Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Time spent

is well spent with creatures great and small.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Seasonal Warnings

The Great Spreadwing and water know: fall is coming.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Marching On Into Fall

Today's riding mowers and weed eaters shaving the perching places at Lake Cheston tell the tale: students and their parents are arriving, breaking the idyll between summer's programs and academic year. I feel flattened each year at this time; like the mostly eaten armadillo on the rocky shore, my plates give way, revealing the tenderest parts susceptible to upsets of noise, traffic, litter.


Small prices to pay, given the vigor of youth and intellectual exploration bursting like the trumpeting Virginia meadow flowers in the shadows.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Slow Travel

Florence takes Prince (ailing) and me on a golf-cart tour of the B. B. Park, downtown (with stops for snaps), and Billy's tree-crushed house, before returning to the prettiest garden I know.

Travel should always be like this: slow, in the company of a loved pet, and guided by a good friend.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bell Buckle Arrival

At my friend's gate, morning glories, starting to close. Inside, I greet her, apologize, take the camera from the bag, head back outside.

Happily, she is used to me by now.

The pleasures of her company are many.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Catching Up

Boo with the news; me with a new cellphone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In the Weeds

If I hadn't seen the two undergrads casting on the opposite bank, I'd not have walked around; and if I hadn't walked around, I'd not have seen their path through the tall grasses and weeds; and if I hadn't seen their path, I'd not have been brave enough to get close.

To them I owe my thanks, and to this Slaty Skimmer for returning again and again to cardinal flowers very nearly in reach.

(I just hope I don't wake in the middle of the night to chigger bumps.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


J has a new foster, but I think that Gracie may become her very own dog.

I hope so because she's sweet and photogenic.

See what I mean?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sun Again

It's good to walk around the lake again in full sun, especially in relatively mild weather. I counted 16  species of odonates eating, warming, and mating (Eastern Pondhawk, Blue Dasher, Eastern Amberwing, Wandering Glider, Black Saddlebags, Green Darner, Slaty Skimmer, Widow Skimmer, Common Whitetail, Swift Setwing, Calico Pennant, Banded Pennant, Halloween Pennant, Swamp Spreadwing, Fragile Forktail, Double-striped Bluet [I think]); I watched countless skippers and bees and flies at work in the grasses and wildflowers; I stared at the swirl of chalk-white clouds in sky of different blues, high and low; I chatted with a friend about her recent surgery and together we found and relocated a swallowtail caterpillar.

But what stopped me was this.

Cardinal flowers, lilies, water, sun reflections. I couldn't stop staring and snapping.

After needed rain, everyone and everything is grateful for beauty.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

More Rain

Make yourself at home.

Stay a while.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Seeing the Self in Others' Writing

Two essays, read today, both personal -- but both about some interior part of me that I have recognized at isolated moments throughout my life.

In "David's Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World's Most Famous Statue," Sam Anderson writes about the first time he saw the David in person:

"I stood there in my filthy Birkenstocks feeling a sense of religious transcendental soaring: the promise that my true self was not bound by the constraints of my childhood — by freeway exits, office parks, after-school programs, coin-operated laundry rooms at dingy apartment complexes, vineyards plowed under and converted into Walmarts, instability, change, dead dogs, divorce. No. The David suggested that my true self existed most fully in some interstellar superhistorical realm in which all the ideal things of the universe commingled in a perpetual ecstasy of harmonizing trumpet blasts. If such perfection could exist in the world, I felt, then so many other things were suddenly possible: to live a perfect life creating perfect things, to find an ideal way to be. What was the point of anything less?"

I know about that "interstellar superhistorical realm." In Italy, I felt it, not from standing before the David but from standing in the Cornaro Chapel before Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa and in the Galleria Borghese before his Apollo and Daphne, The Rape of Proserpine, and David (see here and here and here). For me, it's the same heightened experience I feel at times (not every time) that I walk with a camera, especially in nature.

