Friday, October 31, 2014

That Glow Down the Hill

Who needs a pumpkin on a Halloween night like this?

Packing Up All My Possibles

Beyond the Red River

by Thomas McGrath
The birds have flown their summer skies to the south,
And the flower-money is drying in the banks of bent grass
Which the bumble bee has abandoned. We wait for a winter lion,
Body of ice-crystals and sombrero of dead leaves.

A month ago, from the salt engines of the sea,
A machinery of early storms rolled toward the holiday houses
Where summer still dozed in the pool-side chairs, sipping
An aging whiskey of distances and departures.

Now the long freight of autumn goes smoking out of the land.
My possibles are all packed up, but still I do not leave.
I am happy enough here, where Dakota drifts wild in the universe,
Where the prairie is starting to shake in the surf of the winter dark.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sometimes an Undergraduate Can Surprise Me

Leaning out over the top of the stone stairs at Morgan's Steep, I photographed the skeleton of a Queen Anne's lace cup, stepping slightly to my right to let a young man come up. He must have been bouldering, I thought.

I took another picture and heard a second fellow ask, "Would you like to go to the Milky Way?"

"Nah, thanks anyway!" the first answered and biked off.

When the questioner approached, I said, "I thought you said, 'Would you like to go to the Milky Way!'"

"No," he said and held out his hand, "would you like a Milky Way?"

I laughed.

"It's Halloween!" he added.

I accepted with pleasure.

He patted my shoulder, made eye contact, and said, "It's a great day to believe alive!" Then he trotted down the steps.

Yes, it is. A great day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: R


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

By Way of Apology to Those Who Saw Me in Abbo's Alley Today

Dear Student and Party-goers:

Please accept my sincere apology for startling you. 

I did not mean to interrupt your phone call with your mother, Young Woman, and I was pleased that you stopped, looked at me, and then laughed with me at my enthusiastic response to the insect you did not see.

I did not mean for you Party-goers to distract you each of three times you drove slowly by. At first I thought I was even more strange than usual because you stared at me instead of the road, but when you parked, removed your child and the birthday present, I was relieved to see that you were looking for the party on North Carolina. Perhaps I should be pleased that I gave you something to talk about. 

Please understand that watching several Shadow Darners, dragonflies I have seen for the only the first time over the last several days, gives me great pleasure. And taking decent photographs of them flying gives me even more pleasure. Thus, my shouting and running and standing and staring and cursing (I know, I know, but dadgummit just isn't expressive enough sometimes) and yelping Yes!

Yesterday, a friend posted this article on Facebook: Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why? Among other interesting points the writer makes is this: "When the participants' curiosity was piqued, the parts of their brains that regulate pleasure and reward lit up. . . . 'There's this basic circuit in the brain that energizes people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding,' Ranganath explains. . . . When the circuit is activated, our brains release a chemical called dopamine, which gives us a high."

The woman with the dopamine high. Yep, that was me. Next time, stop for a moment and I'll show you what has me so excited. In the meantime, please accept my sincere apologies.

The Odonate Freak

PS Here's what you missed.

Monday, October 27, 2014


A long drive down a mountain under a fall-leaf canopy, a river crossing, a pleasant visit to a folk art environment masquerading as a shrine, an episode of damselflies, a long drive winding back up the same mountain: a day well spent.

Like tiles, broken bits, rearranged into something familiar, something new, something beautiful.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Of Two Ponds, Two Lakes, One Horse and Rider, One View, and Fall

The Day Lake Road ponds shimmer in morning sun, swollen with rain, becoming lakes nearly, and bursting with Autumn Meadowhawks, mating and ovipositing.

Lakes Cheston and Dimmick wear fall well.

Firecracker and her rider (wearing orange as protection from "juvenile hunters"), a chance friend I see every now and then, enjoyed the day as much as I. A nuzzle and a head rub while listening to a tale of Firecracker's "failure" as a walking horse prospect, I marvel at her good luck when just the right young woman found her, and saved her, and loves her.

A crowd gathered at Green's View for one reason: to look.

Today, I'd rather walk or ride or lie under trees more than anything else I can name. Call me Smut Woman: I am a slut for Autumn.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Food for Thought

A Great Spreadwing's supper consists of many insects, including colorful beetles, and there are no leftovers.

For supper, I am eating beef vegetable soup, without consideration of the cattle on a feed lot or their slaughtering or their butchering or the ways in which the leftovers not suitable for human consumption might be used. I may not be able to eat it all.

