Category Archives: Abstract Photos

To whom it may concern

Mom recently said to me that she knows something’s wrong if I’m not writing.  How telling.  True, sure, but nonetheless insightful for its simple clarity.

Fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger) resting atop a fence (2009_06_06_022664)

So yesterday, when my eighth blogging anniversary came and went, I sat on the fence regarding how much I felt like posting about it.  Then the day slipped by, a wisp of smoke grasped and lost in the same moment.  Which didn’t bother me.

Abstract photo of the keyboard of my laptop (190_9006_ab)

Because for months now my keyboard has looked less like a communication device and more like an impassable desert.  I felt daunted as I sat in front of it, unable to resurrect even the most fleeting word combinations from the dark and barren landscape at my fingertips.

Heavy morning dew on a blade of grass (20080824_11348_ab)

Substantial thoughts and ideas, let alone the ability to make them manifest, quickly vanished in the light of day, nothing but morning dew of the mind.

The sun setting behind thickening clouds (20081011_13814_ab)

Yet in the sunset of these ruminations dawned a jarring realization.  Though the past year has held its share of challenges, some of which I must carry with me beyond this eighth anniversary, part of my worsening blog malaise stemmed from a disturbing truth I have to face: in the past year, I broke my cardinal rule by allowing someone to influence—Nay, not just influence, but rather to control what I blogged, even if indirectly.

Why didn’t I post anything about The Kids last year?  Why did my writing degrade into nothing short of mundane documentary, a blow-by-blow, dry, uninspiring mess?  Even though the past several months and their inimical ways share part of the blame, here at the beginning of my ninth year at the keyboard, why has blogging become so intimidating, so resented?  It all boils down to a boy and how I let him indirectly manage my personal journal.

That idea made me angry.  And since anger is more useful than despair, it spurred me forward, urged me back to my roots, forced me to decide resolutely that, like I said five years ago to another friend for the very same reasons, this is my blog, my journal, my home on the web.  If you don’t like it, just go away.

While I still have trials to win and obstacles to overcome, that hangup seems to have stuck in my craw for far too long.  It feels good to finally cough it up.

And to show my resolve in this matter, here’s a picture of the Shadow, al-Zill.

A close-up of al-Zill, one of my cats, as he looks out the window (20080613_06470)

He’s watching things blow away on the winds of change.

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  1. Fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger)
  2. My laptop’s keyboard
  3. Heavy morning dew on a blade of dallisgrass (a.k.a. water grass or Dallas grass; Paspalum dilatatum)
  4. An autumn sunset at the family farm deep within the Piney Woods of East Texas
  5. al-Zill, or sometimes “the Shadow” and “Little Terrorist”

Autumn color

It’s true that we here in Texas do not enjoy the same showy display foliage aficionados can watch in the Northeast.  In fact, we often say the bulk of autumn color in this neck of the woods consists of green turning to brown—all in one week.  And though that often feels truer than it is, finding nature’s gemstones this time of year doesn’t require a trip across the country.

Autumn foliage surrounding the Sunset Bay swamp (2009_11_08_037687_autumn)
Fruit of Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) in autumn (2010_02_20_050039_autumn)
The Dixon Branch riparian woods at the edge of the floodplain showing autumn colors (157_5744._autumnJPG)
Morning sunshine filtering through open woods in autumn color (157_5753_autumn)
The lavender fruit of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) seen in autumn (2009_12_13_044546_autumn)
Rust-colored bald cypress trees (a.k.a. swamp cypress, southern cypress, red cypress, white cypress, yellow cypress, Gulf cypress or tidewater red cypress; Taxodium distichum) in autumn (2008_12_13_002386_autumn)
Autumn foliage on one of the small islands in the Sunset Bay confluence at White Rock Lake (20081101_14431_autumn)
Close-up of a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) in bright sunshine (20080114_01296_autumn)
Autumn fruit of sacred bamboo (a.k.a. heavenly bamboo; Nandina domestica) seen on a cloudy day (2009_11_07_037328_autumn)
A blanket of autumn leaves showing a rainbow of colors (219_1928_autumn)

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  1. Unidentified: this flower has all the traits of an aster, yet the flowers are smaller than a fingerprint, the plant never grows above the grass (thus the flowers are small white spots in the turf), and it matches none of the asters I can find.  So still looking…
  2. Autumn foliage surrounding the swamp at Sunset Bay
  3. Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense)
  4. Dixon Branch riparian woods at the edge of the floodplain showing autumn colors
  5. Open woods in autumn
  6. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
  7. Bald cypress (a.k.a. swamp cypress, southern cypress, red cypress, white cypress, yellow cypress, Gulf cypress or tidewater red cypress; Taxodium distichum)
  8. Colorful autumn foliage seen on a small island in the Sunset Bay confluence at White Rock Lake
  9. Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  10. Sacred bamboo (a.k.a. heavenly bamboo; Nandina domestica)
  11. Autumn leaves the wind collected outside my garage door

