Thursday, December 31, 2015

Distance and Proximity

Do this: 
Google Ted Hughes hawk roosting
choose images: 
look carefully;
scroll down;
look slowly;
keep scrolling;
keep looking.
All the charts, 
pictures, 
explanations, 
presentations, 
diagrams, 
analyses --
none of them
-- not one --
approaches the power 
of the poem,
or 
of the bird.


Hunting Just Beyond the Deck

Hawk Roosting
by Ted Hughes

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads --

The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Over Dessert at the Frist Center

RH: I'm surprised by something.

FH: What? (finishing a bite of the lemoncello cake)

RH: In the Islamic art exhibit, there were lots of people, spending time before each work -- the grave steles, textiles, illuminated pages. I was surprised that  so many people wanted to see that exhibit. The guards were so relaxed, even when one woman (wearing the headset for the guided tour) set off the alarm three or four times, all by accident when her raincoat brushed the barrier wire. No one was spewing hateful comments about Islam or the countries represented.

FH: I noticed that, too.

RH: I imagined that people wouldn't be respectful. (chewing her chocolate cake morsel, swallowing) But maybe it's because people who go to an art museum self-select?

FH: Maybe. They could be different. More interested in the world?

RH: Maybe.

FH: I'd like to think the others -- the other ones -- are in the minority.

RH: Yes, me too. (noticing the tree reflected by the tabletop, pulling out the camera, snapping several pictures) Those others reflect badly on the rest of us.

FH: Yes. Yes, they do.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Among Other Things, I Am Grateful For

the continuing friendship of a former student and her mother












and the blue sky all the way home.

Monday, December 28, 2015

They All Grow Up

Dear J,

What a surprise! 

I picked up my holiday mail from the post office first thing this morning and found your box of gifts. 

The cat magnet is already on the fridge door and two cookies (one from each packet) have been sampled. I am at this moment sipping a sample of this:


How lovely to share interests (in this case, bourbon) as grown-ups, no longer just student and teacher.

Thank you for thinking of me in this holiday season!

Fondly,
Robley

Sunday, December 27, 2015

On Leaving

these:


Aunt

She talks too loud, her face
a blur of wrinkles & sunshine
where her hard hair shivers
from laughter like a pine tree
stiff with oil & hotcombing

O & her anger realer than gasoline
slung into fire or lighted mohair
She’s a clothes lover from way back
but her body’s too big to be chic
or on cue so she wear what she want
People just gotta stand back &
take it like they do Easter Sunday when
the rainbow she travels is dry-cleaned

She laughs more than ever in spring
stomping the downtowns, Saturday past
work, looking into JC Penney’s checking
out Sears & bragging about how when she
feel like it she gon lose weight &
give up smoking one of these sorry days

Her eyes are diamonds of pure dark space
& the air flying out of them as you look
close is only the essence of living
to tell, a full-length woman, an aunt
brown & red with stalking the years

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Before

Christmas Eve 
visit to my niece's new studio
rain and water
first gifts: 
what's most beautiful
is as it is.




Wednesday, December 23, 2015

After the Drive

like the stacked stone
just-right flowers
wood bowl of shells
slow-burning green wood
my niece's house
radiates more warmth
than even Christmas


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Day 4 of a New Camera: Simple Pleasures

At lunch, between cookie baking and Christmas preparing, a friend said, "Your pictures are so good."

The simplest compliment is often the best.

Just as might be the simplest gift for myself: comfy new socks, for example;


or the simplest gift for a loved one: chocolate chip cookies.


It's all good.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 3: Another Way to Love the Camera

Inside looking out.

No other light.

Handheld.

And I just remembered that it's a touchscreen.

Oh, yes.

Santa's so good to me.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

On Day 2 with a New Camera

I decided to go to All Saints'.

Two hundred plus pictures later, I came home, happy, even though I couldn't do what a Facebook friend does with apparent ease: take one decent shot of a fully focused glass reflection and whatever's beyond it.




Notes to self: ask B how he does it, and keep trying.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Happy Holidays!

New camera.

Handheld.

Night.

No flash.


Oh y-e-a-h.

S-w-e-e-e-e-e-t!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

In with a Whimper, Out with a Bang

Always there, even when I can't see it, the sun is dependable. Today, it sneaked up, hidden behind a thick wet scrim and stayed hidden, till afternoon when it burst forth, burnished and burnishing winter grasses, setting the mountain ablaze.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pure Joy

This dog has it.

video

I want it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sloppy Work

I admit it: I despise sloppy work and I have no respect for sloppy workers.

Witness the easement along the road in front of my house.

I did not hire the two men with their truck, their small tractor, their chainsaw.

I did not ask them to clear brush.

I did not see them arrive, nor did I see them leave.

But I did find this when I came home.

Now what?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Taking the Long Way

My mother and father called it "hilling and daling" -- wandering unknown roads to see what there is to see, only a final destination in mind (perhaps even the one where the rambling journey began), stopping every now and then, stretching legs and taking in views, knowing something interesting is always around the bend or over the ridge.

A quick trip home from ballet extended along two-lane roads and took me to three different stops along the North Alabama Birding Trail, including this one -- way off paved roads, down a rutted dirt lane, fields and swampy area on both sides, till finally I met the river (and fishermen) and turned back for a long linger, here, where the wintry landscape defied the balmy temperature.



This is why I would, if I could, always drive the long way.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Those Who Know Me Well

know I love cats and Smith's Variety. Witness: my first Christmas gift from my nephew, niece-in-law, and two great-nieces.

First, I have to clean my car well.

Second, I have to choose which stickers to use.

And third, I must decide where to put them.

These are first-world problems (with a sense of humor).

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Living in the Country

I miss cityscape: new skyscraper or squat pavement-hugger, brick and glass or steel and concrete, recutangular or curved, occupied or abandoned,--the calming geometry of architecture.

Friday, December 11, 2015

One Big Blur

Fast trip to see two of The Greats, their parents, and their dog, four out of the five performing in The Mutt-cracker and the fifth heading the backstage sewing crew. Like Christmas lights, it's all good, even if total face time amounts to fewer than eight hours.


The lasting impression is always memorable.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Family Affair

Tomorrow, I'll see the Mutt-cracker, but today I read my nephew's blog post and felt as I did when he made his first grand debut many years ago.

To read "Dancing in the Nutcracker with My Daughters and My Dog," click this link. You'll be glad you did!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Haunts Me

I
A wide excision for melanoma more than thirty years ago has revisited me in an unexpected way: significant leg and ankle swelling. Brought on my bad sprain the first Saturday in September, this spectacular inflammation has been, literally and figuratively, a pain. 

After an x-ray, I waited for the doctor and counted the holes in a ceiling light.


Such a result, he said, is normal for melanoma patients like me, though most suffer this effect soon after the surgery. The inflammation of deep tissues may last, and last, and last. I left enlightened, and disappointed.

II
Finding the "right" camera has been a years-long pursuit. But I may have made the next important step yesterday. After seeing the doctor and searching Nashville for expensive compression knee-highs (not covered by insurance, naturally), I dropped by Dury's to make a Christmas list of camera accessories. Much to my surprise, four-thirds camera and lens I ordered had arrived. 

But.

Until I recover my energy and return from a quick overnight trip, it shall remain in the bag.

Monday, December 7, 2015

After Lessons and Carols

The nearest I ever come to a religious experience: the playful magic of light through stained glass.


It's enough for me.

More than enough.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Discarded Prize

Two days ago, when I last saw Oscar, an enthusiastic black dog (my favorite of the regular Lake Cheston canines), he carried an empty fish, all husk without organs and flesh, like an Olympian champion might his country's flag: so proud, so joyous, Oscar running to catch up with his human in a victory lap.


Today, almost three-fourths of the way around the lake on the opposite side, I caught the fish out of the corner of my eye, stopped and studied its serried scales, mottled blue and cream in dull light and embedded with sand grains, and saw beauty even in defeat.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Flow!

The thing about making something is that the more I do it, the more I want to do it, and the more I want to do it and the more I do it, the more likely I am to make something new.

Yesterday's and today's metal and paint shots inspired an Aha!


The next time I shoot a single something odd and get a snap that I really and truly like, I will challenge myself to find other subjects on the same theme, until I take a photo of some other odd thing, . . .

. . . and today, I found it quite by accident.


Plastic!


Friday, December 4, 2015

Seasonal Cheer

Autumn Meadowhawks seek out sun, and despite the cold, some still fly. When I first paid attention to odonates at Lake Cheston, I thought it amazing to find one of these on Christmas Eve. Now I know that the weather cooperated mightily, and now I look forward to seeing them late in the fall, even in dwindling numbers.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Unexpected Death: One Known, Many Unknown

"If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be." -- Hamlet, V:ii:207-211.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Confession

As the child of, sister of, and aunt of paint manufacturers, I confess this: I love paint -- the tantalizingly acidic smell that sticks in my nose hairs; the pockety-pockety-pockety echo of a working ball mill; the thick swish of large paddles swirling pigments in waist-high mixers; the metallic clang of lids pressed onto cans; the thunder of 50-gallon drums, turned at an angle and rolled along the floor; the rhythmic passes of a printing press; the splotches of paint on concrete floor and machines and work clothes and painters' caps and skin. Short of standing in a factory making paint, placing my hands on a shuddering paint shaker is a meditative joy unlike any other.

And the shaker itself is a delight to the eye.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rainy Day Illumination

Metal and Paint, Number 7

Lonnie Bradley Holley's Spirit Bird and punched-tin chandelier