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I’m not a huge fan of resolutions, but I am hoping to try some for the blog.  I was soooo good about posting every day until the last two weeks or so. I’m not sure why I’ve fallen off. I think it’s partly because of the winter blues. I’ve actually been writing more than usual, just on paper not on this keyboard.

Right now, I’m snuggled in bed, working, fighting what seems to be a perpetual rundown-ness, with a cat snuggled at my thigh, a bottle of San Pel at hand, and something old on the TV.  As hard as it was to get any enthusiasm together for the holidays, I’m sad they’re over.  The New Year is off to a good start though – we spent yesterday at the auction, where we bought some cool and strange things. MKL and I bought our first thing ‘together’, which was really cool on a lot of levels. And Kelsea had, as usual, the patience of Job.

Work starts in earnest again tomorrow, along with the year.  So what can you expect from the blog this year?  Well, a few things.

1.  I’d like to continue to share a photo a day, along with quotes and gratitudes.

2. I’d like to provide you with more travel tales, since that’s what I love – so I plan to publish some older travel tales, taking them from paper to screen.

3. I wish to revivify the Weekly Wednesday Poem. I enjoyed learning about new poets and introducing them to you each week.

4. I want to revivify the Original Thursday Poem.  I miss my poetry.

5. More essays and opinions – from me, of course. I miss thinking about things other than work.

6. I’m still going to try for a post a day.

Anything else you readers would like to see?  I’m curious.

So, that said, he’s the Photo of the Day for January 2, 2012.

Photo title: Centerpieces

Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “Going home means getting comfortable being who you are and who your soul really wants to be. There is no strain with that. The strain and tension come when we’re not being who our soul wants to be and we’re someplace where our soul doesn’t feel at home”.  —  Melody Beattie

Daily gratitudes:
MKL
Ahmed the coffee merchant, the latest member of the household
Old quilts
Knowing that spring is coming
Geese thick in dead cornfields

I think Violent Doughnuts would be an awesome band name. 

Do you ever do that?  Hear something and think, “Wow, that would be a great band name!” 

It’s always something really strange.  On a road trip last year, Kelsea and I decided that “Moose Hallucinations” would be an awesome band name. I still think it would be. Only I can’t play an instrument, so it can’t be my band.

Any band name suggestions you’d like to share?

As Hurricane Irene (aptly named after my late aunt, I’m sure) bears down on my beloved North Carolina coast, I have been obsessively checking weather websites, the Weather Channel, online NC newspapers, Topsail’s Facebook pages, and whatever other source of information I can think of.  I think some part of me imagines that if I am on top of the storm minute-by-minute, I can somehow relate to her, and thus, somehow exercise an element of control over her.  This is what we call magical thinking, people.  That dog just won’t hunt.

Magical thinking image from (somewhat ironically if you ask me) http://www.forbes.com

I am suspicious that another part of me thrives on this kind of drama. It’s almost the opposite my empath nature, although I don’t think I have words to describe that.  It’s like a horrific accident – I can’t look away.  If I absorb the images completely into my spirit, perhaps they’ll make sense.  More magical thinking.  I know what’s going on – the images just do damage to my soul.

Irene is huge (and my aunt was no little peach either, by the by).  I remember how massive Katrina looked from the radar images, and I’m surprised no one has drawn a comparison.  Thankfully, she has weakened – if you recall, there was the potential for her to turn to a Category 4, which would truly have been devastating, given her size.  Most of the reports are from New Jersey and New York, I suppose because those are the most populated areas, but still, it niggles me a little, because she’s heading right for “my” house at Topsail.  And nobody’s reporting from Topsail, are they?  The house can sometimes feel like it is floating when the tide is high and the waterline reaches the bottom of the dunes.  So as you might imagine, the storm surge is worrying.

The view from "my" porch at Topsail at low tide.

I do love the people on the Carolina coast that newsfolk have been interviewing. Most are locals.  A lot of them are just sitting on the sand, looking at the horizon, watching the storm come.  Sort of like watching a movie.  Or how we all just sit silently and look at the sea after breakfast at Sandcastle.  Those who have lived on the barrier islands their whole life are perfectly content to ride out yet another storm. I suspect that would be me.  Yes, she’s big, but she’s not a Cat 3.

The Weather Channel has been emphasizing the importance of emergency preparedness.  I cannot agree with them more.  If you do choose to rock and roll through a hurricane, you should be prepared with frozen bags of ice water, a full bathtub, batteries, food, gas, flashlights, candles, a knife, and perhaps the Zombie Survival Guide (just in case things get worse, because yes, things could be worse).

I’m really truly not minimizing the gravity of this situation.  We saw the damage in the Bahamas, and I still have prayers going to Patty’s house in the Abacos.  I send safe blessings to those of you who choose to go through it, and peace to those of you who are scared.

But when TWC was talking about emergency preparedness, I would have sworn that Jim Cantore (you know the buff bald guy who is always standing in the most dangerous of places, telling YOU to go inside?) said, “Have a kitten.”  Upon further reflection, I realized he said, “Have a KIT.”  But kitten is what I heard, and kitten is what I’m sticking with.  Beside I love kittens (and I know a few of you are thinking, ‘Yea, me too, I could eat a whole one,’ and to you I say, ‘Stop that.’)

So here, Irene – have a kitten.  It will make you calm down.  I promise.

The clouds are layered over the house, coming from the north.  Thunder rumbles like a falsely threatening deity, or a fat man suppressing a belch.  I prefer the deity metaphor, even though they are both mine.  I cannot tell if it will actually rain, or just rumble for a while.

But there are layers upon layers here.  Both in the skies and in my spirit.  That’s not a bad thing.  Not at all.  As a friend said, it is a good place for me, here at this beach.  I tend to ponder life with a more helpful spirit and intent.  Which makes the ponderances more productive.  I process more here than I do almost anywhere else.  Even in the Caribbean, I will “save” some things to process for when I’m there, and then I’ll get there, and I”ll be all, “Well, what on earth was I worried about THAT for??  Can I have another Dark & Stormy, please?  Look at the color of that water…”

I don’t do that here.  I am more serious about digging through my layers of emotional clouds and dissipating them.  I do it calmly, with a certain amount of serenity and certainty, and few tears.  Actually, I am proud to say, no tears this time.

Here, I grow.

Isn’t that lovely?

The thunder can do as it pleases.

Mixed Company

The poet lies there
As the bright spangle of lightning
Illuminates the words she chewses
About rain sounding like
Bamboo wind chimes.

The homeowner lays wondering
if this will be the time to
tell about leaks
in her new-old roof
And how deep the water is
in the pig run outside her
bedroom window.

The mother lays awake
wondering if her daughter,
miles away,
is wakeful too,
and recalling another storm
where they cuddled together
as the bolts hit too close to home.

The child wishes it could go on forever,
loves it when the thunder rattles the windows
in their panes
And the sea
froths gray.

The abandoned lover remembers
of tropical rains and
being frightened once
by the thunder,
holding her love tight until
her fears passed
with the storm.

I try to sleep
But the bed
Is mighty crowded.

I love looking at other people’s photos. I am so often left feeling envious, amazed and enriched.

Envy: not a good thing. It can run the gamut of “I wish I had their equipment” to “I wish I could travel like they can” to “I wish I was more comfortable taking pictures of people”. (As an aside, I initially typed “I wish I was more comfortable shooting people” and that just never sounds right. It would be wonderful if we could come up with another term for taking pictures besides “shooting”).

Amazement: I am constantly fascinated by how other people see things. I have my own eye, and others who have spent time with me on photo-taking days (which, when on sabbatical, can be every second of every day, much to my companion’s irritation) have, in my humble opinion, learned how to see the world a little differently because of it – and have improved their own photography skills in the bargain. As a bonus, I have expanded my own eye from seeing the world through theirs as well. But everyone has a different eye, and there are so many photographers who see things in a way I don’t. Hence, amazement.

Enrichment: a well-taken photo – which can be composed or accidental – can stir unexpected emotions within you. It can make you feel happy, make you laugh. It can make you curious about the subject, the location. It can fire up a train of thought about something dimly associated with the image. It can stir memory. It can generate lust, longing, sorrow, a sense of the bittersweet. It can disturb. It can inspire peace. It can move you to tears.

I think the core of this trio of feelings is amazement; the enrichment and envy are always touched by a peeking sense of being amazed. You can look at someone’s vacation shots and be bored out of your mind, or be fascinated by the way they see the world. Maybe that’s what it is – people who love photography, who love to capture that moment to share with others, see the world with slightly more focus, more passion, more purity and clarity than folks who just snap shots to doument a trip. I’m not judging here, truly. Those snapshots have a perfect purpose. They are just not the same thing as images.

An image is a reflection of what you are seeing. Almost a mirror, but with the glass itself colored by your own vision. That miniscule injection of your own sight and soul. That’s what makes an image special, captivating, amazing. The transmission of the eye of the photographer, slightly conscious and completely selfless.

That’s why I keep looking at other photographers’ works.  And that’s why I keep shooting.

Aspen image taken by Kelsea in Steamboat Springs last weekend.

Words are the strongest tool in the world.  Amazing how such a seemingly mundane thing – language – can have the power to strengthen someone or bring them to their knees.

If you spoke to me in Russian, I wouldn’t have a clue what you were saying.  Say the same words in a language I understand, and they can bring me to tears or make my heart sing.

How much do we hear, really? Is it not just the words themselves? As someone joked in a meeting last week, “I don’t use letters.  I use words.”  Another attendee responded, “Jack, you do know that words are made up of letters, right?” 

Yes, words are made up of  letters.  Letters themselves have no power.  In fact words themselves are powerless.  Read a word in a dictionary and it is flat.  It is… just a word.  But hear it spoken from the lips of someone for whom you care, or whom you view in a position of power, its meaning is infinitely altered. (And historically has been the source of all trouble in the world.)  It is not just the tone, though that plays a part.  Which leads me to wonder if the power of words is as strong if one uses sign language.  It’s not just the context in which the words are spoken, the circumstances – no, it’s stil more than that. 

It is the soul behind the words.  Perhaps that’s what demarcates the difference between writers – how much of their own soul goes into the words upon a page.  How much of their own truth are they willing to own. 

How much are most people willing to look at their words and say,”I own that.  I speak my truth.  And now I’m brave enough to live it.” 

I am.  I don’t know a lot of truths about life anymore, but that I do know. When I say a thing, I mean it, heart and soul. I like that about me. I tend to hold the rest of the world to my own standards.  I don’t know if that is fair, but I suspect most of us do so regardless..  I can make excuses for other people until the cows come home.  (I know that about me too.)

Does that mean that I shouldn’t always believe what I am told?  When I believe words that resonate within my own heart, am I being naive?  Or am I having faith?  Those who believe the words of the Bible can look around them and recognize that the actions of the world don’t fit the words in the good Book.  Yet they still have faith in those words.  Why should it be any different for any other set of words in which we have invested faith?

Just a thing for Thursday contemplation….

It’s Bacon!

Would bacon each day….keep everybody away?

I suppose that would be true if I were to emerge from such a bacon experiment either dead from cardiac arrest or weighing 300 lbs. (The former is more likely than the latter.  At least I’d be more enthusiastic about the former than the latter.) But the experiment is tempting. I mean, what if you just DID such things?  Took every year of your life and made it an experiment?  Sort of like Jackie’s Lollipop Tuesdays, except a Lollipop-a-Day. The people who know me best will think that this concept is right up my alley. Others will be conservative and skeptical — doubting Thomases, if you will. (And I must ferret out the origins of that expression.)

But my little sister (yes, you know who you are, P) accidentally tuned me into” liking” the “Bacon is Yummly” page on Facebook (you can see why we’re sisters), so every day – at least once a day – these bacon recipes appear in my feed. (Feed – how appropriate.) So, I got to thinking.

I love bacon. I’m a Southern Girl. I was raised on bacon and grits. And don’t you yankees go getting all self-righteous on me because you were raised on scrapple and mush – I mean, eewww. I pity you and it was no better for you than bacon and grits.

E-Bro still (as older brothers do, thirty years later) loves to tell the tale of how I’d eat a half pound of bacon for breakfast. Hey, I was a dancer. Back then, before I grew hips and Kelsea, I could eat anything and not think twice. I only wish I could reprogram my body to think that way now.

But you hear about people all the time who do this kind of thing – the guy who ate nothing but McDonald’s for a year (blargh). And look at Jared, the Subway spokesman!

I’m spending some time these days contemplating diet and weight loss. I’ve heard that if you lose your emotional baggage, you lose your physical weight. Being the weird spiritual me that I am, I’d buy into that. I know it takes work. I’ve proved that to myself with the weight I lost last year. And honestly, I can feel some shadow of that working around me now. But my soul tells me it’s more than that. It’s a harmonic convergence of elements, which of course, includes diet and exercise. But it also includes joy and pleasure and gratitude and peace and satisfaction of the tastebuds.

Bacon is experiencing an immense resurgence in its popularity.  It’s now one of the coolest kids in school.  When you google ‘Bacon”, you come up with 150,000, 000 hits. You can visit the archives of bacon-related poetry at http://baconhaikus.wordpress.com/ – yes, every day, a haiku about bacon.  Unfortunately, the author seemed to stop posting back in 2009, but perhaps someone will take up the torch. There are literally hundreds of bacon blogs and sites out there, and I could spend weeks reviewing them all to come up with bizarre products and recipes…but I will leave that pleasure to my fellow bacon devotees who might have a bit more time on their hands than I do these days.

But I will tell you that Colorado – as proof of its coolest-state status – is hosting a Bacon Festival in Keystone from June 24-26.  The festival provides attendees with access to over 3000 pounds of bacon.  I (and hopefully Kelsea) will be up in the mountains that weekend for Donkey Derby Days, so we may try to leave early on Sunday to pig out at this event.

I’ll look bacon in the face and tell it that I don’t have the Rocky Mountain Oysters to eat it every day in a recipe. Honestly, such a challenge would likely involve burning down my house, as my propensity for spawning kitchen disasters is well known. (In fact, I am afraid to use my brand-spanking-new oven. I don’t want to dirty it, even with the self-cleaning function, of which I am highly skeptical.)

But the idea of it … the ecstasy of it … the return home to that place of infinite energy and skinniness … might it not be worth a shot?

Mmmmmm.

Bacon.

I will masticate upon it.

Mr Moose and Pan Prepare For Bacon Onslaught

We all have original thoughts.

This particular thought is certainly not proven by our culture these days.  How many movies are remakes of or sequels to old movies? Hollywood doesn’t seem to have an original bone in its botoxed, plasticized body.

But we bloggers do.  We are full to the brim of original bones, thoughts, sin  – oh wait, maybe not sin. Well, maybe so…anyhoo, I am daily amazed at the creativity and inspirations that are posted on Freshly Pressed, and on the blogs that I subscribe to.  And yes, for you grammarians, I did end that sentence in a preposition. 

Which is why I am so fascinated when another blogger writes a post that I had in mind for this blog.  This phenomenon is at the forefront of my hindbrain because it has happened twice in the last week.

The blog, Another Nobody Writing About Their Life is one of my new favorites.  I just love this girl.  I kind of wish she’d change the title because she’s so NOT a nobody to me.  She’s a fantastic photographer with a great eye for other people’s beautiful shots, and an exceedingly clever sense of the ironic, fun and important.  Last week, she published a post about shoes.  She had no idea how long I’ve been mulling the exact same thing – a photo post about outrageous shoes.  And she did so well with it that I feel like I don’t need to write my own now.  I probably will one day, but for now, I am satiated.

