Thursday, October 29, 2009

One Single Impression -- Elusive


searching for
that flash of scarlet in misty woods,
an indigo bunting on the fence wire,
reflections of autumn across the lake,
just the right words
to make you see
your worth
to me.

Thursday October 29, 2009

Happy anniversary to my husband, John.

The top photo was taken in the late afternoon on the Virginia side of Pound Gap off U.S. 23, on Friday October 24, the lower photo was taken Saturday October 25, 2009 just after dawn at Fish Pond Lake in Letcher County, Kentucky.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

fare-thee-well, tigger

It's been a long time since my cat Tigger was he of the "bouncy, bouncy tail." He's suffered from a diseased pancreas for several years, but for the last six months its been clear that continuing to live was a daily battle for our indomitable Tigger. We had to feed him four or five times a day to make sure that he got even a tiny amount of nutrition. He'd often sit on the kitchen counter waiting for the next meal. Even with all he ate, he continued to loose weight -- he weighed less than three pounds, all skin and bones literally. But he continued to be interesting in life, in cuddling up with humans and other cats, with exploring boxes and investigating corners.

This morning he decided that the struggle was too much, and he stopped eating and lay down. So together Tigger and I made a last trip over the mountain to our friends at Pound Veterinary Hospital. When I came home, John and I dug another small grave at the corner of our yard under the pine trees, and placed Tigger to rest with the other beloved pets who have gone before.

Sleep well, Tigger.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

One Single Impression -- Conquer

I shall not
conquer fear;
shall court,
engage and learn,
thus grow within
fear’s embrace
and dance,

Sunday October 18, 2009

When I first began to think about this week's prompt, several common phrases popped into my head "conquer fear" and "conquered by love." The on-line dictionary gave the meanings of the word conquer as:
1. to acquire by force of arms; win in war: to conquer a foreign land.
2. to overcome by force; subdue: to conquer an enemy.
3. to gain, win, or obtain by effort, personal appeal, etc.: conquer the hearts of his audience.
4. to gain a victory over; surmount; master; overcome: to conquer disease and poverty; to conquer one's fear.

As I thought about these meanings and these common phrases, I became uncomfortable with the connotations. Is love that "conquers" really love? Should love subdue or surmount us? Should we really wish to master and overcome fear? Doesn't a certain amount of fear keep us wary and safe? If we think we have "conquered" fear, perhaps all we've done is driven it underground, suppressed it -- repressed it -- where it will surely do more damage that out in the open and recognized.

For other, worthier poems on the prompt "Conquer" see One Single Impression.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bad Branch at dawn

This is what I got up before five AM to do -- take these two pictures. Actually I took almost a hundred pictures, but these are the two that made the cold, the wet and the dark all worthwhile.

Thomas R. Biggs the instructor of the photography class that I'm taking (which officially starts in ten minutes in a classroom downstairs from my office where I am now), met a few of us more foolhardy souls before dawn at the Bad Branch Falls Nature Preserve in Letcher County, Kentucky. We hiked a short distance in the dark to the first bridge across Bad Branch, and set up our tripods and cameras and waited for the first glimmers of light.

An awe-inspiring, if cold and wet, experience.

On the way out, I snapped a few shots of the trail before my batteries went dead.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


At the last minute, I decided to sign up for a three Saturday nature photography class. The first session was this past Saturday. Inspired by the teacher's photos, and emboldened to learn about the manual settings on my little Canon PowerShot, I went looking for some things to "shoot."

The first photo is the scene across the road from my veterinarian in Pound, Virginia. The colors are not as rich this year as last. A certain amount of dry weather in the late summer/early autumn tends to enhance color, and it has been a very rainy damp fall. But this little glade had some pretty reds and bright yellows.

The second photo is a tree in the vet's parking lot with its clever "dog crossing" sign, but it was the vibrant color in the leaves that caught my eye.

The third photo was just something I happened upon in our front yard. I was struck by the brilliant color contrasts and the textures of the moss, the rock, the grass and the leaf.

Remember, Betti?

Columbus Day

Fog mingles with rain, and snags
in the tops of the redwoods,
not reaching the road where
the trees close in densely.

Morning paper amuses, informs
while the wind shakes the metal shell
around us and blurs the boundaries
between grey waves and grey rain.

We race the shifting sun and clouds
and chase the rainbow
up the coast highway
past orange pumpkin fields and green hills
before turning city-ward again.

S. Greer
October 26, 1973

Photo is this past Saturday in Kentucky, but it reminded me of our day-off adventure, all those years ago.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

complexity of meanings

I'm been quite intrigued today, reading the various comments to my One Single Impression poem (see post below), discovering that most people ascribe positive connotations to the phrase "wearing one's heart on one's sleeve." I begin to wonder why was it that the young man who accused me of wearing my heart on my sleeve had imputed a negative connotation (a view that I had adopted over the years) -- where did that come from, was it an idiosyncratic interpretation or was there a broader cultural source?

The denotation or overt meaning of the phrase "wear one's heart on one's sleeve" is to show emotion, affection or love openly for all to see. In itself does appears laudable and positive. But doing a little bit of Googling reveals that one of the first uses of the phrase can be found in Shakespeare's Othello, produced in 1604. In the play, the treacherous Iago's plan was to feign openness and vulnerability in order to appear faithful:

"It is sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am."

So Shakespeare presents wearing the heart on the sleeve as a sham, a play act, a deception. The open expression of feeling is mere artifice, a means by which one can manipulate others. Clearly it was Shakespeare's usage that influence the young man who criticized me so long ago, and influenced my own interpretation of this phrase.

One Single Impression -- Talisman

she wore her heart
on her sleeve,
embroidered scarlet
in crewel yarn,
a talisman
to ward off suitors
whose reality
might breach
her boundaries,
sweep away her
illusion of control,
replacing genuine passion
for lovelorn fantasy.

Saturday October 10, 2009

I did, in point of fact, embroider a red heart on the sleeve of my denim work shirt in college, a reaction to a something a young man said to me. Although I did not recognize what the talisman meant at that time.

For other poems on the prompt "talisman" see One Single Impression.

Art work by sgreerpitt.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

at a loss

Dad in August of this year by Betti My father, Carroll Lee Greer, died yesterday morning. Peacefully, resting in his recliner at home in San Mateo, California. He was 97 years old.

He was born in December 1911 (same year as Ronald Reagan), in small logging town of Troutdale in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia (about three hours drive from where I live now).

My father with me and charlie in 1958 My dad was like most dad's in the 1950's he earned the income while my mom took care of us kids. He worked as a machinist (and later a engineering technician) at United Air Line's main maintenance base at San Francisco International Airport. When he came home from work, we were suppose to be quiet, and listen respectfully, while he talked about his day during supper. Then every weekday night he watched the news (Walter Cronkite on CBS). Until I was 17 most nights after the news my dad either left home to go to classes at the community college (College of San Mateo) or he retreated to my parents bedroom to his desk to study for his classes.

My dad made sure, by both word and example, that we all understood the importance of getting a college education.He would talk about the things he was learning in his classes. I remember learning from him about the experiments on group conformity by Solomon Asch (some thing that I like to tell my students about today). When I was about eleven, a college algebra class he needed to take was made available on television at some really early hour of the morning, like 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM. I actually got up and watched much of it with him, fascinated, learning about things like square roots before I had completely mastered my multiplication tables (to this day I don't know what 8 x 7 is!).

He was very talented and creative. He won any number of awards and recognition for designing new tools and items for United's planes. He invented the special latches for holding the food trays in place in the galley during take off. He invented the "privacy curtain" on the circular stairwell of the new 747 jumbo jets so that passengers couldn't look up the skirts of stewardesses. At home he created beautiful yet practical handcrafted wood furniture for our home. Tables, chairs, a huge bunk-bed for my brothers, in later years he liked to create craft items, that were sold at the church bazaar.

Most of his creative expression was poured into photography. Everything we did was photographed! There are thousands and thousands of photos of me and my brothers and my mom -- and almost none of him. The few of him were staged with the use of a tripod. He also earned some extra money by doing wedding and event photography. I often got to go with him to weddings and act as his assistant when I was between the ages of 10 and 14.

My father bequeathed me many gifts -- artistic talent, a love of learning (especially mathematics and science), passion for photography. But most especially he bequeathed to me a set of values -- left, liberal, even radical values. He gave me The Communist Manifesto to read when I was about 12. He was a union man and walked the picket line for six weeks when I was 15. He believed in equality for all, and economic equity. His heroes were Muhammad Ali, who he admired for resisting the draft and for getting rid of his "slave name" (as well as for his amazing, beautiful ballet in the boxing ring), and Martin Luther King Jr. I would not be the person I am, the sociologist that I am were it not for the lessons my father taught me. He was a "working class hero."

Photographs are from top to bottom: My father on the front porch less than two months ago (2009) taken by my best friend (and my parents "other daughter") Betti DeMeules Christensen; My father with me and my brother Charlie at our back door in 1958 (photo set up by my dad using a tripod); My father with me, my brother Frank (baby), and my brother Charlie and the apple tree that now dominates the back yard in early 1957 (also a tripod photo he set up); my father writing in his journal in 1987, by me with the new Pentax camera he gave me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

One Single Impression -- Descent


angle of sun
creeps slowly towards
the horizon,
afternoons shorten,
shadows lengthen
cross lawns;
summer greens
fade as
first one leaf
then another
flutter gently,
spiraling earthward,
evening chill
comes early,
as earth
its descent
to winter.

1 October 2009

The world seems to pause and catch its breath as summer comes to an end, and autumn begins. Before the colors burst forth, the signs of autumn are subtle. The forest is just a little bit thinner, more sky and sunlight shine through. The leaves have dulled, no longer the rich green of summer. A good time for reflection.

Friday, October 2, 2009

One Single Impression -- Colors


pulsing with life;

do not leave.

but colors
like life,
like a river dappled with sun,
the sound of the wind,
phases of the moon,
children growing up
and parents
growing old;

time passes
colors change.

Friday October 2, 2009

For links to other poems on the prompt "colors" see One Single Impression.