Anna Humble Williams 1955-2014

The loss of a loved one is always painful. The physical separation cuts deep into our psyche, affecting that part of us solely reserved for the connection we shared with the lost and bears sobering awareness of our own mortality. The continued lack of access is a constant reminder that there are no do-overs, the scoreboard is off and the game is in the books. How we view life most affects our interest in the scoreboard, others’ and our own.

There is, however, a certain hollow, reverberant sadness that echoes the loss of an estranged loved one. Someone loved, but one who chose a life which in the end, there remains only a disappointing void of previous and now permanent loss of opportunity for the gathering of anything other than the few remaining good memories, obscured by a lifetime of un-pleasantries.

How does one look at the aggregate actions of a life at its closing and apply value. Life value is measured on what scale? Human nature is to use a ledger…to keep score.  We all do it. We do it to ourselves.  We do it to others.  We count balls, strikes, hits, runs and errors. We say this was wrong and that was right. We judge. It is much easier to accept the passing of a loved one whose ledger always tallied in the black. The difficulty lies in the accounting of those with a lifetime of withdrawals with little or no appreciation of their debt and its effect on the lives having underwritten egocentric behavior. Their ledger with us now being closed, deeply in the red.

Christians are guilty of continuing to place checkmarks in our mental ledgers about ourselves and others even after accepting Calvary’s negation of any need for the monitoring of someone’s debits or credits. It is in our basal nature. Perhaps it can only be with true unconditional love, the kind of love a parent has for a child or the heavenly father has for his children, that we can see the proper appraisal of a life that on any scale has not measured up. Our judgment will always be short. Only when we completely understand that concept will we ever see the real value of what Jesus did on that cross.

I won’t profess to have all the answers. Frankly, as I’ve grown older, my world has grown much less black and white. However, the one lesson I constantly carry away from the examination and celebration at the loss of friends and family members is that, regardless of what the afterlife may bring, the only reality with which we should concern ourselves is the selfless living of the one we now navigate. At each funeral, it appears more obvious that, at the end, a life invested in others was the worthwhile life and one to be emulated.

Musings from the Darkroom: Dog Days II – To Sing a Mockingbird

Friday morning, in his favorite perch in the bush under the foxtail palm, this fellow greeted me with news that the Dog Days of Summer are officially over.  This is the first time he’s sung in weeks.  The timing is uncanny with Friday being September 21st, the last day of Summer.  Below, he is yelping from atop the tallest tree in the neighborhood.

Musings from the Darkroom: Dog Days

The whippoorwill singing atop the live oak by the lake can barely be heard above the katydids, the rumbling of offshore storms and the hum of the mosquito magnet working overtime in the backyard’s windward corner.  The slow, yellow-green blinking of lightenin’ bugs seems abruptly switched on and the white flashes of the approaching storms fill the impending darkness as the retreating sun de-saturates dusk’s canvas.  Even at this time of the evening the temperature remains oppressive while the seasonal sou’westerly trade winds keep the humidity palpable.  Streams merge with tributaries that form rivers of sweat flowing south across our nearly naked bodies as we bask in the sauna that is August in Florida.  We are deep in the dog days of summer.  And, making it official, there in his normal evening perch in the foxtail palm sits the mockingbird, songless.  Relentless they are, these dog days of summer.  It seems they will never end.

Mockingbirds sit out this harshest part of the summer.  But no, we aren’t so smart.  We continue suffering our daily activities, wondering how anything might have ever been done in the deep south with clothes on and without air-conditioning…or a blender and ice.  Blended, frozen libations in overpriced insulated plastic tumblers and the occasional dip in the pool are the sum of our attempts at mediating the endless onslaught of dog days.  It’s a difficult battle, but one we are willing to wage.  One made easier by the knowledge that heat and humidity do not require a shovel.  I’ll let y’all know when the mockingbird starts singing again.

Musings from the Darkroom: Life Axioms

Truisms continue to reveal themselves, often while thinking about photography, taking or admiring photos and sometimes in the solitude of my laptop virtual darkroom.  The latest came to me this past St. Patrick’s Day.

Life axiom:  In order to drink all day you have to start in the morning.


Musings from the Darkroom: Remembering Terry Sprinkle

I think for most of us the list of formative characters during those highly impressionable schoolyard days is fairly populated by teachers. These are a few, among many, from my years in Demopolis that quickly ascend that list: Emmie Mays, Bernquetta Johnson, Mrs. Nixon, Kayte Melton, Mary Rinehart, Lynn Johnson, Roger Franklin and Terry Sprinkle. When I ask myself why Mr. Sprinkle and these other fine educators are so readily remembered, the answer is clear. They required that I do more than just get by in their classroom, suggested excellence as a life philosophy, and at times reinforced these notions in ways that were plainly understood, long-lasting and, as needed, with situational gravity. Terry Sprinkle was no exception.

I can still hear his words and see that experience laden smile on the first day of freshmen biology, “Terry Sprinkle’s rule #1…life is not fair. I don’t ever want to hear the words, ‘but that’s not fair Mr. Sprinkle!’ Let it be known that I never told you life is fair.” He was true to his word. The first time the class as a group scored poorly on an exam, he announced he was not going to curve the results. Amongst all the whining, the words “that’s not fair, Coach Sprinkle” just didn’t fly. With a grin and raised brow, he held up a single index finger as reminder of rule #1. Good, old-fashioned hard work was the order of the day, better preparing us for life than we could comprehend.

I recall having heard an idea that the influence of seminal people in our lives is evident for up to four generations. If it ain’t true it ought to be. I believe that period may actually be longer. The bearing conveyed upon our young malleable personas is so weaved into the fabric of our character that it becomes prospective ink for the manuscripts of those whose lives we edit or partly edit post-publication. This idea of continued generational influence both comforts and sobers me. I am burdened by the potential of my sanctioned influence and comforted by the generations, present and future, blessed by the classroom presence of excellent educators like Terry Sprinkle, gone but never forgotten.

I have attended too many funerals of late. Too many good people have gone before their time, like Coach Sprinkle. It’s just not right to have them taken from us with so much life to live. It is not fair. But we all know what Coach had to say about that.

Musings from the darkroom: Grammy Thoughts

I’m all for artistic freedom; push, grow, create!  However, it does seem that my primary axiom concerning the creative arts continues to be proven.  Regardless of medium, the relationship between controversy and talent is one of inverse proportionality.

Musings from the Darkroom: A Real Holiday Letter

Yeah, just once I’d like to see a real holiday letter.

Season’s Greetings from (…ohhhhhh, let’s say…) the Simpson’s!

Good god, has it really been a year since I wrote last year’s pack of lies?  If you are reading this, consider yourself lucky.  The mutt ate most of the address book because the economy is so bad and groceries are so expensive we stopped buying dog food, except for grandpa.

2011 really sucked big gnarly ones.  Nobody did anything.  Nobody achieved anything.  Nobody was awarded any medals for anything.  I didn’t get a raise.  My job still sucks.  The people I work with still suck.  I still suck.  That’s why I’m still stuck in this dead-end job ‘till I die of a heart attack.

Lisa is still playing her saxophone.  God help us, she’ll keep playing the blues and probably marry some loser drummer and have to live with us while her sorry husband searches for that pot of grunge drummer gold.   At least she’s not pregnant, yet.

The baby is still sucking on that nunu.   Her teeth will be messed up but it does keep her quiet.

Bart managed to stay out of jail this year and, to date, as far as we know, has not sired any offspring.

Marge is still my blue haired old lady.  I can’t believe we’ve stayed married all these years.  We have managed to work ourselves into subsistence, requiring a minimal amount of communication and sex only on a seasonal basis… whether we need it or not.

But truth be told, I am thankful for Baby Jesus and the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  You see, even though it was used as a medical ointment and burial spice, myrrh was also used in early recipes for mead.  And from mead we got…beeeer, mmmmm.  For that I am truly thankful!

DOH!  Happy Holidays!

Musings From the Darkroom: A Life Still in the Developer

Life is not meant to be viewed through telescopic optics with its shallow depth of focus and narrow field of view zoomed in on individual events.  The world reminds those willing to see this daily.  Light reflected by a single leaf closely observed through the telescopic lens reveals only imperfection when compared to the collective reflected beauty of autumn’s fully dressed maple captured by the wide angle optic against a background of azure skies.  Too many scrutinize a lifetime in small segments and individual events of success or failure, happiness or unhappiness.  Hopefully, maturity allows us to step back, zoom out and examine the overall composition of our lives in cumulative context against a background of living, with all the cropping, dodging and burning necessary.