Monthly Archives: May 2014

Citizen of the USA

Naturalized citizen with certificate and flag.

On May 27, 2014, forty-four men and women from 28 different countries became naturalized citizens of the United States of America in Charlotte, NC. One of them was my friend Sonali.

I had never been to a citizenship ceremony before. I went because I felt it was important to bear witness to this landmark event in a friend’s life—it seemed wrong that she should have to drive alone more than 2 hours each way and make this transition without any support from her community. But I didn’t know quite what to expect of the experience.

I’m not a very nationalistic person. I don’t think the USA is the best country for everyone and anyone, all the time. I am sometimes ashamed, embarrassed, or appalled by what my government does in my name, or by the way I and my fellow citizens behave. But I am a patriot: I believe that our fundamental ideals are good and noble ones, and that citizenship is a privilege and a responsibility to be exercised thoughtfully and diligently.

The videos were cheesy, the President’s greeting canned and predictable. The immigration officer’s delivery was stilted and rote. There were a surprising number of references to God.

I shed a tear anyway. Here were 44 people for whom the United States still represents opportunity and welcome. They will make our country richer—as much in wisdom, experience, and perspective as economically. I hope they will become politically engaged and actively take part in making us a better nation.


Two Years Ago: Bottled

Condensation in plastic bottle.Another entry in my condensation collection
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Ashevilliana

First there was Downtown After Five. Then the Montford Art Festival. And then Friday evening music at Antler Village on the Biltmore Estate. Lots of free music with friendly crowds, lately, reminding me how much I enjoy these community events that—at least for now—are attended mostly by locals.

Micah pointed to the lanterns in the barn and asked me to take a picture of them. (Later she went back and took some of her own.) “I bet they’ll end up as something beautiful,” she said. Can’t make a liar out of her, can I?

There was a tree losing a battle with a vine. But hey, check out the sun on the side of the barn enclosure and that ridiculously blue sky.

Because I am botanically challenged, I cannot tell you the name of this dense clump of purpleness. But it was very purple indeed.

Yesterday I spent the day at All Souls parish retreat at Lake Kanuga. To say that it did not suck would be an understatement of heroic proportions.

This afternoon was devoted to showing visitors classic real estate in all four quadrants of the city. The weather held, there was no traffic, and my dark horse pick was a hit.

Bob went to the arboretum for the rose show and took some lovely photographs, but we both missed out on the Kenilworth Open Studios this time.

Asheville has so much to offer.


Two Years Ago: Underpass

Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MDI will admit right out of the gate that I’m excessively pleased with this picture…
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Ghost Flight

Illuminated paper airplane model.

When I was young, I had flying dreams all the time.

In most of them, I could only fly when no one was looking. If someone saw me, or was watching, I would either sink back to earth or not be able to get airborne.

But there were exceptions, and in a few of my dreams I was a prodigy of flight—racing ahead of thunderstorms, diving from the sky in utter freedom, feeling courage in my veins like wine. I felt so truly myself, so capable, adventurous, so unfettered, quickened through and through with the fire of life.

The excitement and joy of those experiences remains unmatched by anything in my waking life. To this day when I commit myself to sleep I hope, now mostly wistfully, that I will dream of flying.


A Year Ago: Golden Future

Today, rather than focus on my (as always) copious opinions on the topic “Always Be Learning,” I thought I’d give you another look at the before & after of a photograph…
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In This Corner

Brick Wall, storage area, flowers, grate.

It’s perfectly natural to pay attention to things that you care about. If you care about your lover, you pay attention to him or her. If you care about justice, you pay attention to the way it is administered in your society. If you care about your appearance, you pay attention to how you look in the mirror.

I think it’s a little less obvious, but nonetheless no less true, that the opposite is also the case: you begin to care about the things to which you pay attention.

So, what do you want to care about?

If you pay attention to your lover, your love for him or her is likely to grow.

If you pay a lot of attention to your appearance, you’ll care even more how you look.

If you pay attention to how justice is administered, you’ll come to care that it be administered, well, justly.

If you pay attention to a lot of celebrity gossip, you’re going to wind up caring about who’s divorcing whom and why.

If you pay attention to the opinions of talking heads, you’ll start to actually care what they think and take it seriously.

If you pay attention to the little things that annoy you, over time they’ll seem less little and gradually become seriously upsetting.

You attention is a valuable substance, and it doesn’t come in unlimited quantity. Use it wisely, on things you actually want to care about.


A Year Ago: Old & New

This is another image that feels autobiographical: emblematic of my betweenness…
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50 Shades of Green

Flowering foliage in the mountains.

No one’s telling anybody what to do in this scenario. Not even if that’s what they think they want.

Freedom. Deal with it.


A Year Ago: This is Water [video]


Aesthetic Emergency

Weathered shed.

If you spend enough time with me, sooner or later I’m going to interrupt you in mid-sentence (as politely as I can manage), beg your pardon, and dash off to photograph something I’ve just seen in the immediate vicinity.

If I’ve known you a long time and/or we are particularly close, I may ask you to pull the car over or turn it around if I spot something as we zip by at highway speeds. Early in our relationship, Bob and I were driving on an interstate when I spotted some particularly spectacular atmospheric effects I wished to capture, but there were signs specifically prohibiting pulling over onto the essentially non-existent shoulder. “But officer,” Bob proposed as a suitable explanation, “it was an aesthetic emergency.”

This has become something of a catchphrase between us—one which could easily become overused if not applied judiciously.

Anyway… last night as we were heading into Greer, SC, I spotted something through Bob’s (driver-side) window that prompted me to ask him to turn around and go back. I declared an aesthetic emergency.

A few moments later, I popped out of the car and took the picture posted above of a weathered shed. I made exactly 4 exposures, framing tighter and tighter as I walked closer, and then hopped back in the car and we burned rubber heading out.

Here are a couple of software manipulated alternatives:

Dilapidated shed altered in Snapseed.

Dilapidated shed altered in Brushstroke.

I’d be curious to know which of the three you find most successful.

Myself, I’m not especially thrilled with any of them. It may be that one of the other frames will prove more satisfactory.

[Update: I made a monochrome version, which I like best. Sometimes you gotta go classic.]

Black & white image of wooden shed.


A Year Ago: Measuring Up

Storage tank ladder and measure.How much of our time do we spend worrying about measuring up?…
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Shadow House

Yard with House & Person shadow.

It used to be all about the house. Now it’s all about the yard. I’m afraid I’m turning into one of those people.

Seriously, I sometimes look at my life and I ask “Who the hell am I?”

Chaotic Heart

Close up of pink lilies.

I’ve been watching Spring march across my little near half-acre. Even the straggling black walnuts are now in leaf.

I had to get out the weed-whacker in honor of May Day and give the margin along the streets outside my fence a once-over. The battery gave out before I managed to do it all.

It’s going to be a long season of dancing with Momma Nature to keep her happy without letting her just completely run me over ’round here.


A Year Ago: Permanently Awry

Metal hatch with rust stains and yellow rope.You can tell by the rust streaks that this hatch has been in this position for a very long time now…
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