Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kitty Karma

The day after Jere died, a young cat popped her head up out of a floor vent in the kitchen (the hub of the house). Jere hated cats, and he probably would have done what his family did: push the cat back down the vent.

However, the cat came back.

When she popped up again, Florence and her daughters let the cat stay. A granddaughter in vet school has already found a family for the kitty, who will travel back to Nebraska in the family car.

Florence laughs and says that "It's Jere's spirit come back!" 

I'd like to think she's right: he was wide of spirit with respect to every living thing but one. It would serve him right!

Friday, January 30, 2015


by Steven Schnur

Up beyond the
Night sky, an
Indigo darkness like
Embraces the farthest
Reaches of the mind.
Sun, moon, stars,

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Slating a Thirst

"The greatest of Sewanee's springs is Tremlett Spring, located near the heart of the campus in the ravine garden known as Abbo's Alley. Tremlett Spring was the central unifying feature of the early Domain landscape, as it was the major source of water which attracted people to Sewanee for thousands of years, including prehistoric Native American groups, an antebellum stagecoach inn, armies on both sides of the Civil War, and the founders of the University. As the water from Tremlett Spring runs through Abbo's Alley, it is joined by that of other smaller springs to create a sizable creek. Sewanee's oldest residences and University buildings are located along or nearby this line of springs and originally depended on them for fresh water." (from an untitled document found within the Society for College and University Planning website)

I too depend on that stream, for freshened spirit.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Break in the Weather

Sun again, and photowalking. 
Both make me feel human. 
I stretch my legs and mind, wander, look, listen, stop, stoop. 
Big and small alike delight me, and I am made new again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Digital Magic

I read a number of blogs every day, and sometimes I find something remarkable, so remarkable that I forget about the winter weather.

That happened today when I discovered painterly photographs and digital art by Australian Adrian Donoghue.

Here's what I saw from his 500px stream:

I dare you. 

Look at others of his images and ask yourself, as I have myself, How does he do it?

Monday, January 26, 2015


Rain and fog outside, light inside, thanks to this transcendent video: Music for the One God

(Also on Facebook.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Satisfactory Day

My friend Jere's highest compliment was simple and direct: if something was delicious, or beautiful, or comfortable, or enjoyable, or . . . anything good, he'd announce, slowly after thought, "It's satisfactory."

This day was satisfactory, thanks to breakfast in Bell Buckle, my visit with Florence and her daughter A and step-son D, freshly groomed Prince, and the flowers in the window through which Jere enjoyed his garden during his last months.

A loss, surely, but love for satisfactory friends, too.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Light Show

In All Saints'
winter's late afternoon
sun slides
down stained glass
light into liquid.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ghosts Who Slip Between the Light through Trees

My Autumn Leaves

I watch the woods for deer as if I’m armed.
I watch the woods for deer who never come.   
I know the hes and shes in autumn
rendezvous in orchards stained with fallen   
apples’ scent. I drive my car this way to work   
so I may let the crows in corn believe
it’s me their caws are meant to warn,
and snakes who turn in warm and secret caves

they know me too. They know the boy
who lives inside me still won’t go away.
The deer are ghosts who slip between the light   
through trees, so you may only hear the snap   
of branches in the thicket beyond hope.   
I watch the woods for deer, as if I’m armed.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Celebration of Life

My friend Jere died at midnight, not unexpectedly and peacefully, at last. Today, I have no words but these, which I have previously published in this blog.

End-of-Summer Blooms
September 15, 2008

This afternoon, I visited my friend Florence, who with her husband grows magical flowers. When I pulled onto the gravel driveway, I was struck by the clematis weighing down the arched gateway into a nearly forgotten garden where zinnias bloom nearly shoulder-high, a small rabbit snoozed, grape tomatoes ripen, and a dog and cat lie buried next to a sundial. It's one of several vignettes, as Jere describes the different gardens composing their yard. It's a place of life, and of death that renews life.

When my cat Grady (a nickname for her official name, Gray Drawers)
 dragged herself into my den and yowled one evening six years ago, I called my vet who agreed to meet me and then my friends who agreed to take me. Grady died in the car, mid-yowl. I had never before witnessed a dying animal's suffering , although I had been part of putting down another cat, Poor Pitiful Pearl. She, however, had purred as the vet administered her final dose.
Most upsetting was that I couldn't bury Grady the next day because I had to go to Chattanooga, two hours away, for the entire next day where I was to present two sessions at a teachers' conference. In my place, Florence and Jere conducted a private service, complete with a few words, singing, and flowers. They buried Grady near their beloved dog Buddy.

Their small kindness and their beautiful blooms serve as fitting memorials to our pets.

November 7, 2009

Jere has rescued me many times.

During an especially bitter winter, in an old and drafty house, with a heating system involving gas and a tank totally foreign to me, I called him for help. He came, took the temp inside, hovering only a bit above freezing, investigated the tank, and announced there was no gas. He walked home across the street and came back, with space heaters and an invitation to come on over.

