Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:21:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Small Wonder, Large Appreciation Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:21:24 +0000 For Friday shoppers who want to jump to the punchline and avoid the punch, I give you the Nikon winners of the 2014 MicroPhotography competition that spawned this thread today. 

I’ve been devoting some thought lately to my idiosyncrasies–those unique and perhaps peculiar ways of seeing, thinking and behaving particular to only me.

Some of them I’m sure came with the package at Day One. Some of each of us consists of molecular hard-wired genetic instructions among which not all are as either-or as the dice-toss for brown eyes or blue. Most of our behavioral genetics come with a wide tolerance for over-riding and subverting in directions that come more from nurture than nature.

The infant ship comes incompletely equipped early on, and by choice and by chance, we add sails and navigation equipment. The maps are both our own and edited by circumstance, serendipity, parenting, early friendships and society.

It’s pointless to try to tweeze out which of our good traits or bad can be blamed on the weird great-great grandparent that nobody in the family line talks about in public. In the end, those unique features belong to us, regardless of how they became part of our who-ness. We wear them, deny them or celebrate them, for better or for worse, for a lifetime.

One of these personal quirks that goes back close to my beginning is a fascination with the very small. I have some specific early memories I’ve written about elsewhere that in my mind support the notion that I’ve always held fantasies about seeing deeper, farther or with expanded clarity since way back. (These imaginings and yearnings were only made stronger with the longing to have x-ray vision like Superman. )

My photographic compulsion and zeal since my early twenties is part of this “lens oriented” need to see things–real concrete physical things and later on, conceptual things as well–with new eyes as often as possible. If we stare too long at the same object with the same eyes, they disappear.

Perhaps the greatest elaboration of this need to see real objects in new ways was in grad school, where I  got seriously sidetracked from my thesis study by my fascination with pond water. Yes, pond water. I told you I admitted to some serious behavioral outliers.

And, dear diary, I know I can’t make you fully understand why, but it seemed–and still seems–that these countless hours peering down the tube of a phase contrast oil-immersion microscope at rotifers, diatoms, colonial protozoa and objects that defied identification was one of the most beneficial educational periods of my adult life.

The intricacies, the beauties, the complexitiesof design and fit, of function and microscopic anatomy of appendages, of synchronized beating cilia, of beating hearts, pulsing jaws, flapping flagella, and tiny still nerve plexuses that hinted of thinking brains–all of this to me was a marvelous revelation of the nature of the nature that exists around each of us every day of our lives. And of this beauty, these marvels, this wonder, we are most all mostly unaware, and to what does not exist for us, we are indifferent.

And so I saw them once, thankfully, on my own time, because I was compelled to do so for my own very peculiar vision and world-understanding. I have never been unaware or indifferent or unappreciative for these small wonders ever since. I keep looking for them, only without the microscope, though so much can still be held in our hands that points us toward greater realities.

As I have said so often before, if we hold our eyes just right and have hearts and minds ready to know, there is nothing ordinary.

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True Colors Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:34:05 +0000 This year’s fall foliage gets very high marks for intensity, variety and duration of color.

No late tropical storms have blown away the leaves just at their prime. No persistent droughts or drowning floods have afflicted the southern mountains to disappoint piedmont leaf-peepers with a view of bare branches or bland vistas for their efforts to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But the prize, to my mind, goes to the oaks this year. They have delayed the rich browns to dwell in the reds for far longer than is usual. [My personal every-year favorite in our woods is the beech, pictured here, click to enlarge.]

But why? What factors influence the timing and the colors that autumn offers?

Some of that is know, some is not.

Some of that can be answered for today, but not for the autumns to come in our children’s lifetimes as the planet seems sure to warm by more than five degrees as we debate need to act.

Understanding the reds I speak of is a matter of knowing about anthocyanins, since that pigment is present in those red-change deciduous plants like like smooth sumac, maples, and this year, oaks.

But why do plants that go red bother, when shortly thereafter they will just jettison those lovely scarlet leaves to decay below?

There are theories. We don’t really know fully why we’re seeing what we’re seeing out our Floyd County windows this morning. And we don’t know that the view will always be the same in autumns to come.

If you’re interested in reading more, here are some pointers.

► Why Leaves Turn Red in Autumn. The Role of Anthocyanins in Senescing Leaves of Red-Osier Dogwood [scholarly-geeky]

► Saupe: Why turn them red when leaves will be leaving? 

► Is this the end of autumn as we know it?  | Visit Colorado



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Refugium Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:52:43 +0000 Refugiuman area where conditions have enabled a species or a community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas. An area in which a population of organisms can survive through a period of unfavorable conditions;  an area of relatively unaltered climate that is inhabited by plants and animals during a period of continental climatic change (as a glaciation) and remains as a center of relict forms from which a new dispersion and speciation may take place after climatic readjustment.

As a few of you know, we traveled again, far south–perhaps for the last time, as the passing of the patriarch and his interment there this month marks the likely end of a geographical chapter in our lives.

IMG_3382bayhouse480The Mississippi gulf coast was part of our growing up as young marrieds, then with small children who fished from the pier.  Out the back door, we wandered hundreds of unmanaged acres along the bayou within easy sight of the runway at Keesler Air Force Base, and crossed the quiet road to hunt squirrels or “buttercups” or bog buttons or swamp rabbits, mucking up over our ankles in tea-colored water and black mud.

IMG_3392pocosin240And so, in a similar way to seeing for the first time after long absence a good friend, things are the same, but different. Mostly different with this once-familiar quiet bay enclave, which has been encroached on all sides by “progress” of one kind or another.

There is very little left of the once-common estuarine mudflats along whose margins we gigged flounder by johnboat at night and threw the net for “sardines” or shrimp. The MacMansions have invaded on all sides, and a family holdout where we gathered recently is all that remains of the way things were, tucked back in what live oaks Katrina left there.

Behind our Marriott, a ten acre strip of more-or-less natural pine pocosin hosted hundreds of pitcher plants that were as welcome to see again as old classmates.  I dropped to my knees to greet them. They will not last long, there in sight of Interstate 10. The bulldozers were already leveling the adjacent acreage for yet another toss-up motel or strip mall.

And so, from that remnant of old bay life, human and other, we returned at last to Floyd County, then down the slow road to Goose Creek–to our refugium: an enclave in the eddie of time where glacial change presses in from all sides.

We will remain in our refugium, our storm home, as long as we can before others  will come to belong here–relict forms from which, perhaps a new dispersion might take place on the other side of a cultural readjustment not far ahead.



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Fading Light of Fall Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:50:51 +0000 We take a few hikes nearby each year just to prove we are not dead yet.

One is to the top of HeartAttack Hill.

The one yesterday was not as taxing to the heart, moreso to the ankles, knees and hips as the terrain is strewn with irregular rocks and boulders, now carpeted with a deep lay of obscuring leaves.

Our ankles survived, and the last of the afternoon sunlight (disappearing several hours before actual dusk) was lovely through what remains of the beech, hickory and maple leaves.

We are most fortunate to be able to find places of tranquil beauty and seclusion without getting in a car.

This will not always be the case, so all the more reason to celebrate both the place, the day and the safe hike once more.

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What Difference Does a Season Make? Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:09:19 +0000 I’m catching up with myself, from this time a few years back when I imagined keeping up all along through an entire year with a seasonal journal–part of my “Floyd County Almanac” that sits just exactly where it did when I abandoned it.

I remember as I wrote this thinking how smug of me to look out my window at leaves almost all fallen from the trees and all insect night noises silenced while I simply went upstairs and brought down the long sleeves when winter approached.

Not a one of the millions of other living things we share the northern hemisphere with have it so easy!

From autumn of 2012, here’s a first paragraph of a longer piece uploaded to Medium, should you care to read or bookmark.

Autumn a Change in Cadence and Key

Though a few poetic souls and tree-hugging types like me will make soft cooing noises about the magic of the coming of fall, many pay no mind to these aesthetics at all. And for most of my fellow humans, from a practical, survival point of view, autumn connotes no more inconvenience than the putting-on of a warmer pair of slippers of a morning. 
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Studying About Those Good Ole Days Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:46:25 +0000 Sorry. I have just a minute this morning before rushing off to a dentist appointment in Blacksburg.

Some of you may have suffered the dissociative results in panoramas when people move as you’re panning. It can create some bizarre amputations and other bodily permutations. This is one such example.

And, given the fact that my son, my brother-in-law and I sang an  a cappella rendition of “Down To the River to Pray” for my wife’s dad’s memorial service in Biloxi, this apparent baptism scene from a cousin’s pier in the bay seemed appropriate for this morning’s posting.

This is one of those “forgiveness rather than permission” situations. I will be grabbing my car keys exactly one minute after hitting the PUBLISH button.

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Yosemite: the Cost of Keeping Up Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:54 +0000 I had planned to post a few images from last week’s quick Gulf Coast trip. So much for plans.

I upgraded to Yosemite. Chrome is broken. Safari is not living up to the hype of being faster and more of a real browser I’ve never found it to be, but I’m stuck with it for a while, and all thumbs.

iPhotos–also updated–does not like the old version of Java runtime and the new version is taking a half hour to download. So this image was not cheap.

I hope you appreciate the simple picture of leaves on our path that cost me 30 minutes of wait. So many more leaves are down now than when we left for Biloxi last Wednesday.

On the plus side, I have had the sense this past week away that I’d like to get back to writing something more substantial. The shorter days this time of year have traditionally been calendar prompts towards turning in, slowing down, and thinking more deeply now that lawn and garden are not our masters.

I’d started another book in October a couple of years ago. I plan to revisit that notion, so am not stagnant across my entire creative life, such as it is. And maybe the blog will rise with that tide.

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Lord of the Flies Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:52:27 +0000 Is it just US? Are others in Floyd County being bedeviled by clouds of tiny “gnats”–which upon inspection are a type of fly?

What is the source? I’m thinking these are “wet vegetation” hatches. They  especially like to congregate above our windows in doors to the extent that you can’t see paint underneath them.

Phorid flies maybe? They are smaller than fruit flies. Wing length is greater than body length. Does anybody have a valid ID so that I can explore control measures?

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Local Color Tue, 14 Oct 2014 11:20:27 +0000 There’s plenty of color in the Southern Appalachian forests, as if hue and saturation sliders were nudged to the right by the Master Painter. In just the past week, we’ve had a remarkable intensification of the yellows, golds and reds that were so faint just ten days ago.

And while the forest floor is temporarily also colorful with freshly-fallen scarlet and saffron hickory, oak, maple and poplar, that goes quickly to somber sienna and burnt umber. Except…

We do see these occasional splashes of brilliant red berries clustered low to the ground and often hidden under fallen leaves.

Can you identify what plant these berries make seeds for? (Mouse-over to see more of this plant.) I’m betting somebody will nail this right away.

No telling what the coming leaf peeper weekend will offer travelers, after the hard rains and strong winds pass through with this present storm system that is spawning tornadoes here and there. Maybe there will be some leaves left attached to twig and branch.

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Sometimes, The Eddies Thu, 09 Oct 2014 10:55:27 +0000 It is not easy standing your ground in a raging river.

It takes constant vigilance lest you be swept off your feet and disappear below the surface of muddy and turbulent waters.

In those times, it takes all the energy you have just to hold your place. You can do this for a while.

Then, when and if you can, you seek out an eddy. The waters still flow there, but you take the chance to look around in that calmer hour to remember why it was you got wet in the first place.

From that still place yesterday, I found solace in the finest details of the most ordinary things just outside my door.

That did me a world–this one and only world–of good.

Flow can be an enemy. Flow can be a healing balm. We step from the currents to the eddies and back again, perhaps each time learning how to balance our rage against  the river with complete surrender to the solitude in the slack waters, when–and if– they come.

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