Saturday, October 31, 2015

Just What I Needed

A short but terrific visit with old friends Sue and her daughter Jena. One of us looks slightly crazed, one of us has no lips, and one of us looks just as she is. I'll leave it to you to decide who's who.

No matter. I loved every minute!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Camera Curse

Under what freakish celestial (mis)alignment was I born?

Once again, I am visited by the dreaded Camera Curse.

This time, my Panasonic Lumix DMC-200 has failed.

And, ironically, this time, I must shoot with my third Canon G12 (the used one I bought after my first two new ones suffered the same fate of catastrophic sensor failure). I shall have to work hard to remember how to use it. Already, today, after a one-and-half-hour hunt for the elusive Blue-faced Meadowhawk (no such luck, of course), I have remembered why it's hard for me to use the camera (think poor eyesight and tiny screen).

I would beat my fists against my breast (but it would hurt) and rail against the Deity of the Camera Curse (but just who or what is that?), but instead I wait patiently for news from Square Trade. 

This time, I bought a two-year warranty.

Experience is the best teacher.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Photo Opps/Photo Oops

One Photo Opp, One Oops

All the slow way round the lake, I thought of only one thing: finding a Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Last year I saw one; the year before none; the year before that three. I reallyreallyreally wanted to see another. Finally, along the path toward the beach, one landed some distance ahead of me. Time for two quick shots; no time to focus properly or adjust the camera.

At home, I see what I expected: a poor photograph. And then I see what I didn't expect: signs of wear and tear. This is an old guy.

I wonder if he'll be around tomorrow?

The Second Oops
Trying to shoot the much sought-after meadowhawk, I realized I could no longer depress the rotation wheel on my camera, thus disabling many of the functions I like most.

One More Opp
At home, I accessed my Square Trade Warranty. YES! As I thought, I paid for two years. The camera is covered! Now I wait and see.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is it Halloween yet?

Praying mantis perched on the kitchen screen door,
head centered, silhouetted in the silver-white fat moon,
framed by leafless limbs. 
Where's Tim Burton when I need him?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

And The Dogwood Burned Fuschia

Overnight almost every pine needle on almost every pine tree browned and wind-whipped almost every pine needle flew off almost every pine tree and blew and swirled and each and every one plastered the leaf-labeled ground and almost every pine needle from almost every pine tree glowed amber and brown on wet wood and emerald grass and yellow, red, and orange leaf. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Time of Outside In

The woods are turning, and so the year. With them, I move from outside in to gaze through windows, as if two spaces were three -- outside, inside, glass plane.

by Linda Pastan


Contorted by wind,
mere armatures for ice or snow,
the trees resolve
to endure for now,

they will leaf out in April.
And I must be as patient
as the trees—
a winter resolution

I break all over again,
as the cold presses
its sharp blade
against my throat.


After endless
on the windowsill,
the orchid blooms—

embroidered purple stitches
up and down
a slender stem.
Outside, snow

melts midair
to rain.
Abbreviated month.
Every kind of weather.


When the Earl King came
to steal away the child
in Goethe’s poem, the father said
don’t be afraid,

it’s just the wind. . .
As if it weren’t the wind
that blows away the tender
fragments of this world—

leftover leaves in the corners
of the garden, a Lenten Rose
that thought it safe
to bloom so early.


In the pastel blur
of the garden,
the cherry
and redbud

shake rain
from their delicate
shoulders, as petals
of pink

wash down the ditches
in dreamlike
rivers of color.


May apple, daffodil,
hyacinth, lily,
and by the front
porch steps

every billowing
shade of purple
and lavender lilac,
my mother’s favorite flower,

sweet breath drifting through
the open windows:
perfume of memory—conduit
of spring.


The June bug
on the screen door
whirs like a small,
ugly machine,

and a chorus of frogs
and crickets drones like Musak
at all the windows.
What we don’t quite see

comforts us.
Blink of lightning, grumble
of thunder—just the heat
clearing its throat.


Tonight the fireflies
light their brief
in all the trees

of summer—
color of moonflakes,
color of fluorescent

where the ocean drags
its torn hem
over the dark


and sun-dazed,
I bite into this ripe peach
of a month,

gathering children
into my arms
in all their sandy

my table each night
with nothing
but corn and tomatoes.


Their summer romance
over, the lovers
still cling
to each other

the way the green
leaves cling
to their trees
in the strange heat

of September, as if
this time
there will be
no autumn.


How suddenly
the woods
have turned
again. I feel

like Daphne, standing
with my arms
to the season,

by color, crowned
with the hammered gold
of leaves.


These anonymous
leaves, their wet
bodies pressed
against the window

or falling past—
I count them
in my sleep,
absolving gravity,

absolving even death
who knows as I do
the imperatives
of the season.


