Tuesday, January 31, 2017


she is not with program

Monday, January 30, 2017

Why Get All Het Up?

In the grand scheme of things, a crowd at the local garage/service station is no big deal.

Especially when one window looks like this in afternoon sun.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Tour

Gracie wonders what Chill Water means. (So does Robley.)

Gracie looks all ways before crossing University Avenue. (Robley wishes everyone would since she came within a foot of being broadsided by a stop-sign-running SUV loaded with party-hard girls only the day before.)

Gracie admires All Saints', but she doesn't go to church. (Robley does and doesn't too.)

Gracie likes strolling on campus. (Robley does too.)

Gracie is charmed by The Sewanee International Frisbee Golf Course. (Robley is puzzled.)

Swallowing a chunk of cheese pizza snatched from the grass, Gracie believes she makes Sewanee stronger and truer. (Robley isn't so sure she does.)

Both Gracie and Robley stare and listen in astonishment to the drunk male students leaning out a frat house window catcalling a barely dressed young woman stumbling through the front door and up the yard to a waiting car. Gracie and Robley shake their heads and walk on; they pass another frat house, where three male students are cleaning up the yard from their Saturday party. Gracie is impressed. (Robley is too.)

At home,Gracie welcomes her dog treat and sits with her mother and Robley. Gracie is happy. (Robley is too.)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Long Shadows

my cats
curled in beds
purr when 
I look
at them

a friend's dog
squeals when
on seeing me
before our 
daily walk

I hope
she sleeps
now with
her human
home today
from hospital

people & pets
suffer, wait


we are
the lucky ones

Friday, January 27, 2017

I wish I knew the story

of the graffiti on the old farm building, especially this almost day-of-the-dead man pointing to the ominous message.

Nothing's censored out there these days -- the goats and the chickens and the bees and the flowers all do their thing, sometimes even under a blue sky.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Not every trail is naturally pristine

but even twisted metal panels stuck in a "stream" look beautiful in the right light along the Village Trail.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The thing about gray winter days

is that every now then -- actually occasionally, only now that I think about it, truly rarely -- a sunny day or a sunny afternoon or even just a sunny hour pops up, reminding me why I feel imprisoned.

This was yesterday.

Today was gray.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lightened Load

early blooming in Abbo's Alley

Monday, January 23, 2017

Local Color Observations


Usually, the multicolored Asian lady beetles swarm my house in October. Full sun blasts my western-facing entrance (door and windows and wall), and the insects gather in huge numbers, often squeezing their way inside.

This year, they didn't. The drought, I suspected. I was relieved -- no taping around the door, no vacuuming the hordes up and flushing them (one of the very few bugs I intentionally kill).

But in the last week, we've had a bit of sun on two days (one lots, one only a little; this is the rainy season), and on each occasion I saw a couple of beetles -- here and there.

Like this one, on a University stone bench between my house and the bookstore, tiny and alone, taking in the sun as I was, on one of the only opportunities of late to do so. I know they "rest" otherwise, in crevices of bark or narrow spaces between windows and walls.

Their intermittent appearance is an odd reassurance that life goes one, even in the darkest days.


Abandoned bikes also appear mysteriously, and sometimes disappear. A still new Schwinn (rapidly aging) has been locked to the rack in front of the bookstore for months. I think I saw it even in summer. No one has ever claimed it. A perfectly good bike, in situ, since the owner left it there.

I can't help wondering about her, the owner (it is a woman's bike), and why she never returned. 


Unlike the beetles, campus bike owners often simply disappear, leaving the hardware behind.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Medical Heroism

NPR, PBS Newshour, and The New Yorker recently featured Atul Gawande discussing the importance of primary care physicians who offer what he calls "incremental care." He cites statistics that show while primary care physicians are among the most poorly remunerated and least well treated by insurers, their care has the most profound impact on improving the quality of and length of our lives.

I saw my PCP a few days before reading and viewing Gawande. In his comments I recognized my own doctor. I've lived in many places, and I've had many physicians, but none has been a better listener and adviser than he is. I am one of the lucky ones.

I only wish in this time of healthcare uncertainty that every other citizen could have the same access to this basic human right: quality, continuing care. We'd all be better for it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today Some Friends Were Asked "Why March?"

One responded, "Because I can."

I couldn't; I can't.

My feet.

But I do this to resist: I stroll every day. I look for something beautiful. I chat with strangers. Today, it was with students waiting for friends to emerge from their comps. Sometimes I hear something beautiful. Today, it was students cheering their friends when they emerged. It was also the All Saints' pipe organ; someone was practicing.

It's a small thing I do, but I do it because it clears my mind.

And because I can.

Friday, January 20, 2017

One person's old junk

is another's new pleasure.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Earlier this month, when the death of art critic and writer John Berger was announced, I remembered watching and then later reading his (for me) revolutionary Ways of Seeing.  Anyone who saw even the first 45 seconds of Episode 1 must have felt as shocked as I: this was something new on television, something worth watching because it challenged and rewarded the viewer. 

I felt a shift in me then (as I did when I saw Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of ManCarl Sagan's Cosmos, and James Burke's Connections). All opened my mind to ways of thinking -- about art and culture, science and the universe, technology and human inventiveness -- that formal education never adequately reached.

With the latest news suggesting that federal funding may be ended for the Public Broadcasting Service, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities; with the horrific images of terrorists destroying historic world treasures; with this country's accelerated focus on data-driven testing in education as opposed to deep learning, I long for public discourse that elevates and honors the beautiful, majestic, mysterious creativity and imagination of the species.

Doors and windows, opening and opening, one into another.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

You're Never Too Old to Learn Something New

In my twenties, I photographed the same things I do today -- natural environments, flora and fauna, weathered wood, chipped paint, abandoned buildings.

Only now that I have joined 500px, I have learned that what I've been especially obsessed lately is called "urbex." Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:

"Urban exploration (often shorted as urbex or UE, and sometimes know as 'roof-and-tunnel hacking') is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and, although it may sometimes involve trespassing onto private property, this is not always the case."

Currently, I have been stalking two blocks of Decherd, just down the mountain. At times in the distant past, the town boomed, thanks in part to the railroad. Boo tells me that in the old days ( she's in her nineties), folks from atop the mountain had to go down to Decherd to get a train. The tracks are still there, but the boom moved to four-lane highways. One runs from the interstate to the northeast through Decherd to points west; along this corridor, Nissan has built a huge manufacturing plant. The other runs across and down the mountain, into the valley, and through Decherd to Nashville; along it are big box stores -- Walmart, Home Dept, Chinese restaurants, the Co-op, among others.

I used to drive a Nissan and I often frequent some of these highway establishments, but none operate out of buildings as beautiful as what continues to crumble on the old main street.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


When I visit Boo, I sit quite near her, where she reclines on her couch. I show her pictures (she enjoys them), sometimes read her a blog post (she enjoys those too), and tell her what news I might have.

It's hard sometimes, though, to focus on her, not because I don't want to, but because the needlepoint tapestry hanging on the wall behind her distracts me, so striking is it in design, color, careful stitching.

I needle-pointed myself, a long time ago, and no matter how hard I tried, I always pulled my stitches too much in one direction (usually the right). Even blocking didn't always correct my errors. Only twice did I follow someone else's patterns (Christmas stockings). Otherwise, I made my own -- Winnie-the-Pooh characters for children's rooms, backgammon boards (including one designed in imitation of Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie), house portraits.

Boo has told me the story of this tapestry before -- several times, but I always confuse its origin with the figures parading below, spread out on a mirror, making them even more enchanting. They, I think, are Indian, but the tapestry may simply have been one of her nephew's "finds."

At any rate, I look at the tapestry and speak with my elderly friend, slowly and loudly so she can understand my words. And I try to answer the questions she asks, the same ones each visit, the same ones many times in each visit, and I remember that, like the tapestry, her words and memories once fitted together in tight patterns, stitched carefully in her mind, and I think on all the other old folks I've known like her in advanced age.

If only I had paid more attention earlier.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Another Year to Remember

I saw the film Hidden Figures today, an inspiring film about extraordinary black women who couldn't even live ordinary lives because of segregation. I left the film uplifted and angry. Uplifted because they and others managed to succeed despite all the odds against them and because their example is one all should follow. But angry at the way we still treat Others (i.e., not male or white) in this country. Angry too that I had no idea women of color were so seminal in the development of the space program. Despite my being well educated and being an educator, I had never encountered this story before. Angry that so many people and their contributions go unsung or worse so many never have a chance to pursue their talent and make contributions to others. I wonder what we as a nation have learned and done since the time of the film. I fear what we are doing now and will do in the near future.

I have written before about race and racism -- here and here and here, among other posts. Today, I re-publish an essay my brother wrote about the quiet ways extraordinary people can move others, even in the most ordinary of circumstances.

New York Times
Published: April 3, 2013

FORTY-FIVE years ago, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. went to a small dinner party in Atlanta, not far from the campus of Emory University. It was a quiet January night in 1968. I was one of the guests.

Our hostess, Wanda White, was a young public-school teacher. In the fall of 1967, she worked with Mrs. King, helping with her schedule, as well as other personal and professional responsibilities. During a conversation, Wanda asked the Kings over for a low-key dinner. They accepted, and Wanda invited some of her close friends. (All of us were white.)
My best friend, Larry Shaw, and I were invited to the dinner. He came from a long line of salt-of-the-earth skilled tradesmen anchored in Appalachian South Carolina and the red clay fields of Georgia. My father was a successful industrialist in Birmingham, Ala. We anticipated the approaching dinner with the empty-headed excitement of young people who rarely think beyond their own self-interest.
For us, in fact, the thrill was primarily in meeting a real-life celebrity. Wanda’s corgi heard the Kings’ car before we did. He rushed to the door and flipped over to offer his belly in greeting as the Kings stepped in. As Mrs. King bent down to give him a scratch, Dr. King asked to use the telephone. I took drink orders. Knowing that the Kings were Baptists and most Baptists — white Southern Baptists anyway — didn’t drink, I made sure to tell Mrs. King that we had nonalcoholic beverages.
“I’ll have a Coke, thanks.” She seemed shy and a little nervous. I was, too.
Dr. King was neither shy nor nervous. When he came back, I asked him the same question. “Any Baptists here?” he asked with a smile. “No, sir,” I said. “We’re all Episcopalians.”
The grin blossomed into a smile. “Good! I’ll have Scotch on the rocks.”
Mrs. King blurted, “Well, I’ll have cream sherry.” Everyone laughed, and the early stiffness relaxed.
At the table Wanda, Larry and I regaled the Kings with tales of our common avocation, breeding and showing purebred dogs. (For days afterward we wondered whether the Kings were more bemused than amused, but they were good sports for all that.) Larry told them about the boarding kennel he ran to support his show dogs, and I talked about my graduate studies in art history.
Gradually the conversation moved to more serious topics, and Dr. King himself talked about the blight of poverty on our national life, as well as his feelings against the Vietnam War. Of the three of us, only Wanda had turned her moral attention to issues beyond race, which seemed to be one of the only things that preoccupied Southern liberals in those years. Self-absorbed as I was, only later that year did I begin to realize how prophetic his words were.
After dinner Dr. King asked Wanda if he could use the telephone again. When he came back, he settled onto the sofa next to me. I tried to think of something clever to say, but before I could speak, he asked why I was studying for a Ph.D. in art history. He asked what I thought art could accomplish that other forms of communication could not. I remember that he said that he’d rarely discussed art, or even thought much about it. As I stammered an answer I cannot recall, he listened with the concentration of someone who genuinely wanted to understand. Never before, and rarely since, had I witnessed such authentic humility. It was so simple, so powerful a form of energy that for a few moments it freed me from bondage to myself.
A conversation that cannot have lasted more than 10 minutes ended up changing the way I thought about my life. When I got back to New York, my viewpoint toward earning a doctorate shifted. The determination to use my education to become a famous scholar gradually made room for a half-baked resolution to become a useful art historian. I began to consider the moral or religious content of Renaissance art; and once I got a job teaching art history at an institution whose values encouraged me to develop that ambition, teaching became a means for me to help students identify and examine their own values. That remains my goal. The short conversation I had with Dr. King had a lasting effect.
The next morning Mrs. King called Wanda. We learned that after dinner he’d called to tell the person who would pick them up to come at 11:30, rather than 10:30, as planned. She thanked Wanda for a pleasant evening. She also told Wanda that she and Dr. King were looking forward to inviting us to their home, perhaps when I returned from New York.
Of course, there was no next time. A few minutes before 8 p.m. on April 4, 1968, I arrived at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University to give my first seminar report. As soon as we walked out of class at 10, we learned that Dr. King was dead.
William Hood is a professor emeritus of art history at Oberlin College and a visiting professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Another Conversation with a Stranger

When I turned from one side of the Decherd street toward the other, a woman hesitated to walk in front of me and my camera. I lowered it.

She paused and said, "Nice day for a walk, isn't it?"

"It is! It's lovely. I like to walk too."

"Good for the spirit and the body!"

I nodded. "I take a walk every day."

She smiled. "Young people. They sit around and sit around. If they don't get up and move, how will they get up when they're old?" 

I laughed. "So true!"

"Nice view," she said, looking across the street where I had focused. "Enjoy yourself!"

"Enjoy the day!"

She continued up the street.

I took the picture, but now when I look at it, I see her too -- bony, but healthily; her wrinkles pronounced, deep, like the lines an artist might make with a thin Sharpie; lively eyes; dyed black hair, a bit below the shoulder, parted just off center where a small widow's peak of white-white hair lifted.

A beautiful woman, surprisingly genial, genteel even, like the empty storefronts -- old but glowing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A New-ish Pleasure

Because a friend is laid up, I have discovered the pleasures of walking her dog Gracie. I have walked her several times recently and today offered to walk her every day, an offer I hope might be accepted. 

I like walking behind Gracie, feeling the lead loosen every few feet or so, watching her sniff and sniff (sometimes open-mouthed) along a stone or branch or tiny stem and leave her own territorial mark, admiring the way she throws her nose and face into a pile of leaves to root around for something living that she never (thankfully) produces or rummages upwards. 

Her pleasure is mine. 

I borrowed her today while her human's human ran an errand, and I got the better of the bargain.

Gracie wants to be an archaeologist when she grows up, a desire she proved in front of the site of Rebel's Rest, which burned several years ago. She should consider an apprenticeship under the direction of the University archaeologist, who, with students and community volunteers, has been digging up the grounds where the structure once stood. Whether digging for gold or mole, I cannot say, as Gracie produced neither valuable nor vermin.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Gray Sky vs Blue Sky

At the University Farm today, the manager and I chatted about the abundant spinach and chard, the new method of keeping plants warm under covers in extreme cold, a possible student research project in the physics of the plants' warmth under those covers, the squirming larvae due to arrive at the beginning of the semester, and the advantages of photographing plants under gray sky. These advantages can easily be seen.

Their colors do indeed pop.

Even the old dairy building in which the culled deer are refrigerated before butchering and much of the farm's equipment are stored has a certain beauty under our typical winter sky. 

The red bittersweet, ochred wood, fading graffiti do indeed pop.


In a contest of one versus the other, I'd take a strong blue sky and shadows any day.

Even today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When Breakfast Is the Best Way to Start a Day

Start with something forgotten: a distant friend's Christmas gift with a name that makes two insider insights at one and the same time -- a reference to my favorite I-always-cry-when-it-happens line from my favorite movie (think Scout/aka Mary Badham saying "Hey, Boo" upon seeing Boo Radley/aka Robert Duvall in Jem's/aka Phillip Alford's bedroom in a great scene from To Kill a Mockingbird) and a reference to a favorite Sewanee friend whose nickname is Boo and whom my friend met when she visited Sewanee; then make sure that that something forgotten is as delicious as this Indonesian "jam," a delicious riff on curd that I could love on anything, even just a spoon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Because Felis catus

Interior Designer

Plea Bargainer

Carpet Cleaner and Photo Bomber

Nursing Aide

Apprentice Tutor

Monday, January 9, 2017

What's Not to Love?

from above the narthex of All Saints' Chapel.

through the winding stairs' window on my way down

in Gracie's joy