Writer Katherine Towler says this in her essay "Why Do Writers Love Birding So Much?":

"With birds I have found another way of being in the world. The time devoted to watching birds is about nothing but what is right there in front of me. I am released from myself instead of sent deeper within. I am immersed in the senses, and freed of turning that experience into a narrative. Until I went out looking for birds, I did not understand how much I hungered to leave the self-consciousness of the writer behind."

I am not a writer or a birder, but if I remove those specific references, I recognize my own leaving "self-consciousness" behind in the fugue state of looking at what I have never before truly noticed. At essay's close, she writes,

"On a summer day, the song sparrow in my back yard gives his sweet, loopy song over and over in a repetition that is insistent. Listen to me, he says. Look out the window. Feel the sun on your face. I lived in my house for more than ten years before I noticed and identified the song sparrow. It seems inconceivable that he was calling to me all that time and I did not hear him, but I’m listening now."

Substitute seeing for listening and that's me. That's why I walk with my camera. That's why I lose all sense of time in an art museum or beside a pond. That's the state of suspended of deep knowing I am lucky enough to experience from time to time, the flow that relieves the mundanity of otherwise ordinary living.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Challenge of Leaving the Kitchen


The sound.

The spent leaves

The long-awaited rain.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Challenge of Walking out of a Parking Lot

If yesterday was a challenge on a walk, today was even more so.

I went to the hospital to see Boo. As soon as I parked my car, I realized two pairs of Wandering Gliders were busily ovipositing on top of the shiny blue car right next to mine.

Let's call it Lake Ford Escape.

Here's what I watched till they finished; then I finally went inside.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Challenge of Walking Home

A visit to the garage, where I left my car in the capable hands of my mechanic and his youngest daughter, whom he is training. (He's a feminist! Who knew!)

Then a walk up the trail, ten minutes at most, but extended to 45. Not by intention, but because I was distracted by

  • the Shenanigans window's carnival mirror reflection of Woody's Bicycles
  • a male Diana butterfly, still considered rare but certainly present here in wooded areas, nectaring
  • a large sulphur butterfly darting down the creekbed
  • acrobatics of a Tiger Swallowtail balanced on the tip of a long weedy branch
  • the Red-spotted Purple puddling in gravel at my feet
  • prismatic argiope webs, one after another, catching a little light in heavy shade
  • two hawking Black Saddlebagsin front of the Chapel of the Apostles, darting from lamp to steeple, high above my head and low below my knees
  • glow of the newly restored dorm, all golden against azure sky

Good thing the car won't be ready till tomorrow. My eyes are sore.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches

we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Monday, August 15, 2016

What Startles

Settled comfortably in the study, we chose a Netflix children's film, turned off the lights, and started watching our British movie. A time-travel narrative during World War II on a beautiful estate with mysterious atmosphere.

One of them, on seeing the slow appearance of a ghost child in a movie, let out the longest-loudest-mostpiercing scream I had ever witnessed and the other covered her face leaving only the widest-open eyes I've ever seen visible.

Why was that scary? I asked when I could collect myself.

Ghost girls always frighten me, the 11-year-old answered.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I believe in reincarnation, he replied.

I don't, the 9-year-old said, and I wasn't scared.

Then why did you cover your face and unpeel your eyes so they looked like saucers? I asked.

Because his scream scared me, she said.

It gave me a headache, I said.

However, 15 minutes later, I started laughing so hard that my diaphragm constricted, and it really hurt, and I couldn't stop, and they started laughing too, and then we all laughed. Finally, we talked about Munch's scream, and all of us imitated it, and we kept laughing and laughing and laughing.

A little later, he and I walked into the kitchen.

When I saw this in the window above the sink, I started. He exclaimed, Wow! What is that? I didn't know, till I turned around and saw that I had left the light on in the little washing machine pantry. The window reflected the light leak. You should blog about that! he added.

And so I have.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gratitude Before Departure

One last snap, on the road again, and delivery to their mother,

new wheels and all.