The white dove of winter
sheds its first
fine feathers;
they melt

as they touch
the warm ground
like notes
of a once familiar

music; the earth
shivers and
turns towards

the solstice.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Edward Gorey Visits Sewanee

The spookily spiked Queen Anne's lace
announces winter is apace.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Every Autumn

words fail me. Brilliant color mutes me. I have only senses to see, hear, touch the season.

If I could, I would give word to the Shadow Darners, hovering just above water's surface, or to sky and leaf reflected in calm water.

But I can't.

So I look elsewhere for language.

For the Chipmunk in My Yard

by Robert Gibb

I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Long Walk with Lots of Bad Photos

Who cares? 

Not me.

About halfway through my Cheston meander, I ran into a book-binder-librarian-artist friend. We chatted, and I mentioned my inability to take a great snap coupled with my total lack of concern.

She mentioned an artist she had recently read about who said something like: it's not the the product that matters; it's the doing and what the doing does to the maker.

We parted, and as I climbed over the roots on Cheston's high side, I remembered Dorothy Parker's legenday comment: "I hate writing, but I love having written."

My variation is, "Sometimes I hate my pictures, but I love having taken them."

I used to meditate (TM) twice daily; now I wander and snap and mull and suspend every thought at the service of just looking and listening and feeling. Like wind-swept water, I enjoy moment becoming moment becoming moment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Seeing IS Believing

Dennis Paulson's Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East told me that Great Spreadwings (fall flyers) oviposit quite high, something I'd not have really known had I not seen it myself.

Just above Abbo's Alley's small stream, two Shadow Darners flew and fought, hovering and slapping, zooming up and out and back again. Finally, one remained when the other moved upstream. 

Snapping again and again to get one focused shot, I suddenly saw a mating pair of Greats on a leaf the darner punched.

Then the pair flew straight into my face and shot upwards, into a tree. 

Extending and retracting my zoom, I got my shots and later posted them on the Southeastern Odes Facebook group page. Almost immediately, another expert (Ed Lam) "liked" one of my photographs, exciting me almost as much as my good luck.

It's so good to be truly home, to be truly walking, to be watching odonates again.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Late Bloomer

a single blossom
at lake's edge
humble understatement
in fiery fall.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Working Weekend (October 17-18)

Paying the piper: work, work, work, groceries, and work.
A vacation means catching up.
At least the forest provided a modicum of welcome relief.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Lost Week (October 12-16)

An actual vacation: what a blessing. And in New York, no less. Good thing I've been there quite a lot. Good thing I spent a semester there in college. Good thing my only agenda was to visit family.

Day 1: To avoid an early morning drive to the airport (i.e. 3:15 am), I took the shuttle from Monteagle to Nashville to spend the night. The hotel puzzled me and other guests, as I discovered when four other people and I couldn't figure out how to operate the elevator. (Insert key card, then select floor, finally elevator moves.)

Day 2: Flight to New York. Uneventful in the best way: sleep. Once there, I had great difficulty understanding the fellow driving the hire car. His Indian accent was so thick and the noise at the airport so great that I couldn't understand a word he said. Not only that, but the woman I originally contacted told me to cross two islands (only one was correct), but fortunately, I finally located the driver, a traffic lane away.

Even my brother, whom I visited, was a bit impatient, given the driver's reluctance to stop in front of his building and his poor choice of a traffic route (an hour to get from LaGuardia to midtown). 


I had arrived.

A lovely afternoon of clear skies, Japanese ramen, chatting, a niece-kitty cuddle, settling in at the Airbnb, napping, and Netflix splurging.

Day 3: A morning stroll along Fifth Avenue and into Central Park, a happy sit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art fountain, where I saw more people in one hour than live in Sewanee. Then a lovely luncheon and an even more spectacular stroll (my choice, said my art historian brother) through American art, the rooftop garden, and modern art, culminating in long contemplation of a beautiful new installation of an important Thomas Hart Benton mural.

A lovely Indian dinner downtown with new friends, one of whom gave me a first-edition E. B. White Here Is New York capped off a full day of pleasure.

Day 4: A short walk to Hale & Hearty on Lexington for a satisfying sandwich, followed by another ramble through Central Park, including a black squirrel, a mouse, beautiful gardens, and the model sailing pond (where photogenic ducks swam). All before I headed to the Duke mansion, home of NYU's Institute of Fine Arts for my brother's class (he teaches PhD students). On the way to his apartment, I couldn't resist a visit to Lady M, a high-style pastry shop. If only I could have brought home an endless supply of Caramel Miroir, a delicious way to celebrate a day much enjoyed.  

