Desert thoughts

alis_wellLawrence of Arabia aired on local public television last weekend, and I persuaded the household to watch it with me. Even though I’d only seen the film once before on television in the late 70s, it made a lasting impression, and I was very excited to watch it on a larger and more proportional screen. (I still hope to see it in the theater some day.) Just like the first time, I fell hopelessly in love with the desert and was transported by Peter O’Toole’s performance.

My fellow viewers thought the film could have used some editing, that some of the sequences were too long. Though I see their point, I don’t necessarily agree. Some of their response corresponds to a change in cinematic expectations over the years: audiences today want the film to give them a sense of the place and get on with the action. Lawrence of Arabia doesn’t work that way. The desert is not the setting — it is the most important character in the film.

The first half of the film is a love letter to the desert, but even those long, slow pans can only hint at something so vast, complex, inscrutable, and achingly beautiful. I reminded those watching with me that these scenes were filmed on location and not the results of special effects wizardry. The scale is too staggering to be grasped through briefer shots – the eye takes a moment to notice the tiny human figures and the mind still more moments to process the image as a whole.

The desert is the chief antagonist in the film, against whom all the other characters must contend, and against whom they stand in sharp relief. The desert is immense, and in that immensity often seems indifferent and harsh. It is not, however, the villain. That role falls to any number of characters who fail to act on a human scale, where fellow feeling is a human quality and indifference is a choice. Blaming someone else — the desert, the war, the empire — for one’s lack of human sympathy is the worst kind of villainy. Those who own both their actions and the consequences thereof, however unbearable, are the true heroes.

The tension of the film turns on Lawrence’s inner conflicts, and the battles he wins or loses are those within his soul. By the end, it is clear that he is no knight in shining armor, but it’s equally clear that he is no villain.

For those who get Kentucky public television, the film airs again tonight at 9:00 EST/8:00 CST.


Election day poetry

I’m taking a poetry class this fall, and one of our assignments was to write a praise poem making use of anaphora. One family member recently said he’ll be relieved when the election is over and soul-sucking campaign ads go away. Another family member reminded him that the campaign for next year’s gubernatorial contest has already begun here in the Bluegrass State, and that even national figures are positioning themselves for the 2020 presidential campaign.

It’s always election season somewhere

Praise for the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
Praise for lies and slander, attack ads and smear
campaigns, for fake news and media hype, fearmongering
and fact checkers, for dark money and tracking polls,
backbiting and mudslinging, for chants and slogans, bumper
stickers and yard signs, for phone calls and leaflets, billboards
and rallies. Praise for turning out the base and turning off the electorate.
Praise for public service announcements and voter registration drives, fiery
oratory and nonviolent protest, for town hall meetings and candidate forums,
viral videos and op ed columns, for endorsements and letters
to the editor, electronic voting machines and paper ballots.
For the First Amendment and freedom of speech, we give praise.

Late summer garden beauties

hibiscus in septFor the sake of arachno-squeamish readers, I’ve begun this post with a photo of my Hibiscus moscheutos — reblooming!

But the lovely lady pictured below made my whole summer when she appeared in the side yard last week. She’s an Argiope aurantia, commonly called a black and yellow garden spider, and the first I’ve ever had in my own yard. She’s somewhat small, only about an inch long in body, but I love that she’s out in her web during the day, which means I get to see her as I come and go.

argiope aurantia 2

(As I write this, I’ve been watching a Neoscona sp. outside the living room window. It’s overcast today and she’s repairing holes in her web in anticipation of better hunting this evening.)

Wishing you the joy of whatever is on display in the gardens around you!

Found poetry: Isaiah 40 devotion

Life, work, and everything: when the universe gives you a time-out, it is best to pay attention. Here’s hoping I’ll soon catch up on my posting.

Isaiah tells it straight

The tongue of a teacher speaks truth:
a world mad with nonsense, everything solid melting –

interrupt the weary with hope, teach
the soul force of steadfast love, confront the brute

force of warring factions fearful of radical
hospitality, of justice, of mercy

Pray for the heart of faith, to stand against the wall
beside those who are stricken and insulted,

with a face like flint, without shame, knowing
vindication is near

Inspired by today’s God Pause devotion from Luther Seminary: for Sept. 10, 2018

And for your viewing pleasure, this is from my garden: a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) on garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). This is a great reason not to spray your lawn with herbicides, by the way, because violets are the larval food of this butterfly. My lawn is full of violets, and my garden is full of butterflies. 🙂

great spangled fritillary on garlic chives

More found poetry from Carrot Ranch

Still catching up (with work, this time) and still finding inspiration at Carrot Ranch.


memory is not exact
but combined
with time
rather than being
recent brain activity

it is possible
even if it is not true
remembering creates fiction
a part told truthfully
our life story

identity is not researchable
through our actions, our parents, our name
labelled, repeated, assumed
selective stories keep
who we are over time

(from Irene Waters’ post at Carrot Ranch:

And here’s what’s blooming in the garden this week: Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Lord Baltimore’

Lord Baltimore1

Found poetry from Carrot Ranch

Trying to catch up on several weeks’ worth of e-mail, I was struck by the latest Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch. Charli Mills’ introduction provided a jumping-off point for me today, even if it ain’t flash fiction.

The privilege of a lifetime

I want to be that woman bold enough to wear buttons
as a necklace, who can look cool

on a hot summer day. We all want our characters
to be heroes. Like others hit by disaster

before us, we know the word strong but dance
around the word hero. We all resonate

to the journey, the cave, the return, the elixir of hope —
just not the label. We all deny the call.

The hero’s journey is messy: uncomfortable moments
and difficult seasons, a tadpole

in a ray of sunlight. It’s like birth. It’s like death.
We know it can never be the same.

Button up.


Day 28, LexPoMo 2018

lexpomo2018Late on the evening of the previous post, I ran afoul of some uneven sidewalk while out with the dog. I took a tumble, but thank the stars it was dark (no witnesses) and I got away with nothing more than a skinned knee and a sprained hand. I’ve been sidelined for almost two weeks because it was my dominant hand, but have gingerly started working back into more normal activity.

Last week I began attending a wonderful class on memoir as poetry. Not being able to write has been maddening, but today I was able to participate more fully and produced the following.

Summer vacation

The creek ran beside the yard
next door then under the road
into a wooded ravine we didn’t know
belonged to the Mathews.

We were frontiersmen, brigands, the Swiss
Family Robinson – fending for ourselves
with pocket knives and wits and the odd
piece of string, up and down the creek bed
every day until the mosquitoes
rose at dusk and drove us home.

(Reposted from the Lexington Poetry Month web site: