance.

I am limited in making a sneak-attack by the necessity of movement.

The Amber-winged Spreadwing is limited by the length of his adulthood, during which he is driven to reproduce.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

There's Love and There's Love

The Blue Dasher thrills me each year, especially the males with their clown-white faces and blue eyes, striped thoraxes like clown suits worn at an angle, willingess to engage by staring and tilting, seeming as if they could to wink and say, "Hey look at me! Aren't I something?"

Yes. You are.

I love the Blue Dasher.

Campers, two young women (a couple I suspect), giggle in the hammock, their clothes spread to dry on the on a tarp, their food handily packed in water-proof bags, their tent opened for airing. Encamped a step only from the well-traveled path around the Lake, they intrude on the very thing they profess to love. But they do enjoy the natural world: they want me to identify a beetle photographed on a phone and I show them an Eastern Pondhawk.

They love Lake Cheston, too.

I need to try to remember this.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Honey Hole

One small pond.
An hour and a half.
Seventeen species:
Carolina Saddlebags
Golden-winged Skimmer
Comet Darner
Common Green Darner
Slaty Skimmer
Spangled Skimmer
Blue Dasher
Eastern Pondhawk
Double-ringed Pennant
Little Blue Dragonlet
Common Whitetail
Lancet Clubtail
Widow Skimmer
Autumn Meadowhawk
Azure Bluet
Fragile Forktail 
Citrine Forktail
Southern Spreadwing.

And, oh, the Southern Spreadwings,
so beautiful in the morning

and so delicious.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All the World's a Stage

Dozens of longhorn flower beetles swarm the magnolia blossom, males banging into one another, males and females copulating, some flopping into the ground cover, both sexes flying awkwardly, ridiculously long antennae like floppy frontal pigtails.

This one, for a moment, might well be mistaken for some clown preparing for his entrance through a velvet curtain. May he do well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Familiar Ground

Comfort in repetition. 

The child who sucks her thumb, the little boy who flicks paper between thumb and middle finger, the woman who stirs coffee each morning exactly three times round, the man who spits and hitches at the plate -- we all have our repeated actions or activities that settle us. Not quite a rut, not a bad habit, but a good one that brings calm and stasis to an otherwise chaotic world.

Let others twirl their hair or tap their pens: I'll walk Lake Cheston. Again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In the Here and Now

In today's New York Times, Perry Garfinkel describes opening a writing workshop with this direction:

At the top of a page, write the words ‘Here and now I am’ followed by an ellipsis. In the next five minutes write as many sentences as you can, each sentence beginning with ‘Here and now I am.’ The rules: no questions, no stopping, no thinking, no worries about logic or syntax and no cheating off your neighbor.
If you go blank, draw from your senses — what you see, smell, taste, hear, feel.
Here goes:
Here and now I am writing my 2,120th post for My Daily Snap, a ritual that lifts me like a swing, higher and higher, head back, laughing. 
Here and now I remember swinging as a child, and I love blogging like that, an infectious addiction, even though my feet hurt. 
Here and now, my feet hurt as they have since morning when, over my head a green heron ack-ack-acking across the pond, I slid part-way into the black loam, water soaking my socks, my camera aimed at another new species -- the Southern Spreadwing. 
Here and now, I smile, knowing that a famous person, Dennis Paulson, author of a major field guide to Odonates in America, verified my photo on Facebook. 
Here and now, I heard the heron's acking as applause, but it's the rush of wings, the gust of air brushing my cheek as a Slaty Skimmer races by, that makes my skin pucker. 
Here and now I feel dehydrated, not literally, but metaphorically: spent, I suppose. 
Here and now, still tired from looking for bugs, in wet shoes and socks, two cameras slung across my chest and back, I know I'll do it again tomorrow. 
Here and now, when I write have nothing to say of consequence other than noting the way the Southern Spreadwing turned a moment toward me as I reached in for a photograph or the way the second lizard, the one on the Lake Dimmick sign, waited and waited and waited as I approached, as if it knew I am no predator. 
Here and now, I have nothing to write, I think, but then when I sit at the computer and place my fingers on the keyboard, something happens and text appears. 
In the here and now of photowalking and writing I am part of the elements, and I feel whole.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Today, I (inadvertently) murded an Odonate of a kind I have stalked for years.

When I saw something large with shiny wings tumble out of the bushes, I followed.

It flew back in. I followed.

It fumbled back out. I followed.

I approached. It flew a few more paces.

I took four pictures. I tried to lean in with my camera.

It tumbled off to a clump of grass of my left, where it struggled to right itself and perch. I followed.

But a bird got there first, beaked the dragonfly, flew twenty paces to a curb, tucked the Odonate in, and took off to the trees by the lake.

I now have survivor's guilt and this beautiful photograph of a (now deceased) Prince Baskettail.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In Just Ten Days

four new Odonate species seen, photographed, and verified by experts. That makes 34 distinct dragonfly species and 20 distinct damselfly species.
Arrowhead Spiketail at Lake Cheston
Painted Skimmer at Lake O'Donnell
Southern Sprite at Lake Dimmick
Amber-winged Spreadwing at Lake Dimmick

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summer's Pleasures

Pink tastes like cotton candy, too sweetly sticky on the tongue, teeth rattling, hanging on for balance, like the flower flies and bees plumbing every blossom.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 40: Another Day in My Life (Death on the Doorstep)

Amour still in mind days later, daddy-long-legs striding a yellow jacket, 

then this:

a Blue Corporal, one of the year's last, webbed, struggling to fly, signaling the spider who fought to win a terrifying battle.

And Iraq, imploding.

Thus ends Julie's challenge: 40 days of 40 words.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 39: Another Day That Changed My Life

Another blogger mentioned "photoblogging." 

550,000 Google hits 1 second ago. 

And here I thought I was odd, walking each day with a camera, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes not (witness the summer Odonate explosion).

Today: Photodriving instead.

I can't help myself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 38: Another Day That Changed My Life

He took one look at my niece, said "I'm going to marry her." (Ask his mother.)

I've saved one message on my answering machine: he says, "Hello Aunt Robley! I'm just calling to say I love you." 

O's a keeper. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 37: Another Day That Changed My Life

At their rehearsal dinner, my nephew said, "I love J because she makes me a better person."  

J knows how to fix anything, find the bargain, sew a costume, mother her girls, and make a small family large with love.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 36: Another Day That Changed My Life

A day without words: that's what I hunger for. Silence, absence of commentary, even of thought in suspended consciousness, like that before or after major surgery, lost in the drugged space between nothing and everything now. I'm ravenous. Like these.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 35: Another Day That Changed My Life

First cousins long removed by time and space, I still like E and she still likes me. Shared memories of a grandmother's egg cup or an uncle's eccentricities bring the joy of belonging to a tribe, not just a self.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 34: Another Day That Changed My Life

Fog opens and closes like a muslin curtain, revealing barn or child or field, but without a follow spot. Even a lone bird perched on a seesaw of wire tethered to the tower waits for the show to begin.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 33: Another Day That Changed My Life

As a child, she swung hard, cross-barred and smiling, side-banded pigtails flying, a streak of joy, and at night, her cat curled and nursing her tail, she slept hard.

A lover of life, ECH beautifies it for others.