R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Hillside Monday: 3/19/18

If you don’t write the book you have to write, everything breaks.
— A.M. Homes

“For Wes, Part 17”
LaGrange, Georgia – 29 May 2017

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Caturday: 3/17/18

“No Time for This Foolishness”
LaGrange, Georgia – 11 August 2016
Model: Nooz

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Friday Photo: 3/16/18

“Daffodil Ghost No. 1”
Heard County, Georgia – 4 March 2016

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The Other Vine That Ate the South

In the Deep South, spring smells like grape soda. Not name-brand grape soda, but the cheapest-of-all-cheapo-store-brands grape soda. Or perhaps it smells more like wonky year-old bubble gum, the kind that’s so powdery and bland nobody will even shoplift it off the dollar store clearance rack.

Whatever it smells like, that scent means wisteria, or, as I like to call it, the Other Vine That Ate the South. (The original Vine That Ate the South is kudzu. It blooms much later in the growing season, and is a topic for a different post or twelve.) In March and April, wisteria treats us to two or three weeks of glorious purple clouds in the trees. After that, it finishes leafing out to spend the rest of the season devouring everything in its path—fences, trees, houses, cars, pets.

It’s certainly breathtaking in the garden, but you have to tame it by pruning it hard every year.  Don’t slack off and skip a year. You will regret it. And don’t let its beauty fool you: wisteria sinensis is invasive. Unless someone keeps it in check, it takes over—a simple gardening fact.

But for whatever reason, the majority of people don’t control their wisteria. Or maybe it’s more like can’t control it. I’m not sure. When early spring passes, so do those amazing foot-long purple drupes. By the time summer gets here, its dark green leaves are so plentiful and thick that we can’t even see what it’s smothering 80 feet above the ground.

Other than adding stunning Pointillist color to the landscape and providing food for bees, wisteria doesn’t have much going for it. Oh, wait—it will also hide any place that you mean for people to forget. Don’t believe me? Just follow these two simple steps:

  1.   Plant wisteria.
  2.   Move.

Give it a few years, and voilà! Nobody will know the place ever existed.

People can say what they want about wisteria. I still look forward to its luxurious hues draped over roadside trees every spring. This is probably because I’m lucky enough not to have any on my property. As much as I love the Other Vine That Ate the South, it’s probably best that I leave it where I found it—far away from my own yard.

Photo: “Wisteria No. 471” (LaGrange, Georgia – 21 March 2012)

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Wednesday Photo: 3/14/18

“Tulle, Glorious Tulle”
Columbus, Georgia – 4 January 2016

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Hillside Monday: 3/12/18

“Look, Mama!”
LaGrange, Georgia – 6 April 2012
Model: Clark

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Caturday: 3/10/18

“Tabby Cat with Wall and Chair”
LaGrange, Georgia – 11 August 2016
Model: Buddy

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Yes, You Can Buy My Work!

That’s right: At long last, you can buy my art!

How? Via my Etsy shop! More items are on the way, so check back often. If you’d like to own one of my photos that’s not yet on Etsy, let me know and I’ll set up a custom order. FYI: I have each order printed as it comes in, and ship 7-10 days after the order date. My shop profile photo is the same as in this post: me, with wavy blonde hair, dark-framed glasses, a light tan-print dress, and red lipstick against a dark background.

Thanks to everyone who’s asked again and again where to buy my work. I finally got the hint.

Photo: Self-Portrait #2, September 2016


Friday Photo: 3/9/18

“Loneliness, 2:12 PM”
Elkton, Tennessee – 15 November 2015

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Advice from Raptors

As I washed this evening’s dishes, I heard them call from the water oaks behind the house: Who-who? Who-who? Who-cooks-for-YOU? Barred owls—the first time I’ve heard them this season.

Some folklore traditions regard owls as harbingers of doom. Others maintain that they signal change of many kinds, not necessarily bad news. Still others hold that owls mean your house and property will soon become rodent-free. For a long time, I discounted the first two. But that was before the hard-partying bunch of barred owls moved into the trees around my house several years ago.

Since then, every new phase of my life—whether painful or pleasant—has arrived in the company of owls. They go quiet for days or weeks, then return, and HOLY SHIT WHAT WAS THAT?!? something new and previously unimaginable shows up along with them. Tonight, when the first hoots reached my ears, I almost dropped a soapy dinner plate into the floor: “Please, universe. I can’t handle any more. Please, please—have mercy on me.”

Fortunately, neither the owls nor the universe heard my plea.

When I stop and listen to the stillness of my soul, I’m sure of several changes heading my way. While I don’t yet know what they’ll look like, what form they’ll take, I know to expect them, to get ready and do what they need for me to do when they finally get here. Others, though, I cannot and will not know until they are upon me. The owls are just the early warning system.

Good or bad, sweetness or sorrow, I’m grateful and humbled to hear those feathered harbingers call once again from the walnut tree. Whatever they bring, I brace myself and welcome it with open arms. Which, honestly, is about all any of us can do.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sit in the cool of the back yard for a while. I’m gonna soak up the dark and the quiet and the peace. I’m gonna listen for advice from raptors, whatever they may decide to pass along.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Wednesday Photo: 3/7/18

“Sadness, Part 1”
LaGrange, Georgia – 4 April 2014

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Happy birthday, Steve!

Today is my stepfather’s birthday. Steve has been a part of our family for nearly a quarter-century, and I don’t know what we’d do without his witty humor, his genius handyman skills, and his kind heart. He also has a knack for rescuing baby animals in need.

In this 2014 photo, Steve’s holding my cat Miller, whom I’d adopted a couple days before from the Walmart parking lot. Steve is the reason there are so many pets at his and Mom’s house: “Awwwww, look! That poor little abused kitty [puppy/piglet/calf/foal/donkey] needs a home!” Ten cats and five dogs later—yep, you know the drill.

I also don’t know what we’d do without Steve’s obscure Southern vocabulary words. This considerable vocabulary includes exceptional profanity skills for emergency situations. While my favorite Steve phrase is “shining like a diamond in a goat’s ass,” he’s at his verbal peak when danger is near.

One summer afternoon in 2007, Mom, Steve, and I were grilling out at their house when a large hornet flew up out of nowhere. Close to three inches long from antennae to stinger and wearing angry-looking yellow and maroon stripes, it made the kind of noise that lets you know an insect means business. Sure enough, the hornet made a few dive-bombs at Steve and me. We panicked.

“Goddamighty, Gina!” Steve shouted at Mom, who’d gone back indoors for a minute. “There’s a big-ass wawst out here!” [Wawst = Southern pronunciation of “wasp”]

The hornet kept circling the porch, probably looking for its nest entrance. Each orbit brought it closer and closer to us. When it disappeared into a small crack between the eaves of the house, we could still hear its hostile buzzing. This did not bode well.

“This thing is huge, Mom,” I called. “You better bring the big guns.”

“Just a minute,” we heard Mom yell back from inside the house. She’d been through this before and was in no big hurry to get back outside. The hornet had probably been there for weeks. It would no doubt still be there when she got onto the porch.

Despite my stepfather’s being a formidable-sized guy at 6’2” and 240 pounds, there are two things that rattle him: any kind of thorn-bearing plant, and any kind of stinging insect. I have seen him jump off of more ladders than I care to count when one of these bugs comes buzzing by, just minding its own business.

As such, Steve’s plan of action upon seeing a wawst takes one of three directions:

  1. Drown the wawst (hornet, wasp, yellow jacket, carpenter bee, horsefly, etc.—whatever insect it really is, he still calls it wawst) in half a can of Raid,
  2. Whack at it with a 22-ounce hammer until it’s dead, muttering the whole time that “this thang don’t know who it’s fuckin’ with,” or
  3. Take off across the yard like a shot, yelling his fool head off.

So there was no doubt in my mind Steve was going to put into effect one of his usual three modus operandi this time, too.

“Brang the wawst spray!” he shouted back into the house. “I can’t grill with this damn thang flyin’ around my head! I’ll burn the steaks!”

“I’ll be out there in a minute,” Mom shouted back from inside the house. “Let me find the ‘wawst’ spray.” Originally from Michigan but having lived in the South for almost 50 years, Mom still pokes fun at a few Southern-accented words—including wawst.

“Hurry!” Steve shouted. “You don’t know how big this thang is!”

“I’m sure it’s the biggest wawst ever,” Mom replied, without affect.

“HURRY! This thang’s as big as my left nut!”

At which point I collapsed on the ground, laughing too hard to move, speak, or breathe.

Mom finally emerged from the house, the can of Extra-Strength Wasp and Hornet Killer in her hand. “Mom! MOM!” I gasped between belly-laughs. “It’s as big as Seeben’s left nut!”

“Yes,” Mom said. “And you’ll also notice that it’s always ‘as big as his left nut,’ never the right nut.”

Happy birthday, Seeben! I love you!

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 3/5/18

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.
— Mary Oliver

“For Wes, Part 16”
LaGrange, Georgia – 18 August 2017

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Caturday: 3/3/18

“Disapproval at Breakfast”
LaGrange, Georgia – 20 September 2017
Model: Lucinda

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Friday Photo: 3/2/18

“Hope and Rehope”
Chambers County, Alabama – 20 February 2018

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Thank you for your support

Oh, crap. I sound like a 1980s wine cooler ad.

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Thanks, y’all!

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Wednesday Photo: 2/28/18

“Still Life at Brunch”
Raleigh, North Carolina – 21 May 2016

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After Mozelle died, I never went back to Corinth. The tire plant closed in ’78, took the town with it—but she wouldn’t budge. Wouldn’t hear of it, even with the old place falling in and no money to fix it. Besides, she said, I was the only one left to guard her secrets. Only one left to lay them to rest, along with her bones, when the time came. I kept my promise.

Maybe I should have stayed gone. It don’t matter now. But I watched, and served, and waited thirty years for the end. Soon as it come, soon as she was in the ground good, I done like she asked and lit the house afire. Told me she could see better with the bright light. It’d keep her warm, too. Hell was gonna be dark and cold, she always said, not fiery-hot like them foot-washing fools down the road believe.

When I heard the hollow roar, when I seen Poppa’s bedroom bathed in liquid flame and the roof drop through the rafters in melted pieces like flesh off a ribcage, I turned and walked in the ditch all the way to Mobile. And like she asked, I didn’t look back. Not once.

February’s thirteen years. She’s at Mount Olive Church, where I can visit if I want but never do. I kept my promise.

Well, mostly. Sometimes a man’s got to go back on his word. Lord knows I don’t want to. But I got to tell what she couldn’t—how they robbed her of everything she ever coulda been proud of, how they took the life from her eyes one good deed at a time. I got to tell. Else I might bust wide open.

Mozelle is my mama.
My daddy was her daddy.

That’s the happy part. You might ought to sit down for the rest.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Hillside Monday: 2/26/18

“Hillside Neighborhood Watch, Street Level”
LaGrange, Georgia – 24 October 2014
Models (front to back): Moo, Clark, and Smokey

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Caturday: 2/24/18

“Gray Tabby Cat on Tapestry Chair”
LaGrange, Georgia – 21 September 2015
Model: Buddy

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