Friday, August 12, 2016

It's Not the Snake That Always Strikes

The little water snake slithered from the muddy bank into the water and I stood on stones and leaned and snapped, and moved down to new stones and leaned and snapped, and down again to new stones and leaned and snapped, legs spread far apart, and the right stone slid out from under my foot, and I stumbled forward and forward and forward into the water, holding the camera high like Lady Liberty the lamp.

The cellphone and spare camera battery are bagged in rice. The camera seems fine. My shoes are filthy and still wet. And the three of us -- my great-niece and great-nephew are recovering quietly.

I only wish my friend Sarah, who witnessed the event and laughed heartily, had been able to make good on this wish: "If only I had my cell camera to take a video!"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Light Landing

A day in the car, to and from North Carolina, to pick up two Greats for a visit.

The journey ended with this.

Home again, with children and Skipper.

 Life is good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Before My Eyes Were Dilated

I saw this.

Sometimes I am really really lucky.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Not the First, Not the Last Post to Mention Edward Hopper

For previous mentions, see Hopper Leitmotif, Noon in the Village, and Storm Chasing (there are others).

But today, there's this, and it's remarkable.

I will have trouble waiting, for more.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Easy lies the head that wears the crown

and eats chocolate ice cream.

Hospital? Who cares!

Sunday, August 7, 2016


"Aren't you the nature photographer?" he asked when I got out of the car.

"Yes! Dragonflies and damselflies!"

"We've met before," he said.

"I remember! Are you leaving?"

"Not yet," he said, grabbed some soft drinks from the back of his trunk, then headed through the gate toward the dam.

When I caught up some minutes later, I saw him and his wife, toast each other with their blue plastic cups.

"What are you toasting?" I asked when I was close enough.

"This is our mid-summer toast," she said, smiling. "A bit late, but this is our first visit this summer."

We chatted a while, reminding each other that we're all teachers (they've been retired about nine years), commenting on the beautiful afternoon, before I took off toward the odes.

An hour or so later, I followed them back through the gate.

They love wildflowers and always consult their guide to Tennessee ones, the same book I have on a shelf. They also read when the come, classics mostly, each a different book.

"So many Virginia meadow flowers this year!" he said

"Yes," I said, "but no cardinal flowers, thanks to the really big mow."

"Don't worry. They'll come back," he assured me.

"How long does the drive back home take?"

"About two hours or so," he said, "depending on the Chattanooga traffic."

"That's an awfully long way to come to read and see flowers!"

She said, "We love it here. Reminds us of Europe. There's something magic about Sewanee."

"Especially Lake Cheston. It's so peaceful and beautiful," he added. "We're headed to Green's View next."

"Just know that it's changed a bit," I warned them. "It might not be as accessible as it used to be."

"Oh," she said, "we always manage. As long as we can get there, we always manage. I'd never let this slow me down."

Afterwards, at the hospital, I thought about mobility -- hers, Boo's, and mine. 

I think it's time to stop complaining about my bad feet.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Another Movie Night, Missed

Still in the hospital, hearing worse than ever, my elderly friend recovers, slowly.

She hates the yellow-orange gown, but at least she can wear one of her bright slippers.

Sometimes, she's in a chair when I visit.

It's easier to focus on what's familiar instead of what's not.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Back to the Basics

Sometimes I forget how obsession started.

And then something like this happens:


Thursday, August 4, 2016


What My Father Taught Me

Know the difference between a Phillips head from a regular screwdriver.

Get several different sizes of each.

Own a good heavy hammer.

Always have tools at hand. 

If it's broke, fix it.

What My IT Colleagues Taught Me

If it's broke, fix it.

If it can't be fixed, kill it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What I Can No Longer Find at Lake Cheston

(thanks to the annual "close shave," which this year has meant The Great Mow-down Without Recovery)

I can at least find in J's garden: cardinal flower.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

No Choice

Had to stop.

Surely you see why.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Old Friends

closer than I've ever snapped them before.

What's familiar made strange anew.