Monday, November 30, 2015

Waiting for an Oil Change

Oh, but it is dirty!
-- this little filling station, 

Elizabeth Bishop's poem begins; that image followed by this:

oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over all
black translucency.

Certainly, the filling station where I sat this morning, though dirty, is not "oil-permeated" so much as "dust-bunnied" (like every other place in Sewanee). 

Fortunately, the owner -- and his wife and daughter (who used to work with him) -- decorated with personal tchotchkes that provide distraction: wooden filling station birdhouse hanging in a front window, a "My dad's garage" sign hanging beyond the counter, a wicker pig holding customers' free gas entries, and, encased with some car accessories, a collectible copper tow-truck.

It appears that Bishop's concluding line, "Somebody loves us all," applies. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

One Red Cabinet Will Do

in place of the kitchen hearth. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dizzying Beauty

In childhood, Vulcan's spiral stairs dizzied me, as did the Statue of Liberty's. I remember, or think I remember, sour-smelling cavities, narrow and shadowed, and metal stairs winding and winding, latticed steps through which I looked down, down growing ever deeper and darker. Even now, I double-fist the rail when I ascend, my guts rumbling, my brain repeating Don't fall!, as I pull myself up.

At least here, there's something beautiful to see even before I reach the top.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sign Reader

Might look like a lake to you, but today it's a bike dump.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Brilliant Opening and Closing

Ten feet from my deck, Woody Woodpecker announced Thanksgiving,

which ended with the Beaver Moon (also known as the Frost Moon [despite the unseasonably warm evening] or Going Geese Moon), though I have decided to name it Gratitude Moon:

highly satisfactory appetizer and dessert.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Off-Label Usefulness

Like some prescription drugs,
a lens hood can serve unintended purposes.

Bench Warmer

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Betcha I Can't Just Take One

I climbed down both banks. On both sides of the lake. I leaned over the bridge and shot blind. I lay down and curled over the lip to shoot what I saw. I broke a twig off a bush because it was in the way. A passing friend walking her dog ignored me, as she knew she should. I slid down the bridge toward one bank. Then toward the other. I shot and shot and shot.


Because the bridge, the pilings, the peeling paint, the rust, the leaves, the water, the reflection, the day so beautiful.

Here are a few of the many.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Calling Huck and Tom

Found in the leaves at Lake Cheston

The next time a person tells you Sewanee folks love literature, believe that person.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Funday

1. Sleep late.

2. Work.

3. Read the news.

4. Make and eat early supper.

5. Admire deep shadows and gingko/ginkgo leaves.

6. Notice a bicycle's red reflector.

7. Listen to a neighbor talk about his book and laugh with others at his perfect imitations of two presidents.

8. Stop to take in the view.

9. Have two cups of tea and finish watching River.

10. Work.

11. Check feedly and read a few posts.

12. Download photos.

13. Upload to SmugMug.

14. Complete this blog post.

15. Listen to the cats purr.

The week's off to a good start.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Does It Matter If I Don't Know Their Name?

The last gasp of fall
scattered flickers
salmon-tinted flame
these leaves 
(of beeches?) 
shimmer in every 
emptying forest. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

I Am Not Really Writing About What I Could Write About

which would be the horrifying images of families stuck between borders, late in the fall, moving into winter, sleeping on the ground, in tatters, because I thought of them when I saw this Common Buckeye, warming himself after a cold night and a long season.

Instead, I'll write about my double vision in general. 

Sometimes, I see something and think of another thing (see above), and sometimes I see something and think I am seeing it in a way that wasn't possible before Photoshop. Like the trees along the path where the Autumn Meadowhawks mate in droves and their reflection in Lake Cheston. 

I played with the photo, processing the top and bottom in different ways and adjusted the color and contrast separately until it looks like what I saw, but what I saw is not what it looked like to someone else.

Nothing looks the same to anyone.

Witness, photograph number 1.

Witness, the current xenophobia in this country.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Worth the Wait

for the sun to reappear, and with it the temperature. The bugs came out, and so did I.

There is this in the habit of walking and looking: the seeing of something previously unseen, something so startling that only seeing is believing.


When Autumn Meadowhawks are in copula or "the wheel," so called for the shape of joined male and female, sperm meets egg. When she's ready, the female releases herself at the terminus of the abdomen, and the male flies them both at plant or rock or shoreline, where she taps fertilized eggs into water. 

Why this male thwacked the female and himself, still locked by their biological parts, into the mud time after time (for at least the three minutes I watched), I do not know. But I do know this: I was greatly relieved when she released and they went about their business the old-fashioned way.

Once again, Ken Macrorie has been proven right: "People who daily expect to encounter fabulous realities run smack into them again and again. They keep their minds open for their eyes."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quandary; or, I've Got the Rainy Day Blues

Which is worse? An ugly ceiling fan or an ugly ceiling?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Adding my bottles and jars to glass recycling boxes, I find myself thinking about the estimated 480 pounds of glass thrown away by the average American family.

This, after all, is a college campus, and folks here like their parties. Wonder what our average is?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Standing and Waiting Have Their Rewards

A bleak afternoon: the cloud cover expected later arrived earlier, and I went to the lake later rather than earlier.

I stutter-strolled down one pathway along the short side of the beach, stopped to stare at the bittersweet as though I might see something new (I didn't), stopped to stare at the oil-slicked water's surface as though I might see something new (I didn't), stopped to stare at the cat-tails as though I might see something new (I didn't). I stood. I waited. For nothing.

I took one step toward the water, and then it happened: a beautiful female Blue-faced Meadowhawk fluttered up from the leaf litter, perched, and allowed my long gaze.

What luck! Only the second of her species I have seen this year I and the first-ever female I have found all by her lonesome.

As if the sun had come out (it hadn't), the day brightened, and I went for that walk after all.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


through another's
windows elsewhere
blinded and curtained
faint light
welcome silence

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Everything's Local

when it comes to celebrating on reunion weekend. The only peace-disturbers here rent other people's houses, party hard, and park on other people's property.

In this respect, I count myself lucky, routine disrupted only intermittently by happy noise and party lights rather than weapons flares and terrified screams.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes, no snap

is the only response on a day like this when any major world capital (Paris, in this case) is under attack. I think now of those in the city and those all over the world suffering from nihilistic political actions of violence against innocents.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

And About This Time

I heard seven loud gun shots. Reasoning they exploded some distance away (the firing range, maybe), I hunkered down anyway. I mean, who can resist a colony of thimble-sized mushrooms glowing like crenelated jack o'lanterns? Leaf litter never looked so good.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Holy Tamoly Cow!

Sun and Autumn Meadowhawks all over the lake -- warming, mating, ovipositing, resting, and landing on me.

Nothing new there, but this sure is.

Never before have I actually seen the part projected out of the male's pocket. (Hamules hold a female in place during copulation.) When I looked at my photos, I thought I knew what it is, but I posted this photo to my Southeastern Odes group on Facebook for confirmation. Within seconds, Giff Beaton, whose Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast is one of my holy books of odonata, replied, "That is a male and it's his hamule . . . "

How many ways can I thank my lucky stars?

     1. sunshine

     2. some good shots

     3. warm earth (good for lying down)

     4. Facebook

     5. and the humorous support of an admired expert.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Night Light

When the curtain of weeds and leaves falls between my neighbor's house and mine, I avoid looking through my kitchen window, until night at its darkest. Then, the windows, graphed by my screen, glow with Hopper light, and I cannot look long enough.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

An Apology to the Elderly Lady Patiently Waiting to Park in the Handicap Space at The Pig

I had to snap the only beautiful thing on still another gray day.
I am so sorry, and I thank you greatly for your kind patience.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


The purposeful kind is good.

It relieves the owner of the burden of collecting and it benefits the recipient of unexpected gifts.

Witness, a former student, whose goal -- despite being an elementary-level math teacher -- is to teach high school English. She stopped by today and picked up four full boxes of my favorite Heinemann/Boynton Cook literacy books. I don't miss them one bit.

The thoughtless kind is not.

It burdens the mind and weighs down the heart, longing for some physical connection to a loved past.

Years ago, someone threw out all the old family photographs (including a wonderful little album of my high-school and college-aged father in ancient black-and-white snaps -- one in his tennis togs, another sitting in his old Model A, and many more), Daddy's tipple, all the pictures that hung on the hallway into my parents' bedroom, and the original 16-millimeter silent movies. In their early adulthood, he and friends (including my mother) wrote and produced their own feature films. When my oldest brother was a baby, Daddy even experimented with his first color film, making a stop-motion short of a puppet riding the toy train under the Christmas tree.

I'm glad some folks appreciate the old things and introduce them to younger ones, and I can't help wondering if my father might have seen and been inspired by It's a Bird, the 1930 stop-motion feature. You can see it here on "The End of Being."

Friday, November 6, 2015

Alternative Activity on Yet Another Rainy Day

High tea at Tea on the Mountain, where the Spode china, silver tableware, PG Tips, scones, savories, sandwiches, sweets, and proprietors Pat and Myrna radiate their own warmth. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Emptied Purse

Like Coins, November
by Elisabeth Klise Von Zerneck

We drove past late fall fields as flat and cold
as sheets of tin and, in the distance, trees

were tossed like coins against the sky. Stunned gold
and bronze, oaks, maples stood in twos and threes:

some copper bright, a few dull brown and, now
and then, the shock of one so steeled with frost

it glittered like a dime. The autumn boughs
and blackened branches wore a somber gloss

that whispered tails to me, not heads. I read
memorial columns in their trunks; their leaves

spelled UNUM, cent; and yours, the only head . . . 
in penny profile, Lincoln-like (one sleeve,

one eye) but even it was turning tails
as russet leaves lay spent across the trails.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I have to look up the name of one tree at this time every year. Today, I finally checked a number of reputable dictionaries, including Oxford. What a relief! Either of my spellings is correct.

By any name -- The Tree Whose Leaves Create Their Own Light, or The Tree Whose Female Bears Stinky Fruit, or The Ancient One, or The Healing Tree, or Gingko or Ginkgo, this tree mounts a brief spectacular show each fall.

When it does, no dictionary can contain it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I would not want to live under white sky longer than winter.

Geoengineering Could Turn Skies White

The white haze that hangs over many major cities could become a familiar sight everywhere if the world decides to try geoengineering to create a cooler planet.

Scientists have long suspected that one oft-discussed geoengineering technique -- shooting tiny sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere to deflect sunlight -- could turn the blue sky white. Nature has already provided a basic proof of concept. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, spewing tons of sulfate particles in the atmosphere, it temporarily whitened the sky.

Now a new study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science attempts to determine just how big the effect from man-made geoengineering would be.

Adding enough sulfate to the stratosphere to block 2 percent of the sun's light would make the sky three to five times brighter, they report in a paper that will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

That is roughly the level of sulfate geoengineering needed to counteract the warming that would result if the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere climbed to 560 parts per million, up from roughly 390 ppm today.

The world might be cooler, but blue skies would become a little less blue, the scientists report. Even remote, sparsely inhabited areas would lie under a whitish sky resembling the haze that now blankets cities like Paris.

And the injection of a continuous stream of sulfate particles would lend sunsets a man-made afterglow.

"People who are used to living in New York might not notice a difference, but people in the mountains might notice a difference," said lead author Ben Kravitz, a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution.

"What happens when you put a layer of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere, they scatter light. But they don't scatter light equally. Depending on the size of the particle, they might scatter blue light differently than red light."

It is that scattering effect that would change the sky's appearance, he said.

Some people might not notice. Others might not care. But even folks who can't tell a picture-postcard blue sky from its milky, geoengineered cousin might be able to detect other side effects of using sulfate to cool the planet.

Blocking just 2 percent of sunlight that would normally reach the Earth -- the scenario depicted in the study -- would probably be enough to create measurable drops in energy created by concentrated solar thermal power systems, which rely on direct sunlight.

But it could be a boon to plants, which showed a small but measurable uptick in growth in the months after Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991.

That's because injecting sulfate particles into the atmosphere -- by volcano or man-made methods -- scatters enough of the sun's rays to increase the diffuse sunlight many plants thrive on. The resulting uptick in photosynthesis would likely increase the amount of carbon pulled from the atmosphere by plants, researchers said.

Majority frowns on geoengineering -- poll

Meanwhile, a poll released this week by the Brookings Institution suggests that Americans are concerned about the safety and effectiveness of geoengineering.

Sixty-five percent of participants said they somewhat or strongly disagree that if global warming takes place, "scientists would be able to find ways to alter the climate in a way that limits problems."

A slimmer majority, 45 percent, disagreed with the notion that scientists could develop "atmospheric engineering" methods to cool the planet.

But most of the 887 participants in the survey -- 69 percent -- said they "strongly" or "somewhat" believed the harm from adding material to the atmosphere would outweigh the benefits. The poll carries a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

"If you look across the survey, one big challenge for anyone who's proposing geoengineering methods is how to even begin to explain this to the general public, and then begin to make this credible," said Barry Rabe, a professor at the University of Michigan's Gerald Ford School of Public Policy.

Rabe, who conducted the survey with Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, said public opinion research on geoengineering is limited.

That makes it hard to compare concerns about geoengineering to attitudes about other controversial technologies, like nanotechnology or genetically modified organisms.

But what is interesting about the new results, Rabe said, is that few respondents indicated they were neutral about geoengineering.

"One thing that surprised us a bit is the percentage of people who responded with an opinion," he said. "In every case, we gave them the option to say 'not sure.' I frankly expected more people to punt on this one."

by Lauren Morello and ClimateWire, Scientific American, 1 June 2012