Making sorghum syrup

Sorghum Mill near Greenup, KY– my Grandmother is on left. Oct 7, 1966

I have published this photo before to social media, but not in this edited format. (The shadows have been lightened to the point where my grandmother is recognizably her. The barrels stand out.) My grandmother was raised primarily in Greenup, KY, on the Ohio River, though she also lived in the nearby cities/towns of Ironton and Cincinnati, OH, before she moved with her mother and brother to San Francisco, CA. At that point she was a young woman and soon met her husband-to-be, my grandfather. When this photo was taken, she had not lived in this area (KY/OH) for 40 to 50 years. I am uncertain, but I know my grandparents married in the mid-1920s and were living in Seattle, WA, by 1929 when my mother was born. Greenup, KY is on the edge of the Appalachians. Though northerly (near West Virginia and western Pennsylvania), the so-called hillbilly influence was large. My grandmother told a story of her grandmother (her mother’s mother) coming out of the hills to visit, complete with logging boots and corncob pipe. It likely affected my grandmother–she put on airs all her life. But that is another story….

My first American sentence*

Raven-black part of my consciousness

Why are you there?

Oh, yeah. You’re me.

American crow, Wendell, NC. January 2010.

I was reminded today of Allen Ginsberg’s definition of an American sentence as English’s answer to the haiku. I’m stealing most of this from another blogger. And here is another bit of definition. Ginsberg felt English needed more freedom to achieve what the haiku accomplishes with its 5/7/5 structure. To write one, use 17 syllables in a grammatically correct sentence (or sentences). One full line, arranged if you like (as I’ve done above). In my opinion, one should attempt the juxtaposed twist in meaning at the end as one reads in a traditional haiku. (Is my photograph a visual twist? “Raven” becomes “crow”?)

pushin’ it

Old outhouse outside Missoula, MT. Spring 1973.

Apologies for the pun in today’s headline. What “pushin'” refers to is the photographic technique. A professor of photography at the University of Montana (where I attended my freshman year) had us try a different type of exposure technique. We used light meters to measure the darkest part of the scene, then took the photo with Tri-X film. The camera was set to an ASA of 6000. We developed the film ourselves, pushing it a certain amount. I don’t remember how much, but I wouldn’t think you would have to push it a lot with those settings. The photo above is unretouched, uncropped.

a wall (AWOL?)

Cedarock State Park, NC. June 2017.

Five years ago my wife was stressed. I had just stepped off of yet another cliff of human existence, symbolizing yet again my affinity for The Fool in the tarot deck (at least the one interpreted by zen versions of the deck). Despite well-paying gainful employment with a consulting agency for over two years, I had aligned myself with a different agency. For four months I had managed to work about 60 hours (maybe) plus I had had a short-lived assignment with an “off the books” agency. We had just purchased a new home, taking on almost a quarter million dollars in debt. (sounds like a lot when it’s stated that way, doesn’t it?) On June 22nd, realizing my wife needed something to take her mind off of things, I planned to drive us over to Cedarock State Park an hour or so west of where we live. Just before we left, I received a call from the new agency to take a two-month contract. A week later that contract was “interrupted” by an open-ended contract which ultimately lasted nine months, leading into 2018, the year I earned more money than I ever thought I would earn in my life. I like to think that the spirit of our forebears, who didn’t limit themselves with “can’t” and instead explored their limitless possibilities, are exemplified in the construction techniques of this wall. It should not be able to withstand our weather here, but it does–just like we “shouldn’t” leave unsatisfying, limiting situations, but if we do…

Step off the Cliff of Can’t.