R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: The Natural World (page 2 of 4)

Friday Photo: 2/16/18

“Morning Dew, Taylor House”
Rabun County, Georgia – 27 September 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 2/12/18

“Still Life in Shadows”
LaGrange, Georgia – 14 January 2018

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 2/9/18

“The Bench Crows Know”
Rabun County, Georgia – 26 September 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

The Little Peach Tree That Could

In the mid-1930s, my great-grandfather planted this dwarf peach tree in the side yard of his house in southwestern Heard County, Georgia. By the mid-1950s, when my mother was old enough to remember the family’s yearly trips down from Michigan, the tree bore heavy yields every summer.

Pap would slice up quart after quart of fresh peaches, from which he and Grandma Edith would make ice cream in an old crank-handle freezer. It was the finest she had ever tasted, Mom would say years later. When she first moved south in 1968, Mom lived with Pap and Grandma while she saved up for her own apartment in LaGrange. Entering its fourth decade, the little peach tree was still producing as many peaches as the three of them could eat (read: a lot).

In 1988, Mom moved back to Heard County and began fixing up the old home place. By that time, the tree was just about dead. Sap ran sticky amber-brown from the peach borer holes along its trunk. Ice storms had broken off about half its branches. The other half, fiercely proud and unwilling to admit defeat, struggled to stay even halfway upright.

The kind thing to do, Mom supposed, would be to cut it down. No sense in letting it suffer. It had served its purpose for many years. Now it was time to plant something new.

But the saw stayed in the shed.  Mom couldn’t stand to cut down the beleaguered little peach tree while it was still half-alive, or even a quarter alive. “When it’s finally dead, I’ll cut it,” she kept saying. “In the meantime, we’ll just mow around it.”

Which she did—very carefully, with a rickety push-mower and a pair of yard shears. Mom mulched it. She sprayed it for insects and fungus. She watered it during droughts, and pruned away the branches split by the weight of snow and ice. For a dying tree, this one sure was getting a lot of care.

Year after year, the little tree hung on. Every spring, the familiar pink blossoms appeared. By early summer, fuzzy green baby peaches the size of jelly beans dotted the branches. By July 4th, the baby peaches would lie rotting on the ground, felled by some fungus or insect predator. At least the fire ants and yellow jackets were eating well.

For almost 20 years, we had hoped for peaches. For almost 20 years, we had none. I began to accept that peaches, as much as I wanted them, were just not going to happen.

Fast forward to 2003: a warm spring day at the old home place. My mother and stepfather had almost finished rebuilding the long-collapsed front porch. Useless with a hammer but still wanting to be part of the action, I stood nearby.

“Uh, Mom?” I said. “It’s about your little tree.”

“I know, I know.” She mopped the sweat from her brow and grabbed another fistful of 16-penny nails. “I’m giving it one more chance. If it doesn’t make fruit this year, it’s coming down.”

So the spring turned into summer, and the blossoms turned into fuzzy green baby peaches. But this time, the baby peaches stayed on the tree. And grew. And grew. And ripened.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, we had peaches.

I felt awful for having hoped we could cut down the elderly peach tree. I had doubted it, and it had come back—perhaps to prove us wrong, but more likely because that’s just what trees do. This lonely, gnarled little tree suddenly bore two bushels of peaches just because it could.

That summer, we had the best homemade peach ice cream and the best homemade peach cobbler I have ever tasted. Since then, the tree has managed to produce at least a few desserts’ worth of fruit every season. It has survived nearly a century of drought, disease, ice storms, and straight-line winds—and, one time, a sweet, hungry, clumsy 2,800-pound Black Angus bull. This beloved little tree refuses to quit.

What will this year bring? We don’t yet know. The peach tree probably doesn’t yet know, either. No matter what happens, though, I will always be grateful to it for showing me what endurance really means.

Photo: “Green Peach, Black Cat” (Heard County, Georgia – 27 May 2014)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 1/29/18

“Spider Lily, Early Autumn”
LaGrange, Georgia – 16 September 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Hillside Monday: 1/22/18

People seem surprised at how many species of wild birds make their home in Hillside’s trees. Unlike some neighborhoods, Hillside features relatively large wooded areas full of mature oaks, pines, hickories, and poplars. These areas—a few of which cover entire city blocks—are perfect for owls, hawks, and woodpeckers, to name just a few birds I’ve seen around here.

I spent a delightful hour browsing The Feather Atlas, courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I’m still not sure about this feather. It could be from a nighthawk. Or a downy woodpecker. Or a red-bellied woodpecker. Or a yellow-bellied sapsucker. I need more coffee.

“This Feather Is Mocking Me”
LaGrange, Georgia – 17 November 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 1/19/18

“Willow (Barred Owl), in Flight”
Pine Mountain, Georgia – 27 December 2016

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 1/15/18

“Crape Myrtle and Winter Sky”
LaGrange, Georgia – 3 January 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

37205

Tonight, I dream of Nashville, where a low pressure system wraps the city in a thick wintry blanket. How beautiful it would be to see the oxbows of the Little Harpeth, the girders of the Shelby Street Bridge, and the ear-tufts of the Bat Building swept by wind—swaddled in snow, glazed in sleet and freezing rain.

Tonight, I long to wake to the great roaring silence of snow. Through the perforated Bakelite cube at my bedside, a half-human, half-computer voice consoles me with a NOAA lullaby. “Currently in Nashville: snow, 28 degrees. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect. Elsewhere in Tennessee…”

Tonight, indeed, my mind is elsewhere—in Tennessee. I imagine the crisis-comfort of winter weather: the deafening hush of heavy, wet snowflakes, the flik-flik-flik of ice on plant and ground, the muffled grrrrddddtttt of tires against slush in the parking lot of a tiny apartment on White Bridge Road. Just beyond my window, the splash of cold black-white-clear lacquer soothes me to sleep, to work, to live.

Tonight, in west central Georgia, I stock up on bread, milk, and bottled water. I surrender my hopes. I play along at home.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Every Place Is a Sacred Place

Oak, hickory, dogwood, mountain laurel, sassafras, tulip poplar, elm, sweet gum, locust—I wished I’d brought along my tree book. Frothy green ferns carpeted the ground, but not so thickly that I couldn’t see the dark, glossy poison ivy leaning into the trail. Leaves of three, stay away from me.

Hundreds of young saplings reach skyward for light. Sheltered by the mature trees, they will stay relatively small and grow slowly until those larger trees die and fall. As the saplings become larger trees, new saplings will sprout from the nuts, seeds, and cones nestled in the leaf litter. The new trees will mature, die, and fall back. More new saplings will take their places—and on, and on.

How long has this scene existed? It was here long before the trail; it will be here long after the trail. What did this hollow look like when the only people here were Native Americans? How about before the Native Americans? What plants were here then that aren’t here now—and vice versa?

Thousands of years before we were born, this hillside was home to plants, insects, animals, and people. Hunter and hunted lived and died close to one another. Over thousands of years, something or someone has breathed a final breath and lay down forever on every patch of ground we see here. Every spot is important, hallowed, sacred.

What if we were to bring this presence of mind, to everything we do, everything we say, everywhere we travel? How different would the world be? How different would we be?

Every place is sacred—even if we choose not to think about it.

Photo: “North Georgia Woods” (Blue Ridge, Georgia –19 May 2010)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

NOTE: This piece has been revised from its previous version, which I first posted here on  23 July 2012.

Wednesday Photo: 1/10/18

“Pink, Orange, Gold, Gray”
Carroll County, Georgia – 4 December 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

In the Turn Lane

For a week, the oily-matte black carcass lay undisturbed in the middle of the turn lane. On either side, three more lanes of car and critter hurried past the spiky scramble of feathers. Hard freeze, hard thaw, hard rain—nothing would touch it.

In rural west Georgia, where I grew up, dead animals in the road are a fact of life. With these dead animals comes nature’s clean-up crew. They make quick work of most everything: flattened and ruptured squirrels, opossums, armadillos. Dogs, cats, coyotes, cattle. Unfortunate copperheads, errant guinea hens, eerily headless eight-point bucks, and even the occasional feral hog.

Every creature eats. Every creature is eaten. In the circle of life, flesh never goes to waste.

But all that happens outside of town, in the country. Here, a hundred yards inside the city limits, was not where I expected to see broken, crumpled wings. Here, in the turn lane, was not where I expected to see frozen talons devastated against asphalt.

Like many of us, it sought the company of others, working best in groups. Like many of us, it flew into fate unaccompanied, at a time and in a place it neither expected nor desired.

Only death will eat a vulture.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 1/5/18

“Virginia Creeper with Late Autumn Drought”
LaGrange, Georgia – 11 November 2016

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Merry Christmas 2017

“Bright Lights against the Pines”
Heard County, Georgia – 6 December 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 12/22/17

“Oncoming Storm with Shadows, in Blue”
LaGrange, Georgia – 22 July 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 12/20/17

“One Last Old Rose”
LaGrange, Georgia – 11 November 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 12/18/17

“Hickory Leaves, Late Afternoon”
LaGrange, Georgia – 6 November 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Snake Bones

By the front steps, I discovered the remains of a small snake, decomposed beyond the point of species identification. One of the outdoor cats probably killed and brought it to the front of the house, an offering to the human who feeds them. Or perhaps it was instruction in how to hunt: “See? This is what you do. Start small, and work up.”

Tiny ribs protrude from the delicate spine, barely larger than hairs; the jaw still opens in a last threatening hiss. An omen? Impossible to say. The surprise of horrible beauty stays with me just the same.