Discover Life says this about Odonates:

Odonata have widely been objects of superstition. In Germany, odonata have had over 150 different names, including names that mean "devil's needle," "water witch," "goddess' horse," "devil's horse," and "snake killer." In England, names meaning "devil's darning needle" and "horse stinger" have been used. In Denmark, some names mean "devil's riding horse" and "goldsmith." A Swedish name means "hobgoblin fly"; long ago, the people in Sweden believed that goblins, elves and fairies lived in the woods and used dragonflies as twisting tools. Another Swedish name means "blind stinger," and comes from the belief that dragonflies can pick out your eyes or even sew them shut. Also, odonata have obviously been connected to females: "damselfly." The body shape of odonata have led them to earn names than mean "devil's steelyard" and such because they look like heavy tools. The myth is that the Devil uses them to weigh a persons soul, and when a dragonfly flies around your head, you should expect serious punishment

Something to ponder: just who is the "devil's" instrument when it comes to eating?

Friday, October 24, 2014

It Ain't Over Till the

last Odonate flies!

This afternoon, I went to Abbo's Alley to snap some more fall leaf porn. Before I even got out of the car, I saw a large dragonfly fly onto a leaf at creek's edge right on South Carolina Avenue. I gathered my camera and hat without ever looking away, edged out of the car, and approached. Naturally the bug took off, flew around the back of the car, and across the street. Oh well, thought, that''s that

I'm not sure why, but I decided to walk into the Alley by way of the creek. I went no more than 15 paces before I spotted two large damselflies on the wing, lighting on grass stems, then taking off, then lighting again. Then, like a zipper opening, a large dragonfly flew up the creek from the street: the same one I had seen minutes earlier.

After some stalking and snapping, I came home, confident that I had seen Southern Spreadwings and a Cyrano Darner, but when I downloaded the pictures and looked at them, I knew I had been wrong. Once again, I turned to Facebook, asked if I was right about the damselfly being a Great Spreadwing and the darner being a Cyrano, and almost immediately got this response, "Your darner is a male Shadow Darner (Aeschna umbrosa). You are correct that the spreadwings are Great Spreadwings (Archilestes grandis)."

All I can say is HOLY COW! Neither has been reported for my county previously! The count is now 35 species of dragonfly and 25 of damselfly!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mortality in Mind

Seven years ago tomorrow, my sister-in-law of 43 years died, at the height of leaf season in the Western Carolina mountains, where she took in the view one last time.

I took in a favorite view today and thought of her, and of her children, and of her grandchildren, and of all who knew her.

If this is the last thing I see, it is enough.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ear! Ear!

This little girl with the big ears knows a good thing when she sees it!
Let's hear it for fall at the lake!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Please Sir, I'll Have More

There can never ever be enough fall color.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Have Seen Beautiful Trees

      umbrellas in Rome
      osteoporotic elders on the California coast
      Brobingdaggian Christmas trees in Oregon
      Willie Nelson's hair in Alligator Bayou
      burning fire in North Carolina
      sheltering arms in New Orleans
      muscled tenacity at The Great Stone Door

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: R

R is for ROCKS.

As in Lake Cheston rocks the Odonates!

On October 13, I noticed a bright blue, largish damselfly in the spillway by the wooden dam bridge.

I leaned out as far as I thought safe and photographed what I thought was a Familiar Bluet. Here 'tis:

At the time, I thought something was strange, but I didn't know how strange till yesterday.

Having photographed the same damselfly on October 17, on the same side of the dam but in the grasses on the dam, I looked through every book and online. Not a Familiar Bluet, I realized, but it wasn't any other kind of bluet identified in my county either.


I decided yesterday to post the photo on my Southeastern Odes Facebook group with a plea: "I need some help, please. I took this photo yesterday in Sewanee, TN. I thought it was a Familiar Bluet, but the terminal appendages are short, and there's a stripe down the middle of the thorax. I have noticed what I suspect is this same bluet (the only one I've seen lately) at the same small lake for several days now. Am I just second-guessing myself? Thanks!

Almost immediately, THE expert in damselflies and dragonflies of the Eastern U.S. responded, "Actually, I think it might be a Big Bluet, which has been found in recent years in Tennessee in several places, but none of them close to Sewanee. It should have looked somewhat larger to you (not wanting to put ideas in your head)."

BIG Bluet, I thought? They're coastal damselflies! Odonata Central confirmed what I had seen, and what I saw at the lake again today:

Welcome, Big Bluet -- damselfly species number 23 -- to the Domain of Sewanee: The University of the South!

Lake Cheston rocks!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Like Waiting for Godot

Fall, my favorite season:
leaf crunch, burning leaves,
nipping air, dogwood berries, rushing creek,
riotous color, sweater weather.

This year,
fall arrived
in wind, rain, nickel skies:
bronze leaves
litter forest floor.

No slow burn.

Now I know
how Esatragon & Vladimir
feel: bereft
under leafless tree,
for what won't

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sun and Shadow

Scar Tissue by Charles Wright
The insect world has no tongue to let loose, and no tongue to curb,Though all day and all night it cries out.Who says we shouldn’t listen to them?Who says we shouldn’t behave ourselves as they do,                     no noise but for one purpose?
Whatever the root sees in the dark is infinite.
Whatever the dead see is the same.
Listen, the rivers are emptying
               under our feet,
Watched over by all the waters of the underworld.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

No Contest

1. Poet 0, Microphone 1

2. Poetry reading 1, Change bells practice 100

3. Sunshine 1,000,000,000

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


One errand almost an hour away and another half an hour toward home on a gray day means time for detours in Estill Springs, TN.

First Stop: Taylor Creek Greenway.

Too cool for bugs (55ish) and too swampy for much exploration (6 inches of rain Monday night is what I overheard on my next stop), the Greenway nevertheless provided a leisurely stroll and much-needed leg stretch. Come spring and summer, I shall return to document the Odonates, but today I come away with the sound of rushing creek water.


Second Stop: The Curly Willow at 101 Eastbrook Rd. in Estill Springs.

The owner "witch" is a lovely woman with web tattoos on her neck, a warm smile, a husband who calls out "Come kiss me, and I mean it!" when he's ready to go home, and a wicked sense of humor. Why haven't I come in long before now? I came away with two small gifts for Sewanee friends and a promise to return.

A break from work in order to complete much-needed tasks can be made all the more pleasant with just a couple of extra stops.

Next Time: Estill Springs Park to see this! Now I wonder where that spring is . . . hmm . . . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: P


(see Deborah Rubin's Fall Leaves on Water, for comparison)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Power of Positive Thinking

I am not a fan of the heart-leaved lilies infesting the lake. Once confined to a small area in one inlet, they now circle the shoreline, popping up and spreading like a teenager's untreated pimples.

However, watching one female Fragile Forktail using one leaf as a platform for oviposition provided a little relief. A little, mind you, not a lot.

But even one small happy observation on yet one more rainy gray day almost made me see the sunny side of the plague of pads.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: O

is for Orange (with a touch of red).
Red-spotted Newt
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: N

That time of year when fickle weather is neither cold nor hot, neither sunny nor cloudy, neither clear nor foggy. 

It is, after all, fall in Sewanee.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"My" Tree Does Its One Trick Again

Last year, this. Now this.

by Grace Paley


What is sometimes called a   
   tongue of flame
or an arm extended burning   
   is only the long
red and orange branch of   
   a green maple
in early September   reaching
   into the greenest field
out of the green woods   at the
   edge of which the birch trees   
appear a little tattered   tired
   of sustaining delicacy
all through the hot summer   re-
   minding everyone (in   
our family) of a Russian
   song   a story
by Chekhov   or my father


What is sometimes called a   
   tongue of flame
or an arm extended   burning
   is only the long
red and orange branch of
   a green maple
in early September   reaching   
   into the greenest field
out of the green woods   at the   
   edge of which the birch trees
appear a little tattered   tired
   of sustaining delicacy
all through the hot summer   re-
   minding everyone (in   
our family) of a Russian
   song   a story by
Chekhov or my father on
   his own lawn   standing   
beside his own wood in
   the United States of   
America   saying (in Russian)
   this birch is a lovely
tree   but among the others
   somehow superficial

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How's It Hangin'?

If only orb weavers could talk.

I imagine this one might answer, "Swell!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: M

Fall means Autumn Meadowhawks perching on Meadow Beauty, their amber and red faces and abdomens the perfect complements to the flower's "urn-shaped fruit[s] . . . Thoreau once compared to . . . little cream pitcher[s]."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Late Bloomers

One frost already, but not all blooms have gone the way of summer. 

At Lake Cheston, turtlehead appeared a few weeks ago, thanks to the College's new mowing plan. The dam now thickens with color and leaf, providing pleasure for insects and people alike.

At Lake Dimmick, this lovely purple flower pushes up through sandy soil. A quick email to a director of the Herbarium earned this response, "Soapwort Gentian-Gentiana saponaria." This name is meaningless to me, though its popular name lifts my spirits: harvestbells.

May these last flowers keep ringing a bit longer!