Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Welcome Silence

All hail the snail.

How does one whisper in a blog. I am whispering.

As I watched, this small fellow/gal slowly emerged onto the lip of a rose blossom.

I cheered.

(Silent appreciation.)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Dose of Reality

With commencement this weekend, families are arriving, parties are starting, and visitors are wandering the campus. I can only hope that none of them visits any of the campus lakes. Should they do so, the reality may be a shock. Unlike the shiny brochures, webpages, and videos, the Domain is at times more like a dump than a beloved preserve.

Irony abounds within feet of a dorm and at the edge of a pond.

Monday, May 8, 2017

On any given beautiful day

I'd rather be skulking around the edges of a pond, teeming with odes and fish, joined by two undergrads who fish and release and a Canada Goose pair with two little ones and several golf team members, than almost anywhere else I can name.

Especially since this is the cleanest body of water on the campus. No surprise since it's part of a fancy "boutique inn."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

No Place I'd Rather Be

on Sunday morning at 10:30am than in the portico overlooking Guerry Garth so I can listen to the change bells ringing in the tower of Convocation Hall.

No matter the weather, I want to be there.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Blackberry Winter Anxiety



A bit of sun.

Rain again.

More cold.

I need to walk with a camera, and not just with a dog.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Term's End

A glimpse of someone's study spot: a reminder of what I do (the challenge of learning with guidance from a demanding teacher) and don't (exams -- taking them, writing them, giving them, grading them) miss.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


"[A] state of psychological well-being and positive perspective."

A long look on a quiet walk.

Followed by this.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

False Equivalence

Happiness ≠ Success

Here's proof.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Maud Lewis

Another folk artist, this time from Canada, whose story intrigues me.

Another film to put in my queue.

I am a sucker for the misfits who make things.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Collecting Pictures

Lately, my elderly has been sleeping when I stop to visit. Today, one of her caretakers invited me in because she wanted to chat with me about what might come next.

Suddenly, we heard her name.

"There she goes!" the caretaker said and headed down the hall.

In a minute, she came back in and said, "Chocolate ice cream! Go on in."

So I did.

"Whatcha got?" my friend asked.

I showed her irises, a wildflower close-up, Gracie, and another friend's cute dog.

Taking a long time to study each picture, she finished her ice cream and ordered more.

Then she asked, "Are you still walking the dog?" as she always does.

And after I answered, she asked, "How's J?" as she always does.

And after I answered, she asked, "What does she do?" as she always does.

And after I answered, she asked, "Does she still have a loom?" as she always does

And after I answered, she asked, "Why did she move here?" as she always does.

And after I answered, the caretaker returned with more ice cream.

Seeing my camera, my friend said, "Go on wherever you're going!"

"I'll see you some more," I said, but as I stepped out of her bedroom, she called "Robley!"

I turned back and in. "Yes?"

And suddenly she was laughing and stared out at the window and then at me and said, "I forget!"

Tomorrow I am going to show her more irises and this, and we'll have the same conversation all over again.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

On Torture

This morning, when coming up and out from Guerry Garth Gracie and turning into the covered walkway along the Quad, I saw a slug making its way toward grass and shrub. I paused, let Gracie slip out toward the student guide leaving her tour group and heading toward us. I cautioned her about the slug while she chatted and watched her step over the creature before continuing on ahead of us.

Then I came home and read this,


Who could have dreamed them up? At least snails
have shells, but all these have is—nothing.
Small black antennae like fat pins wave
as if they could take in enough to get them through.
Turn them over, they’re the soles of new shoes,
pale and unmarked as babies. They flow,
the soil itself learning how to move and, moving,
almost staying still, their silver monorail
the only evidence of where they’d been.
And they die quiet, or at least (thankfully)
out of the human ear’s range, between two stones,
under heels, shriveling in salt or piss, at the tips
of sharp sticks. Fight back, I hear myself say,
do something. Don’t just take it. But they die
as they had lived, exuding slime, like
the smaller boys, who’d just
stand there, miserable in short pants,
school socks down to their ankles,
school tie unknotted and askew, and flowing
from noses slow cauls of snot that
from time to time they’d lick or sniff back up
part way, until it flowed again, coating
the upper lip, falling into the mouth, mixing
with tears before anything had been done,
the fear itself enough, so even if we wanted
we couldn’t let them off. Sometimes it was
the knee “where you daren’t show your mother,”
other times the kick in the shins, the stick over
the head, the punch in the mouth, while they
just stood there, or double up, gasping
for breath, and we did it again.

