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That's What I Like About the South

On my commute to work on the western side of Mobile, I have a choice of going through the older part of town or taking I-10 and I-65 around it. My extensive research shows that the route through town, though shorter in distance, takes an average of five minutes longer. So since I'm usually late, I usually take the interstate. But I prefer to go through town, and this church sign is always one of the nice things about that route. Right now this is what it says on the east-facing on-the-way-to-work side:


And on the west-facing going-home side it says this:

Which is a good after-work message.

The sign seems to be associated with the church you can see in the first picture, Providence Baptist, but is actually in the yard of a little house next door to the church itself. I've always supposed that must be the "parsonage"--the pastor's residence; the term seems rather quaint. A year or so the sign said, for a few weeks, "FIFTY YEARS OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL ON DAUPHIN ST." But the house doesn't look inhabited, though the church seems to be still active. I guess the pastor lives in a larger house in a subdivision.

A month or two back the sign went blank, and I wondered if perhaps the old pastor had died, and the church was going to close. Or if neighbors who thought the sign unsightly (which one must admit it is) had managed to get the city to force its removal. But after a few weeks the messages reappeared. I wonder about that chain-link fence surrounding it: did they have a vandalism problem? If so that fence wouldn't stop any but the very casual attacker.

I think of this as a southern thing but I suppose it's fairly common elsewhere.



The great thing about digital photography is that if you don't get the picture you intended, you can turn it into something else. Well, one of two great things: the other is that you can take as many pictures as you want with no added expense apart from battery use. Ok, three things: you don't have to wait several days or longer to see the results.

Little Blue Truck

This was the view from my office window on a rainy day some weeks ago. The truck belongs to a co-worker. It's not really little, compared to traditional pick-ups, of course (Little Blue Truck is the name of a children's book). It really stands out among the generally dull-colored cars in the parking lot. I'm not sure when eye-catching colors fell out of favor in the automobile world--sometime in the 1980s? 1970s? (I confess, this photo has been digitally messed with, but the truck did stand out.)

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Blue Blue Blue Blue Blue

Yes, that's a piece of sky, and even though you probably aren't going to see in it what I saw when I took the picture, I'm posting it anyway. This was taken after a heavy rain, when the wind had swept all the clouds away and brought in cool dry air, leaving us with a deeper, cleaner, bluer sky than we usually have. It's very humid here, and even on a clear day the sky is usually somehow a bit...not exactly washed out, but slightly filmed, compared to a day like this one.

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I don't think of "sky blue" as one of my favorite colors, except when I'm actually looking at the sky.

The Choice

I'm not listening to music during Lent (except on Sunday!) so I won't be doing my usual weekend music post. I thought I'd take the time instead to go through some of the many photos I take and hardly have time to look at, much less post. Not that most of them are worth posting, but some are. The first one is a billboard that has been sitting by the main road on the south end of town for quite some time now.

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I thought the word "nothing" was just intended to attract the attention of someone who might want to advertise on it. Then the little note at the lower left appeared. It is an odd contemporary small-town echo of a scene in one of Bergman's grimmer movies, maybe Persona, where a character murmurs "Ingenting...ingenting..."--"Nothing...nothing..."

Then there was this, which I posted once before. The word is painted on one of those mysterious little enclosures of electrical/mechanical equipment that one sees here and there and occasionally wonders about.



As one of my children used to pronounce it. I had been at the bay with my camera late one afternoon in early December. I was about to go inside, and this owl swooped silently into a tree right beside the house. Pretty unusual to see one so close and in daylight. This seems to be the species known as the barred owl. We have a lot of them around here, and you can hear them frequently at night, and sometimes during the day. I have occasionally, while walking at night, seen one staring down at me from a telephone line, which is slightly spooky. Once I stopped and stared back for a long time, until finally it flew away. 

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Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Flowering plants bred for cooler climates tend to get confused here, when we can have temperatures anywhere from freezing to 70+F/20+C. This rose is an example. I just noticed yesterday that it was blooming. Appropriate, ain't it? It's amazing that it blooms at all, because it doesn't get the special care that roses apparently need in any climate. It hangs on, not looking very healthy, not growing very much, but now and then putting forth one or two beautiful blooms.


Merry Christmas!


Sunday Night Journal — December 9, 2012

Some Pictures

I had a very busy weekend which left me with no time to write about the thing I'd been thinking about in odd moments over the week. Such thoughts as I had were pretty disorganized and I'm not sure the whole thing, which had to do with the nature of adulthood in our time, was worth bothering with even if I'd had plenty of time, and I certainly wasn't going to try to do it in an hour or two.

