08 July 2017

Mac Simpson / Euology

The image is an electronic simulation I made at Mac’s property. It shows a morning watering of a lawn I sowed, at Mac's request, in his front yard. A psalm fragment (72:6-7 RSV) springs to my mind, though Mac never cited it.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
When I’d taken to mowing to earn some little resource Mac was there for me. His patronage was stalwart.  Our service relationship caused a personal relationship to blossom, which grew into a deeper and wider experience for me, and which Mac seemed at ease with.
Over the course of the growing seasons, we’d walk the bounds of his property and it often felt like a ritual. For a modest home, set upon a steeply inclined lot, Mac’s property was complex, even difficult. Mac showed me his buried patio, a buried ivy covered path leading up the hillside to the street above his property, his landscaped water course, as well as his favorite plant and tree.
His prized plant, a wildflower, was a yellow trillium, in blossom when he showed it to me, in an unexpected location. The trillium had made its home nestled close to the base of a tree, shrouded by thick undergrowth of untended bushes, near the terminus of Mac’s landscaped watercourse, and near the base of the hillside, not 4 yards from the neighborhood street.
Another time, behind Mac’s house, at the almost opposite location from the trillium, up the hillside near the top of his property, among the ivy and tree covered hill, Mac pointed out a menacing downward tilting old growth oak, which, he was clear to profess, in his soft understated Virginian drawl, he and kept his eye on and contemplated.  We circled around and around this ancient one, tramping down long strands of ivy, seemingly entwining our feet and legs to trip us up, then down, Mac, listing out, then leaning in, bobbing up our feet and legs while the ivy wove us into itself pulling us down so to cause a fall. He was correct to watch and assess the old leaning oak. If that oak had fallen of a storm it would’ve come down on his house.
Over many years from the tree covered hillside leaves fell into a 4 foot wide walkway placed between house and hill, the gravity of the hill’s weight held back by an old time brick retaining wall built into the hillside. The wall had been unseen, densely overgrown with years of ivy growth. The patio behind the wall had been covered over too, and underneath the ivy and leaves were the same sort of old brick to create a patio. I mucked out a foot of sodden accumulated years of leaf compost clogging the pathway and the drainage to the landscape water course.
One day after we’d walked his bounds again Mac fell 4 feet from his brick patio’s concrete ledge and nearly conked his head before landing on his right scapula and spine as well as scraping himself quite nicely. We were stunned, I by the rapidity his fall and he by the blow, and his body lost all muscular tension binding it. I cradled his head in my lap while assessing his consciousness, which he never lost. I insisted we stay put symbiotically linked in that mucked-out pathway for a good while. He had the good sense to do that. After a time, we went inside his house. I cleaned and dressed his wounds, rather, he permitted me to clean and dress his wounds. While we sat at his kitchen table, he kept trying to dust off the front of his light blue short-sleeved button down shirt and the legs of his mucked-up grey pants. Appearance mattered, and this was part of why he had hired me to mow his front lawn. I notified friends, and left him that day to himself in his house.
He often invited me into his house. We ate together, and we spoke with one another He reminisced of his house, back in the day it seems Eleanor Roosevelt stayed in that house when she visited Knoxville. He must’ve said this to me each time he invited me into his house. And he reminisced of his parents, as well as his time as a youth at Randolph Macon College, where his parents taught, and Jimmy Carter, for whom Mac had worked as an advisor during Carter’s Presidential campaign, and of his pride in his grandson, and I of my experience as a Connecticut Yankee in East Tennessee.
Later on, after I’d given up my lawn care service, we met regularly with others to ponder some spiritual text and then to meditate upon the false self within each of us.
My experience with Mac was like that of a son with his loving father. He chose to hire my service; he did not have to do that. His compassion fell like rain and his teaching distilled like dew, as droplets on fresh mown grass and as showers on sown field. He was as the light of a blue-sky morning, for a time without cloud, watching tender grass he’d sown spring out from the earth he’d tilled into rows and furrows. He watered his furrows abundantly. He settled their ridges. He softened them with showers. He blessed their growth. (Psalm 65:10, RSV)
8 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it. (Isaiah 45:8 RSV).
So let us recall, press on, and let us sing to him his requiem, celebrating and remembering his abundance, as from heavens above. The moments we shared with Mac were as true and certain as the early morning star of light in darkened dawn sky and the early morning dew on field of grain.
I uphold Mac Simpson as a shepherd with us, and he shall feed us. Mac will be among the people, known and unknown some time longer. His kairos as showers on the earth and its grass and grain, which do not wait for women and men or delay like daughters and sons.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!


