Friday, April 29, 2016


What is it that is so fascinating about wreckage? About ruined things? We can't help but look.

I'm ashed to admit this is from underneath my porch. I've clearly got some cleaning up to do now that the cold is breaking.

But maybe I'll just leave it there to reflect on how short life is.

stock photography sale

I've listed a bunch of photographs with Getty Images, a stock photography company that licenses photographs to media outlets. Today I made my first sale and received my first royalty! A whopping $0.54! I guess I won't be retiring on my royalties any time soon! 

I don't even know where it is going to be used. And I certainly don't know how much the buyer paid Getty for it. Nevertheless, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye, as I always say.

thoughts on sharing poetry from Billy Collins

I picked up a copy of Poetry 180, an anthology edited by Billy Collins, one of my favorite poets and the former Poet Laureate of the United States. Poetry 180 is a collection of modern poems that Collins thought were high quality and would appeal to high school students.

Collins' introduction to the book is full of the kind of criticism of the literary establishment that I myself feel. For example:
Opacity became so closely associated with modernist poetry that reader fled in droves into the waiting arms of novelists... Clarity is the real risk in poetry. To be clear means opening yourself up to judgment. The willfully obscure poem is a hiding place where the poet can elude the reader and thus make appraisal impossible, irrelevant - a bourgeois intrusion upon the poem.
Also, humorously,
Joyce Carol Oates has pointed out the lamentable fact that the number of poetry readers in this country is about the same as the number of people who write poetry. Based on my confrontations with students who want to write poetry but have no interest in reading it, I would say the poets might slightly outnumber the readers. 
If you hate poetry, you might want to pick up a copy of Poetry 180.  Or check out the web site that was the origin of the book - .

I also recommend Collins' work. I am especially fond of Nightclub which you can find in Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

life returns to College Woods - change external and internal

Marley and I took a casual walk through College Woods today - well, one of us walked, the other ran everywhere and smelled everything and pooped three times in the woods - I'll leave it to you to figure out who did what.

I know I posted earlier about us making it through the transition, but I realized I hadn't walked the College Woods trail in probably two weeks, and wow life is really blooming.

These are the first maple leaves I have seen this season. That made me happy. I have seen buds on trees around Durham, but I haven't seen many on the trees at the LHH yet. 

The thing about walking the same trail regularly is you get to watch the changes that happen. Some of them are natural, like the appearance of new leaves on the trees, or the blooming of new plants from the ground. Like these leafy things - I don't know what they are called - but they certainly were there the last time I walked across the bridge.

Some of the changes are not natural - but are man-made. I noticed this pile of stones just a little further down the trail from the leafy things. This little peninsula is just a bit past the bridge I usually cross, and so I don't usually go on it. But the pile of stones caught my eye because unlike the greenery, the stones don't just suddenly appear on their own. So I went down to investigate.

As you can see, the stones were partially painted with designs, and tucked under the stones were typed messages. I didn't want to disturb the stones, so I could only make out a bit of the text. 

I thought these were cute. No harm. It's not like College Woods is pristine wilderness, so I don't think there is any harm to piling a few painted rocks. 

It's nice to share the woods.

It's nice to watch things change.

It got me reflecting on how I haven't stayed in one place long enough to watch things change for most of my life. Or at least, I have not had the time or inclination to watch things change. I'm trying to change that about myself.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

the turning point

We have passed the turning point - and the grey interlude has come to an end. Leaves have suddenly popped out of the bare sticks that are the raspberry bushes (above) and blueberry bushes (below).

This makes me happy. I am seeing buds on many of the trees when I walk to work. Still many are bare. But seeing the buds and even some early leaves gives me hope. Spring hope. A seasonal sense of renewal. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

for my next 30 day challenge... guitar!

We gave my daughter an electric guitar for Christmas a couple of years ago. I've been longing to get some sort of music back into my life, so I decided for my next 30 day challenge feed my soul rather than my body. I'm going to see how much I can learn by trying to practice every day for 30 days for at least 15 minutes a day.

I took guitar lessons for a few months when I was 12. I think I still know three chords (A, D, and G - though I'm not sure). I never learned how to play individual notes, but the book I am working with starts with individual notes, so this is a whole different approach to learning guitar.

I can read music (I played piano and trumpet once upon a time), but beyond that I have little knowledge.

So we'll see. This should be fun. I now know a whole octave and can limp through a very simplified passage of Ode to Joy. (today is day 4, by the way)

Monday, April 18, 2016

small moments

Much of life is consumed in the small moments. The act of consuming food being an important part of those small moments.

I suppose that is why I obsess a little about photographing my food. I also try to obsess, at least weekly, about making some dish that I am really pleased with.

I'm hearing a lot about mindfulness these days - maybe because I am tuning in to a particular group of podcasters that are focused on self-improvement. Over the last seven plus years since I took up photography seriously, I have found it to be my primary means of mindfulness. I am a rush, rush, do, do kind of guy, unless I have a beer or a glass of wine in front of me. The camera helps me slow down and appreciate life.

These photographs are an example of appreciating life. I made an excellent omelet this morning - with caramelized onions and hot mango cheese. But also note and appreciate the differences between the light in the two photographs: the top one (with the ingredients) has very soft light - there are almost no shadows; the bottom photograph has classic hard light - everything is angles and shadows. In fact it was the shadow of the chair (on the left) that attracted me to make the composition. The study of photography slows you down - it forces you to realize things like there is such a thing as "soft light" and "hard light".

So it is true of all learning, which is why I try to constantly be learning. The more you know, the more ways ("do" as the Japanese call them) you explore, the more you appreciate life. Because life is what happens in between the exciting moments, while you are waiting. It is mostly the small moments.