Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Fever

Today, this happened on University Avenue.

When a passing cyclist asked what was going on, the young Knight responded, "Just fun!" And two young men walked up to join in.

Monday, March 30, 2015

This Is Just to Say (with apologies to WCW)

I once enjoyed
these flowers
that grew in
Abbo's Alley

and which
you just yanked
and discarded

Forgive me
but they bloomed
for all
you jerk.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

News Flash!

A riot has broken out in Shakerag Hollow! The trilliums, spring beauties, Dutchmen's breeches, trout lilies, and hepatica have taken over the forest floor! Bees, flies, and bee flies are on high alert! Code GREEN! Get down there! Now! Before it's too late! (If you cannot see the slide show below, please follow this link.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015


All of us are over winter, though winter appears not to be over with us.

I wonder, If the Abbo's Alley water-striders were capable of complaint, might they raise their legs to the sky in desperation before returning to leaf litter to hibernate?

As for me, tub and hot tea, blankets and cats must do.

Friday, March 27, 2015

That Spot of Red

in the water bead: me.
Selfie with bluebell,
both of us
holding the cold.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Holding-My-Breath Bird

Ten Eastern Bluebird Facts

  1. They will find a bluebird box if you put one out. Otherwise, they use tree holes for nests.
  2. They live in meadows and like birdhouses in openings, providing a kind of clear flight path home.
  3. They are small (think teacup size).
  4. They are omnivores who prefer eating insects.
  5. Their eyesight is keen.
  6. They hunt by perching on phone wires, posts, and low tree branches.
  7. They can have more than one brood a year.
  8. Both parents care for the young, and sometimes a young bird from the first brood will hang around to help the parents with the second brood.
  9. They'll fight off other birds for their preferred nesting spot, as this one did this morning when three Tree Swallows challenged him.
  10. Like phenomenal basketball players, they can seem to hover in mid-air on nearing their target.

And One Opinion

  1. They are endlessly, startlingly, breathtakingly beautiful.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sacred Hearts

On Highway 41, a bit more than halfway down to Valley Home, a spring bursts out of the mountain, water flowing though PCV pipe for anyone who wishes to fill a jar. Above, on the private property (so posted), stands a statue of Jesus.

I like to think of him as the Sacred-Heart-of-Jesus-of-the-Woods.

I confess that I do not "know" Jesus, as I have not taken him for my personal savior, although I was christened as a baby and can be assured that "nothing can separate [me] from God's love in Christ."

Today, during my visit with her, my friend F choked up when telling me about the young father at J's memorial who said, "I want to be the kind of father he was." 

He has given himself a tall order: J's heart was open to all, regardless of belief, background, barrier. 

I miss him, and I count myself "blessed" to have known him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


One neighbor gave me a kick in the pants when I asked what I might plant where the hydrangea and azaleas died. "Just digging out the dead plants would make it look nicer, Robley," she said, and smiled.

Another neighbor suggested dwarf laurels and even told me where to find them.

My across-the-street neighbor offered to do the planting and even cleaned up more of the yard in the process. He also offered excellent advice about maintenance and care.

Today, unlike Blanche duBois, I didn't have to depend upon the kindness of strangers.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chasing Winter Away

At Lake Cheston, I stretched my legs, listened to American toads sing, watched a large snapping turtle settle himself atop a lily vine, looked up at maple flowers bursting everywhere, reddening tree limbs with little bows of life. I came to the beach, and there it was: the first dragonfly of the season -- a Common Green Darner, weaving in and out of the plants and last year's cattails, zooming up and back down with the energy of the season, the turquoise flash of its abdomen like neon in sunlight.

A single spot of blue in Abbo's Alley, so blue, so deep and varied and startlingly rich that even at that moment, with clouds rolling in again, the sky still seemed blue itself in reflection. Trink's cow statue and I both know: this is a sacred season.

I'm singing spring's blues!

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Why is it that after spending most of my life living elsewhere I always immediately answer the question "Where are you from?" with "Birmingham"?

I haven't lived in Birmingham since 1988.


I still say Birmingham.

It used to be that I bridled when admitting my home -- because of its reputation, well earned, as an equality backwater -- but it's still home.

So after a funeral in Birmingham yesterday afternoon, when someone asked, "Are you going home now?" I answered yes, thinking But I am already home.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shared Histories

A life is lived, especially these days for many of us, not just through time, but also through space and place: shared histories of childhood with family and first friends, with mates in clubs or armed service or causes, with peers in school, at work places with colleagues and clients, associates or students, patients or collaborators, in towns and countries scattered far from first home.

Few in my generation live the long life, spent mostly in one neighborhood or village of one larger city, associating with one large circle of acquaintances and friends through school into adulthood, in varied civic and personal and professional associations.

I thought about that kind of long life today, sitting in a pew next to a high school/college friend, in front of high school school mates, behind camp friends as we and others celebrated the death of a friend's father, friend to my own deceased father, and I dizzied when someone said, "She's Betsy's first oldest friend." 

"It isn't entirely true," I said.

But then I remembered the names of two our forebears carved on the same commemorative First Settlers stone in one 17th-century New England town, and marveled at the lineage we share.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What Rite of Spring?

Fog again?
I feel exactly the same way that Parisian audience did when
Diaghilev's Ballets Russes premiered Stravinsky's
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)
at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in 1913, 
but against exactly what can I riot?
And where can I stomp to be heard?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Consecrated Grounds

The Online Etymology Dictionary says this about the word cemetery:

late 14c., from Old Frencn cimetiere "graveyard" (12c.), from Late Latin coemeterium, from Greek koimeterion "sleeping place, dormitory," from koiman "to put to sleep," kemai "I lie down," from PIE root *kei- "to lie, rest," also "bed, couch," hence secondary sense of "beloved, dear" 

I remember no funeral before my mother's, when I was 16. A gray day in December, chilly, wet. Inside, in the newly constructed church where the altar would be dedicated to her and where her hand-sewn hangings celebrated Advent, hundreds of people gathered, but I didn't see them, seated as we were in the front pew. It wasn't our regular Sunday pew, two rows back, but it served that day. The cemetery was gray, and I remember only the odd sensation of sitting unsteadily on a folding chair, seeming about to give way, balanced on the covering, the ground underneath soft with rain.

When I worked for a historic house museum lived in over a span of 100 hundred years, the last fifty or so by members of my own family (including my father), I learned that cemeteries served in the earlier years as parks,  where families gathered to picnic or folks strolled for pleasure. No one gathers at my mother's grave, or my father's, or those others of my family, at least so far as I know. I have been to my parents' graves less than a dozen times.

Here, though, in Sewanee, I wander often through the cemetery (where I knew only a few of the dead). It is separated from the campus only by a low wall, and it's surrounded by dormitories, the library, art studios, even the firehouse. Directly across the street, the University-owned coffeehouse, operated by students under the direction of an adult raised here, serves as the popular campus gathering place for laughter, and gossip, and study, and deep conversation. A Victorian house, cheerfully painted and gingerbreaded, it complements the stones across Georgia Avenue, where sleepers lie and lichen and moss thrive.

The living and the dead sleep in close proximity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Note from Home

Hi Gay,

I know you're enjoying Paris and all the art, architecture, wine, chocolate, pastries, and sauces, but I thought you might like to see what you're missing at home.

Miss G is still yapping up a storm, the campus is (thankfully) quiet, and the flowers are popping out in Abbo's Alley. 

Today I saw daffodils, Lenten roses, those sweetly scented delicate white and yellow viney blooms (whose name I never remember), hyacinth, bluebells, crocus (the last ones), snowdrops, Virginia spring beauties, and a fully budded trillium poking out of a snake hole by the last little stone bridge below the spring. (Oh! And those teeny-weeny little purple flowers running along the ground.) You'll be happy on your next walk here. 

Spring is springing in Sewanee without you!

Your friend,

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Come on, Ella!

Amphibians do it, too!
red-spotted newts
frog eggs above and below

Monday, March 16, 2015

Wobbly Legs and All

Shakerag Hollow is blooming, despite recent snow and ice and endless fog. Nature's first green is not always golden: witness the harbingers of spring!

It's remarkable how quickly my sullen mood turns joyful on the appearance of the Mourning Cloak and tiny wildflowers pushing up through winter's chaos of leaf litter.

An early stroll is well worth the wobbly legs and all!

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Emily Dickinson wrote that "Hope is the thing with feathers," and yes, I think, it is. 

But today, a day after woolen-socks-fog yesterday, hope arrived on sunshine bursting between bedroom curtains, and blue sky, so blue only a few light clouds appeared, and 67 degrees by early afternoon, and green moss and briars, and rusty fencing joining blue sky, yellow winter grass, and green stickery vine, and hope became the things that promise spring!

March 14

March 15

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Hopeful Sign

of spring at the kitchen window, this moth will, tomorrow night if the prediction of sun holds, be one of many, winging the bugs back.

Welcome home, stranger!

Friday, March 13, 2015

That Time of Year

when the woods bloom daffodils;
they poke their yellow heads
heavy with rain
up through sodden clumps
of weed and grass,
between fallen limbs
lifting spring from winter's mess.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Coming Out of the Fog

I packed away the pills and shopped today for "real food," having realized oatmeal and ice cream comprised my diet for the last three days.

Nothing is more beautiful than the cheerful color and sheen of a cut lemon.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Playing Possum

B(ig)A(ss)C(at) speaks for both of us on yet another rainy day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Good Thing

The perfect complement to pain and prescriptions: ice cream.

Thank heavens the Sewanee Market has some.

(Surely this too shall pass.)

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Spot of Color

A bad fall. A bump on the head, a seized trapezius muscle, and a swollen, sore hand do not make for a happy camper.

Good thing the crocus aren't down for the count.

Like me.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Exercising Patience

By this time two years ago, I had already seen Fragile Forktails.

This year, it is ice, or fog, or rain, or snow.

I must wait, just as the buds on the Kwanzan cherry and crabapple do.

And like the Little Engine That Could, I feel myself chugging up and up and up toward spring, thinking Soon, soon, soon.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

When Sleep Comes

I surrender. Even during the day, even when induced by medication. Even if it means I miss the sparkle of iced branches and buds.

And I am grateful.

Friday, March 6, 2015


I'm still waiting for the self I wish would hang around for the time that's left.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sometimes Predictions Come True

US National Weather Service Nashville Tennessee

To quote our friend @NashSevereWx, I have no words of warmth to give. I am sorry. We must forecast these awful things. Alas, the cold front has just passed through Nashville. The mercury shall drop and drop and drop. The rain shall fall, shall change to an icy mess. The roads shall freeze and bring their silent havok. And still the mercury shall drop and drop and drop. As I foretell these terrible deeds, it is still a pleasant 52°. By this time tomorrow morning, it will be 23° with anywhere from a sixth to a third of a foot of snow, ice pellets, and, the worst of all wintry deeds, freezing rain. Tomorrow night, nature shall deal perhaps its cruelest blow: a temperature of 7°. Indeed, William Shakespeare was most apt: "I, that did never weep, now melt with woe/That winter should cut off our spring-time so."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Close Punctuation

A new term learned today from Mary Norris' "Confessions of a Comma Queen" in the February 23, 2015 issue of The New Yorker:
The New Yorker practices a "close" style of punctuation. Or, as E. B. White once put it, "Commas in The New Yorker fall with the precision of knives in a circus act, outlining the victim." (Norris, 2015, para. 32)
Commas separate or mark off sentence parts with precision and tact and art.

Precision isn't something we experience with Tennessee weather.

In the transitions from season to season, the parts -- temperature, humidity, precipitation, sun -- jumble together like words in a rambling sentence, which defies logic or clarity.

To wit: a high of 66 today and a predicted low of 26. Fog, rain, ice pellets. Sunshine on Friday with a high of 38 and low of 22. Then back up to 52 on Sunday.

In language, I like a close style, but in seasonal shifts I prefer messiness and unpredictability, so much closer to life as it is lived rather than life as it is made in words.

Besides, the crocus don't mind, so why should I?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Art That Challenges

The Sewanee Women's Center recently hosted artist Sophia Wallace, and currently on view in the library is her anatomical sculpture and text in a work titled Cliteracy.

Not surprisingly, controversy has ensued.

I find the controversy ironic, especially on a college campus where knowledge and free expression are theoretically valued.

Besides, the student dining hall McClurg is a phallic structure if ever there were one.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Measuring Time

I used to wear a watch every day (often in my sleep), and I needed a clock in my classroom. Time matters when you have only so many minutes before a class-ending bell.

Now I wear a watch only occasionally.

I am more likely to notice time by the light and temperature and arrivals and departures of seasons. 

Take today, for example. The crocus are up now in Abbo's Alley. They weren't up just a few days ago. I know because I looked for them. This is the time of transition from winter to spring, from fog and rain and ice and snow to blue skies and blooms. 

Soon it will be spring -- I will know its arrival by the first Odonate I see at the lake. The heart of summer arrives on the wings of Widow Skimmers and Slaty Skimmers, and fall means mature Autumn Meadowhawks and Shadow Darners.

When I hear others say there aren't enough hours in a day, I feel sorry for them. There are only 24 hours, and there will always be only 24 hours, no matter how much we wish otherwise. 

It isn't a question of hours; it's how they're spent.