A lot of time has passed quickly. Writing has been difficult. Actually, time allotted for writing has been difficult; the writing itself has been little attempted. Several other good pursuits have been happening. I’m beginning to learn to play guitar, something once attempted in my very early teens. My Orange Crush bottle collection has been supplemented and reorganized. I’ve been distracted by prime numbers, having accidently discovered one (7,129) while doing some recreational math in my office one morning. Two consecutive weekends of cooking barbeque at the church and playing on the new softball team have also occupied me. The Carolina Bird Club meeting, over which I presided, was excellent in Williamston, NC. And plenty more, some of it lovely and some of it perfunctory, has naturally flecked the consist of 2009’s first quarter canvas.

I do love this blog community and have missed it. Thank you, again, for reading and for adding your comments and thoughts when you can. The weather is warm, now, and in some upcoming time off I hope to put the kayak in the water and bring back some photos of where I’m finding myself. Peace to you in the meantime, with sunshine and new leaves!

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 10:14 pm  Comments (6)  

July 2

I’ve been getting up early this summer. Usually waking up before 6:00, I ease my way through soulful moments toward work. Running or playing Speed 100, healthy breakfast, prayer, Faulkner time. Check the blog and e-mails. Music. Today it’s the best Irish CD I know: Cherish the Ladies’ phenomenal The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone.

Cool sky teases my July brain with October impersonations. Different swallows move through it. Things to be written collect within and wait their turn, exciting me with their freshness. I retie my shoes, smiling about a birthday girl. The stopwatch is set and ready. Life is this, the thing that happens like art just before you pick up the basketball.

Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 8:10 am  Comments (2)  


When your bathtub starts looking like this, it’s time to do some cleaning!


No, actually these lovely organisms were doing precisely what they were designed to do, performing their red-legged, aqueous dance in a North Carolina pond.



What might the music have been?

Published in: on May 21, 2008 at 5:11 pm  Comments (6)  

Antreville Wedding, Abbeville Bricks

Officiating a wedding is one of the most under-appreciated functions that a pastor can perform. It’s not that way every time, obviously, but parents with money and families of society tend to view the church sanctuary as their private gazebo and the clergy as a noisy part of the chancel furniture. Wedding policies, in their minds, are for people without enough extroverted gumption to circumvent or ignore them. Mention of God is tolerated, just as long as it is clear that the bride is the center of attention and the reason we are all here. The fact that I don’t allow such nonsense to prevail in weddings that I lead keeps me safely away from the gates of society’s plush boundary. And I’m pretty okay with that, except for some sadness for those who can’t realize the loud emptiness of what they call the good life. But even when the pastor doesn’t gently redirect the parents’ misguided wishes, appreciation is low. As soon as the pastor dismisses the congregation to the reception, he or she is then dismissed from further thought by the wedding’s party. There is no intent to develop relationship with the church, but mainly pragmatic recognition that the church is bigger than the clubhouse, prettier than the Moose Lodge, and less expensive than either. (This discussion is primarily true for non-church members; members whose children get married in the church are generally better, and those occasions are great blessings.)

But that’s not what I wanted to write about. (How long has that been brewing?!) I got to attend a wedding this past weekend, and it was fun. A cousin was married at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Antreville, where I was raised, so it was a nice little homecoming for me. I saw people who were my Sunday School teachers when I was a kid and a high school friend I had not seen since high school. Cousins came from Tennessee and Charleston and Hilton Head, and I got to sit in the pew and be one of them.

The wedding accomplished, we stood under the old cedar trees where the men used to smoke between Sunday School and preaching, and caught up with each other. Then we drove to Abbeville. Here’s a photo of some of the gathered cousins, taken inside the Belmont Inn, the site of the reception:


The couple dancing on the porch while wedding party and guests stand around.


To make an odd posting even moreso, let me show you some pictures of bricks. I like bricks, and Abbeville has lots of them.

The Belmont Inn

The Opera House

The Courthouse

The Main Street Square, and old buildings with antique shops


After I drove away and was headed back home toward Lancaster, I remembered that I never spoke to the pastor. He was not the pastor of that church, and I didn’t know him, but I still wanted to say hello. I saw him at the reception, standing with a koozie-wrapped beer bottle and talking to some other guests, but I never broke away from the cousin hilarity to speak. Hmmm. I wonder how he felt about the whole thing. I just hope some folks from the family made him more welcome than I did.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Comments (7)  

Music Discovery

It was an exciting event tonight to learn that there is such a thing as a bass saxophone. I had long suspected it after trying to sort out the instrumentation of Esther Phillips’ eerie song “No Headstone on My Grave”. Part of the substance that buttresses her bold voice during the chorus is created by a fluttery instrument that I concluded was either a trombone or a very deep-voiced saxophone. I also considered tuba, but the quality was mellower, with some of that aural pungency of a ripe single reed.

Each time I asked a music person of the existence of a bass sax, I would get the list of known family members (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), and then the shared uncertainty about the big guy. Well, tonight’s A Prairie Home Companion episode was a rerun from last spring, one I had missed. Every once in a while the show will feature a rare instrument or strange combination, and tonight the feature was a bass saxophone, joining in many of the songs during the two-hour program. That was some really profound sound moving past those valves!

(Had I really needed to know before now, of course I could have looked it up on Wikipedia or some other web info source, but discovering it when I wasn’t expecting it was so much more fun. And by the way, I still don’t know what the instrument was that played behind Ms. Phillips. If anyone knows the song or can find it, I’d like to hear your thoughts on that sound.)

