26 January 2013

We Won't Save Ourselves, But Sand Dunes Might.

Highway 12 after Hurricane Irene. Outer Banks, North Carolina.   Credit: Western Carolina University

Adaptation. In the long run, adaptation is a means of survival. And you can find examples of it everywhere, from cave salamanders' blindness to the billions of bacteria in our own stomachs. Adaptations allow for evolution, and over millions of years, not by any conscious decision but through natural selection, adaptations prove to be very important. They allow species to survive.

But there are also behavioral adaptations. Like Poynter deciding to make its headlines lowercase. They are conscious decisions, made by looking at the world around you and realizing that it's different, and that as hard as it may be to accept it, you need to be different, too. It's as simple as learning from your mistakes. We adjust our behavior when we learn that the world acts a little bit differently than we thought it did. We grow up.

21 January 2013

How to Learn From the Pines

pine forest near my childhood home in Sharpsburg, Georgia

Recently, I started reading Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. It's about her life growing  up in a junk yard in south Georgia in the '60's and '70's. It's a perfect book to follow Praying for Sheetrock, which documents some striking events unfolding around the same time a couple towns away. And it makes me yearn for more great books about rural Georgia (suggestions?).

The best part about reading these two books for me is how much I've learned about the recent history of my home state. The history my parents were born into, the history my grandparents lived.

Throughout her book, Ray delves into the ecological history of her homeland and often describes what it used to look like - miles of uncut longleaf pine forest, the ground carpeted with wiregrass, crawling with gopher tortoises and the trees flecked with red-cockaded woodpeckers. This is one of my favorite passages:

This is the homeland that built us. [...] I am in the presence of something ancient and venerable, perhaps of time itself [...] I can see my place as human in a natural order more grand, whole, and functional than I've ever witnessed, and I am humbled, not frightened, by it. Comforted. It is as if a round table springs up in the cathedral of pines and God graciously pulls out a chair for me, and I no longer have to worry about what happens to souls.

I love that because she gets at the feeling we all yearn to have - to experience wonder and be humbled by it; to understand your place in the world, not just in present terms but in historical ones, too; to have a place you can call home and to connect with that on a deep, sustaining level. All of those are sentiments that any human longs for. In a sense, I think they are what we live for.

Have you read a book or had an experience that gave you a different understanding of your home? I'm curious to know of more books like this.

15 January 2013

inspiration: a hundred ways

sunset over Kununnurra, Australia
Today, like every day, we wake up empty, scared.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument and start to play.
Let the beauty you love be what you do.
There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


P.S. - Learn more about Kununurra here.

12 January 2013

Bacon ends, not Baking Hens

The Ladies Petroleum Club: L to R, Peggy Heth, Donna Peterson, Linda Alton, Sylvia McCauley, Steph Elinger (president), Wendy Bauste.

For 60 years, the Ladies Petroleum Club has been meeting once a month to share meals, play cards, host dances, and hang out.  They formed in 1952 as a social club for the wives of oilfield workers. Sylvia McCauley has been a member since 1965. I sat down with her a recent meeting and she shared her thoughts about what it has been like to be a member of the Ladies Petroleum Club for nearly 50 years.

Hear the story below:

07 January 2013


Thurnell shook out his dreams like a quilt for the little boy to play on.

I love that line, about a father who harbors mountains of admiration and love for his young son.

It's from Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene. Have you read it?

It's good. It's good because it jumps back into that part of Georgia history where small, rural towns began to either grow up or die. When their all-white, all-male governments began to crack a little bit. When interstates were laid down. When old men still knit fishing nets by hand. When the African-American citizens of McIntosh county began to realize how bad they were getting duped. And when they decided to do something about it.

But mostly the book is good because it's just a crazy story. Because of racism, because of poverty, because of people's spirits and their persistence to do both good and bad. Because of a criminal who masqueraded as a sheriff and got away with it.  Because of people following through with their dreams. If you haven't read it, I recommend it.

They parked in starry fields in the small hours of the morning and captured fragments, falling from the night sky, of the Voice of America, on black-market radios.  Just this exotic and incredible and forbidden did the voices of the civil rights movement sound to the fishermen, gardeners, and maids of McIntosh County.

02 January 2013

Happy New Year

New year's day we went for a drive. Rainy days are good for that. I took my camera along, and here's what resulted: a short film I've called "You're Never Too Far From a Bologna Sandwich."

It's why I love Tennessee, the south, rural places. The road is addictive. And the people are, too. We zig-zagged all over Dayton mountain, on asphalt, mud, gravel.  Once we turned on a muddy clay road that wound for half an hour through a pine stand, past deer blinds, scattered budweiser bottles, through orange puddles the size of our car. Around lunchtime, we stopped at a country store called "Last Chance." Don't ask me where it was.

Trae ordered a bologna sandwich. Cheese? 20 cents. Mustard?  Free. And of course, Coke in a bottle, the sugar kind. When I paid, the elderly woman behind the counter asked "He gonna make you pay?" and the young girl sitting on a stool in the corner behind her, staring at her long blue nails, looked up for the first time with a smirk on her face. I handed over a 20 dollar bill and we both laughed.

I love days like that. Here's to aimless wandering, the lure of the road, and the reassuring proximity of most places in the rural south to a bologna sandwich. The kind that sticks to the roof of your mouth.

Happy 2013.

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise