R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Author: R.S. Williams (page 1 of 28)

Caturday: 12/15/18

Small dark gray cat with deep yellow eyes sitting on clear plastic storage bin; cat looks away from camera with angry narrowed eyes and her paws folded daintily in front of her.

“Portrait of an Angry Gray Cat”
LaGrange, Georgia (2018)
Model: Zora

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Friday Photo: 12/14/18

“For Wes, Part 19”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2018
Model: Community Ernge

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 12/12/18

“In a Churchyard at Dusk”
Heard County, Georgia – 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 12/10/18

“Traveling Shoes, Part 4”
Pure Life Studios
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Caturday: 12/8/18

“Three Cats on Red Plaid Pillow”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2016
Models: Otis (light Siamese), Zora (dark gray), and Miller (solid black)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Friday Photo: 12/7/18

“Two Coffees, Black”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

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More Things I Have Overheard at Funerals

A:  Look!
B:  At what?
A:  Over by the casket.
B:  Oh, for the love of God. Who wears hot pants to their grandmother’s funeral?

*****

B:  Well. That was interesting.
C:  You got that right. I mean, karaoke? At a funeral?
B:  [sings] Byyyyye-byyyyyye, Miss American Pie!
C:  I’ve never been to a funeral where the preacher sings along with a boom box. Well, not until today.

*****

A:  I know why Mrs. H______ finally died.
B:  Why?
A:  She ran out of people to stay with.

*****

D:  That sure was a nice eulogy M_______’s daughter gave.
E:  Mmm-hmm. So nice that it took every bit of strength I had not to stand up and say, “Who are you even talking about?!? It sure as hell ain’t your mama!”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 12/5/18

“Alamo Placida Oaks”
Denver, Colorado – 2015

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Hillside Monday: 12/3/18

“Formica and Glass”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

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Thank you SO MUCH!

Many, many thanks to the following for their patronage!

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods
Connie Frank
Ellen Koga
Dean Basilio
Gina Nixon-Hernandez
Katherine Ferguson
Jeff Miller

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Just $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content—photos, poems, creative nonfiction, and behind-the-scenes secret stuff that nobody else gets to see. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait with Patterned Dress and Sheets” (2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Caturday: 12/1/18

“Study in Gray and Orange Tabby” (2017)
Models: Buddy (left) and Sherwin

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 11/30/18

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
— Rumi

“For Wes, Part 12” (2017)
Model: Smokey (2007-2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 11/28/18

“Isabel, in Gray and Rust”
Heard County, Georgia – 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

A New Holiday Essay, in Columbus & the Valley Magazine!

Many thanks to Jill Tignor and Mike Venable of Columbus & the Valley Magazine for publishing my new essay, “A Perfumed Christmas.” As someone who doesn’t have many happy holiday memories from childhood, I find it impossible to write about this time of the year. My creative powers mostly shut down between early November and early February.

Jill knows this about me. Yet it still didn’t keep her from asking me to send her and Mike an essay for their November/December 2018 issue. Just when I was thinking my writing ideas had dried up for the winter, the idea for this piece came to me while I waited in the Kroger checkout line. Glory!

“A Perfumed Christmas” appears on page 14, and is available both online and in print around the Columbus, Georgia, area.  To order a print copy, send an email to contactus@columbusandthevalley.com. And, while you’re at it, join me and subscribe! One year of beautiful, glossy photos and news from Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley area costs just $18. It’s money very, very well spent.

Thank you again, Jill and Mike, for believing in me and my work. Y’all are the best.

Post text © R.S. Williams
Cover image: Courtesy of Columbus & the Valley Magazine

 

Hillside Monday: 11/26/18

“Back Yard with Window Screen and Hurricane Irma”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Caturday: 11/24/18

“Me and My Grand Marnier”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Model: Nooz

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Friday Photo: 11/23/18

“House of Johnson”
Macon, Georgia – 2014

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Thanksgiving 2018

“Mom in the Woods, Thanksgiving Day”
Heard County, Georgia – 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 11/21/18

“Soybean Field, Autumn”
Heard County, Georgia – 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

This Holiday Season, Be Kind to Yourself

Here’s a revised version of a piece I wrote last year on surviving the holiday season.

It’s two days before Thanksgiving, and my social media news feeds are full of holiday stories. Scores of people tell of the frantic cooking, cleaning, packing, traveling, and visiting they’ll be doing. Most seem to enjoy the beginning of the winter holiday marathon.

I admire these people. They’re better at entertaining and conversation than I’ll ever be. But I also know far more people who secretly dread those crushing five or six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. People dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other chronic conditions often struggle to make it through the winter holiday season without falling apart.

Yep, I see y’all out there. I’m one of you. And I write to you today to say: It’s okay. You’re not alone.

Twenty-plus years ago, long before any of my diagnoses, I forced myself to attend every family holiday party. I thought I had no choice. I knew my relatives would say bad things about me if I weren’t there. Even though my mental health suffered from the lack of quiet and processing time between events, I still went. And, long after the holidays were over, I hated myself for being this way.

It took me many years to understand what was really going on. Decades later, I came to see that those relatives would talk about me—and anybody else who was different from them—no matter what. I could go to the party, or stay home, but they’d still somehow find fault with me. Hell, I could’ve walked in with my very own Nobel Prize for literature, and they still would’ve found something to frown and sneer and whisper about.

Today, well into middle age, I understand now what I didn’t back then. I feel empathy for that lost, confused, sad person who loathed herself for not being like everyone else. I try to make it up to “younger me” by treating myself with kindness during the holiday season.

What helps me most? Quiet time by myself and as much sleep as I can manage. If I do any shopping, I do it during the least-crowded times of day. If I’m feeling particularly frazzled, I ask loved ones if I can drop by and see them when they don’t have a house full of people.

Spending time outdoors helps, too, even if it’s cold and I’m all bundled up. So does marking off the days on a calendar: “Ah, just two more weeks until the holidays are over. I think I can make it.” When the forced jolliness and extroversion feel as if they’re about to flatten me, I try to think about just today. Or just this hour. Or even just the next ten minutes.

Most importantly: if someone’s being particularly awful, I give myself permission to leave. In the moment, I may or may not tell them to go to hell—but I will remove myself from the scene of their bullshittery. The holidays are tough enough without a PTSD relapse. Those are particularly unpleasant, and if I can avoid one, I will.

Yes, I’m a Southerner, but I draw a big, thick “hospitality line” around my sanity with an extra-large permanent marker. Jerks do not deserve my company. My mental health is one thing I will not sacrifice for someone else’s comfort. Besides, as the saying goes: Life is short, and I am not the Asshole Whisperer.

Now and then, in the thick of the holidays, I forget to follow my own advice. That’s when I stumble. It takes me a while to get back to my version of normal. I try not to beat myself up about this. (The key word here is “try.”)

Wherever Thanksgiving and the weeks to come may find you, I wish you peace and calm. I hope you can be gentle with yourself as you navigate this difficult time of the year. You’re in good company.

If and when you feel horrible this season, know that I’m right there with you. We’re all in this together, surviving the holidays a little at a time.

Photo: Self-Portrait in Black, Rabun Gap (2017)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Hillside Monday: 11/19/18

“Backyard Ghosts in Neon”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2018

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Caturday: 11/17/18

“Honor Thy Disappointment”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Model: Otis

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Friday Photo: 11/16/18

I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.
— Georgia O’Keeffe

“For Wes, Part 11”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 11/14/18

“Life in the Ruins”
Leadville, Colorado – 2014

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Hillside Monday: 11/12/18

“True Colors”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2013

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Caturday: 11/10/18

“Why Aren’t You Writing?” (#1 in a series)
LaGrange, Georgia – 2016
Model: Clark

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Friday Photo: 11/9/18

To be Southern is to carry a pall of secrets.
Zaina Alsous

“For Wes, Part 10”
Glenn, Georgia – 2017
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 11/7/18

“Cream, Sugar, Tabletop, Red Wall”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 11/5/18

“Peony Globe”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2013

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

 

Caturday: 11/3/18

“Snoozing in Traffic”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Models: Clark (left) and Buddy

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 11/2/18

The past is never where you think you left it.
— Katherine Anne Porter

“For Wes, Part 9”
Glenn, Georgia – 2017
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

So many thanks!

Many, many thanks to the following for their patronage!

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods
Connie Frank
Ellen Koga
Jeff Miller

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Even $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait: Night, Early August” (2015, 2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

A Story for All Hallows’ Eve

Most Halloweens I spend at my mother’s house. It’s the same house where her father was born in 1922. Like many old houses, it has plenty of stories to tell. And it won’t tell them to just anyone. Oh, no. The house plays favorites when it has something to say.

