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.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Udderly Fabulous

Bluebells: in fog, rain, drizzle, sleet, or sun -- ring loud and proud.

Noosa: seriously beautiful, seriously delicious

Today: fabulous.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

One Hirsute Ode

My brother teneral Blue Corporal is an hairy bug.

with apologies to and great affection for Alan Bennett and Beyond the Fringe

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Good Dog, Gracie

Today, I read a cartoon by an artist called Bird Born about adopting a dog from an animal shelter. The story reminds me of Gracie who, like the adopted dog is a bit ill-mannered but also very joyful and lively.

She is becoming less ill-mannered in our daily walk but no less joyful. Today, when I had to sit to remove a sharp nut shell from my shoe, she consented to sit and take in the view, then to lie down and wait. She has learned this new skill as well as this command "s-l-o-w s-l-o-w s-l-o-w" when we walk on wet wooden bridges, slick and slippery with grunge.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Maybe Soon

The records say this is the warmest year so far in history, with February breaking all the records.

All I know is that we have had rain and rain and more rain, making for a slow start to damselfly/dragonfly emergence. Even though I can't prove it with a decent photograph, I saw a Common Green Darner cruising the lake today, flying fast, darting in and out of shore vegetation, on the make.

The frogs already got to it some weeks ago and now the toads too. Suddenly, the overflow channel (bone dry much of last summer) waves their egg masses and jelly strands.

Maybe there's hope yet for a lively renewal in and around the water.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Sun Came Out (Briefly) Today

while I was working, wind still racing. Too late for ode hunting, but not too late for reflection during my work break.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

This time last year

I had documented Fragile Forktail (March 15), Blue Corporal (March 22), Green Darner (ovipositing March 22). Common Baskettail arrived on March 27.

As of now: Fragile Forktail.

Out of frustration, I went elsewhere to find something difficult to shoot. This is the result:

Nowhere near as good or as satisfying as odes, dadgummit.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Windows (Again)

Confession: my cousin and I once sneaked downhill to peer into the windows of a neighbor's house to see what we could see. I had not read Harriet, the Spy, and he most certainly had not. But I had read Nancy Drew mysteries, so I fancied myself a detective of domestic life -- others' domestic life. The two of us wrote (maybe even only once) a neighborhood newspaper, featuring what we imagined might have happened in our grandparents' former house.

For me now, windows shine most without people like these stained glass panes in a chapel door, sunlight splashing their colors on a dark wall.

I don't need a story -- fictional or factual. The windows are enough.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Blue Tarps

I first encountered them in photographs of Katrina's aftermath, then on houses atop Sand Mountain after the April 27, 2014 tornadoes, and now across the openings of old sheds/wooden garages and around the farm in Sewanee.

A symbol of suffering and destruction, they cheer me here -- flapping, snapping in wind; shadowing in strong sunlight; fraying from weathering and age. Today, one hoop house tarp clapped and ruffled, clapped and ruffled, clapped and ruffled, in a curiously moving rhythm.

And I was happy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I keep thinking "any minute now"

but all I've seen are
one beetle
two just-waking overwintering wasps (in my own house and one of those stung me)
Fragile Forktails almost three weeks ago
and one fat tick embedded in me

I grow impatient for the odonate explosion

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Conversation with a Former Stranger

I must have missed the memo about the burn along Day Lake Road, but when I saw Susie, I knew to ask her.

"Hi!" I called across her wide yard when I saw her electric cart turn into the driveway.

"Well hello, honey! How have you been?"

"Great! Mind if I walk over?"

"Come on! Any time!"

And with that, I set out. Her little blonde dog, a squashed sausage of Chihauhua, knows me so he didn't bark, but Johnny -- her small black foster whom she adopted -- doesn't, so there was a lot of circling and barking, all harmless.

I asked about the burned field beyond her property, and her reply was, "Oh they did that a while back. Didn't tell us a thing. Never do."

"They" means the University.

Maybe, we thought together, it's to renew the land, or to burn off invasive plants, or to prepare the field for the farm.

Finally, we chatted about her missing old blind horse, happily living now on a big farm about an hour from here, and her brother who might lose a foot, and her health, which has improved since last summer (her color is back), and her neighbor who is my cat sitter.

