Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Tease

She smiles sweetly and I fall for it all over again. Even though I know better.

Siskins bounce off the windows sounding like someone playing timpani against the east side of the house. They cluster at the base of the feeders like barnyard chickens, packed so densely that they have trouble turning around, then lift off in tornadoes of yellow-striped wings, a few inevitably spinning into the double-paned reflection of Carolina blue skies. A steady drum beat of avian surprise. Thump. Thump. Thump. The opening riff of Spring.

I wander the woods around our place, clearing the boxes of last year’s nests while bluebird pairs chatter at me for disturbing their pre-season house-hunting. In one I find five pale azure eggs and I wonder. An extreme early clutch? Probably not. More likely a brood abandoned last year and the thought of it makes me sad. But I leave them in place, nonetheless; in the hopes…

The small pond above the house is filled with last fall's leaves and needs to be dredged, but not right away. For, along with the leaves, suspended in the shallow waters, are masses of goo; iridescent green globs of gelatinous pre-life, salamander egg masses clad in brilliant chartreuse symbiotic algae. The pond was built for just this purpose, the incubation of the shy spotted amphibian, and this year it’s doing the job quite nicely. Zeppelin sniffs at the pool, then turns, uninterested in the aquatic, and trots off to explore the deeper woods for things more warm-blooded. I follow as it seems a good idea.

Down the ridge, Mary sits on the porch and reads. That entails as much napping as it does study, but that’s what days like this are for. Seventy degrees in early February is a treat. A thawing of fingers and heart alike. A delight.

But, unfortunately, it’s all just a tease. A quick flash of leg quickly hidden by a swirling skirt of dried leaves blown by late-winter winds. A warm, breathless whisper followed by an arctic blast. A chaste peck on the cheek followed by a frigid slap in the face.

A kiss and a wink of Spring in February. I know it’s a flirt, that there's another cold shoulder coming, but I fall for the ruse just the same.

I'm so easy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Photo Bin - January 2015

Selfies. Not a big fan. I suppose it’s because ego is one of those human traits that I believe has over-evolved, here of late, and the constant flow of arm-length mug shots has begun to wear thin on me. Besides, with a mug like mine, the fewer likenesses floating around, the better.

But Mary headed off for a few days to visit with family, leaving me to my own devices, and that’s always a dangerous thing. Moreover, my buddy Bob White recently floated a question to his artist and photographer acquaintances regarding self-portraits and the prospect intrigued me. After all, my "stock picture" is now ten years old (and a rough ten years at that) and my funky social media avatar is just that; funky. So, looking for a photographic challenge and having some time on my hands, I had a little fun, turned the camera around, and shot the above image out on the back porch. This is what a contented sixty-year-old looks like.

And that, my friends, should do it for another ten years.

Enough with the black-and-white. Let’s have some color. I was pleased to contribute to the recent winter edition of the Southern Culture on the Fly, placing a piece about the train tracks that lead to one of my favorite fishing holes. Last minute, I drove up to get a few more railroad images for the story and, while I was there, a mile-long string of graffiti rolled by. Add the shadowy tiger-stripes of trackside trees and a bit of a tilt and you come up with some fascinating abstracts.

I’m convinced that a trip to a rail yard would yield a fantastic array of colors and shapes, just begging to be photographed. True art, some of this stuff, especially flying by at 50mph.

And speaking of color, while it looks like a Fox Sports Network graphic, this image is actually a view from underneath the scoreboard at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion, from Cremin's court, just outside of the center jump circle, where our dinner table was placed. We found ourselves looking up from this unique position as we attended the annual Georgia Tech Sports Scholarship Banquet, honoring the memory of our son and spending a few hours with this year's delightful recipient (a gifted young lady swimmer) of the memorial scholarship that we have established in Freeman's name. An evening filled with laughter and with tears, for neither can be fully appreciated without the other.

Go Jackets!

What is a Photo Bin?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Here Comes the Sun

There’s a thin, icy glaze on the Ankona’s front casting platform and there’s no way I’m stepping up there, especially after the long skate I took down the boat ramp when we launched the damn thing. Landing on one’s ass at the bottom of a frozen dock is one thing. Landing on one’s ass at the bottom of a sixty-foot deep, forty-degree lake in the dark is quite another. I’m perfectly comfortable casting from here in the pit, thank you very much, although “comfortable” is a relative term considering the fact that I can’t feel my toes.

