Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its fifth year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

December 29, 2015

AT SEA ON THE JOHN BROWN

... many years ago, as a birthday gift, i believe, j-sun baily took me to boston to spend a day sailing aboard the ss john w. brown, "one of only two remaining, fully operational liberty ships that participated in world war II" ...

... i'm not quite sure why, since i think by this time in my digital history i had acquired a nikon dslr camera, but for the outing i took a little canon g7 ... for some reason i never got around to processing the image files, and, long after the event and purely the result of my absolute stupidity in not following my own advice, i assumed i had lost the images when my computer's hard drive crashed ...



... it seems, however, i was more responsible than i'd thought, and it turns out i'd saved the files to a c/d—which, of course, i'd neglected to label properly (back to the "stupidity" thing) ... how delightful, that i can now both relive that wonderful day as well as share it with you ...

... after being cleared by homeland security, america's safety requiring that we present picture id cards before cruising boston harbor, we boarded the ss brown ... my first impression was that there seemed to be many mechanisms cleverly designed to remove one's fingers ...

... before lunch was served i wandered through the engine room ... the double-acting, condensing, triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine's 2,500 horsepower can propel the ship to a maximum speed of 13 mph ... in wartime, slowed to convoy speed and u-boat avoiding zig-zagging adding to the distance, the typical providence to liverpool transit would take two weeks ...

... i was told that due to a shortage of personnel there were times  a "wiper" might work "eight on and four off" an entire voyage ... the full shift would be a non-stop routine of constantly applying lubrication to the moving parts of the huge engine ...

... don't be fooled, even during this short cruise of boston harbor the temperature in the engine room was clearly in the mid-90s ... one of the engineers informed me that during tropical crossing the working space could get up to 120°f with "steam bath" humidity ...

... there were all sorts of electrical panels, most of which had no real safety features ...

... weeks at sea, things break ... the machine shop could repair or replicate all but the major parts of the ship ...

... these were the cabins for the crew ...

... flags were still necessary because any radio communication would allow the dreaded u-boat "wolfpacks" to triangulate the convoy's position ...

... not actually a throttle, the captain must "ring the engine room" for the speed desired ...

... a "rosie the riveter" joined us ... she spoke of the 3,000,000+ women who entered the labor force during world war II, a great many of them performing industrial jobs which had been culturally (and, in many cases, legally) "male only" ... the war ended and most of the women were sent home, but, in time, the excellent example set by these female workers became foundational in the transformation of our societal values ...  

... president franklin d. roosevelt boarded the ship ... he spoke, and as had an entire generation before us, we were once again inspired ...

"There are many ways of going forward,
but only one way of standing still."



 ... an american "dogface," making the long voyage towards an unknown land and an even more unknown future ...

... general patton joined us ...

"If everyone is thinking alike,
then somebody isn't thinking."


... i've been told there were a great many reasons to go to war, but, in the middle of a arduous, dangerous, lonely voyage across a u-boat infested ocean, if asked, "what are you fighting for," i'm sure i'd find this more inspirational than even fdr's words ...

... on this day i'd make a guess that fully one-third of the guests on the ship were veterans ... many, like this gentleman, had done convoy duty during world war II ... he had made seven round-trips, including one in which his ship was torpedoed and he spent several hours on a raft wondering if he'd be found ...

... the glenn miller band performed atop a decked over hatch ...

... these two veterans shared the moment ...

... suddenly, there was a loud klaxon alarm, "general quarters, general quarters ... all hands to battle stations" ...

... we were under attack by a japanese carrier based torpedo plane and a mitsubishi zero fighter ...

... luckily, especially considering that we were thousands of miles out in the middle of the ocean and well beyond its range, a p-51d mustang arrived to save us ...

... scratch one zero ...

... the captain announced that we should all direct our attention towards the boston waterfront ...