Day 5: Departure at 9:45 am in another hire car, this one driven by a competent immigrant (15 minutes to La Guardia), a long stand in the TSA line (in front of a companionable chat with a father and daughter and her husband), and, an hour later, immediate boarding. One of my seatmates took this photograph of NYC on the prettiest day of my visit and was kind enough to email it to me. 

At home, Friday evening on my weekly movie "date," I described my visit to my elderly friend Boo, who said, "You're the only person I have ever known [keep in mind that she is 93] who ever had a relaxing holiday in New York."

Yes, I did.

And I enjoyed every minute.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Purple at the Beginning, Purple at the End

My yard's first blossoms, crocus, push up purple and yellow, blazing with the promise of spring to come, and among the last blooms, these tiny stems pop up among grasses, announcing another oncoming winter.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What Fall There Is Is Falling

Leaves flicker like gems in candlelight.
I am grateful for even this bit of citrine and garnet, sapphire and emerald.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Last-minute Shopping at Lowe's

Whew! They have everything I want!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Look Down! Look Up! Look Down!

Shadow Darner schizophrenia is exhausting.

The male flies low, just above the water level of the stream, pauses, checks the foliage (like a fellow at a bar, looking for a likely companion), cruises on down.

The male flies high, perches way up high, almost out of camera range, rests just a moment.

And then zooms off.

Another exhausting observation, greatly enjoyed by the long-shadowed person standing, waiting, loping, zooming . . . always smiling.

(My apologies to the passing students. I am not, though you wouldn't know it from my appearance, batty.)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is it just me?

Or do all ode enthusiasts go to a spot, immediately see an elusive bug, fail to get the camera on and in focus in time, and then stand glued to the same spot, shooting and shooting, while said ode taunts and teases and then disappears?

Thank heavens for the hungry Great Spreadwing, content to eat, buzz out, grab, fly back, eat, buzz out . . . ad infinitum.

And then, just when I have closed the camera, the Shadow Darner returns, floats around me, zooms out of range, and buzzes back one more time before disappearing over South Carolina Avenue.

Maybe I'm just special.

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Almost Fall

And Roark's Cove wears it well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Whisperers

A former student rescues dogs, and I mean she rescues them. Right now, she is rehabilitating an older stray whose broken leg was so mangled that it had to be amputated. She used Kickstarter and crowd-sourced support for his medical care, which includes heartworm treatment. She has saved and fostered many others, sending them on to the northeast, where their forever families post happy pictures on her Facebook wall. I keep thinking this dog doesn't need to travel. This one is special. I hope she'll add him to the pet family that already includes one dog and one cat.

She's good with her animals, and it shows.

So is my friend who brought these strays in from the cold -- literally. Rico and Ratty, when they first arrived, separately and at different times, were scruffy beasts, wary in the extreme, wild, even feral. Over the years my friend has had them, they have slowly found home in her expansive yard, where they often sleep in their cardboard box nest on the front porch or sun and snooze on the rocks of the back shed, lit by strong sun. Like most intact males, they had each been solo acts, but now, medically safe and physically sound, they're cuddle-chums, members of a household menagerie that includes three other cats, one out and two in.

She's good with her animals and it shows.

I think of the dog whisperer L and of the cat whisperer J tonight and wish all the strays of this world -- cats, dogs, birds, humans, . . . all living beings -- could find their rescuers, and homes, too.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Can You See Me Now?

First day at Lake Cheston in more than a month, following a week of rain and fog, and look what I see as soon as I walk out toward the dam. The fat lady has definitely not sung the end of this odonate season.

I may be hobbling, my muscles may be aching, the rental camera may be challenging, but boy does it feel good to be out and about, even just a little bit. We all agree.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Betcha can tell me where I got dem shoes! (Sewanee version)

On leaf-strewn ground with feet inside!

Look carefully, folks: those are my very own feet, wearing athletic shoes for the very first time in over a month. Look more carefully, and you may note that the left lace has almost totally been used up. Why? To enclose that mightily swollen foot. But -- and this is the great part -- that foot is truly enclosed. And these feet took a slow stroll in Abbo's Alley today, where the sun shone for the first time in over a week. 

I may not look like it, but inside I was dancing just like Jeanie Stephenson's bronze "Playmates."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Quintessential Sewanee


Green's View

Selfies at the View


Friday, October 2, 2015

The Forecast Gets It Wrong

No rain, it said.

No rain today, it says now.

Tell that to the people who ran errands in it, like me.

Tell that to people who bought air return filters and left them in the car so they wouldn't get wet, like me.

Tell that to the woman whose pricey camera, rented for a week, lies ignored on the dining room table.

At least I can look back at One-a-Day Photos of 2015 to find color.

Nine months in, three to go.

Surely, the rain will break before the year is up.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

And on the third day

of the camera rental, more rain fell.

At least the Chekhovian sisters (wrong number, right mood) commiserated with me briefly.

We all long for something other.