The road home

For the most part we humans live with the false impression of security and a feeling of being at home in a seemingly trustworthy physical and human environment.  But when the expected course of everyday life is interrupted, we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from and not knowing whither they are drifting.
— Albert Einstein

A freeway scene while driving toward the setting sun

Capricious though I may be, like most I enjoy the comfort of the everyday routine and the security of the familiar.  Never has that been truer than when I arrived home this weekend after more than two weeks away.

The literal road home passed quickly enough.  The metaphorical road home remains a path to be traveled in the future.  For now a kaleidoscope of gray swirls over the trail ahead, a deluge of confetti enveloped in eternal susurrus.  Like fog at the roadside, tendrils of confusion seek to obscure the lines and hide the way.

I am not myself and I am not certain when a return to normalcy will occur.  Perhaps the scale must be reset for a new normal.  Or perhaps patience is all that is required.  Unfortunately no one can say which to expect.

Repeating things to myself over and over again has helped me find some measure of light in the perpetual shadow.  A line from Henry David Thoreau’s journal most especially echoed in my clouded mind: “The hangman whom I have seen cannot bury me.”

And while I continue repeating that to myself each day, it rests coupled with an admission that, while I refuse to let the hangman bury me, I cannot stop him from irrevocably changing me.  Again—and how sick I am of being told this truth—only time will tell.

When I wrote the bridge to nowhere series, it came as preemptive for what I knew would follow, albeit preemptive only insofar as I knew something would happen even if I did not know what would happen.  Now with the gift of hindsight, I have decided to go ahead with that series, although I will redact it with the new reality of things.

I will also endeavor to step back into engagement both here on my blog and in the greater online world, though I say now that absence remains your surest bet, at least for the time being.  For the road home begins only where the bridge to nowhere ends.

Abstract photo of a road running through dense woodlands (20080809_10538_tr)

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.
— J. R. R. Tolkien

Bridge to nowhere


We don’t always know where we’re going until we get there.  But if you’re like me, you plan ahead even if you don’t know the destination or when you’ll arrive.

While I don’t want to delve into specifics at this time, I want to say my life has had its share of challenges in recent months.  So as part of my contingency plan, I have a series of scheduled posts that will begin appearing if I’m out of pocket for a certain amount of time.  This is the first such post.

I began calling this journey my “bridge to nowhere” because, like these photos taken at White Rock Lake in January 2008, it’s a path obscured in the distance and only clear in this moment, in this place where I stand right now.

I’ve tried to include a variety of topics in these posts.  That seemed important to me for many reasons, not the least of which are that I don’t know the destination and I don’t want to set/reset the tone of my blog based on a single event.  Besides, I’m too capricious to maintain a theme.

So long as these posts are showing up, it means I’m out of pocket.  Hopefully I’m not in jail because that would be downright embarrassing!  And hopefully I won’t be gone long because I’ve only planned a finite number of posts over a finite period of time.

Please note that my absence means I can’t respond to comments.  But don’t let that stop you from speaking your piece.  While I might not be part of the conversation, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to each other, and it certainly doesn’t mean I won’t catch up later.

And in closing, some of you are aware of my circumstances.  That disclosure also was part of my contingency plan.  All I ask is that you not share that information in an identifiable way.  So long as there’s life in these old bones of mine, I don’t want this hanging over my head in the future.


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Footnote for the technically minded: Though this absence is not necessarily unforeseen, it is unscheduled.  And because I couldn’t schedule posts according to specific dates since these will only show up if I’m gone unexpectedly, I scheduled them based on a trigger file and a cron job that runs hourly.  So long as the trigger file was updated, the posts would remain unseen.  Once that trigger file became so many days old, however, the cron job would start processing the posts.  Thus you will see at the bottom of each post a small marker.  That tells the cron job that it’s a “bridge to nowhere” post followed by how many days to wait before posting it followed by what time in UTC to post it. Yes, I’m a big ol’ geek if ever there was one!

[my apologies for reposting this; I had intended not to share this series and so had removed this entry, but after some though I’ve decided to go ahead with these posts]

Things I meant to say – Introduction

Of all the rash and midnight promises made in the name of love, none is more certain to be broken than “I’ll never leave you.”  What time doesn’t steal from under our noses, circumstance will.  It’s useless to hope otherwise, useless to dream that the world somehow means us good.  Everything of value, everything we cling to for our sanity, will rot or be snatched in the long run, and the abyss will gape beneath us, and suddenly, without so much as a breath of explanation, we will be gone.  Professions of love and all…[1]

A common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) in bloom (20080114_01294_ab)

Flowers are temporary, impermanence manifest in things destined to fulfill a single mission in life before vanishing into history’s ethereal grasp.  Most would say we appreciate them because of their beauty.  I disagree.  We appreciate them because we can never truly possess them, much like we can never truly possess the air we breathe.  Cut a flower from its mother plant and it withers and dies; leave it on its stem and it becomes pollinated and transforms into something else entirely.  It is ours only to appreciate for moments, always fated to disappear before our eyes, never to be ours for more than a season.

People and our relationships with them, like flowers, are temporary things, dark specters that flit through our lives before departing.  Why?  I’ve said before that “[e]verything is made to be broken,” that in this “universe that shelters us, nothing is eternal.”  We do not live forever.  People come and go.  Relationships change.  And our unfortunate tendency to always look to what we do not have, to always want what is not already in our possession, means we too often leave a wake of regrets in our personal lives.

What do we regret?  Opportunities squandered?  Assumptions about having time?  Taking for granted those things which should matter?  All these and more.

Regrets are cancerous, ghoulish demons that live forever in the shadows of our memory, tormenting our souls with what could have been.  We cannot go back in time and correct them.  We cannot undo what has been done.  We cannot take back words once said and we cannot say words after their bill is past due.

Regrets are manifestations of too late.  We were too late to say what needed to be said.  We were too late to offer what needed to be offered.  We were too late to realize we had taken the wrong path.  We were too late to act.

Regrets haunt the living with those two most painful words: what if.

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.[2]

A common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seed head (20080114_01287_ab)

In my memorial entry about Derek, Scott made a good point: “I hope you told him these things when he was with you, too, because it sounds as if they were well deserved. It would be a shame if only we–and not he-–knew how deeply you felt for him.”  And though Derek knew precisely how I felt about him, the point hit me on a larger scale: what has gone unsaid?

My dear and beloved Annie is going through a worrying time with Jacques.  It has become clear he might not make a full recovery this time, might not have the time left that so many wish for him.  Through the ups and downs, the will he or won’t he, I keep pondering what regrets she might feel were he not to make it through this battle.  Are there things she meant to say?

I have kept an offline journal for more than 30 years.  In it I have spilled both the mundane and the profound.  Very few of its handwritten scribblings[3] have ever seen the light of day, and perhaps that will always be the case.  But recent events have begged of me the unending stream of “what if…” questions.

So I am opening the pages of my personal thoughts in order to share here a new recurring series called “Things I meant to say”[4].  It will cover areas that heretofore remained sacred territory betwixt me and those for whom these words were penned.

Some of those involved have long since passed away; some have left my life and moved on with their own; and some are as close to me now as they have ever been.  As a matter of decency, allow me in advance to apologize to those who may find themselves caught in this torrent of truth.  I will make every attempt to manage revelations in the same manner with which I handle all personal disclosure on this site: through obfuscation.

A plains sunflower (a.k.a. petioled sunflower or prairie sunflower; Helianthus petiolaris) facing the sunrise (20080726_09939_ab)

This is how we go on: one day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time.  Dentists go on one root-canal at a time; boat-builders go on one hull at a time.  If you write books, you go on one page at a time.  We turn from all we know and all we fear.  We study catalogues, watch football games, choose Sprint over AT&T.  We count the birds in the sky and will not turn from the window when we hear the footsteps behind us as something comes up the hall; we say yes, I agree that clouds often look like other things—fish and unicorns and men on horseback—but they really are only clouds.  Even when the lightning flashes inside them we say they are only clouds and turn our attention to the next meal, the next pain, the next breath, the next page.  This is how we go on.[5]

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[1] Paraphrased from Cabal by Clive Barker

[2] From a syndicated column by Sydney J. Harris in the January 8, 1951, edition of the Daily Courier of Waterloo, Iowa

[3] I could easily type my offline journal in some electronic notebook without making it available online.  I could still call it an “offline journal” and I could still keep it private.  But I’ve never given up the profound joy and mental stimulation that comes from putting pen to paper, from holding a writing implement in my hand and letting it channel my thoughts.  I believe the act of writing serves as an exercise for the mind that is lost in front of a keyboard.

[4] This is the first of at least a few recurring blog post themes that will come directly from my offline journal.  As I’ve reviewed that hefty collection these past months, I’ve realized there’s some worth in sharing bits and pieces here.

[5] From Bag of Bones by Stephen King