Suddenly, I remembered that as a child I learned to pour salt on slugs. I watched them, delighted to see them shrivel, dying before me, without ever, even once, considering what I was doing. I want to think I fel pleasure because I was a child and because I believed that whatever a parent taught me to do was the right thing.

Since walking and looking and noticing, I am not so sure that I didn't enjoy the killing and dying for their own sake.

And I feel ashamed for years of mindless squashing.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ironies Abound

According to the University of the South: Sewanee's Guide for Living in Community: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, "Ecce Quam Bonum (EQB) is the University motto and describes our highest aspiration for community, lived out in expectations for our students. 'Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live in unity!' -- Psalm 133:1.' "

Note the operative words community and aspiration.

There's a reason why campus tours do not venture out to the on-campus lakes: garbage (i.e., liquor bottles, beer and soda cans, abandoned bicycles, take-out cartons, books and paper, used condoms and wrappers, underwear, . . .). 

Dragonflies don't care, even if I do.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Lucky Turn

into my driveway resulted in this

My love/hate relationship with my macro lens continues.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Coincidental Meeting

I snapped, cursed, and apologized. Another bad photo

She said, "Oh, that's OK."

Once I got the photograph, I walked past her and noticed the lovely outdoor stool. "Wow, that's a nice stool!" I said, turning to the land spit by the beach.

"Thanks!" she called.

"I could use one of those," and I really could. Sometimes it's a pain just waiting and waiting and waiting for the right shot.

I gave up, and turned back to the bridge where she sat, cross-wise, legs out, for a bit of rest.

"I apologize again," I said, and she stood.

I noticed her painting and asked about it.

"It's for a class."

"Art major?"

"No. Environmental Arts and Humanities."

Then I saw the Alabama Outdoors water bottle.

"Are you from Birmingham!"

"Yes," she answered.

"Me too!"

And we were off -- similar pleasures in our home town, similar complaints, similar interests, similar insights. Chat about schools, and majors, and plans for the future, and art, and photography.

When I got home, I suddenly realized I had spoken to the writer of this superior essay -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Jessie Hook.

I hope you enjoy it too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Regulars

"That a new hat? It's beautiful!" he commented as they approached me on the dam, the dogs trotting ahead.

"Yep. A wider brim. A fisherman's hat."

"It's beautiful," he said, and they headed for bridge. 

We're regulars -- the walkers/swimmers and I.

Like the pink lady's slippers and slant line moths who rest on them and the dragonflies and damselflies I photograph, we too know the place and enjoy its intimate pleasures.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rainy Day Musing on a Number

by Patricia Clark

You can have the grackle whistling blackly 
        from the feeder as it tosses seed,

if I can have the red-tailed hawk perched 
        imperious as an eagle on the high branch.

You can have the brown shed, the field mice
        hiding under the mower, the wasp’s nest on the door,

if I can have the house of the dead oak,
        its hollowed center and feather-lined cave.

You can have the deck at midnight, the possum 
        vacuuming the yard in its white prowl,

if I can have the yard of wild dreaming, pesky 
        raccoons, and the roaming, occasional bear.

You can have the whole house, window to window, 
        roof to soffits to hardwood floors,

if I can have the screened porch at dawn, 
        the Milky Way, any comets in our yard.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making My Own Entertainment

A quiet day: dog walk, brunch, work, social media, reading, making an image, blogging.