This is what I love most about frequenting places where the true locals live. Invariably, they have been friendly and welcoming.

"See you soon, honey!" called as I turned toward the car, and then "Johnny, stop that!"

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Red, White, and Blue

With the help of volunteers and VISTA members, programs for inmates in the Grundy County Detention Center include dog handling, art, meditation, and GRE studies. This afternoon I went to see an art show featuring work by four incarcerated women. Each had created four works -- including a mandala, a hand and "moving" lines, a small geometric design, and a collage.

To the cynic who wonders if art has "purpose and value," I would point to this revelation by one the women, writing about her collage: she included a photo of core ice cream because "I love it and because it reminds me I need to work on my core of my being and bring it out."

Like this abandoned building across the street from the courthouse, something may look broken, but it can still be beautiful.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Readers' Comments

in newspapers are, I find, generally not readable. Even when the essay writer is a scholar/scientist, seemingly ordinary people feel free to argue against facts. Only because I know the writer did I read some of the comment in response to David Haskell's "The Seasons Aren't What They Used to Be" published in the New York Times.

Not all of them, mind you, because a few readers troll so freely and so illogically that I grow itchy to beat a fast exit. For example, "Expatico" wrote this:

Haskell asks, "Why do we not act?" Because, Mr. Haskell, we like our cars, our central heating, our big-box stores, refrigeration, electricity, airplane travel, modern medicine, television and iPhones much more than the prospect of returning to subsistence farming. Because the promise of "green energy," which I've been hearing about for four decades, remains but a figment of the Left's religious imagination. Because "sustainable agriculture" would only produce a fraction of what "fossil-fuel enhanced" agriculture can generate, thanks to fertilizers, pesticides and labor-saving machinery, so hundreds of millions of people, if not billions, would starve to death. Because human beings, whether in India or China, are hard-wired to acquire more, not less, and will happily mouth environmental platitudes while buying yet another big-screen television. Because, Mr. Haskell, nobody wants to go back to pre-Industrial civilization. 

Do you?

I confess that I am a bit cheeky or snarky myself, but honestly -- I can't help wondering why some folks even read the papers. Is it simply to express anger? Or make a smart retort? Or get their names/pseudonyms in print?

I suppose Expatico would question even the expertise of this 16-year-old and her Australian Shepherd, whom she has trained:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wind Sock

"A tapered tubular cloth vane, open at both ends and having at the larger end a fixed ring pivoted to swing freely, installed at airports or elsewhere to indicate wind direction and approximate intensity."

"An elegant structure so intensely beautiful that one must park at the airport and walk across the grass to admire it." Anonymous (who may or may not be the author of this blog post)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Unintended Irony

The sign says "Historic District," pointing left. Each time I follow that sign I am puzzled. Other than an old train station (always closed), the "historic district" consists of several blocks of abandoned and derelict buildings.

What must people think?

Say "Scottsboro" to someone with a bit of education, and that person will complete the phrase with "The Scottsboro Boys," the infamous miscarriage of justice against innocent boys accused of rape. Today, folks with far less education, will think "Unclaimed Baggage."

But neither the event nor the place appears in the "historic district."

No one expects this.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Day of Love

for former students and what they share.

First up: a Presbyterian minister shared this, for which I love him more.

Second, another former student shared this, writing, "This is incredible. Take the time to watch it."

I did.

It is.

I may have to watch every day for the rest of the life. You'll see why when you watch it, too.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Double Take

Walking the campus with a dog has introduced me to wonders I had not seen before. Like this window at Spencer Hall

Dem Bones for real!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Intentional Walking

after walking the dog.

To see what we passed quickly.

To take photographs without feeling hurried.

And then the bells.

The glorious pealing of the bells.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's All about Color

Shell has never looked so good or the theater up the street for that matter.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Alternative Facts

According to an article published today in The Washington Post, one man has taken credit (again) for something another man did: "Arnett also discovered the quilters of Gee's Bend, Ala., leading to a blockbuster exhibition." (Mind you, the exhibition was his. The books mentioned in the article are his publications as well.) I saw a number of those quilts in the early 1970s [I think], packed into the trunk of my brother's car, headed to New York for display.

There are other such "facts" in the article, which I will not enumerate.

Suffice it to say that I greatly enjoyed seeing the pictures of art made by artists I have long respected, for example, Lonnie Holley, whom I have featured in this blog: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

These are two of my favorite Holley paintings that the featured individual did not acquire.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Another Conversation with a Stranger

Having discovered the Fragile Forktails (who must have emerged in the rain when I did not), I wandered round Lake Cheston to the cattails and grasses near the beach. Sure enough, two males and a female, sunning and eating and cavorting. I leaned in to snap, and I spoke to them as I usually do.

Then I wandered across the beach to the next set of cattails and grasses (sedges?). On hearing two distinct and distinctly small plops I looked in the water and lo and behold there it was -- a little toad (at least I think it was a toad). Again, I leaned and leaned in and apologized for disturbing it and again when it sank out sight.

By this time a woman and her two children had rounded the walk.

"May we know what you're photographing? We heard you talking over there," gesturing, "and over here."

I smiled. "Yes, I have a habit of doing that."

The children came close.

We made a tight circle so I could show them my camera screen. "I was taking pictures of the first damselflies I've seen this year -- Fragile Forktails. They're less than an inch in length."

There were suitable gasps and comments like "Beautiful."

Then I showed them the toad and where it had been.

The children were delighted as was the mother, who introduced herself (I know who she is and have met her husband -- both musicians). We chatted, as one does in a small place, and discovered we have mutual friends.

Then she said, "We're moving to Prague this summer, but we come here nearly every day, so we'll probably see you."

"Permanently?" I asked.

"Yes," she said."For me it's home, and it's about family and opportunity."

And with that we parted.

(I hope we do indeed meet again for another delightful conversation.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Something New on the Avenue

Someone has constructed and planted a Little Free Library on University Avenue, conveniently located near the elementary school and clearly visible to all comers coming up from the highway or down from the University. I wonder who?

At the moment, it holds no books, so I am sorely tempted to place some inside. However, it might be best to await news. I suspect it's coming soon in The Sewanee Mountain Messenger!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday, Monday

Remembering yesterday, when I could use my camera. (Working today, inside, except for one walk with Gracie under gray sky and occasional spits of rain.)

Maybe tomorrow. Till then I'll think on Stevenson and the beauty of old buildings with a sense of style.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Signs of the Times: Then

Littering the two-lane highway back up north (I came a long way), I found north Alabama immensely satisfying.

Here's why:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Goin' "Home"

Why do even grown adults of all ages who've lived years away from the place they grew up call a trip there "going home"?

I honestly don't know.

But that's what I did today.

And I meandered with a stop just down the mountain in Sherwood to poke around Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church, crumbling in some ways, radiant in others.

 After wandering and wondering, I suddenly realized I'd be late if I didn't skedaddle. So I did.

Arrived noon.

Ate a sandwich.

Went with nephew to the Pig to buy can-shaped pint glasses. (They are, unfortunately, still in Birmingham.)

Picked up his mother-in-law.

Drove to Cahaba Brewing where we left the car.

Uber-ed to the Civic Center.

Got there early, so I took pictures while the others chatted and organized.

Met niece inside.

Grabbed our seats,

Saw Birmingham Ballet performance of Cinderella with two great-nieces and many others (including seven! professional men).

Nephew's father-in-law drove us to Cahaba Brewing, where I had a flight of four dark beers. (The best part was the wooden state of Alabama on which they were served the beer.

Went to The Garage for a better beer -- Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout. (I impressed the nephew when I said I knew all about The Garage. Then I reminded him that it's old.) [Also: I must find the Samuel Smith here.]

Ate dinner at Hot and Hot Fish Club, a delicious treat. My nephew knows how to treat his aunt well.

Went home.

Chatted and recovered. Watched an hour documentary about wild places and learned that lead bullets have practically killed off all the condors. Seventy-two living condors at the time of the film. (A sobering fact given the new Secretary of the Interior's re-introduction of lead bullets in national parks.)

Saw the Greats for about 15 minutes before we all went to bed.

One full. One exhausting. Day.