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?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

South Holston Blues

The TVA did us a favor, sons of bitches, and released Holston Lake waters from first light to the witching hour each day. Had they not, we might have fished the tailrace all weekend. Instead, the gates were thrown open and, as happens too often, the brass floated high on their Clackas and Hydes while we fly fishing foot soldiers scrambled for shore.

So while the well-heeled slept in, awaiting their ten-o’clock launches, building their reserves so they might survive the long day sitting on their asses, high and dry, while staring at the fat Day-glo indicators drifting alongside their watercraft, we drove miles downstream under the cover of darkness and squeezed in a handful of hours searching for risers before the front edge of the too early flood tumbled upon us.

But the drifters didn't see the sun leak over the horizon; slanted rays arriving in luminous waves, breaching the east’s distant dam and washing silently into our hardscrabble riverbed through riffles of muted Fall colors. They didn’t feel the thick fog dampen their cheeks with moist, sloppy dog kisses or hear the quiet whispers of welcome from gentle runs hidden somewhere in the mists; didn’t rub sleep from their eyes with fleece-sheathed sleeves or shake the lingering effects of last night’s Kentucky with cool, deep breaths of this morning's Tennessee. They missed it all while they waited for their boats.

So thank you, TVA, for the impetus to be out there at that magical time. Thank you for putting us on the river before daybreak so we could appreciate those few golden hours that you left us. Thank you for the beauty, enhanced by the brevity. Thank you for the crumbs. They were delicious.

Sons of bitches.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Incredible Shrinking Room

Our living area is shrinking.

As Fall advances and winter approaches, the sun rides closer to the horizon and reaches deeper into our southern exposure. Each day it extends a just a smidge, give or take, and each day we inch the couch and lounging chairs closer to the center of the room, exposing more and more of our polished concrete floor. That four inches of dense heat sink soaks up the warm radiation and later, as darkness falls and the evening progresses, it gradually re-releases the gentle solar comfort back into the space.

The balance is immaculate. As the days grow more frigid, the sun reaches deeper into the room and heats more of the floor. The yin and yang of passive solar consumption. Come winter solstice, half the room will be given over to this process (as well as to the plants that come in from the cold) and our sitting area will be compressed into a cozy little jumble. There, we'll be conveniently squeezed closer to the other heat sources that we've come to appreciate here in this place...

...the firebox and one another.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On Reflection

I will forever be grateful to my wife, Mary, for teaching me (among many things) to not only look up, but to also look down; to appreciate the smaller wonders found at my feet. It’s especially true in the water where the most elegant of abstractions might await.

Fall’s colors are just beginning to arrive here in the South, but a hint of the riot to come can be seen in the reflections. Here, then, are a handful of shots, taken of nothing but water, captured yesterday by simply looking down.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Field

Withered stalks, golden and brittle
Rattle restlessly in the autumn breeze
Like skittering beetles or mice in the walls
Soft spectral voices on incessant breaths
Whisper to the recesses of my conceit
We’re here

What hides from the light in the deepest of rows?
What watches at night from the edge?
What waits for me, waits for me, to come see for myself?
To come be a part of the field

I’ll know soon enough for the harvest approaches
The ears hang low in their submission to time
And what waits in the rows doesn’t vex me as much
As it did when the sun rode high

So I’ll listen to the rattles, the beetles and mice
Pay heed to the voices on whispering winds
And fear not the edge where the darkness invites me
To come be a part of the field