So what I decided to do instead was to post some pictures I've taken recently. I haven't taken very many pictures at all over the past 6-12 months, and I've missed it. So I have decided to take my little camera with me when possible, whether I'm walking the dogs or driving to Mobile--and, maybe, to fuss over the images a little less once I've taken them. Unless there's something to stop me--e.g. the bird I was trying to get a shot of flew away--I always take at least four or five shots in hope of getting one that I like. So when I get them off the camera and onto the computer, I have to spend a long time deciding which one I like best, which also involves a lot of tinkering--cropping, brightening, darkening, and more exotic tweaks--in Picasa, the only image editing program simple enough for me to use and yet having features that make it worthwhile.


I posted a variant of this one yesterday (click here if you don't see it on this page). As I mentioned in the discussion on that post, I had originally meant to post one without my shadow and the nose of an oncoming vehicle in the picture, and decided at the last minute that it worked better with those. Here, for comparison, is the first one. I definitely think the other is better. Besides the signs of human presence, it also includes more of the road, which also works better to my eye.


And here is the other in black-and-white. I rather like this.



 You'd have no idea, looking at the two pictures above, that just a few hundred yards/meters away is a huge commercial complex comprising auto dealers with vast parking lots, and a huge shopping center (have malls gone out of fashion?--this one is open-air). Just around the corner the businesses trail off into a carpet store and a used-car lot, where I noticed these happy shoppers browsing. Unfortunately it was late afternoon and their faces were mostly in shadow


But I did catch this one in lighting more appropriate to his upbeat mood.


I had passed by the place earlier in the day but hadn't had time to stop. I may try to get by there next Saturday and see if the same crowd is still there.


Thursday morning, about 7:15 or so.


And the next one was taken on the same morning. I don't even remember taking it, and contrary to what I said earlier it was the only one of its type. But I was struck by it when I got it off the camera. It looks like some kind of abstract painting, and to my eye not a bad one as such things go, though I don't know anything about abstract painting and am mostly baffled by the things critics say about it.



And here is a better picture of the chapel of the Society of Saint Gregory the Great, which I was discussing a couple of weeks ago.


(Monday: at my desk at work, and getting this ready to post, I am annoyed to discover that nearly all these pictures look darker on my monitor here than they did at home. It's a reminder that what other people see when I post a photograph may be significantly different from what I see. So if these look murky to you, well, I tried.)

Sunday Night Journal — July 1, 2012

Gender Studies

I was away from Friday afternoon till Monday night and didn't have time for writing. And I have to admit straightaway that it's cheating a bit to call this a Sunday Night Journal, because the pictures below were taken Monday morning. But I don't want to leave a gap in the SNJ series, so here we are.

These three pictures are of three sections of a magazine stand in the airport in San Jose, California (I suppose there are other San Joses). There were two sections labelled Women's Interest and one labelled Men's Interest. Taken together, I think they're worth considerably more than a thousand words of academic gender studies, because they're the work of people who have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to find out what people really want, according to the criterion of what they're willing to pay money for.


Women 1


Women 2



On the basis of this, it would seem that women are mainly interested in food, houses, and being sexy, while men are interested in sports and sex (fitness has some connection to both). Those three blacked-out spaces at the top of the men's section are sex magazines apparently too graphic for public display.  Also maybe that women read more than men. 

Of course I don't think this is the whole story, or representative of all men and women, or representative of the truly deep needs of both, but I think it reveals a certain amount of truth.

A Very Large Tree

And here's something else from my travels, something much more rewarding to contemplate.


This was taken in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. 

Sunday Night Journal — May 6, 2012

Images and Sounds

I haven't posted any pictures here (my own pictures, that is) for a while. The reason is partly that I haven't been taking very many, and partly that I haven't sorted through the ones I have taken over the past months. And the reason for both those things is lack of time.

And if you're a very regular and attentive reader of this blog, and also have a very good memory, you might remember that sometime last year I posted a couple of videos (nothing elaborate, just things captured with the video setting on my camera), and that I mentioned that I was also planning to post a video taken during Tropical Storm Ida, which I believe was in 2009.

So I decided this afternoon that instead of writing I would spend some time selecting and beautifying some nice images from my past six months or so of pictures, and also post that tropical storm video. Well, as is often the way with computers, I ran into unexpected technical problems with the video, which I won't bore you with, and then was pretty much out of time. But here are a few pictures, starting with a still from Tropical Storm Ida.


One of those strange spider webs on the ground in the woods, that you only see when the dew is heavy:


One of many pictures I've taken of these dead trees in the bay. They were probably cypresses. I don't expect them to be standing that much longer--the next hurricane will probably knock them down. This was taken last October.