30 May 2017

Frog Fragment

I’ve seen more box turtles than frogs. I’ve seen more red-eared turtles than frogs; I’ve had a few as pets. I’ve seen more snappers, sunning themselves, than frogs. I’ve seen more tadpoles than frogs; cute, spunky, lil’ swimmer things. I’ve heard more peepers than frogs.
I cannot recall when I last saw a frog. I believe they’re green, a slimy wet puke-ish washed out green, with spots and bumps, and consort with dragonflies, snails, snakes, and puppy dog’s tails. I’ve rarely seen one anytime.
Now I’ve seen their remnants, the outward ripples of their leap into their water pond and I’ve heard their remnant ker-plunk sound into their water pond when I was a boy. I’ve never gigged. I could’ve never entered the Celebrated Calaveras County Frog Jumping Contest. And I’d never wager on such a gambler’s Jim Smiley fool’s bet, but I’d be amused by the fools who did run such an errand. Can you imagine pouring lead shot down a frog’s gullet? Ooook.
I’d rather sing like a frog, yes, I know, we say they “croak”, flick my tongue like a frog, hear like a frog, or see like a frog; pretty yellow & black eyes; ugly ears though. I think I’d rather pay a guide to learn me to leap like a frog so to catch it; that’d be more absorbing and interesting. But I probably I’d figure I’d catch a cold or flu, or git skeeter bit, or snake bit, or a mouth of cattail I’d have to spit out.
I ate frog legs, in Chinatown, once; in red Chinese characters their remnants were on white menu board on a wall for people who could read ‘em. To me it was just decorative, not meant for my ignorant gwai lo eyes. They tasted well enough, in watery & buttery white sauce, as I recall, like delicate, but white, chicken leg meat.
In fact, frog is more mythology, or fairy tale, nowadays, for me. Aren’t they just farmed now? For French people? That’s why the Brits call ‘em frogs, ya know. And frogs are extinct in wilderness. . . aren’t they? Which is to say, my Angela says she kissed a lot of frogs before she met me. I take this to mean she decided I was gonna be the last frog she kissed.

02 May 2017

Abbess of Wilderness

Bumfuzzled. I’m a smitten puppy man, 66, still a afraid how overwhelming my 12 year old naked and ashamed feeling addicted. I feel spilling over and out and over and my interior smitten-ness acts putting a mink stole around you, "Wear this, put it on, please.", a substitute for how I like my feelings to feel for me for you, soft fur brushing your skin, just putting my past on you. It’s unfair. Stop. I cannot. There’s no “to you” but for parts of a few hours out of a day out of a week for six. Do you sense my feelings' reverbs in the echoes bouncing and reflecting off and fading away from what’s in that not anymore? No? Hush, huuusssh, huuuuusssssh.
I love the you I see and I love the you I hear and I love the you I read and I love your soft quiet voice from within you and I love your you in writers’ words you introduce me into, your passion. And I love your you in your flash of discipline, your “no”, a steely push-back-with-eyes from within through the narrowing open window of your eyes and slightly pursing no lips. I love your you in your courage you do not know yet and I love your you put in your image-I-na-tions. . . hoping. . . documenting … abiding ... still … joyous … come, Lady Abbess of Wilderness. Riding my imagination fueled by words from my beginning I see and hear and taste and dream and inside I’m burning up with desire.
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This is the first love letter I’ve ever written, I could’ve written, forgiving and accepting myself, my pathos. This love letter is 66 years old. Early, I was trained to the practice of unforgiving. I was not steeped, the simple or natural way, for words to say what I knew I felt. And why I love what you do - you just love your wilderness - I just love something in the way you are in my I am.