I switch off the Petzel and slide it down around my neck, over my stocking cap and face-warming buff, and stuff it into the awkward wad of fleece layers and zips that bunch up under my chin. I don’t need the torch now as there’s just enough light leaking over the shoreline behind us to begin to see what we are doing and to get a good first look at the lake that surrounds us. Birds. Where are the birds?

It’s a two-edged sword, the sun. We need the light so that we might find the birds that, in turn, lead us to the bait; bait that, with any luck on this bitter cold morning, might be interlaced with feeding landlocked stripers. And we certainly could use the thin warmth that it brings; de-icing the decks, taking the edge off the chill that has settled into our cores, warming the top thermal towards a more hospitable feeding clime, and defrosting my regrets over not bringing that extra layer of quilted poly.

But for all the good it does, the sun brings its issues. It’s bitter cold, here at daybreak, as there’s not a cloud in the sky to hold in the heat, whatever the source. Our window is small, for, with the arrival of daylight, our star-strewn indigo ceiling will quickly turn bluebird bright and drive the bait deep, out of the reach and the interest of the gulls, changing the game from looking up at the birds to staring down at an eight-inch Lowrance display; searching for dark arcs at thirty feet. Video game fishing.

Do we want the sun, or don’t we? The question is moot as it’s coming regardless; rising out of the trees and illuminating our fluid surroundings, sprinkling diamond-sharp sparks into the skiff’s trailing spray as we skip across the lake, trying our darnedest to keep up with the terns. And besides, with or without the sun's small winter comfort, I won’t feel my toes all day.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Photo Bin - December 2014

I'm not much for looking back so you'll get no in-depth review of 2014 around here. What's visible in the rearview mirror - just about a month's worth - is more than enough for me and just perfect for the Photo Bin. Let's get to it.

I have a fixation on the view from my sister-in-law's front porch, out across the Indiana corn fields to the homestead just up County Road 800, and it's never quite so captivating as it is during the winter. This holiday's visit was no exception. Our early morning departure for home was delayed when the packing of the truck was interrupted by gorgeous light playing across heavily frosted farm acreage under deep purple skies. It was well worth the delay.

As you can imagine, the vast majority of last month's shutter clicks captured Christmas activity. Not wishing to subject you to a deluge of someone else's holiday snapshots, I offer but a single image that captures what Christmas morning is like with a 6-year-old. Actually, this blur is pretty well representative of most days around our grandchildrens' Chicago household. To have that much energy again...

It always looks like Christmas at The Flying Saucer; a beer lover's haven and our base of operations when we head south to Charlotte to visit. The plates that adorn the ceiling and walls commemorate patrons who have "sampled" two-hundred different brews. Two of those plates bear our son's name; the first accomplished on his own and the second completed, in memoriam, by his legion of friends who miss him as much as we do. We gather there, each December, for the Delivery of the Tea Rings, a family tradition he embraced with gusto.

And just to remind you that this is a fishing blog (yeah, that makes me chuckle too) a gratuitous shot of one of the last fish of the year; a healthy Davidson rainbow I snuck in between days at the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo. Always a good time, both the show and the river. My thanks to the Davidson River Outfitters for another mighty fine day on their waters.

Finally, my favorite little Polar Plunger with her best "that was fun but let's go home and get into a hot bathtub" look. Technically, this image should be used for next month's bin as I shot it at our 8th annual New Year's Day dip into the neighborhood pond, but what the heck. We gather at noon on each January 1st to re-establish our lunacy and start the year off with an exhilarating dive into frigid waters. It's hell going in, but, when you re-emerge, it's life affirming and exactly how you need to start a new calendar year.

I hope that yours has started with equal enthusiasm. Face it. It's 2015 and there's no looking back.

Happy New Year!

What is a Photo Bin?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Heart-to-Heart with the Jolly Old Elf

Ho Ho Ho! Well hello, little boy. What can Santa Claus do for you this Christmas?

I’m not so sure that you have what I need in that bag of yours, sir.

Now, now, son. You’d be surprised by what Saint Nick has in his sack. Have you been good this year?

Good is a bit of a sliding scale, don’t you think? Do you mean Mother Teresa good, or Mae West good?

An excellent point, young man. How about I just check my list. Let’s see. Naughty or nice... naughty or nice... Ah, here you are. Oh. Ummm. Will you promise to be just a little bit nicer next year?

Yes sir. Absolutely. Done. You have my word.

Well, okay. We'll let you go with nice, this time. What is it that you’d like Santa to bring?

Santa, what I really want is my writing Mojo back.

Your writing Mojo? Mojo’s a very big item, you know. How about a nice camera instead?

Sorry, sir, but I just bought one.

A shiny new fly rod then?

Got a closet full, but thanks for the thought.

Some waders?

I’m good.

Let’s see. How about World Peace?

Asked for that last year. Remember?

Yeah. Sorry about that, kid. Father Christmas had a tough year.

Tell me about it.

So. You want your writing Mojo, you say?

Yes, sir. It’s all gone to shit lately. (Oops. Sorry, sir.) I haven’t been proud of anything I’ve written for months and I’m disappointed that so little has found its way to the page. My blog has been terribly neglected and I’m really struggling to keep it interesting. I need my Mojo.

I hate to tell you this, son, but Mojo doesn't work that way. It’s not a thing someone can give you. It’s something that you already have and simply needs to be tapped into. That’s easy to say, I’m afraid, but not always easy to do. It’s a lot like flying reindeer. Most of the time they just hang around the barn, eating hay and playing games. But every now and then, when the moment’s right, for no discernable reason, inspiration strikes and they float into the rafters. That’s Mojo. It’s a gift, there’s no doubt, but not a gift that can be easily given. I’m sorry.

I understand. I knew it was a tall order. I just hoped, you know, for my readers…

I know. I wish it were possible. How about something else? Anything. Just name it.

Well, how about a leadership that will acknowledge that man-made climate change is real and start to do something about it, that can quantify the value of our public lands and wilderness areas in something other than dollars and cents, and whose members will start to think like individuals rather than mindless party shills. One that will do something for the people of this nation, all of them, and not just for its anthropomorphized corporations. A leadership that actually works.

So, young man, do you want to write poetry or prose?

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Photo Bin - November 2014

I'm still as bloated as a Macy's parade blimp (with nearly as much gas), the Lions avoided another Thanksgiving turkey, and the Cowboys got the giblets kicked out of them. All is right with the world.

As my brain is now muddled by tryptophan overload (the free-flowing aperitifs and after-dinner cordials, of course, have nothing to do with the haziness), the best I can do for the moment is to show a few pictures and call it a post. Yes, today I'm thankful for the Photo Bin.

Above, a picture of home. It's as warm and inviting as the image suggests. And inside it still smells of roasted turkey, fresh bread, and pumpkin pie. It don't get no better.

I add a couple more shots from my final Fall stroll. The woods were in full color when we left for a quick trip to the northlands and when we returned they were nothing but brown. As I'm still in a "painterly" mode, these abstracts speak to me of the season as much as any. Humor me.

And I appreciate the autumn images even more, having gotten my re-introduction to winter on our brief sojourn north. A quick iPhone shot, here, taken somewhere in Ohio during our return. Where exactly, I don't recall, but it's Ohio, for God's sake. Does it matter?

I'll catch Buckeye hell for that, I suppose.

But it feels good to be back home. And with that, I'll crawl back onto the couch to digest a bit more and leave the world outside to Black Friday themselves into a consumptive frenzy.

Good evening, my friends. I hope that your holiday was as delightful as mine.

What is a Photo Bin?

Friday, November 21, 2014

North and South

We rumble north, encased in our glass and our plastic and our steel
They travel south, clad only in feather and down

We crawl our concrete, gouged crudely into the earth to suit our desires
They ride the winds, following the invisible compass of generations

We tote our possessions as we have an insatiable need to acquire
They carry nothing; they need nothing, but each other

We motor, metered by mile and schedule and manifest
They soar, for the sun said the second was right

We go north, we are Lords of the planet, and we can
They go south, they are Impulse, and they must

North, we have conquered the season
South, they know only to embrace it

Oh, how we need to turn back

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fall Art

Interesting, isn't it, that when people want to compliment a photographer, they describe the work as 'painterly' (at least I do), and when people want to compliment a painter, they often say that, "it looks just like a photograph." - Bob White
The best part of this whole blogging thing is that, with a little good fortune, you find yourself getting acquainted with some incredibly talented and engaging individuals. Writers, photographers, artists. And part of the engagement is often discussions of the process; the creative mechanisms that drive folks to do what they do and their thoughts on what tumbles out.

Bob's observation, shared in a Facebook conversation, struck a chord with me and the fall shots included here, taken early yesterday morning on my river down the hill, have been "tweaked" with the thought of bridging that photo/painting gap. A little saturation, a reduction in clarity, an attempt to breath brushstrokes into them. A little Monet, if you will.

Better yet, a little Bob White.

Thanks, Bob, for your inspiration and your friendship. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes off the easel this year.