Another time, when a squirrel ran under my tires and I felt the thump of death, I called him, crying. I drove a block out of my way for a week just so I wouldn't see the corpse between our houses. I hadn't needed to make my detour. Jere had removed the squirrel immediately after I called.

He and his wife drove me to the vet one Sunday evening with my dying cat, comforted me when I sobbed, and buried her the next day in their garden because I had to leave town at 4:30 in the morning. They said a few words, sang a hymn, and placed flowers and a stone rabbit above her little body.

Just this past Saturday, he rescued me again when my car stopped on the Interstate, where I stood, nervously for an hour, before his arrival. He called a tow truck and gave me much-needed auto advice and let me rail and cry. He later said he knew I'd get over it.

This is Jere the next morning, enjoying his daily routine. His smile says it all. He's a mensch.

And I love him.

Overnight Visit
September 14, 2013

At one point during dinner, Florence interrupted me and said, "You're not a guest!" 

She made that Florence face, tilting her head down a bit and raising her eyebrows, the "locking look" of "you-hear-what-I'm-saying?" that requires no answer.

She continued, "You're family!"

In Florence and Jere's house, I sleep as I don't sleep in my own home: soundly, without tossing or turning, settled as naturally as the spider, who spent the night in this zinnia, waking as this spider did to sun and warmth, still ensconced in the comforts of home.

I am grateful for them, and for my having found them in a strange place at a strange time in my life, and for their large generosity, and for their making me one of their own.

A Long Good Day,
February 18, 2014

Another night of vomiting and diarrhea for little Cleo meant no sleep for all three of us. Another visit to the vet, this time with a fever, a bit of dehydration, and the mystery of Cleo's unbalanced gut.

When my vet came into the exam room, she said, "What happened? You got a dud?"

I laughed, just as she knew I would.

"Let her spend the day," the doctor said. "I'll have a chance to run some diagnostics and observe her."

So I did.


Then I drove up to Bell Buckle to see my friends F and TJ. 

Home now from hospital and rehab, TJ holds court in his "command center" (the kitchen): birds outside, Prince the semi-poodle at his feet, his wife F busy cooking or cleaning or arranging the next visit or opening mail and paying the bills, his phone in his hand. 

Desmond Tutu said, "You don't choose your family." Well, OK, your birth family, maybe, but I've spent a lifetime choosing my families and they me in the places I have lived.

These two come closest to blood relatives. Even when they're having a hard time, they make me laugh and they enjoy a dog with a ball, sun on skin, and the gift of friendship.


It seems that Cleo had a negative reaction to the antibiotic prescribed for last week's bout with iffy digestion. She will eat a special diet for a couple of days, laced with probiotic.

This evening, both she and her sister Doodlebug snuggled for a good long time, one on my lap, one slung over my shoulder, happy to have the Human home and each other.



For better or worse.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Limitations of the Panorama

Etymology teaches that the word derives from Greek pan (all) and horama (view), giving a meaning of a wide or comprehensive view or even of a complete presentation.

But this is a lie.

Like this panorama of the lake.

What you can't see is what makes the lake the lake -- the birds and bugs, fish and sand grains, lichen and moss, rocks and Odonate nymphs gorging themselves along the lake bed, . . . .

It's wise to make no assumptions about the long view (especially the one you might live); they're likely to be inadequate or inaccurate.

This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: W


Beetles sun themselves above water.
Fungus flowers from bark.

Not everything waits for spring.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Trail Blazers

On a stroll this afternoon along a trail I hadn't walked before, I kept an eye out for the blue blazes marking my way. Their variety pleased me: ranging in color from pale blue to robin's-egg blue to near-turquoise, the paint rectangles chipped in places, taking on the fine craquelure of Old Master paintings, and in other places the paint hosted lichen as it grew pale on a tree's trunk. Some old blazes had even been replaced entirely with new ones.

They reminded me of an article and video a former student posted earlier on Facebook in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Featured is Todd Endo, a Japanese-American who marched for Civil Rights in his youth, at a time when "the Asian-American population was little more than .05 percent of the U.S. population." Watch the film and you will hear him describe his heroes -- the women who marched next to him, who by their actions risked everything for an idea.

click for the video and article
Sometimes, when I fear that the trails blazed in my childhood and youth by countless nameless men and women and children are chipping and fading away, I think on this student and others of her generation and the one before hers and see them re-signing the way. 

They are my trail-blazing heroes too, and today I honor them.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Migrations, Forced and Natural

Birchwood, Tennessee, near the site of Blythe Ferry

The Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, on a small hill where the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers meet, offers a solemn place for reflection. Beyond a stone map of the Cherokee removal along The Trail of Tears, marble slabs rise. Incised with the names of 2535 heads of household of the Cherokee Nation, they represent a small portion of the 16,000+ people forced out of their homelands to territory west of the Mississippi River.

The East Tennessee Geotourism MapGuide adds this: "About 4,200 of the 16,542 Cherokees identified perished as a result of the Cherokee Removal in 1838. This is the closest thing to a headstone they will have. The Memorial is intended to humanize them. They were not wild savages, but were at least as civilized as most that replaced them. According to the 1835 Census they were: farmers, mechanics, weavers, spinners and business men. Many were literate in Cherokee and/or English."

According to Wikipedia's article about Blythe Ferry, "By the Fall of [1838], some 9000 Cherokee and 300 Creek had been imprisoned in stockades in Bradley County, a few miles to the east. It took several weeks to move the entire contingent across the river, with the last detachment crossing on November 12, 1838."

William Blythe, the ferry owner, and his Cherokee wife moved west with the Cherokee. Today, a bridge spans the water over which the native peoples came.

On the same spit of land, over 10,000 of the Eastern population of Greater Sandhill Cranes visit the Hiwassee Refuge for food and rest before heading further south to Georgia and Florida. After breeding in Canada, the Great Lakes area, and the Upper Midwestern states, the begin migrating in the fall on a route that takes them through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Even here in Sewanee, early in the morning some days, if one is lucky, he or she can hear the unmistakable call of some flying overhead. 

According to the flyer I picked up today at the refuge ("Sandhill and Whooping Cranes in Tennessee," written and illustrated by Vicikie Taylor), the Sandhill was "suspected as migrating through Tennessee" in the 1960s, but folks rarely observed them. "In 1978, a total of 5.383 Sandhill Cranes were reported in Tennessee, with the largest flock containing 100 birds." But within twenty years, "biologists estimated that more than 40,000 Sandhill Cranes visited the Hiwassee Refuge during the 2009-2010 migration season. Of that number, approximately 10,000 wintered at the refuge," a practice that apparently continues today.

J emailed this to me yesterday from The Writer's Almanac:

Watching Sandhill Cranes
by William Stafford

Spirits among us have departed--friends,
relatives, neighbors: we can't find them.
If we search and call, the sky merely waits.
The some day here come the cranes
planing in from cloud or mist--sharp,
lonely spears, awkwardly graceful.
They reach for the land; they stalk
the ploughed fields, not letting us near,
not quite our own, not quite the world's.

People go by and pull over to watch. They
Peer and point and wonder. It is because
these travelers, these far wanderers,
plane down and yearn in a reaching
flight. They extend our life,
piercing through space to reappear
quietly, undeniable, where we are.

An oddly unsettling conjunction of history and nature, made more lively by reflection on current events--here and elsewhere in the world of man and nature, but a pleasant journey and interlude nevertheless.

(postscript: another Sewanee blogger today posted this with a wonderful sound recording -- Sandhill Cranes at Hiwassee Refuge, TN)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Let Me Praise Windows

" 'Altered Realities' is an ongoing private photographic project exploring how perception can be altered without changing a fundamentally familiar structure." -- Linda Trilling

Any medium through which light passes alters my reality.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: V

V is for VIBRANT

sun broke four days of fog and sleet and freezing fog
and blue water met wet sand and stone
and where ice still coated the lake's surface
stars burst on bluebird song

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Comes Down


        and in.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Three Good Things and One Lingering Question Pondered on an Icy Day

Homemade raisin scones shared with a friend.

Spider silk strung in neatly stacked staple-size ice squares.

Memories of hours spent with my Magic Designer

(Lingering question: Why can't I buy one now?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Relief in the Work of Others

Here's why I went outside only once today -- to check my mail:

posted by the College on Sewanee's Facebook page

So I watched this instead of walking in wet fog with my camera:

And then this:

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Surely no one can blame me.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lake Cheston ABCedarian: U Is for Under

        der   fog




        to   whos



                        e. e. cummings

Sunday, January 11, 2015



by Kay Ryan
Miser time grows
profligate near the
end: unpinching
and unplanning,
abandoning the
whole idea of
savings. It’s hard
to understand
but time apparently
expands with its
diminishing. The
door thrown wide
on sliding hills of high-
denomination bills and
nothing much to buy.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


"If your subject is your own experience, then as long as you are having an experience, you've got a subject, and that has turned out to be true even into total blindness." -- Sargy Mann

Friday, January 9, 2015

Motion Pictures

Three days ago, I read an article about Simon Painter, a photographer who takes what he calls "natural motion emotion" pictures. Since then, I haven't been able to get his technique and abstract images out of my mind, so I tried some camera motion myself tonight.

I am already sliding down a rabbit hole into the wonderful world of light seen anew.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Feline Smackdown

I thought I had bought reading chairs.

My mistake.

IKEA does pet furniture, WWE style.

(Now if I could just teach them to read. )