05 December 2016

Photography 2

My attraction to photography didn’t emerge from a moral necessity. It was more like breathing, taken for granted, a biological action & a cultural idea interweaving daily; something familiar and taken for granted. It was a natural necessity. I was just aping my parent’s behaviors. Photography was my parents’ recreation, one way of paying attention to whom they wanted their children to be. If I’m unkind, I’d say they wouldn’t have paid attention at all if it weren’t for their desire to use their cameras. Their cameras and how they used them reflected their aspirations in their time.
Loren Eiseley writes that, “God asks nothing of the highest soul but attention.” I don’t know about God. I imitated my father and mother and grandmother behaviors.  Attention is one of my higher powers and I attend to it, I schooled myself in it more than I knew at the time, for development of such things, and I do inwardly digest what I pay attention to. To pay attention, to observe, I think is something like being one whom waits who is also serving… but documents it.
I did intend to cultivate “higher”. And I began to do this trying to imitate photographers Eugene Atget and Bernice Abbott. I was drawn to their images. I lived and moved and had my being in a major city and I could see their images in museums. I could work to emulate them.
Imitation is more like what I would call my judgment in the word “higher” now. Back in my day my aspiration wasn’t quite so articulated and unraveled. In reality I just think I was young and proud and aspirational. I wince a wee bit now at my “higher” judgments.

28 September 2016

Photography

City-County Bldg, 1986, Knoxville, TN.
If I were a poet now I'd write my voice in words so to paint a color image of my experience of awe and wonder I see in people and things and nature and light and pattern and form and texture in space. What’s some nano-brain-storm visualization of clarity and awe and beauty were, maybe still are, dusty words in my mouth, objectifications, the analog sort, not much summoned and conjured, in the dark, with passion, care, skill and experience, in our time, detached from my desire for words. I felt so I created photographs.

I gravitated to photography. I wrestled with analog photography; a substitute for my words. For decades that was good enough and I was happy & proud with what I did, even though I felt little dissatisfactions from my imperfections in my creations; perfections of visions of reality, in a moment in time, beauty, is rare within me. Now, in moments, I’m disappointed I ended up with what sometimes feels like images of solids, like this image I made in 1986 and clunky. Awkward as my enfeebled words I’m trying to forgive.

08 July 2016

Queen Anne's Lace

We three took off, packed, if it could’ve been called that, each, bike-boom early ‘70’s, Peugeot UO 8, 10-speed, racing-style touring bikes in homemade bags, so to classify them as baggage per Greyhound’s helpful requirement, bused to Bangor, ME, cycled down to Bar Harbor, and ferried across the Gulf of Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for three weeks touring through the Annapolis Valley to then turn right on down to Halifax.
Our food sources were unknown except what we bought or scrounged along the way. I knew of the return-to-nature guru Euell Gibbons and I packed Stalking the Wild Asparagus as guide if I needed to shift into desperation mode.
I seized my test opportunity after I read about Queen Anne’s Lace; I read it to be wild carrot and it was everywhere. I liked the blossom, I was confident and hopeful, and skeptical, naturally being so, but I was also accustomed to eating in Manhattan where all food is abundant and prepared, and if not already so, then prepared on demand, 24/7. It was a fantastic multi cultural food capital and crossroads. Queen Anne’s Lace had never been on my menu.
We boil it and boil it and boil it, and then some more. It was tough, maybe never boiled enough, bitter, and completely, utterly, inedible. No, it was disgusting.
“Well, so much for Queen Anne’s Lace and Euell Gibbons, I said.
“Bill, this is our first try. We’ve never done this before. I want to try again,” said Penelope.
I looked at John, her beloved, this really big tall dusky blonde longhaired hippie sort of guy. He was alpha and he was so big, and nice to me, older, and looked like he had more knowledge and experience, and in fact really did have more, being an architect for the City of New York.
“Well, Penelope, tomorrow I buy from a road side stand. You pick another plant and try. I gotta have backup. I’m sorry. I gotta eat, I’m hungry.”

John stayed out of it. Penelope was short, long black haired and wore thick coke-bottle lens eyeglasses. She was 10-speeding through Nova Scotia, in all weathers, at times rain pelting her eyeglasses, beading up and running off, and kept on pedaling. Penelope was determined. John stayed out of it. We bought fresh produce and fruit from roadside stands and my nose unfailingly sought local bakeries’ fresh doughnuts and pastries and restaurants’ fresh seafood and chowders. I gave my Stalking the Wild Asparagus to Penelope and John.