Moulin Rouge: My Bit of Autumn Heaven

The Moulin Rouge

I have always wondered if heaven captures a
time in our lives when we were the happiest
and most content. One that mirrored the
moment in time when [we] were in complete
and utter love and at peace. And I would
like to think that I would spend eternity
amid a late-October day with laughter
echoing across a long-awaited cool breeze.
Crisp ombré leaves will dance in
celebration as the rusty gates of my heart
open upon candy-corn kisses. 

–“Autumn Heaven” by Alfa Holden [alfa.poet]

Can we pause the madness of our coronavirus, pre-election existence to consider the understated beauty of late October?

I cannot get enough of the breezy-sunshine days. I’ve even begun taking walks during Zoom meetings that don’t require my explicit input.

This past weekend the weather was irresistibly perfect, so my guys and I went out to Scott’s Orchard’s to pick apples. When we arrived [mid-afternoon], the lines were long, and the trailer transporting people into the orchard was packed, with no social distancing measures in place. Everyone was masked, but we passed on the apple-picking and purchased some “already picked” and sinfully delicious apples.

So what did we do instead? We basked in the sunflowers!

A small sunflower field lining the entrance to the orchard beckoned and we heeded the call. There were many varieties of sunflowers, and the strong dose of sunflowers was so good for my soul.  I have many more sunflowers to share, but the bit of gorgeousness that leads this post left me speechless. I’ve seen the Moulin Rouge sunflower in photos, but to see it in person is another thing altogether.

Talk about a bit of autumn heaven!

If you love sunflowers half as much as I do, stay tuned. I have loads of sunflower love to share–the ones I shot a few days ago and the many, many, many I obsessively shot during the summer from the mini-field my guys planted outside my home office window. Who knows? Maybe, I’ll start 2020 with a month of sunflowers!

Until then, find a little heaven in this autumn beauty…

Guest Post | “Tightrope” by Elle Arra

Photo by Elle Arra

Today’s guest post for our series on living Black in the United States was written by my friend, Elle Arra. I met Elle Arra through her poetry blog here on WordPress. She is an amazing poet and visual artist, and I was delighted to learn she lives right here in Northern Alabama. In fact, we know many of the same people! We have made plans to get together for tea when meeting and greeting are safe again.

In this post, Elle Arra combines poetry, photos, and reportage to share her experience of participating in a protest over the Alabama District Attorney’s refusal to release officers’ body camera footage in the police shooting of Dana Sherrod Fletcher last November.


Suspended above the day’s mundanity and slog,
an ever-present tightrope
black bodies traverse in tandem.
It’s like navigating an ocean built
almost entirely of undertow
while maintaining stride and heft of dreams.

We are not permitted our hysteria
not without it being labeled non sequitur rage.

We walk this tightrope
lilting between full bloom
and languish,
walk with bullets in our backs,
twine around our necks,
asphalt under our skin,
knees on our windpipes,
tree branches in our hair,
blood like rubies cascading,
splayed bone like smooth porcelain,
black skin – ribbons and ribbons,
afro confetti––

Photo by Elle Arra

Sunday, August 16, 2020. I walked the four corners of US 72 and Wall Triana [in Madison County, Alabama] where giant signs were hoisted in peaceful protest of the shooting of Dana Fletcher 10 months earlier. I took photos and spoke with his wife and mother who have had to wedge their grief and mourning between breathing and fighting for justice. I cannot imagine having to take moments meant for private sorrows to fight publicly for transparency—the human and decent thing being denied them.

Photo by Elle Arra

I watched Dana’s now fatherless daughter playing in the grass while her mother, grandmother, and a sizable group gave everything they had to this effort. I took it all in–the focus on their faces, the bullhorn call and response, and the raised signs calling for justice.

Photo by Elle Arra

It was extremely hot and humid that late morning/early afternoon, but the dedicated group spent three hours occupying the four corners of the intersection adjacent to the lot where Dana was killed. People from all walks of life honked as they drove by and elevated their fists through car windows in solidarity. Several vehicles pulled up and gifted cold, refreshing, electrolyte drinks to the protestors. There was beauty in the coming together despite the bitter reasons for the gathering; there was beauty in the union of people of all colors and lifestyles for one common goal.

 

Photo by Elle Arra

On October 27, 2019 Dana Fletcher was fatally shot by a Madison police officer in front of his wife and daughter. Nearly a year later, there still has been no transparency in this matter. According to Alabama law, body camera footage is privileged information, so the District Attorney refuses to release the footage or the alleged 911 call that precipitated Fletcher’s death. Stills from the incident have been released, but these stills do not reveal the whole story.

You can help. Please go to change.org and sign the petition to enact the Dana Fletcher bill making bodycam footage public record.

Photo by Elle Arra

We walk that tightrope,
what a beautiful gait.

––even our dying is a glorious walk home.

To learn more about Elle Arra and her work, please follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Photo by Elle Arra

[All images in this post captured by Elle Arra with Fugifilm X-E1 f/1.0 1/4000 50.00mm ISO200].

#ThursdayTreeLove | TreeArt Part II: Shadow and Light

We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates…Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.  –Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows, 1933

I don’t know about you, but I really need time to slow down a bit. How are we already at the end of June? I am trying to savor this summer, but it’s almost impossible since I really haven’t begun my summer break yet (meetings and tying up too many loose ends of a crazy COVID semester). I will have to work a lot of tree love into the remaining five weeks if I am to face a new academic year with at least a little sanity.

Anyway, I’m back, as promised, with the second installment of TreeArt. The photos aren’t spectacular, but I I was drawn to these particular shots because of the interplay of shadow and light.

I failed to mention in TreeArt Part I that the photos for this three-part series were shot at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville, Alabama.

If you want way more Burritt tree love [and autumn loveliness] you should check out my November 2016 post, Walk to the Cross.

Until next time…


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

“How to Live Your Poem”

April is National Poetry Month, so I’ve decided to share a beloved poem every day this month. The daily posting will add a bit of routine and balance in a moment when I feel a bit off center and out-of-sorts, and hopefully, my touching the works of other poets will also inspire me to get some of my own work out of folders and into the world.

Since April is also National Letter Writing Month, [starting tomorrow] I plan to share some of the snail mail I’ve received–recently and [maybe] not-so-recently.

Today’s offering is a piece created by Alabama author Irene Latham from the lines of other poems. Latham distributed the poem to readers and writers when she visited the University’s campus three (or so) years ago. I applaud the acumen and patience of individuals who do this kind of work–piecing together the beautiful words of others to create a new and still beautiful thing.

“How to Live Your Poem” by Irene Latham

Cultivate a secret life. Discover the fuel that feeds you. Eat peaches. Take the road not taken. Change your life. You do not have to be good. Go back. When the time comes to let it go, let it go. Reinvent. Identify what stays with you latest and deepest. Remember disobedience is the first right of being alive. Don’t think you’re better, stronger, or more important than you are. Pour yourself like a fountain. Come into the peace of wild things. Wait. Take the string you need. Forget-me-not. Believe morning is new sheet of paper. Don’t be polite. Go a-dabbling.  Let the rain kiss you. Allow yourself to be spelled differently. Feel the stars and sun and bells singing. Live with a full moon in each eye. Un-self yourself. Love still as once you loved, deeply and without patience. Know of nothing else. Know of nothing else but miracles.

The poem was created with lines from poems by Stephen Dunn, Naomi Shihab Nye, Li-Young Lee, Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Walt Whitman, Paisley Rekdal, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Wendell Berry, Marilyn Singer, Lilian Moore, Ralph Fletcher, Eve Merriam, Kenneth Grahame, Langston Hughes, Emma Mellon, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hafiz, Christine Deluca.

We’re living in a surreal moment, but even with self-isolation and social distancing, we can choose to live out loud and live our poem.


About the image: The unrelated and not-so-great squirrel “portrait” is from another time, when I could happily take daily walks through campus observing spring’s awakening. The squirrels and I had become companions; we were a little wary of each other, but they often remained posed long enough for the click of the camera. This little guy was enjoying an afternoon snack and “living his poem.” He’s visiting for #WordlessWednesday. 🙂

Breathe.

I think all the professors, teachers, and students in the USA groaned collectively this morning. No one wants to face Monday after having five to nine days off. Plus, for many of us, Monday begins the intense madness of final papers, final exams, and final grades.

Ugh! The thought of what this week brings makes many of us want to run for cover. But we can’t. We just have to jump in and keep doing until it’s all done.

So breathe…

My Impressionist “Painting” of the Tennessee River at Ditto Landing, Northern Alabama 🙂

….knowing on the other side of the madness…four glorious weeks of winter break.

“Walk to the Cross”

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

74-Foot Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain, Monte Sano, Huntsville, Alabama

I lied.  Not intentionally, of course.  When I wrote “Autumn Has Flowers Too” would be my last blog post this year featuring autumn photos, I had no idea that my family and I would walk the nature trail at Burritt on the Mountain this week.  I expected the weather to turn really cold and shake what was left of autumn off the trees, but imagine my surprise when we reached the park and found lots of color!

Our goal today, as always, was to reach the very large cross.  The 74-foot cross (with a 31-foot crossbeam) is an impressive site. It was built in 1963, “a racially integrated and ecumenical effort during complicated times, symbolizing a city balanced by a symbol of peace and faith”  (Paige Minds the Gap).

"Cross" @ Burritt on the Mountain

The Cross @ Burritt on the Mountain weighs about 38 tons.

In the past, we visited Burritt during the winter months, after the trees lost their leaves, so it was nice to experience the trail and the cross in the golden glow of autumn.

As usual, I captured many photos, but I’ll just leave a “few” for you to enjoy.  “Few” is relative, right? [Click an image for a closer look]

 

Veteran’s Day: Honoring America’s Heroes

I cannot let the day end without paying tribute to America’s veterans. The images below are from Huntsville-Madison County’s Veterans Memorial Park.  The memorial, dedicated on November 11, 2011, “holds before present and future generations the principle that freedom is not free and that a free people must always be prepared to defend that freedom at whatever cost.”

Courage Sacrifice Duty, Huntsville Memorial Park

“Courage. Sacrifice. Duty.” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free. –Dan Lipinski

“I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. –Douglas MacArthur

"I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade," Huntsville-Madison County Memorial Park

“I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

America’s Veterans have served their country with the belief that democracy and freedom are ideals to be upheld around the world.  –John Doolittle

"I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade," Huntsville-Madison County Memorial Park

“I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. Freedom is never free.” –President Barack Obama

"Never Accept Defeat," Huntsville-Madison County's Veterans Memorial Park

“Never Accept Defeat,” Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Park

Thank you, Veterans, for your service and your many sacrifices.

(Monochrome) Photo Play: Water, Light, and Fairies

I’m baaaaack with another monochrome photos post.  I can hardly believe the last monochrome post, “Animals in Monochrome,” was in January. I didn’t realize how much time had gone by.

I attempted a “Water in Monochrome” swap earlier in the year, but there were no takers, so I was pleased as punch when my penfriend Beckra joined the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot and joined the swap when I “re-created” it in September.  She had been experimenting with shooting water in black and white, so the swap was perfect for her.

Beckra shared two photos which exhibit her photographic interactions with water and light. Both photos were shot at her happy place, the creek at Woolly Hollow State Park.

“Writing on the Water,” Creek at Woolly Hollow State Park, by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

This first photo was captured “close, close, close-up” while wading and crouching in the creek. Beckra writes that it “seems like the light is writing on the water in a kind of cursive.”  Interestingly, it also looks like a fire dance.

For the second photo, she had been trying to capture the “starlike glints” on the water and was pleased to find this photo did not disappoint.

“Starry Creek,” Creek at Woolly Hollow State Park, by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

Although the next photo was not part of the swap, it is a “water in black and white” photo and it completes a perfect trilogy of abstract water photos.

“May Moontrail” by Rebecca R. (swap-bot: Beckra)

Beckra sent this one at the beginning of summer break, a moon trail on the lake. She followed the bright moon to the water and was able to capture this reflection, a beautiful “luxury of the summer.”

The guys and I found different places to experience nature and we were overjoyed to find some hangouts near or on water.  Being a Westbank NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) girl, I feel a little lost sometimes not having the Mississippi River down the street from me.

I sent four photos, two from summer and two older photos because I am sort of proud of the monochrome renderings.

Wheeler Lake in Black and White

Wheeler Lake in Black and White, iPhone Photo, 2016

This photo is from Wheeler Lake, which is located between Rogersville and Huntsville in Northern Alabama. The lake was formed by a dam along the Tennessee River. Although part of a popular tourist spot, we were among very, very few people in the area we explored.

Here’s another favorite shot from Wheeler Lake park:

Wheeler Lake Park, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

“Where Fairies Play,” Wheeler Lake Park, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

Although flawed, this one was fun to work with because I had to remove a HUGE orange garbage can from the shot.  For some reason, it reminds me of a place where fairies play.  I think I read one too many medieval romances last month.

Ditto Landing marina, described as “Huntsville, Alabama’s gateway to the Tennessee River,” is my new favorite spot.  We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area and are looking forward to returning soon. You can learn the history of Ditto Landing and see gorgeous pics on the website.

The “Closed Bridge” photo featured in Friday’s post was from Ditto Landing. Here’s the original photo.

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Original

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Original

And a favorite edit:

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, edited in Snapseed

Closed Bridge, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, edited in Snapseed

Here’s another one of my favorite photos from Ditto Landing–a nice balance between air, trees, water, and land.  There’s so much more to explore I can’t wait to go back.

“Balance and Order,” Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016

As mentioned, I also sent two older photos: a sepia photo of from “The Fly” at Audubon Park, featured earlier this year in one of the nature photo challenge blog posts, and a photo of waves crashing against the rocks (was it mountains?) in Maui.  Although I “heart” the original photo, I couldn’t resist the purple.

The Purple Wave, Maui

That’s it for now.  Until next time…I’ll be riding the purple wave…

Divine Rest…

Closed Bridge at Ditto Landing

Closed Bridge at Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016.

The whole love of the “Law” has been lavished on and has cherished the Sabbath. As the day of rest, it gives life its balance and rhythm; it sustains the week. Rest is something entirely different from a mere recess, from a mere interruption of work, from not working. A recess is something essentially physical, part of the earthly everyday sphere. Rest, on the other hand, is essentially religious, part of the atmosphere of the divine; it leads us to the mystery, to the depth from which all commandments come, too. It is that which re-creates and reconciles, the recreation in which the soul, as it were, creates itself again and catches the breath of life–that in life which is sabbatical.”
― Leo Baeck, Judaism and Christianity

Tree Therapy (Autumn Leaves)

Thanks to life and all the madness it’s tossed my way, I’ve been needing quite a bit of tree therapy lately. Thanks to all the amazing tree photographs shared on Flickr and Google+, my sanity is no longer threatened.

That reminds me…About a month ago, in a Monte Sano blog post, I promised a follow-up post that focused on the autumn leaves of Monte Sano. As I was looking through my photos I discovered a lot of other beautiful leaves that I captured over the last several weeks, and what better way to say “Happy Winter” than to take a look back at autumn. (No shame here. I am partial to autumn).

This beauty greeted a whole congregation of church folk as we exited service one November afternoon.

Untitled 5 2

I wasn’t the only one struck by this magnificence. Many paused to capture photos of the two trees. Take a closer look:

Untitled 2

This one (above) was shot while looking up and standing between the two trees. Just take a deep breath and enjoy those brilliant colors mingling.

Here’s an even closer look at the leaves of the tree on the left:

Untitled 5

I want to live in those leaves!

Here are some tree/leaf shots taken while sitting on a “float” with my son’s saddle club while riding through a Veteran’s Day parade. I’m loving the lens flare on the first image. [Click an image for a closer look].

And here are the leaves of Monte Sano–still green, yellowing, golden, bright orange, deep red, and bronze…

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May the gorgeous colors of autumn carry you through the browns, grays, and snowy whites of winter!