... once a year the uss constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship, is turned to even out the weathering effects ... on this beautiful day it was decided that she be taken under sail into the outer harbor ...

 ... the uss constitution offered up a salute from her signaling cannon as she passed the ss john brown ... the captain of the ss brown responded with a whistle salute, and then, perhaps the most spontaneous thing of which i've ever taken part, the entire assemblage on the deck of the brown broke out in a shared chorus of "america the beautiful" ...

... when it was over i doubt if mine were the only eyes filled with tears ...

... over 2,700 liberty ships were built, and, since victory in modern war is ultimately a function of logistics, it's fair to say that the uss john brown and her like changed the course of history ...

... almost 10,000 civilian mariners, acting under military orders, died in service during world war II, 1/26th of the total number who served ... this casualty ratio is significantly higher than that of either the army, navy, marines or coast guard, yet it wasn't until almost 1990 that the merchant marine was included by the veterans administration and the vfw still refuses such recognition ... (be there no doubt, that last clause is a very, very indignant political comment) ...

... towards the end of our voyage i found this "old geezer" taking a rest in one of the bunks that were used for carrying soldiers ... i wondered if he dreamed, and, if so, were his thoughts of comrades asleep in the sea ...

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

JOHN MASEFIELD


December 19, 2015

THE MAN ON THE GRASSY KNOLL

"the man on the grassy knoll"

... for several very good reasons i'm not sure i should like this photograph, yet i do ... it's as if i had torn individual pages from each of the little tales i've penned, then, having bound them together in random order and struggled to discern plot within the chaotic prose, was startled to discover that collectively they told a story all their own ... 

December 18, 2015

SUNSET

... we stopped along the side of route 17 to remind ourselves that while photography may be about light ...

... seeing requires only that we look ...

... and vision resides truly within our souls ...

December 17, 2015

POET EXTRAORDINAIRE

... this fall ellen asked, "what do you think of me sponsoring richard blanco, the inaugural poet, to speak at the opera house" ... my response was a simple, "go for it" ... of course, her next question needed not be asked, and i ended up being privileged to photograph the event ...

... we began the day at winslow junior high, where richard intertwined verse with his personal narrative, of which only a part was being chosen to deliver one of his poems at the inauguration of the president of the united states ... i was impressed with the honesty of his straightforward speaking style ...

... and, twenty-eight years experience, i knew to be impressed with the audience ...
 

... early in the evening at "the last unicorn" i shared supper with richard, which, as far as i'm concerned, was one of the best perks ever brought to me because i can look like i know what i'm doing with a camera ... later, a wonderful crowd filled the floor seats and even some of the balcony at the opera house ...

... using my fuji x-t1 for the first time in a "pressure" situation such as this, i began to come to an even greater appreciation of its low-light capabilities ...

... again, as i had discovered at the junior high, watching and listening to richard it was most difficult for me to remain in a "professional" frame of mind ... helpful was the fact that the marvelous x-t1 combined with my "new" thirty-year old lenses functioned in perfect partnership with my eyes ... and, especially in a situation such as this, it was a joy to use a camera that was almost as quiet as my old leica m3 (if you've ever used one of those classic gems you'll know what i'm talking about) ...

"My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors, 
      

... each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day."
      

 ... in the darkened chamber the poet spoke softly to an audience entranced, until from the oft repaired and repainted walls of the aged structure came a quiet sigh, "this—this is why i was constructed, this is why i've lasted" ... and none, for sure not i, could  discern where speech ended and poetry began ...
 

... it is rare, very, very rare, for me to say this, but richard's words, both prose and verse, within my own soul they rest perfectly ...



... standing across the street from a little house in alaska, leaning on an old rickety fence gate in nebraska, wrapping myself against the brisk sea breeze at point judith, sitting at the edge of the world on gram's beach and letting the warm caribbean sea tickle my toes with sand, yes, i too—

I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was
and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.

