Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Are the Chances of This Ever Happening Again?

A package arrives for me via UPS from Massachusetts -- a camera lens rental. I receive the package, put it on the dining room table, and finish what I am doing. Later, when I finish work, I grab a knife, slit the tape, lift the top, remove the lens, and start to close the box.

That's when I see this below the lift-up box cover.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Two Conversations, One Lake

Up at the pavilion, someone's engaged in a loud argument.

She: Stop it! I could have you arrested!

He: Yeah? Well I could have you arrested!

She: Call them off! That's illegal. That's dangerous!

He: Oh yeah? Make me! I'll have you put in jail.

She: You've been in jail!

He: Well so what? You have been to!

She: I'm not kidding! That's child dangering or something!

He: Oh really? Make me stop!

She: STOP it! Now!

A youngish father and mother walk downhill, he carrying swimming stuff and she a baby in a backpack. At the bench opposite me, they carefully unpack everything: she slathers the child with sunscreen and he sets up the float.

Me: That is the cutest floatie! (on seeing an adorable little circular floatie in which the child is seatbelted and sheltered by an inflatable canopy)

She: We found it at Fred's for only five dollars!

Me: Wow! You're kidding! I hope it works!

He: We do too!

They get in the water and secure the child.

He: Grrrrrr . . . (popping raspberry sounds puckered on the plastic)

Baby: high-pitched squeals of delight

She: baby-talking and spinning the floatie Here we go!

More of the same. And on and on it went, delightfully, for another half hour, in the water and out. 

Climbing the hill, I heard birds chirping. Today, everyone had something to say.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Another Reason to Love Summer: Natural Music

I love listening to summer when I walk,
and even more so when I am falling asleep or waking.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

don't get me started

mimosa's a pest 
but I don't care
leaf fans
feather blue sky
flowers burst
like a rock'n'rollin
troll doll's hair 
or my fine hair
a circum-nimbus
shot out on end 
round my head
when I grabbed
that state fair
metal ball


Saturday, June 25, 2016

A New Life

Half a block away, Quintard Hall, an old dorm in need of serious updating, is being renovated. Work began as soon as students left, and it has proceeded with what appears to me to be an impressive pace. 

Each day, either in the morning or at lunch, I see workers gathering for a break or meal, and I am struck by who many appear to be: immigrants from south of the border. I know that many farming and construction trades depend on such laborers, and I have seen the effects of their contributions from afar (when many were essentially rescued from inhumane conditions, having been brought to Shelbyville, Tennessee by a Tyson Chicken plant) and up close (when my niece worked with a great team of men on an herb farm). She told me stories of their travel over three-day holiday weekends all the way to Mexico just to see their wives and children for a few hours. She told me how hard they worked, how much they knew about plants and farming, how supportive they were of each other, how grateful they were for good employment.

When I see the men working to bring Quintard into this century, I can't help thinking about what might happen to them in the current political climate. Are they accosted on their way to or from home? Do folks question their legitimacy? Are they accused of "stealing" someone else's jobs? Are their families here, legal, and whole? I don't know the answers to these questions, of course.

But I can say this: they seem productive and cheerful and skillful. I can't wait to see the finished product.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Sometimes, they're depleted. The body, for instance, can withstand suffering, or pain, or disease so long before it gives up, and the person in that body gives in. I saw someone today, an acquaintance, someone I like and have not seen for sometime but have thought about, and her reserves are depleted, depleting. I left her feeling drained, more than sad, but sad yes, but more than and less than . . . empty perhaps.

So I did what I often do: I took my camera outside to experience a now, find something beautiful, look at it, try to capture some part of it, and in the process not think, not remember, not wonder, not feel. And I found this.

While I was looking and trying to use my camera so it might match my eyes, I heard a banjo, frailing style, a run of notes picked again and again and again. Someone practicing, someone else getting outside of the self perhaps, entering something beautiful in the making. I wandered to the music, where I found Adam, a new professor here, teaching himself banjo. Political theory is his scholarly interest, so we chatted about Brexit and the implications of national uprisings, but we also talked about teaching, students, folk music, writing, community, the perimeter trail. Before turning home from a chat we both enjoyed, I asked to take his picture and we looked at the snaps together, shook hands, and parted. He played me off, and I left lighter than when I arrived.

Our meeting didn't change anything for the young woman I cried with earlier, it didn't change others' nationalist spirits, it didn't change my ineptness with the camera, but he changed my afternoon, gave me joy, made my step out of the tree canopy lighter as I turned toward home.

And for that, I am grateful.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Instructive Photo Failure

Abbo's Alley, late afternoon in summer. Hunched on the ground, a woman of a certain age, pointing a camera down toward the bank's edge. Darkness to the left and behind, bright light low on the right, bouncing off water. Rap music pounding a beat from a basement apartment at Alley's Edge, reverberating. 

Enter three walkers of a certain age, one woman, two men, each with a small dog -- one Yorkie, two Westies. They're talking. Only a few words are audible outside their group.

Yorkie Walker:  Some of the best writing I've seen. Two Chinese students. Never wrote in English till they came to the University. Just beautiful composition, so . . . .

A bit further into the Alley.

Female Westie Walker: George . . . ?

Yorkie Walker: Elliot?

Male Westie Walker:  Henry George Lewes!

Female Westie Walker: Yes, that's right!

Heading back later.

Yorkie Walker: You know what novel I'd like to read? One about her relationship with her father. Now that . . .

Woman photographer stands.

Photographer: D****t!

Photographer walks back to the path, is soon followed by the dog walkers.

This Alley reverberates still.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Every odonate enthusiast

loves taking photos of the Blue Dasher. I do, too.

And I'll bet you agree that it's easy to see why.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Good News, Bad News

I finally found an unbelievably helpful blog post explaining how to use my camera's 4K features. Why the manufacturers don't hire people like Heather to write their instructions and make their instructional videos I'll never know. Nothing in my 400-odd-page manual actually explains anything clearly.
Heavy tree canopy and a cloudy sky made it impossible for me to practice what I learned.

One Arrowhead Spiketail passed me four times along the now mostly dry creek/runoff bed on the Village Trail. 
Without sun or water, the Spiketail never slowed down or perched.

On my way up to the elementary school, I just happened to see an amusing green caterpillar resting on the bridge handrail. My first ever Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar!

Heavy tree canopy and intermittent sun in all the wrong places make for a lot of awful photographs.

Always Good
I am easily entertained by photowalking.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Housecat

Mine start their day when mine begins. I don't know how, but they always know when I'll rise (before I do). At some point before I wake, they're both on the bed (where they have not been all night): BigAssCat on my right mid-body and Doodlebug on my left at head-level. As soon as I stir, they purr and insist on being stroked.

Then it's time for food for BAC and more cuddling for D.

After about an hour during which they check all their usual haunts for the occasional bug or odd bit of fluff on the floor, they take their morning naps.

One more brief mid-day period of activity is followed by the Long Afternoon Sleep, after which they plead for a sit by the kitchen screen door.

When I start closing up before bed, they wait on the steps. As soon as I turn on the stairway light, BAC leans in for a nose-to-nose check, then bounds upstairs, me following, and Doodle makes up the rear in one long leap from stairs to bed, where she stretches out like an apostrophe, belly up.

While BAC noshes and D cleans herself, I scoop out the litter box, after which BigAssCat bounds in (only when I lock the lid), insisting always that she'll be first.

More play, some cuddling, lights out, and they disappear.

In my next life, I'd like to be somebody's well-loved feline companion, like Tigger whose human lets him roam wherever he wants. Here he's on the kitchen island, aiming for a head butt. (And yes, he got what he wanted.)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

If happiness is a warm puppy,

then waterproof hiking shoes that actually fit are bliss.

How lovely it is to be secure in my feet so I climb down a bank. walk along a mud bed, and watch Arrowhead Spiketails.

I owe many thanks to Clayton's Shoe Store, whose owner knows shoes and has infinite patience (these are pair number 5 I've tried).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Almost Famous

I heard them behind me before I saw them: one couple and two women, going opposite directions, both stopping to ask, "What are you looking at?"

"Dragonflies." I pointed. "See straight over there, in front of the bank? There's a big one depositing eggs. She's slapping the water and coming back up."

"Yes," they all responded.

"Great Blue Skimmers," I said.

"Wait! Are the one who wrote the article?" one of the women walkers asked.

I admitted as much and they wanted to know more. So I told them more about what I wrote in Nature Notes (page 14 of The Sewanee Mountain Messenger).

They went on their way and I, mine.

What I didn't tell them is this: I spent the better part of the day taking bad picture after bad picture. But dadgum it was fun. Now that I have the right waterproof hiking shoes and a fancy new lens, I don't care about quality or fame. Just give me the opportunity to climb around, find beautiful bugs, and shoot!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Note to Another Ode Watcher on the Mountain

Dear S.,

I sure wish I could take you on a stroll up or down the SOT-Sewanee Village trail, but I know you'd never make it with that cast.

The only reason I walked that trail today was boredom with all the same old odes -- skimmers, fragiles, pennants, the regulars of summer. I thought I'd walk with my macro lens, go down the trail and into town, then through the campus back home. Perhaps I'd find a few insects or some leaves or even some trinkets in shops or window reflections.

Instead I saw this magnificent dragonfly. Wish you could see it too! (Oh, and besides this Arrowhead Spiketail, I also saw a Gray Petaltails and loads of Ebony Jewelwings.)


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Everything's Relative






click photos to enlarge

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

One Broken Cat and One Happy Dog

My BigAssCat (aka Bassy) broke when a neurological event left her with a shepherd's crook tail. At first, she minded -- especially since the tail dragged along behind her. Now it seems as if she no longer notices. I do, though, and I miss its expressively alert attention.

Oscar has alertness and more, writ large. Every time I see him and his human at the lake, I am cheered by his joy. Today, he was already filthy when they encountered me, so he chased sticks into the water to get him. Immediately afterwards, though, he lolled and scratched and rolled in the sand, leaving him like this.
I call this picture "Oscar and Me."

Do you see me?


I'm there.

Look him right in the eye. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What I Learned Way Back When

Don't stand near water when you hear thunder.


Don't stand under trees when you hear thunder.


Don't carry metal when you hear thunder.


Don't use electronics when you hear thunder.

Oops and oops.

I finally remembered and quick-stepped my way out of the area.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Got My Eye on You

The Southern Sprite's electric aqua eyes remind me of what lasts.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On Days Like This

walking means stepping out of mind.

Animals kill others to survive, unlike people, who also murder.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Just Chillin'

Much too hot to court. 
Gonna just sit right here in the shade of parrot feather
and let Burl Ives tell the tale.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Here's What I Was Thinking When I Saw This Little Fellow on the Hot Sand (and I Mean *Hot*)

Aren't you burning up? 

Why are you sitting here in the sun? 

You're sure a long way from the water. 

You sure are cute.

And tiny.

Holy cow, compensating for the bright sun is hard. 

What? The shot is so orange! 

Macro photography is so dadgum hard.

One more shot.

Ok, little fellow, I'll pretend I haven't been leaning in on you on this whole time and take the wide way around. 

Good luck!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

First, Sound

Then, sight.
Always, sound

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Does This Happen to Everyone? (Part 2)

This morning, stalled in traffic and bored (tree cutters ahead), I opened the windows, turned off the car, and snapped this picture (thinking I could get mileage with a colleague who was more than an hour late to tutoring because of a huge traffic jam in her very large city). 

As soon as I snapped the picture, it happened.

A huge dragonfly buzzed me at my window. I am not kidding. A Green Darner. It zoomed across the highway, over my car, hovered, zoomed back, and so on, for at least five passes. I'm sure the people behind me thought I was crazy. (I might have had the person doing the neck-craning been someone else.) But crane my neck I did and look and look and look.

This wasn't the first unexpected ode encounter of the week. Three days ago, within about half an hour of walking in my front door, I walked out again and, when I turned around to lock it, saw a beautiful, fresh, female Calico Pennant caught in a spider web. She had not been there thirty minutes earlier, but now she was -- and still alive. Of course, I removed her and pulled spider string from her so she could fly. And she did.

Then, this afternoon, I stood at the fish pond in Abbo's Alley, looking for Great Blue Skimmers. I placed myself behind a tree at the edge of the pond, so I wouldn't startle a dragonfly. I decided to step to the right a bit, and as soon as I started to move, caught sight of a Great Blue directly in front of me, perched on the tree. I snappedsnappedsnapped before he flitted away. (Tree on the left of the frame. I was so close that I couldn't even focus on the whole insect.)

More and more, I have come to think of myself as the odonate whisperer.

Hear me roar! (They won't care since they can't hear!)

For "Does This Happen to Everyone (Part 1)," click here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Azure Three Ways

The big pond on Day Lake Road teems with Azure Bluets. Look anywhere around your feet -- soil, fallen twigs, low foliage in forest or clearing or water -- and there they are: hundreds and hundreds. These small damselflies have earned their common name; their Azure and black coloration shines even in shadow like cut gemstones.

Azure gossamer-winged butterflies are something else entirely. This one isn't even blue, at least with its wings closed. Tiny, tinier even than the bluets, and thirsty, probing my hand from fingertip to palm, knuckle to wrist, and as friendly a little fellow as light in weight.

And then there's the sky, the glorious sky beyond the shadowed trees of a bowl of upturned lapis lazuli.