Photo: “Snake Skeleton, Sept. 2013”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 12/6/17

“Autumn Feathers on Green Enamel”
Heard County, Georgia – 29 October 2016

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 11/24/17

“Infrared Flowers: In Memory of Martha Ann”
LaGrange, Georgia – 9 September 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

MomAtThanksgiving2014_COPY

“Mom in the Woods, Thanksgiving Day”
Heard County, Georgia – 27 November 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)
 

Hillside Monday: 11/20/17

“Back Yard with Window Screen and Hurricane Irma”
LaGrange, Georgia – 11 September 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 11/10/17

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 – 5 September 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Georgia 109 Spur

Sunday, summer. Hot. Humid.
Nearly a hundred at a quarter til noon.
How the world stays plump and green in this steam, I do not know.

In the opposite lane, warming itself: a box turtle. No—a pinecone.
In my lane, warming itself: a shredded fan belt. No—a king snake.
Wheels dodge, spin past.
Neither moves.

By the old Whatley place, two does materialize. From the furry green ditch, their eyes ask permission. I slow. They traverse the double yellow line, as always graceful yet unsure, as always one at a time.

A squirrel, bushy tail an eternal question mark, never asks permission. Zig-zag-zig-zigzig-zag-ZIG! across pavement and almost-not-safely into tall grass.

In the hollow by the Primitive Baptist cemetery, a great blue heron glides across the tops of the pines. Wide blue-gray wings, yellow legs, crooked flight-neck: hello, hello, goodbye.

All an omen, all a blessing—all a signal of hope.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Note: This encore post first appeared on 22 June 2014.

 

Friday Photo: 10/27/17

“Waiting, No. 1”
Wedowee, Alabama – 19 September 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 10/23/17

“Ahead of the Storm, Jefferson Street”
LaGrange, Georgia – 22 July 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 10/9/17

“Silk Tree Flower Gone Wild”
LaGrange, Georgia – 15 August 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 10/4/17

“Afternoon in the Woods, Late Summer”
Heard County, Georgia – 3 August 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 09/29/17

“Running the Corn-Tomato Gauntlet”
Heard County, Georgia – 4 July 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 9/27/17

“Black Patent Parking Lot”
Newnan, Georgia – 22 June 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 9/25/17

“Silk Tree at the Edge of the Storm”
LaGrange, Georgia – 15 August 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 9/22/17

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

“For Wes, Part 9”
Glenn, Georgia – 17 July 2017
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 9/18/17

Art is the attention we pay to the wholeness of the world.
— Guy Davenport 

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

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 9/15/17

“Silver on Clear”
LaGrange, Georgia – 30 July 2014

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 9/13/17

“Magnolia Flower with Green and Gold”
Heard County, Georgia – 10 August 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 8/28/17

“For Wes, Part 5”
LaGrange, Georgia – 22 July 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 8/23/17

“Magnolia in Black and White”
Heard County, Georgia – 3 August 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Moonlight

I walked outdoors in the cool air to watch the near-full moon, and wondered how many other people were watching it, too. “No matter what divides us,” I thought as I climbed into the back of the little truck, “this silver light falls on us all, falls on everybody the same way.” Even that which decays by day transmogrifies come night into grotesque, strange beauty.

As I reclined against the corrugated bed, I gazed into the night sky and thought of all the people I know. I thought of the people I know who are traveling, who are coming home, who are working, who are hurting, who are lonely, who are frightened, who don’t know what to do next.

Some live nearby, while many others live far away. Many know I care about them. Others don’t. A few would rather not even think about it. Many I haven’t seen in years; some I’ve never met. Some I won’t see again until I’m on the other side.

How I love them all.

Under the silver light of the moon, I held every one of them close to my heart, and sobbed. I climbed out of the truck bed, and stumbled back indoors.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 8/18/17

KudzuAndConcrete_COPY_07-22-2017

“Kudzu and Concrete”
LaGrange, Georgia – 22 July 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 8/11/17

“Sunset on the Chattahoochee”
Franklin, Georgia – 1 July 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 8/7/17

“For Wes, Part 4”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 July 2017
To be continued…

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 8/4/17

“Kansas City at Night, 34th Floor”
Kansas City, Missouri – 16 June 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 7/28/17

“Silk Tree, 7:30 AM”
LaGrange, Georgia – 9 July 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 7/19/17

“Whitley, with Yellow Cherry Tomatoes”
Heard County, Georgia – 4 July 2017

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 7/10/17

“Creeping Color”
LaGrange, Georgia – 24 October 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Friday Photo: 6/23/17

“Something (Not) Borrowed”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 July 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 6/16/17

“Afternoon Light with Pecan Leaves”
Heard County, Georgia – 21 May 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 6/12/17

“Tornado Sky #1”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 November 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 6/5/17

“Metal Roof and Storm”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 November 2014

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 5/31/17

“Water Oak Leaves with Rain and Window”
LaGrange, Georgia – 1 May 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2019 R.S. Williams

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