... to stop looking, i believe, that is the only way we can lose the past—and, i suppose, one another, too ... thank you, richard, for the reminder ...

December 13, 2015

METEORS (NO)

... we went up to the top of colby hill, the location of the college's new observatory, to see if we could snap some pictures of the geminid meteor shower ... clear sky for about a half-hour, but i only saw one trail, so faint that it didn't record in the image i was exposing ... still, we had great fun playing around with all the buttons and knobs on our fancy cameras ... with him holding still for twenty-seconds, i snapped a rather illustrative photograph of john ...

... a few minutes earlier, after realizing i wasn't going to get a picture of a meteor, i decided to take a moment to appreciate the 40°f temperature and green grass, what for this time of year in maine constitutes relatively balmy weather ...

... no meteors, thus no meteor pictures—no matter, it's always nice to take a moment to enjoy watching the universe ...

December 10, 2015

DOLDRUM DAYS WANDERABOUT

... last week, strolling inside the old hathaway mill ... after this i called john to arrange a little wanderabout ...

... this time of year almost on the 45th parallel the days're rather short, so i'd said to him, "let's leave early so we don't miss any of the light" ... at the old goddard mansion in cape elizabeth i found myself fighting a vision reducing doldrum haze ...

... so, while i envied the fullnes of john's vision, i resorted to an old trick and focused my eyes on little things ...

... in his album john talks of alan davenport's discussion of "sympathetic lines" ... i can't recall if i've ever heard the term, but after looking at john's photograph of the mansion i was stunned to discover that only shortly after he'd taken his picture i found this composition ...

... cape elizabeth light, still called the "two lights" even though the other is now someone's home ... rather "classic," perhaps, but, remember, i was still trying to get my eyes in tune ...

... here, i think, was the moment i began to conquer the doldrums ...

... for sure, a moment later, the process was underway ...

... a reminder, to keep me on path ...

... in downtown portland, again, a centering of sorts ... i love the blue ...

... the simplest of compositions, my vision was returning ...

... i began to notice ...

... humor returned to my eyes ...

... john saw and recorded the event ...
COURTESY JOHN MEADER
... at wharton point in brunswick i was pleased at the memory of the last time in galilee, rhode island, when my brother treated me to great plate of served raw fresh cherrystone clams ...

... of the most demanding physical tasks, but fresh clams're worth it ... (make sure to look at john's pictures to see an example of the "like minds" thing) ...

... doubling point—calm, silent, soft, a place that ever so gently envelopes the doldrums in tranquility ...

... knowing of my rather creaky knees, it was quite nice of john to document my foolishness ...
COURTESY JOHN MEADER
... at the edge of the water ... jesus, i thought, but then i recalled images of shakespeare ... or, perhaps, giovanni da verrazano himself, first european to explore this part of the coast of north america (other, that is, than a few stray vikings) ... here, after a long day fighting the current only to clearly taste that the waters were becoming fresh rather than salt, he ponders the reversal of his ship's course even as he wonders at the antics of the natives along the banks of the river "exhibiting their bare behinds and laughing immoderately" ...

... ever the sailor, his gaze to the sea ...

... odd, how landlubbers forget that these structures mark great danger ...

... a place someday to sit and read a book, or, perhaps, just sit ...

... light fading fast, we parked the car and hiked down the peninsula to visit squirrel point ...

... odd, how my feet had memories of a time when some of the remote places pa would take us to visit in alaska still had boardwalks like these ... concrete sidewalks are progress, i suppose, but they're not near as much fun ...

... darkening skies at three-thirty in the afternoon, overcast, but, still, real photographers celebrate whatever light they're offered ...

... a lot to think about, the juxtaposition of these structures ...

... across the kennebec river, sunset, december 9th, 2015 ...

... robert frost spoke of the ol' "two roads" thing, but, honestly, i'm not sure that the particular path one treads is near as important as making sure to slow one's pace, even stop every now and then, and look to the sides of the trail ...