Every single morning, I look forward to Jackie’s posts at Twist365.  Without fail, she makes me snort-laugh, no matter how bad my blues are.  In her last Wednesday’s post, In Defense of Pigeons, she took the words right out of my mouth (so to speak).   I absolutely loved it.  And once again, I found that someone else had somehow channelled my blog-brain into her own post.  (Anyone who knows me knows that I have raised the question of where pigeons go to die.  And coincidentally enough, on Tuesday, I saw two dead pigeons on the side of the road in two separate places.  I’ve never seen a pigeon that’s been hit by a car.  Pheasant yes, pigeon, no.)

How does it happen?  Of all the millions (?) of bloggers out there, how am I drawn to those of like mind?  I do still believe there are original thoughts.  But I also wonder what it is that connects some of our brains – what patterns criss-cross to link us, people who have never spoken, never met, and don’t even know where each other live?  How do we somehow step on each other’s toes in the universal mindfield?

It’s an intriguing idea.  Even if it’s not an original one.

Rocky Mountain PBS is showing the Ken Burns film “The Civil War”.  I just came upon it tonight, and don’t know if this is a one-night affair or if it will be rebroadcast again this month, this month – and April 12 specifically – being the start of the Civil War.

I first encountered this film on my honeymoon.  We were winding down and spending the night in Taos, New Mexico in a chain hotel, eating Lottaburgers and purusing the cable channels when we found it.  I had no idea what it was, but I was fascinated and entranced. On viewing it tonight, I find that I still am.

I’m not quite sure why.  Perhaps it’s because Ken Burns obtained an amazing amount of photographs from the era and the battlefields.  I have no idea where he found them all.  Perhaps it’s because it’s simply a marvelously well told story that brings this important chapter in history leaping so vividly back to life.  Perhaps it’s because the background sounds – crickets, frogs, cicadas, the cries of blue jays – take me back to my beloved homeland (I am, and will always be, a Southerner).  Perhaps it’s because I fell a little in love with the late Shelby Foote the first time I heard his honeyed drawl.  He was always one of the people I’d have at my dinner party, if I could invite anyone in history.

The War Between The States was (from a Southerner’s perspective) a war of honor and identity, with very little glory.  It was an economic war, with slavery being the lynchpin of the Southern economy.  It was futile for the South in the end, and caused a rift within the country that has never entirely healed.  As I’ve said before, some Southerners still seem to be fighting the war, and I have always had a sense that the South is just biding it’s time, waiting for the right moment to rise again.  There was a pridefulness about the War that I was aware of even as a child growing up in North Carolina 100 years later.  I can still recall old men – grandsons of Civil War veterans – marching in their grandfather’s uniforms in a parade down Main Street once.  I remember my father had to explain it to me – I must have been very, very small.

A few years ago, Kelsea and I did a bit of a Civil War tour as part of a trip to Virginia and Maryland.  We went to Manassas, Loudon, Antietam, Harper’s Ferry, and a few other spots, exploring, learning and picking up the vibe of places where so many lives were lost.  It was powerful and we’d both do it again, investigating some of the many other sites we didn’t get to see.

All this is feeling particularly close to home these days. Perhaps it’s because of a certain uneasiness in the world and the economy.  Perhaps it’s because 1% of the people in the US are taking in 25% of the nation’s income, according to an article by Joseph E. Stiglitz in Vanity Fair.  With the uprisings in Egypt, Libya and other Middle East countries recently, protesting inequality and injustice, I wonder if we in this country are not due for an uprising of our own, one that pits class against class, similar to our late Civil War.  If such a battle were waged, who would triumph?  And would the price of victory be too high for anyone to pay?

As I say, this film fills me with reflection.

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