Thursday, July 31, 2014

I May Have Peaked in Childhood

when I felt things deeply, slamming my way through the world of sensation, ignorance and knowledge.

I love this child, but unlike the person who described this video as portraying "typical struggles of a 5-year old," I would say Sadie is wise. Her struggle may be common, but never typical.

Sadie meets mortality head-on.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Half Dozen Pleasures in One Day

1. A plethora of cooperative Odonates.

2. A package of old photographs, featuring my blood family and my might-as-well-be-blood family.

3. An ice cream cone with a friend.

4. An email from a cousin.

5. Fresh corn.

6. Two fat cats in one lap.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


when I walk down Day Lake Road, past the gate, the horse watches me, holds me in her stare, and suddenly I am 6 again, enthralled by Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Penny, and Annie Oakley, their make-believe worlds, the first I remember, an Old West of open vistas and craggy rock formations and tumbleweeds.

I saw one once. A tumbleweed tumbling, in the middle of a desert somewhere in the Southwest, my brother and I quaking in the back seat of our father's Buick which he drove, as he often did, nearly on empty. 

That weed tumbled and tumbled, and Daddy kept saying, "We're going to run out of gas," and I wished a horse would appear out of nowhere, look at me, as if to say, "It'll be all right."

Like this one.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It began

with butterflies. 

I had forgotten how beautiful they are, especially in late summer with zinnias in full bloom.

Today I remembered.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


My father flirted with everyone: little girls and boys, strangers and friends, peers and elders. He liked people, and he liked making them smile and laugh, and he liked being center of their attention. 

The Blue Dasher, both male and female (like this one) flirt. I've never met a Dasher that didn't pose like a professional model. Flit up for a little something to nibble, re-perch, eat, and smile for the camera. Say "insect"!

My father the dashing man and the Pachydiplax longipennis: flirts writ large.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Pall on the Afternoon

At Old Stone Fort, I took several hundred photos of two damselflies I'd not seen before: The Blue-ringed Dancer and the American Rubyspot. A beautiful afternoon, spent in sun and shade, sitting mostly by the river, listening to the waterfall, just looking at bugs.

On the way home, traffic came to a long standstill. I finally asked the truck driver next to me if she knew what had happened. "Bad wreck," she said, "three helicopters." And then I heard a siren behind us. The news report says six children were injured when a tire blew, causing the van to swerve. In an instant, I imagine, everything changed.

I loved my afternoon.

I can only hope the travelers loved what they had of theirs. May they have others.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Easy as Pie!

My friend saw a Flag-tailed Spinyleg yesterday and told me where to look.

I drove to Grundy Lakes Number 1, parked, took the camera out of the bag, turned it on, opened the door, took four steps . . . and there it was! My first Flag-tailed!

A turn to my left and there was my second Black-shouldered Spinyleg.

Six paces to my right and my third-ever Dusky Dancers.

Dang! Wish Ode-ing were always this easy!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

There Goes the Neighborhood

The four-children family moved, taking with them thunks of bats, thwacks of soccer balls, screams of laughter, and bundles of choked-up tears. The house waits for another family, a happy one, I hope. I miss the joyful sounds and children's smiles and springy curls and blueblue eyes.

The oldest building on campus burned last night, leaving many long-term folks jarred and sad. One young woman told me today that a retired professor sobbed so long and hard last night at the news that everyone in the room, even those brand new to the area, cried, too. 

I live here, but I don't suppose I'll ever feel quite at home. I am not one of "them" who have matriculated or taught or worked for the University, but I have taught and I know some of them and like them. 

Our neighborhood loses a bit of goodness with every departure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What You See

and what another bug sees are not one and the same.

Witness the crab spider: this one lounging for lunch on a Sewanee Surprise Lily

or this one hunting on a British daisy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Balance

Lady Justice holds scales, weighing truth and justice under law as if they were precious jewels or metals. The scales tip one way or another, in favor of one side of the argument or the other, guilt or innocence, responsibility or lack thereof. Justice and fairness, I suppose, balance the scale even when it tips.

In art history, I learned about the "rule of thirds." Imagine a space divided into nine equal parts, then place objects at or along the intersecting lines to create a balance of tension, something apparently the human eye finds both natural and pleasing. Balance is achieved through imbalance; the center of interest is not centered.

Chemical imbalance was once thought the seat of some mental disorders. Recently, researchers have discovered that these dis-orders or imbalances may actually be caused by faulty neural circuits in the brain. Something misfires or misdirects or delays, and behavior is thrown out of balance. What is "normal" for the person whose circuits misfire, then, is "abnormal" for others. But this imbalance is not pleasing.

Homeostasis or the balance of nature posits that plants and living organisms depend on one other for their existence in a community. It's a popular view of the way the world works "naturally," perhaps because it feels right. The Lion King's  "Circle of Life" celebrates this balance and invites emotional response. But chaos theory challenges this notion, unbalancing a notion of the "given."

A remarkable thing about Odonates and some people is their ability to remain balanced, even when tipped or removed from a natural environment. The insect, I think, doesn't think, but responds and acts as its species does. Take the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly, for example: a master flyer, it remains balanced even sometimes with crimped or torn wings or injured abdomen. But people remain a mystery. Is their balance a gift of biology, their imbalance a curse?

The jury is still out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Briefly, in a Small Window of Sunlight

I saw this 

and then this

and then I read this.

My head spins.

My heart too.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Missed Connections

Once, years ago, a friend's daughter and I left her New Jersey home and headed into New York. There, we got off the subway at the wrong stop and found ourselves trapped in a closed station.
All we could do was wait and wait and wait. Finally, a train came.

Learning to use a new camera is a lot like that.
I see where I want to go, but I just can't figure out how to get there.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

On a Rainy Day

Three good things:

1. A brief encounter with a former student.

2. A Sewanee Summer Music Festival concert ending with a newly composed and first-time performed orchestral work by Bela Fleck, who smiled and winked at performers and conductor, clearly pleased.

3. A lull in the downpour, during which I walked between glowing luminaria to All Saints' Chapel.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Push Pull

July sun
pounds earth
sere, drying
up ponds
and yards
and woods
leaving me
longing for
rain, yet
July rain
maroons me
at home
where, I
wish sun
would break 
bring out
bugs swarming
refilled ponds.

Earth rejoices,
but I am
never satisfied.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Even on a Day without Sun

it's easy to be surprised, stunned even, by the beauty of the world as it is, even when it isn't as it should be or as one might like it.

I am grateful for small gifts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On a Day When Young Children on a Gaza Beach Are Maimed and Killed by a Bomb

and featured in the New York Times, I'd rather be outside than in.

There's always something hopeful to be found outside.

Just look.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Lesson I've Never Learned

All my life, I have been told, "Calm down" and "Lower your voice."

In the first week of first grade, I was sent to the hall for talking out of turn. When my brother's class walked by on the way to the cafeteria, he said, "There's my stupid sister." That's me, the stupid sister, I thought, and shrank into the wall.

An aunt once told me to "Quiet down" during a Christmas celebration. My niece and nephew stared at me, open-mouthed. I spoke not another word in her presence all night.

A brother used to tell me and his wife, "You don't have to shout," at the dinner table. Neither of us was shouting.

In college, the only time when my natural volume, resonance, and enthusiasm were accepted as a natural part of me -- and a good part, at that -- my friend Charley and I used to have a "projection contest" during theatre rehearsal breaks. We'd stand on the stage apron and speak toward the back wall of the audience. Both of our voices resounded, without effort, without shouting.

I thought about Charlie today and my own "intensity" when I saw this mushroom burning in the forest.

I suppose I should apologize.

But I can't: I am who I am.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Light and Shadow

In art history I learned about chiaroscuro, the art of making something two-dimensional three-dimensional through the play of light and shadow. I have seen chiaroscuro at work. I have even been as close to a DaVinci drawing as I am to my computer screen, without intervening glass.

Today, walking at Lake Dimmick, I moved from light patches into shadowed patches along a sinuous path, noting on the ground (where I looked for fear of stumps, roots, snakes) the sudden fluttering of a butterfly or sailing of dragonfly, recognizing them by their shadows.

I found myself thinking about other images -- decisions that weigh, family losses, friends' crises, my own existential pondering (something that has shadowed my life for as long as I can remember) -- while I walked, lost in light too bright to focus and in shadow too dark to see the path's end.

Shadow and light: sometimes a beautiful balance.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Holy Cow!

What a difference a telezoom makes! In only twenty minutes before a storm, I can see that my Odonate life is changing. What a difference distance can make.

 Thanks to my friends CP and WS for pushing me to do it.

Welcome, Lumix!

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I live alone.

I dine alone.

I work in my own house, alone.

I sleep alone.

I walk each day alone, but every day encounter wonders -- of nature and man.

A friend told me today that his grandchildren became so excited by my Odonate blog posts last year that they, too, caught the "bug" of "bugging."

Alone, yes, but never lonely.

Never have I seen more than a single Halloween Pennant at Lake Cheston. We have something in common.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Today's Lessons from the Wild

Something always happens along the edges and boundary lines.

Patience is a virtue.

Make an exit plan.

If you fail, try again.

Head to the wind: sniff out what's coming.

In the meantime, hang loose.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Once-in-a-Lifetime Encounter

Toward the end of my walk at Lake Cheston, I saw something huge swoop upwards, followed, and saw this Gray Petaltail light on a tree. Too high for a good picture, of course.

I finally gave up, walked over to Tom and chatted a bit. A woman passing by, in pursuit of her son, said, "There's a big dragonfly on your shoulder!"

Lo and behold, she reappeared.

Meet the Gray Petaltail, an Odonate so large that she impresses, even on a computer screen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Magic Mushrooms

A walk with my friend JC on the Landtrust promised pleasure and didn't disappoint. We saw few Odonates, but he pointed out the fungi and explained each one.

This is my favorite: truly a magic mushroom. Scrape it and watch oxidation make a blue scar.

Don't ask me the name. It's Latin to me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fade to


Some folks have throwback Thursdays.

I think Black Tuesdays sound good.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blues on Parade

Slaty Skimmer and Sky Water

Old Female Slaty Skimmer

Male Southern Spreadwing

Double-ringed Pennant

Male Amber-winged Spreadwing and Sky Water

Blue Dasher

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Felt Sense

Yesterday, a friend said, "I have burned many careers over a lifetime. Many careers." "Yes, me too," I said. We have the same reason: boredom. Learn something, master it, move on. "Yes, that's it," she said. "Exactly."

Today, a friend asked me about dragonflies and damselflies. What is it about them that attracts you he wondered. "Aside from beauty, when I walk and snap and look, my mind shifts. It's like meditating.  I let go of all the stuff that usually preoccupies me, the worries." "Yes," he said, "that's like running for me. It's not about the breathing or pace or legs any more. I look around and I lose myself." "Yes, exactly," I said.

And it is.

Who could look at a male Swift Setwing on C's horse pasture fence and think anything other than Wow?

I'm not bored yet.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


defined: hundreds of Azure Bluets in mating frenzy.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Fourth of July!

Americans celebrate their independence today, and I celebrate the birthday of one of my great-nieces. V flashes as brightly as any firework: she loves learning, puzzles, her dog, swimming, running, games, books, crafts, writing, school, her family and friends. 

May she always remember that for some of us today's celebrations are partly for her, and may she continue to find more and more reasons to love her life.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Number 22

A whopper year for Odonates! Just added number 22 to the list of distinct damselfly species I've identified on the Domain of Sewanee: the Slender Spreadwing. Woohoo!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


The pond
in morning
with hawking
Frogs yelp and splash,
one green heron ack-acks,
and a small airplane
flies over, out and back,
sightseeing, I suppose.

That's what I was doing:
seeing the sights,
including this female
Amber-winged Spreadwing,
hanging from a branch
tipped by a Slaty Skimmer,
Auzure Bluet,
and Blue Dasher.
The dragonflies push
off, bouncing the branch,
but she remains still.

I still approach,
close enough to
make eye contact.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Now I Remember Why

I used to love photographing flowers.

The color.

The sheen of cells.

The pollen.

Yes, the weight of the pollen.