In non-drought years, Halloween means we build a bonfire in Mom’s yard, then make s’mores and tell family ghost stories. We listen to the deep, hollow hoo-hoo-hoooooot of the great horned owls in the pasture next door. Sometimes, well after dark, the local coyotes begin choir practice. Their not-quite-dog-like barking, their yip-yip-yip-yip-ooooooOOOOOO! far off in the woods, stirs up in the human heart something ancient and primal. That’s when Mom and I feel the hair stand up on the backs of our necks. It’s our All Hallows’ signal to grab the dogs and scurry back indoors.

Since 1834, there has been a house on this spot in Heard County, Georgia. The original cabin burned in the 1880s; people built another using the foundation and field-stone pillars from the first house. When that one burned 30 years later, they built yet another house. That’s the one my mother and stepfather live in today.

Mom and Steve have spent the last couple decades renovating the house, taking what was essentially a falling-down sharecropper’s shack and turning it into a cozy home in the woods. It now has insulation, gas heaters, a full kitchen, and two bathrooms with hot running water. They even refinished the 14-inch-wide heart pine floors, original to the early 1900s version of the house and likely similar to the floors in the first two houses on this site.

The ghost story about the house that I always heard goes something like this:

Late July 1864 saw one of west central Georgia’s few Civil War battles: McCook’s Raid, in what is now Coweta County (about 45 miles east of Mom’s house). In the days after the battle, one Union soldier appeared, on horseback, on the dirt road that once passed in front of the house. The soldier, who didn’t look much older than a teenager, was all by himself.

He wasn’t in good shape, either. He was slumped over onto the horse’s neck, over the horn of his saddle, unconscious. The skin-and-bones horse seemed to follow the road of its own accord, carrying its rider per its beastly duty. The people inside the house no doubt heard the hooves clop-clop-clop on packed dirt, and walked onto the porch to stare.

Just then, the Union soldier fell off his horse into the middle of the road, a dead-weight heap in blue homespun. His eyelids did not even flutter as the people ran out into the road, hoisted him by his armpits and ankles, and brought him inside.

They lay the soldier on a straw mattress, and fetched fresh water from the well out back for some cold compresses. The Union soldier was still knocked out, and now sweating profusely.  He was very badly cut and bruised. Other than his ragged dark blue uniform, the young man offered no other clues as to his identity. The people wondered if he had been wounded in a nearby battle. Or perhaps he had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead by unknown assailants, many miles from where he was now.

There were no letters from home stashed inside the young man’s coat—no mementos, no lock of hair, no faded daguerreotypes of loved ones waiting for his return. He simply lay there in the bed, barely breathing, just a kid sent far from home by a country who probably didn’t even know where he was.

He never woke up, and died the next morning.

They buried him in the cemetery 300 feet down the road. His coffin was made from weathered old boards pried off of the barn. They marked his grave with a large rock. It was all they had.

In the spring of 1928, C.B. Adamson decided it was time that the unknown Union soldier had a fitting tribute. C.B. was a child when the solider died at the house on the ridge. So he composed a long poem for the soldier, and went down to the graveyard, where he mixed up some homemade concrete, poured the fellow a gravestone, and stamped the poem in the wet concrete. Community historians sent a request to Washington, DC for an official Union Army headstone. When it arrived, they placed it next to the concrete slabs. Despite nearly 100 years of harsh weather and occasional neglect, the unknown soldier’s grave is still intact. Caretakers patched the slabs back together a few years ago after an ice storm sent a four-foot-thick white oak crashing into their center.

When Mom moved down here from Michigan in 1969, her grandparents were still living in the old house where she lives today. She moved in with them until she could find a job and apartment. In 1989, she returned to Heard County, and has lived in the family home ever since. Of course, Mom grew up hearing stories of the Union soldier’s ghost. While she’s never seen him, she’s heard him walking around and felt his presence in the house.

“When I hear him,” she says, “it’s usually the sound of heavy boots along the floor—like the boots don’t fit very well, or maybe the person’s feet really hurt. It happens when I’m the only one at home. Other times, it’s just a funny feeling I get, like someone’s in the room with me or is watching me. But when I look up, nobody’s there.”

On Halloween 2006, Mom and I made our usual bonfire a good, safe 50 feet from the house. About 9:30 that night, I turned my back to the fire and was finishing the last of the s’mores as I watched how the blaze illuminated much of the yard. For safety’s sake, we’d left the lights on in the kitchen, dining room, and living room—the rooms on the west side of the house, and the ones I into which I could see from where I stood in the yard.

That’s when I saw him in the house.
A man.
Dressed in dark blue.

He walked from left to right: starting in the kitchen, he made his way slowly through the dining room, and into the living room. I watched the man, of average height and build, walk along and reach with his right hand as if to open a door. His dark blue sleeve reached to his knuckles, as if his shirt or coat were several sizes too large. He walked steadily through the house, opening one door and the next, passing by all the windows. When he reached the living room’s old chimney. . .he vanished.

“Mom, is someone in the house?”

“Nobody but the cats. Why?”

I blinked hard, and began shaking. “I just saw someone walk through the house. From the kitchen, to the dining room, on through to the living room.”

Mom sat straight up in her lawn chair by the fire. “What?”

“I swear to God, Mom. I just saw somebody walk through the house. A man, wearing a long-sleeved blue coat or shirt.”

Mom was quiet for a long moment, then turned to me. “You know what this means, right?”

“No. . .”

“It means you’re the first person I know who’s actually seen the unknown Union soldier.”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 10/31/18

“Verdigris Fountain”
Pine Mountain, Georgia – 2018

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Hillside Monday: 10/29/18

“Big Chicken, at Rest”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2009

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Caturday: 10/27/18

“Miller, My Good-Luck Charm”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2016
Model: Miller

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Friday Photo: 10/26/18

“Factory Windows No. 1”
Newnan, Georgia – 2017

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Wednesday Photo: 10/24/18

“Running the Corn-Tomato Gauntlet”
Heard County, Georgia – 2017

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Hillside Monday: 10/22/18

“For Wes, Part 8”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Caturday: 10/20/18

“Caturday Gray”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2016
Model: Zora

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 10/19/18

 

“Traveling Shoes, Part 3”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 10/17/18

“Gardenia Hello”
Heard County, Georgia – 2016

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Hillside Monday: 10/15/18

“Ahead of the Storm, Jefferson Street”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Caturday: 10/13/18

“Brothers, Friends, Window Sleepers”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015
Models: Buddy (gray tabby) and Miller (solid black)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 10/12/18

“Sunday Morning Coming Down”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 10/10/18

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
— James Baldwin

“For Wes, Part 7 (You Don’t Know My Pain)”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Hillside Monday: 10/8/18

“Silk Tree Flower Gone Wild”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Caturday: 10/6/18

“Gray Tabby Cat with Vines, Vase, and Bulldog”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2018
Model: Clark

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

A Late Grocery List

Candy corn.
Michelob.
Sardines.

Candy corn:
It is the worst of the worst Halloween candy, plentiful as fleas and twice as hard to get rid of. In all its corn syrupy FD&C No. 6 glory, it refuses to masquerade as blood sugar-friendly. He never craved sweets like we did, but it was his favorite—in small quantities. At Halloween, when we brought home sack after sack of the stuff, he never complained. Had we asked him to, he would have eaten it until Kingdom Come.
Overall: Cloying, slightly giddy, with a letdown at the end.
Base: Unabashed enthusiasm.
Top Note: A bad case of the Sunday evening can’t-help-its.

Michelob:
Maybe he switched from PBR and Bud tallboys to feel more sophisticated after the divorce. Maybe it was too many late nights spent thumbing through Cosmopolitan, trying to figure out “the modern woman” and what she wanted. She wanted back then the same thing she does now: To be treated like a human being, with respect, dignity, and compassion. Besides, would a modern man in a modern relationship with a modern woman drink a redneck beer? Of course not.
Overall: Hoppy, skunky, with a bitter finish.
Base: Rancid barley.
Top Note: Mule piss.

Sardines:
In oil, in mustard, in cream, but never in hot sauce. His ulcer couldn’t handle it. How he could work fourteen hours in 110-degree heat on just a tin of these and a box of saltine crackers is still beyond me. Meanwhile, the rest of us on the crew tried not to honk up our turkey-Swiss-teriyaki-meatball-chitlins-on-wheat lunchtime transgressions. He tossed the empty cans behind the stock pile, where they proceeded to attract every stray cat within a half-mile radius.
Overall: Stridently fishy, yet earnest, with a hint of struggle.
Base: Sweat-soaked long-sleeved Dickies.
Top Note: Waccamaw River silt.

Candy corn.
Michelob.
Sardines.

In memory of Newt Williams
5 October 1946 ‒ 16 January 1997

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 10/3/18

If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.
— James Baldwin

“For Wes, Part 6”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

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