A heron in morning fog, December 31 2011:


And, from the same morning: I don't know why I took this, and it's entirely possible that it was an accident, but I for some reason I really love it:


And also: a couple of years ago my wife gave me for my birthday a little hand-held sound recorder. Sometimes I use it to record little notes to myself, usually about something I'm writing, while I'm on the way to or from work. I've also played around with recording natural sounds with it, and I did that one night a couple of weeks ago when I was taking my nightly walk to the bay with the dogs. There is a little creek that empties out into the bay, and up in that creek a bit there are a lot of reeds or rushes which provide homes for frogs. (It's the mouth of that creek which reflects the trees in the picture above--it moves around and changes shape all the time.) And there are woods all around. For some years now we've had very few lightning bugs--"fireflies" to most of the world, and I think that's a nicer word, but it feels slightly pretentious for me to say it, because I grew up saying "lightning bugs." But this year there have been quite a lot. I was standing about halfway between the bay and the reeds with the recorder going, and the woods beyond the reeds were full of those sweet cool flashes of light from the lightning bugs. You can hear tree frogs, an occasional bigger frog, and insects, but mostly the waves. At some points you can hear the traffic from up on Section Street, several hundred yards away. I'm sorry you can't see the lightning bugs.



Janet's Three Prayers, and one or two other things

I'm in the middle of trying to write a book review for today's Sunday journal, but wanted to go ahead and mention that Janet Cupo, no doubt the most frequent commenter here from the beginning (and the Janet of the Undead threads), now has a blog and it's off to an excellent start. It's called The Three Prayers, and I will leave it to you to click on the link to learn what the title refers to. 

Also, I wanted to mention, for those who recommended it to me, that I watched Get Low last night, and thought it was extremely good. The only very significant thing that seemed wrong about it was the complete absence of God from the funeral, the actual one. A preacher of that time, especially an African-American one, and for that matter most of the present time, would have been talking about Jesus a lot. It hardly needs to be said that Robert Duvall's performance is great, as are those of most of the other actors. I particularly liked the Alabama boy, Lucas Black.

And while I'm at it, here is a gallery of beautiful images of darkness and dawn, courtesy of Hearts of Space. 


On the Delta

The area directly north of where I live, and north of Mobile Bay, is a huge river delta that goes on for many miles inland. It's said to be a beautiful and important piece of semi-aquatic wilderness, though I've never seen much of it. A few years ago the state of Alabama opened a facility there which includes a space for meetings and other gatherings, a wildlife museum, and a tour boat. My wife and I took our grandson there last weekend for a Halloween-oriented event, though we didn't pay much attention to it. And we took a short ride on the Pelican, the tour boat you see below. It's heading up into a little bayou that reaches a dead end a bit further on. (The tour guide said they send kayakers up there because they can't get lost.) Now I want to go back for a lengthy trip. You can see the city of Mobile in the distance here. 


This Is A Very Large Sycamore Leaf

Sycamore leaves are on the large side generally--about as big as my hand with fingers spread wide. But not this big. We had a strong wind for 24 hours or so starting sometime Friday, and on Saturday morning there were several of these freaks on the ground. They must grow only very high up on the tree, where they get most of the sun, because none that I can see from the ground are this big. I laid a coin (a quarter) on it just to give you some sense of the size: almost 18 inches/45cm across.


Father and Son

I had been wanting for some time to get a good picture of these two remnants of dead trees. I had tried a few times, but there was always something wrong. Either the light was on them, which was what I wanted, because there was nice color and texture on the trunks, but they were out of focus, or the light was behind them, and all that detail was lost. Then a month or so ago Tropical Storm Lee came along and knocked down the bigger one.  So I'll have to be content with this one, which is the best of what I had.

Would it be better if I cropped out that bit of tree on the right? I thought so, but when I tried it, I didn't like the result as well--the dead ones seemed too isolated somehow. Unsupported.

Chapel On a Grey Evening


Grainy because it was taken with my phone, but it was one of those images that I wanted to capture even if inadequately. I tried cropping the palm tree out of the upper right corner but that took away too much of the sky. This is St. Joseph's at Spring Hill College, by the way.

Leaning Tree


It's leaning because the ground was eroded under it by storms last winter. I didn't think it was going to survive the summer, but its roots must be deeper than I thought.

A Couple of Videos

Sunday Night Journal — August 28, 2011

I've been out of town all weekend, and once again I lack both time and mental focus to write anything substantial. Instead, I've spent a couple of hours doing something I've wanted to do for a while, which is to figure out how to do some simple stuff with video and put it on YouTube. I think I've succeeded. Although these videos will not play smoothly for me from YouTube, I think that's a problem with my network connection. 

There's nothing extremely striking about either of them. They're just things I saw and wanted to record (an impulse which has to be kept in check, because it tends to get in the way of simple and attentive experience). This first one was taken back in April, on a Sunday afternoon, when I was writing at the table on our patio. It was a sunny and breezy day, and I noticed a beautiful thing happening with the nearby hydrangea bush. It was in the patchy shade of a tree--must have been the big sycamore off to the left from this picture--and the wind waving the leaves and branches of the sycamore made a constantly shifting pattern of light and shadow on the hydrangea, so that at moments it looked as if it were burning with a cool yellow-green flame, or as if it were underwater with the refracted light of waves playing on it. Of course as soon as I pressed "record" on the camera the phenomenon all but ceased. In this clip, you only really get the effect for five seconds or so beginning at about the twenty-eight-second mark, and again around the one-minute mark. You can hear the wind and the birds, though you might have to turn the sound up a little.


The next one was taken last Sunday afternoon. There's a pole with two bird feeders hanging from it just outside the back door, and it can be seen through the kitchen window. Walking through the kitchen, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the feeders were swinging wildly, more than the usual small birds could possibly account for. There was a raccoon hanging from the "V" where the two brackets holding the feeders meet, digging furiously into the birds' food. I went and got my camera. I took this from maybe eight feet (less than three meters) away, but could have gotten closer. You'll notice at the beginning that the raccoon is looking toward me--he heard my approach and I suppose saw me, but decided I wasn't a threat and went back to work.


I was curious as to how he got up the pole, and whether he would have trouble getting down, so I opened the door. He scrambled down very quickly, if awkwardly, and ran away. But of course he was back in a few minutes. And there was no great magic about his climbing of the pole--he just went up hand-over-hand, like a person climbing a rope. There was a good bit of thrashing around while he got himself into the position you see here.

It's actually a bit crazy that I'm posting these, because I rarely play the videos that people post on blogs and on Facebook, because at least half the time they don't play smoothly, and I can't stand that, especially if there's music involved--I can feel a headache coming on within seconds.  I've noticed that sometimes they play more smoothly if you actually go to YouTube than if you play it on the blog, so you might try that if they won't play properly for you--click on the YouTube button at the bottom-right of the video frame.

Young Heron

I was amused (and complimented) by the remark a few days ago from our resident film and theology expert that "almost anything Mac posts including pictures of herons tells us more about the meaning of life" than the political commentary I had linked to. It reminded me that I have another heron picture I've been meaning to post. This was taken on the same morning as the one I posted a couple of weeks ago. Most likely this bird is the offspring of the other. I thought at first glance that it was some smaller species of wading bird, because the coloring is a little different, but the general shape and proportions are the same as the adult, as well as features such as the eye and beak. So I think what I happened upon that morning was the mother heron taking her baby out for a feeding lesson. 


The adult was about 15 feet or so (5 meters) to the left, out of the picture. This morning I saw what was obviously a heron, but smaller than an adult, fly out of the woods and light in a dead tree which is very popular with birds in the area, especially larger ones. I figure there's a fair chance that it's the same juvenile or one of its siblings, as there can't be that many families in the immediate area.

I'd like to get a good picture of an adult in flight over the water, as they're majestic and graceful...though one would really need a movie to capture that.

UPDATE: Thanks to Janet Cupo for pointing out that this is not a juvenile great blue heron, but a juvenile or immature tri-colored, also known as Louisiana, heron. The picture of the juvenile tri-colored here leaves little doubt. So it seems I was not watching a family picnic.

Heron With Fish


Taken a couple of weekends ago. I was too busy trying to get a decent picture to see if or how he (she?) swallowed that fish, but I suppose it happened.

I'm thinking of getting an external monitor to use with my laptop at home--maybe ask for it for my birthday or Christmas. I do my photo evaluation and tweaking on the laptop, but the pictures look significantly better on my machine at work, where I'm doing this post, so I wonder if sometimes I actually make them look worse by trying to make them look better on the laptop. But then every one viewing this has a different monitor. This picture looks much crisper on my work machine than it did at home: if you click on it to get the full-size version, you can see the heron's eye quite plainly.

Speaking of photos: we think of Amy Welborn primarily as a writer, but she's also quite a good photographer: see thisthis, and especially this, though it's really the title that makes that last one. And notice the header.  (I really need to update my links sidebar.)

Big Hard Sun


("Big Hard Sun" is the name of an excellent song from an excellent and under-rated album by Indio, Big Harvest.) I took this picture this evening about 7:20. I was taking out the garbage and there was such a brilliant glow beyond the trees by the bay that I got my camera and walked down there.  I hope this doesn't make your head hurt.

A Few Spring Images

These are not especially good photographs. The first two were taken with my phone, and are small and not of high quality, the other with a camera which is new to me and, since I haven't bothered to read the documentation yet, produces somewhat unpredictable results.  But they can serve as suggestions.

From my office window a week or so ago:


Azalea bush at the home of my daughter & her husband (and my grandson!):


Blackberry blossoms in the front yard: