Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sometimes but not often

I find something so remarkable, so strange, so deeply moving that I must save it here for re-viewing. Long live Benjamin features artist Allen Hirsch and his abiding love of a capuchin monkey rescued from a street child in Venezuela. Since watching it earlier, I have thought of nothing else. I suspect it will stay with me a very long time.

Monday, February 27, 2017


by Jimmy Santiago Baca

     for Tony

I could not disengage my world
                                from the rest of humanity.
                                Wind chill factor 11° below. All night
wind thrashes barechested trees
like a West Texas tent evangelist
                                hissing them on his knees,
                                         sinnn . . . sinn . . . sinn . . .
                                         All night wind preaches.

Old tool shed
behind my house
fist-cuffs itself to nail-loose tin,
horse pasture gates
clank their crimes,
while neighing black stallions of rain
stampede on the patio
fleeing gunshots of thunder . . . .

Miles south of here,
nightscopes pick up human heat
that green fuzz helicopter
dash panels.
                    A mother whispers,
         Sssshhhh mejito, nomás poco más allá.
                                 Nomás poco más allá.
Dunes of playing-dead people
jack rabbit under strobe lights
and cutting whack/blades,
                     “Ssshhh mejito.
                    Sssshhhh.” Child whimpers
                    and staggers in blinding dust
                    and gnashing wind.

Those not caught, scratch sand up
to sleep against underbellies
of roots and stones.

Eventually Juanito comes to my door,
sick from eating stucco chips—
his meals scratched off
walls of temporary shelters,
and Enrique, who guzzled water
at industrial pipes
pouring green foam out
at the El Paso/Juarez border,
and Maria steaming with fever,
face dark meteorite, whispers,
                    “Where I come from, Señor Baca,
                    a woman’s womb is a rock,
                    and children born from me,
                    drop like stones, to become dust
                    under death squad’s boots.”

And Juanito,
                    “They came at midnight
                    and took my brothers. I have
                    never seen them since. Each judge’s tongue
                    is a bleeding stub of death, and each lawyer’s
                    finger a soft coffin nail.”

And Enrique,
                    “You can trust no one.
                    Each crying person’s eye is a damp cellar
                    where thieves and murderers sleep.”

They have found refuge here
at Black Mesa.

The sun passes between our lives,
as between two trees,
one gray, one green,
but side by side.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Learning from People I Don't Know

I posted several pictures to 500px yesterday, including a heavily shadowed photo of the art studio building. Almost immediately, a photographer whose work I've admired wrote, "Very nice minimal shot, love the hard shadows." Encouraged by his compliments and inspired by similar photos, I set out today intentionally looking for hard shadows. I found plenty.

When I chat with students about university compositions, I try to distinguish between reports and essays. I think I'm finally leaving "reports" behind, and I like it.

(Until odonate season.)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Feeling Good in a Time of Bad Feelings: An Informal Guide to Self-therapy


Go for a walk. Alone. With someone. Or with a companionable dog. Even in rain and fog and cold temperatures.


Read the news less. Look at beautiful things more. Art. 500px photos. Instagram. Anything. Even street signs.


Do something I love. Experiment.


Speak to strangers.


Speak to known folks. Give compliments. "What a beautiful Short-haired Pointer!"


Share what matters.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Walking a dog, even someone else's dog, every morning has surprising benefits, chief among them socialization.

The kindness of a neighbor and her dog Panda eases Gracie into new territory: friendship with a previously unfamiliar canine. Yesterday, after previously barking at the same pair several times over the course of different days, we happened upon Panda and her human on our way to the lake. We were invited to walk along beside, at some distance, and Gracie was allowed to sniff Panda's markings, and Panda to sniff Gracie's. After an enthusiastically boisterous beginning, Gracie settled into a companionable stroll. Today, when we met them on their way home and on our way out, Panda and Gracie shared a lovely moment of rest while the humans chatted.

A bit later, as we crossed a Lake Cheston bridge, we encountered two students taking advantage of their late first class (11 AM), soaking in the sun and blue sky and strangely (uncomfortably so) warm weather. Instead of barking at the seated young women, as has been her wont in the past on encountering unknown people, Gracie wagged and wiggled and they giggled and stroked her and took cell photos. Then, about halfway to the dam, Gracie spotted her first slider (my first slider of the year) sunning on the fallen tree where they often are. Instead of charging full-out toward it, Gracie assumed a position and stared a good long time. Still later, at the dam, as a gaggle of children and parents approached, Gracie stopped, accepted their smiles, and then moved on.

Even the players at the baseball field were just other points of interest, for us both, and we headed home feeling happy to have made such good relaxed acquaintance with those along our way.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Their Eyes

The University Art Gallery currently features large portraits of LGBTI South Africans. Zanele Muholi's Faces and Phases is beautiful and moving. No matter where I stood, or where I sat, or where I walked, I felt eyes holding me in their gaze, those eyes showing pride and sadness and deep dignity and pain and truth. For a bit, I sat to leaf through her book of more than 250 portraits taken over a period of eight years, a creative endeavor of skill and love.

I came home, wanting to know more, and found much, including this.

At a time of extreme "othering" and hate, I honor survivors and those like this "visual activist" who remind us of our common humanity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

And So Say I Says BigAssCat!

The Cat's Song

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness. 
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says 
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing 
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts. 

Let us walk in the woods, says the cat. 
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents, 
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt. 
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat. 

You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends, 
says the cat, although I am more equal than you. 
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body? 
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs? 

Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch. 
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard. 
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings 
walking round and round your bed and into your face. 

Come I will teach you to dance as naturally 
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long. 
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers. 
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word 

of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg 
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Good Girl, Gracie!

Wait . . . and she does.

 Wait . . . and she does.

Robley, she implies, wait . . . and I do.

Monday, February 20, 2017


I wish I really knew how to use my macro lens. I lie down, inch forward, squirm back, squinch, lean, hunch, stand, sit, set and reset every option, study the light and shadow and foliage, tinker, and still . . . nothing I take pleases me.

Breathe, I remind myself; relax, I repeat; remember -- it took more than a year to figure out a different camera and lens.

But the year unfolds now, always now, and still now, never waiting for me to catch up.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I imagine gliding like this, along the surface of water or deep in sleep, easy and peaceful, seeing things up close as never before or far away as never before, and then I remember my aching back, the nightly heating pad and fitful turning, one cat or another moving to take up new space, sometimes on that same pad where they glide effortlessly into sleep.

I'd like that.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Too Early for Spring

But no one has told
snowdrops (in all fairness, last year they bloomed winter to fall)
Lenten roses
star magnolia

What am I leaving out?

Oh yeah. A freeze.

Bound to happen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This Is What My Day's Been Like

Walk under blue sky. Happy dog. Happy human.

Discovery of Japanese Garden on campus.

Email, Facebook, newspapers.


Lunch, a treat, with a friend. Stimulating conversation. Great fun.

Visit with a neighbor. Laughter.

Long photography session.


Vacation planning.

Email, Facebook, newspapers.

Photograph editing, uploading.


Pure joy, like this lucky snap.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Picturing It Slant

So I cheated. 

The bridge to Hardee-McGee Field doesn't look exactly like this from underneath.

So what?

Thanks, Emily (Dickinson), for backing me up on this one:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant 

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What I Want to Remember Is This

Hearing her sing last night made me cry.

I am not religious.

But she makes me believe in belief.

And then I found this.

And I cried again.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sunny Hours

Before I started walking slowly with a camera, purposely paying attention to the world, one step at a time, I could not even imagine all the tiny miracles, those I missed seeing (in my own childhood yard, for example, with rocks, and trees, and flowers (wild and not), and creek, and caves, and forest) without knowing I was missing them, walking by, hurrying by, not taking time to suspend the hurry and the step to look, really look, but when I did slow up and start to look and listen, I noticed things that shot me right back to college, not to zoology or botany or geology, but to art history where learning to see what one looked at opened whole worlds of possibility, like architectural ornamentation, which brings me to this: circular forms, one man made (which, thinking it might be special, sent me to the internet only to discover that it's a cliched one of millions) and one natural (which surely a friend has identified and cataloged, but remains unidentified to me, even with his superior photos). 

I shall simply enjoy both and note their echoes of one another.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Gracie's Very Big Day

Licked ice and investigated a discarded plastic food tray.

Declared the liquor and wine bottles, beer cans, and huge plastic Sun Drop bottle lining the lake disgraceful.

Pointed at a bird and nest and leapt in fear when said bird flew away.

Beamed in sunshine.

Wandered the perimeter of the lower field and drank from the stream.

Studied an angel and listened politely to a lady chat about her daily visit to her husband's and two children's graves.

Enjoyed the big pet offered by a VISTA volunteer who loves her time in Sewanee.

Sniffed a pole while her walker snapped reflections on spotless University vans.

Accepted a biscuit for being a good girl on her return home after an hour-and-a-half walk.

Then bolted through the door and ran in big circles for about twenty minutes before plopping on her porch!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Of bugs

there is happily no end.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

If I Were a Reading Teacher

I would earn an F. I've been trying, but she hasn't. Not quite anyway.

Still I am finding things I'd like to photograph with a good camera. 

I am growing impatient with the limitations of a cell phone and the wet weather.

But not with Gracie. She's still young.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sometimes a Sunless Day Is Actually Pretty Good When It Begins Like This

Sewanee winter: fog, mist, drizzle, rain, drizzle, mist, fog.

Caution on the wet stones down into Abbo's Alley, where the snowdrops blossom, followed by one slip on the first wood bridge (good Gracie turned towards me, ran back, licked my face, waited while I stood), rain at the fish pond, a sit on the porch of the gardeners' shed, a tramp across South Carolina, mist again, slow trek up the hill past the theater, dorm, and archaeological dig where Rebel's Rest used to be, down University and across to the cornerstone walk-through, where Gracie was singularly unimpressed, and finally back home.

One hour in dampness, with good company, gladly dry inside my frayed Camden Town flea find (a 12-pound wool coat).

Life is good.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Quick and the Dead

Gracie visited both today, in cold mist, and judged both.
Her ears spoke for her: "Excellent!"

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Light and Shadow

The double pleasures of a clear blue sky and winter sun.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Each to Her Own


Chipped paint.



I need it.

Don't ask why.

I don't know why.

I just need it now.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Plea for Forgiveness

Dear K T

This is to say 
that I photographed 
your store's walls

cracks, crevices, holes
moldy paint chips
broken stucco chards 

My act may 
distress you as
much as one 

other business owner 
many years ago
but please know

my fascination in
in decay's beauty
expresses my reverence