I suspect I have always been able to spend hours by myself, a habit more children might well develop. Silence is sometimes golden, but silence isn't always silent when the mind and imagination are at play.

After this

I discovered this

So what if it's still foggy and rainy? I've got sunshine aplenty inside.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sometimes I Miss Classroom Teaching

Yesterday on our walk, Gracie and I ran into a student we'd met before in Abbo's Alley -- Gil Horner. Both he and I said, "Haven't we met before?"

Previously, he'd been sitting on a bench in Trink's Terrace, where he was reading and enjoying the sunshine. We chatted then about his time here (he loves it), where he's from (south of Nashville), and the beauty of the campus.

Yesterday, a gray day, we met him on the sidewalk near the bookstore, and he walked with us all the way to the library, where he peeled off to study (but not before extending his hand and formally introducing himself). Along the way, I learned this: he is one of the first Hippocrates Fellows at Sewanee and that he will be here this summer for two courses, one of which is Medical Humanities. He wants to help people and already does through a number of service opportunities.

Here's what our ten-minute chat really tells me: he is a young man worth knowing, and his professors are lucky.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Snafu Day

A day spent fixing serious computer problems is not my idea of economical pleasure, even with the assistance of a great tech guy.

At least I took this cellphone snap while walking Gracie.

And I think the machine is happier.

For now.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Familiar and the Foreign

Heritage Flowers -- that's what I call my neighbor's peonies, descendents of her grandmother's flowers, dug and replanted and nurtured. Peonies like it here, and I like having them next door. They announce spring in a burst of color and passion, and love over generations.

Passion equal to this surprising performance by DkhaBrakha, a Ukrainian quartet.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nothing much to see

but plenty to hear in Abbo's Alley. When bird song lifts from the woods behind my house or from the woods along daily walks, I feel as if I were Gracie -- cheerful to be out and about and in the moment. Even she was content to stop so I could listen and make this recording before we wandered on. This is one of my favorite songs (a wood thrush, I think).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When it rains

it pours.

Three and a half inches.

In one period during afternoon.

Ruining prospects for a photowalk.

(I did trudge through rain with Gracie, at least.)

And what it poured was more than rain.

Two things of Noosa Yoghurt, to be exact.

I fool myself into thinking it's healthy just because it's delicious.

Even the packaging is delicious.

Ew is how I feel about the weather, but not about Noosa.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

At least has gone to Sewanee.

Not one of his three female companions nor I would touch the two full swim diapers on the beach bench.

T---, however, simply picked them up, holding each by thumb and forefinger, hands held well before his body, and then strolled casually to the trash can no more than 15 paces away.

The girls said, "We wouldn't have done that!"

Nor would I.

But T--- did.

He was the hero four women needed!

(Note: the women did best him in their newt netting, a loss he accepted without embarrassment, and all cheered when he finally called out, "I got one!")

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Easter Request

Today, my One-Hour-A-Day-Dog decided she would like to become an organist.

However, after my description of the stops, keyboards, and footboard -- familiarity I learned from playing the pipe organ at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Gracie turned in disappointment to mark yet another patch of grass, and I felt compelled to join her.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

When the neighbors visit

I remember how much I have missed making chocolate chip scones for early morning delivery and the sound of children laughing and playing.

Two of the neighbor three children now are now too old for the noise the youngest makes, one of the "three Ms," as her mother called the girls when she introduced me to the two BFFs.

When they leave, the neighborhood is less sparkly and more staid than I like it, but I can look forward to summer, and their happy return.

Friday, April 14, 2017

One benefit of walking Gracie --

my One-Hour-A-Day-Dog -- is chatting with folks on campus. Students often ask, "May I pet your dog?" or smile and nod (briefly looking up from their screens), or offer a passing hello, or even want to talk.

One young woman curled into an Adirondack chair, reading and enjoying the sunlight, hopped up and asked to pet Gracie. "Of course," I said. And then she told me about her dog.

"I remember how hard it was to leave my cat at home when I went to college. What year are you?


"It got a bit easier this semester, don't you think?"

"Yes," she said.

Gracie, meanwhile, was basking in the student's affection.

She told me she would major in psychology with a second emphasis in political science. "I love it here," she added. "I just love learning new things."

With that, we parted.

A bit later, I stopped to photograph this stencil on the sign. A student turned the corner, looked where I was looking, and said, "What's that?"

"I was hoping you might know!" I answered.

"No clue. But it looks like an insect, doesn't it?"

"Yep. I just love random things like this."

"Me, too," she said. "See ya!"

Conversations with strangers each morning, another reason why I enjoy walking with Gracie.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The first time

I saw a Lancet Clubtail emerge I nearly fell in the water. I was that excited. Truly.

Today, after walking Gracie, I decided to stop by Lake Cheston, where I watched about a dozen Lancets emerge -- all in different stages of development. And this time I was extra lucky: while watching two on one rock, I noticed a larva crawl up out the water on the rock just on the right. Then, throwing caution to the wind (the dam having just been given the Easter weekend close-cut, which usually lets loose the chiggers and ticks), I hunkered for a long while, snapping shot after shot after shot.

I left happy (even if still coming up short with the macro lens).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Death by Drowning

An underwater larva emerges from the water and becomes an air-breathing winged dragonfly. Most live air-borne only long enough to mate and ensure the survival of the species. But some die early.

Of drowning.

When I first learned this from reading, I was taken aback. An insect that had long lived under water drowns. That was one thing.

Seeing them drowned or drowning or being knocked into water by another of the same species is a whole other thing entirely.

Five today. I pulled out four -- those within reach, but only one survived (but I suspected she wouldn't for much longer because one wing was crimped). Not this one. He looked perfect, but he wasn't.

Every time I think I can make a difference.

Only sometimes can I.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Below, Above, Through

Seeing below and above and what lies between, like that odd space between sleeping and waking, not quite dreaming and not quite thinking, when a sliver of light parts the curtains, blown just a bit by a breeze, or the cat's shadow as she leans in to my face and for a moment I think she's something else, just a shadow.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The odes are coming


An oddly slow start to the odonate season may be coming to an end with the arrival of Common Whitetail, Springtime Darner, Carolina Saddlebags, and -- finally -- the Common Baskettail to Lake Cheston.

I'll just let the picture and video do the talking.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Well Used







We all use this bridge.

The love is beginning to show.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

I have very few friends who

understand me as well and tolerate me as patiently as does Florence, my former neighbor. Within ten minutes of walking into her kitchen for an overnight visit, I asked, "Would you mind if I take a few pictures of your garden before lunch?"

"Of course not!"

And so I did.

I do love tulips, but I love Florence so much more.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Day of Discovery

A friend sent me a review of Patrick Barkham's Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore. The reviewer wrote, "Bleak and windswept, the place [Scolt Head Island] was no idyll, and after an episode in which Barkham's father spotted two men stealing rare eggs but failed to persuade the island warden to confront them, the family stopped going there. Revisiting it 35 years on, Barkham surmounts the discomfort he felts as a child to achieve a dreamlike peace or hypnagogia -- no easy matter when you're swimming in the North Sea."

I am not British, nor have I a shore. I don't remember a non-idyllic place which my family visited, nor have I swum in the North Sea.

But I know hypnagogia.

I experience it every time I take pictures outside or in, when I see something beautiful and want to experience it both outside the frame and in it. At those moments, I suspend thinking and simply look and do.

Today, though, I paused long enough for the wind to die and realized that even when I take lots of not-so-great photos, I could keep doing it and keep failing all day. Happily.

Fortunately, after struggling to photograph a Shooting Star, I found something that doesn't move.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Spring strews signs of renewal everywhere,
without preference or favoritism.

If only people would do the same.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Good Thing There Was No Traffic!

On my way to the Lake Cheston upper parking lot, I cruised by the farm, noticing a whole lot of birds in the big double-tree (one of them's a flowering tree of some kind) across from the baseball field. In another ten yards, I screeched to a halt, backed up, drove into Old Farm road to turn around, raced back by the tree, stopped the car, looked again, then drove into Cobb Lane like a madwoman, pulled into the grass, and leapt out, leaving the car running.

Cedar Waxwings! Lots of them!

Craning my neck, I looked upwards and started snapping. Soon, I noticed a retired professor (who was walking the dogs) stop on the sidewalk across the street. "Cedar Waxwings!" I shouted. "I saw them when I was passing and turned right around." "You knew what they were from you car?" "Not at first, but when I got to the road up to the hoophouses, I realized what they were." "There sure are a lot of them," he said and walked on.

I stopped counting at 42. Some flew off, many stayed, others returned. Too high for a really sharp photo, but not too high to miss and never too high to enjoy.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Return to the Honey-hole

In one lovely visit to my two favorite ponds, these friends flew: Blue Corporals, Carolina Saddlebags, Common Green Darners, Fragile Forktails, Citrine Forktails, and Southern Spreadwings. The sky, and the grasses, and the bare limbs, and the just visible beginnings of leaves, and . . . so much to love. I could spend the day there and come home happy, even if the ode photos are all terrible.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Instead of

a 6-pack of my favorite beer
I bought
two 8-ounce tubs of Noosa yogurt.

Me for the WIN!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Day of Red

choir robes

fire and passion, too, in student, family, and colleague memorial service testimonies attesting to the powerful influence of a beloved Sewanee professor, a man I met a few times and left each time charmed and intrigued and touched by his quiet humor and intelligence

Saturday, April 1, 2017

If you need me

I'll be at the office with a few colleagues.

Friday, March 31, 2017

You Can't Always Get What You Want (Different Ode Species)

Sometimes you get something better.

I noticed the pair when they arrived with serious fishing gear and got to work. She caught something immediately, and then my attention strayed: Blue Corporals, at least six, emerging or having emerged (including one fatally injured with permanently crimped wings, never to fly, just hanging on).

Eventually, I noticed the man had moved across the lake and the young woman had wandered back to the grassy area near the beach where I stood. I asked her, “Catch and release or eat?”

“Catch and release!”

“Good choice!”

In a few minutes, she came over to ask what I was photographing. Once I showed her the emerging Blue Corporals, she was as hooked as I. 

Of different generations and backgrounds, we found our common ground: love of nature. Like me, she watches something terrible in a nature video and wonders, “Why don’t you guys do something instead of just taking the video?” Like me, she rescues things in need. Someone said to her once, “It’s just nature.” Her answer is mine: “Yes, but I’m there; I can do something, so why wouldn’t I!”

“Yes,” I said. “If I have a wreck on the highway, I hope some living thing that sees me will rescue me.”


From there we launched into stories of her life – what she had wanted to be (a mechanic, but her father had asked how will you lift heavy things? to which she said to me Uh . . . ask? with a half-smile and shrug), what she hated doing (hanging dry wall with her father), what she'd done that made her proud and taught her the big things in life (serve in the Air Force), what she has done for her sister (pay for everything for the sister and sister's baby for two years), and what she won’t do again (surrender herself so fully financially to someone else who could look at herself or himself). She also talked about sometimes wishing she were back in service for one reason: no big decisions. "Everything is decided for you and that's kind of comfortable."

She’s lucky. She has her health,  and smarts, and experience, and family. She said, “I keep asking if I can pay rent or buy the groceries or help out with the bills, but they always say no.”

“Good,” I said. “They know you need the time now to decide what comes next.”

“Yes,” she said. “And that’s the scary part.”

After I told her about Lake Dimmick and showed her the map, we parted, but not before we introduced ourselves.

“I really enjoyed talking to you, A_______.”

“Same here, Robley.” she said. “I’m really glad I walked over here.”

I am too.