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.

Monday, November 10, 2014


I am worn thin by loss, translucent

I gleen no great lessons from death
Stand impotent in the face of it
For I am a simple man

I have no profound input
No wisdom learned from the years
No prescribed belief system from which to draw well-honed homilies
No symbols
Nothing that speaks to what comes next

All I know is that we return to the earth
And while that’s comfort enough for me
Most wish for more

I have, then, but one thing to offer
A simple thing
That your memory lives on within me
And moves forward, as it is the only direction I know

So before I, too, return to the earth
I promise
To be a vessel within which your memory rests serenely

A vessel, translucent
So that others might see you in me

To all those we have loved and have lost. But today, to Jan, friend and neighbor, kindred spirit, the usualest of Suspects, weaver of things, reed and friends intertwined, who fought the hard fight 'til the die was cast, then accepted, returned to the woods, and lived the remainder of her days on her own terms.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Photo Bin - October 2014

This month's photo bin is a perfect example of why I do these things. It gives me an excuse to display some images that didn't quite fit into the theme of a piece but seemed worthy of a look on their own. These almost made posts, but...

For example, I suppose that this first pair of shots fit my South Holston rant - being forced onto the water before daybreak to take advantage of the tiny window we had before the TVA flooded the place - but the misty river images that I used seemed to deserve a space of their own. So instead, I get to share these here in the bin.

Pre-dawn jetboil coffee on the hatchback back bumper and shadowy figures from the trailhead. Lots of bumping around in the dark. It seems that I'm developing a weakness for low light images. Perhaps it's because I can't use a flash worth a damn.

Yes, that's definitely it.

This next image also came from that SoHo outing, a shot of the oxygenating weir that sits a half-mile or so below the dam. The photo fits absolutely nothing. But recursive things appeal to this old mathematician. Few understand.

The next few shots came out of our Indiana visit with Mary's sister. Her home sits in the midst of, you guessed it, a corn field and I must say that it's a bit creepy at times. I had planned on posting a bunch of images from the field, but the prose in the post I ended up writing took a direction of its own (as my prose, quite often, has a tendency to do) and the single, dark image I used seemed appropriate there.

There's a boatload of these shots to share, but pushing more than three here seems, well, kind of corny.

Finally, we've been living in this wooded community for several years now and I've been eyeing this old chimney, tucked back from the road, since we arrived. Seemed a perfect photo op, but I've never gotten around to trying anything until now. Here's a start, and one I'm not entirely satisfied with. Seems there's so much more to be done with it.

So, be forewarned, you might see more of this ruin in bins further on down the road.

What is a Photo Bin?