Published in: on January 6, 2008 at 1:51 am  Comments (3)  

Christmas Eve

I have appreciated your readership of Balance this year. Your comments and e-mails have contributed much to what has become a pleasant community in this small corner of the internet. Whether the content is serious or silly, I have enjoyed your interaction and hope you have enjoyed each other.

Today is December 24, and Christmas begins tomorrow. That can mean so many things. You might face the season with stress and dread or with relief and joy; either way, I wish for you some elegant moment in the midst of the clatter:

Perhaps laughter, and the smell of bacon frying,
conversation, deep and uncontrived,
a quiet smile you weren’t meant to notice,

music bad enough to ridicule all week,
music good enough to make you forget what you were saying,
and love at your elbow, holding on.

I wish you a gladness for the darkness, with early January frogs,
the sound of cards being shuffled,
and a dog who won’t leave you alone,

a savior Who is obvious,
a friend who is not,
the power of something strong left unsaid.

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 9:10 pm  Comments (3)  

Ocracoke Vacation — Day Eight, October 31

After a morning of running, buying a small step ladder, and getting breakfast, I decided it was time to kayak. Conditions were finally right for me to attempt a paddle in unfamiliar waters. The step ladder was to assist me in loading the boat onto the Titan, something not necessary with the Frontier since it’s not as tall. I have always enlisted help from someone else when loading to or unloading from the Titan, but I learned before leaving home that I could do it by myself if I stood on something. Thankfully the Q700X is not a very heavy kayak (44 pounds), but the 18-foot length makes it somewhat awkward to maneuver while holding it above your head, especially in the wind.

Wave action at the landing was chaotic, but low. I cautiously moved away from the docks and faced the wind, holding position near the shore until I determined the feel of the water underneath me. Satisfied, I carved out left, into the sound, and arced fully downwind, heading toward the ferry channel and the entrance to Silver Lake. It was lively, and the rudder became necessary to hold me on course.

Silver Lake is not actually a lake but a jettied natural harbor where ferries terminal and the village of Ocracoke crescents from its edge. I entered the space between the jetties, those lines of rocks moderating the flow of waves and wind for those who travel the water. In a tiny vessel like mine, the difference was clear; the surface was more stable between the rocks. Paddling leisurely in the harbor, I strolled past docks and tethered boats and came to the shallow landing at the Surf Shop, where I got out and went to the door. Since I was wet, I didn’t go inside, but had one of the guys meet me on the porch to give me suggestions for where to paddle from here. They rent kayaks, so I figured they would know, and I got some helpful advice.

Back out past the seafood company and the ferry berths, I exited into the sound again and turned left, toward Springer’s Point. I covered distance quickly, moving past some homes and then the point into a broad cove where some tidal creeks reached into the island. I chose what seemed to be the main creek and started in. For the narrower channel, and since I was sitting below grass level and the wind wasn’t a big factor, I raised the rudder and reverted to hip/torso steering. The creek went a long way back through marsh, with several streams branching off. After a while I was paddling essentially through the backyards of some homes, and the creek became very narrow and blocked with tree branches. I turned around, probably pleasing the small group of Mallards and one Green-winged Teal hen that I kept flushing.

When I arrived back near the mouth of the creek, I explored a few more creeks, briefly, before entering the sound and turning left again. I could see the long sandy conclusion of the island in the distance, near where Michael and I had driven on Sunday. I moved in that direction, resting on the water really, and let the breeze coming off the island catch me from the side and push me for a few hundred feet. From there I paddled some more toward the distant sand, but not intending to go all the way. At a selected spot past a stand of trees, I turned and started back.

Along the way a boat wake caught me from behind at an angle, and I noticed how, in that situation, you can tell what is about to happen behind you by what you see the surface doing to your left front. Everything the water does means something. It is a language unto itself, with a vocabulary embedded in the seasons, accented by the depth of the land which rides below. And sometimes the language is a song, with hypnotizing rhythm, or recitative so convincing I nod my assent to things it says are true. When I’ve gone back to shore, what will I miss that is never sung again?

The distance passed, and I came to the ferry cut again, the “Ditch” as it’s called locally. As I emerged from the lee of the jetties, the wind met me head on, unchecked across the open miles of Pamlico Sound. The waves were a batallion of white-haired gnomes, marching out to sea with me in their way. By glancing to my right for relative shore speed, I could tell the wind had slowed me, but the relative water speed was still blazing as the waves took their shots. Some broke across the bow and some crashed beside the cockpit, getting me wet. So I began to time my stroke so the blade sliced into each crest, attacking them, and the ride smoothed-out considerably. Active waves are fun!

I was only out for a little more than two hours, but it was packed with enough distance and sensation and interior openings that it seemed like half a day. Sliding back into the landing, I was tired and ready for something to eat. Here’s a photo of the 700 after takeout, with the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries in the background having just met each other.


After getting a shower I headed over to The Pelican Restaurant for lunch. Then I washed some clothes, did some writing, and took a nap. Around 4:30 I drove to the upper end of the island to enjoy the evening outside, my last night here.

About the time I was getting to the ferry landing, my phone rang, and it was Andrea, my traveling-nurse sister in Arizona. She was watching some birds outside her apartment and, in addition to sharing the joy of the observation, was asking for some identification tips. What she had was a Black-crowned Night-Heron and a Least Bittern, cool birds, the latter of which I don’t have on my Hyde County list. Here are some shots from the drive.




Some of the clouds look like willow seeds blowing.


And some clouds look like jetties, moderating the flow of color and hope for those who travel the night.

Published in: on November 8, 2007 at 8:09 pm  Comments (7)