micropoem for the day: a hole in a tree

Often I use photographs to trigger my subbyconscious to get to work to come up with a story or a micropoem or a blog post. Many of these photographs have cropped up on a blog called Monochromia. Monochromia features black and white photographs from a variety of excellent photographers. No matter what, there will be a photograph of something interesting that has a story that needs telling. Today’s micropoem was not inspired by Monochromia but a photograph downloaded on my laptop for wallpaper. I just wanted to give a shout out to the site for the wonderful work they feature. It’s a favorite blog.

a hole in a tree
Alice went down that hole
a squirrel appears

Near 500 words: The gift no one wanted

Dean loved cameras. The expensive ones. The cheap ones. The in-between ones. The smart phone cameras. There wasn’t a camera he didn’t like. When he found an antique camera he didn’t own, it made his day. He was like a kid in a candy store when he went into a camera shop. The salesman handed him the camera and he turned it this way and then that way. He looked through its lens, then he checked out its heft. Then he scanned the room with its viewfinder. Next he tried the focus. All this trial and error could take an hour or more. But the salesman knew he was in the presence of a true professional.

Since he was five years old, cameras were Dean’s life. He couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t have a camera in his hand. He took pictures of everything. You name it, he had taken it. War zones. The poor and the rich. Refugees. Presidents and politicans. Runway models and fashionistas. City streets and country roads. People from all walks of life. He especially loved getting someone working in his frame.

He was seventy when he took to teaching a photography class. It was a new phase of his life, something he never expected. Just when he thought of retiring and cataloguing all his photographs, suddenly there was this new thing that excited him. To show others a love of the thing he loved.

On the first day of class, he had his class grab their cameras and follow him. He took them to the dingiest ugliest kind of place and then said, “Shoot.” They spent a half day there. Then they returned to the classroom and he asked, “What did you learn today?” No one raised their hand. All he said in response to their response was “Um hmm.”

The next time the class met Dean took them to another dingy ugly spot. After a morning there, they went back to the classroom. “What did you learn?” he asked. Nada was the answer. He cancelled the following class one morning with a note, “Go shoot some pictures.”

The next class Dean walked into the classroom. “Okay,” he said. “Who took pictures?”

They all raised their hands.

“Let’s see them.”

Each of the twenty students showed him their shots. They were all selfies.

Dean shook his head, then said, “Go home. Get a job. But don’t take pictures. You’re not worthy.”

Then he walked out of the room, walked over to the Department Head’s office and resigned.

“Dean,” the department head wanted to know. “Why are you quitting?”

Dean shook his head, then said, “I’ve got some pictures to take and I don’t have time for this nonsense.” Then he was gone.

Hands

So much of a writer’s job is paying attention. Robyn Graham’s Photography Blog recently reminded me of this. She posted a photograph called “Grandma’s Hands” of her 90-year-old grandmother’s hands. Those hands were absolutely beautiful hands. Hands that had worn life with grace.

The photograph called to my mind the dignity that we often miss in our fellow human beings. And the details of another’s life. Details that are important. Florida writer Robert Newton Peck, in his book “Fiction Is Folks: How to Create Unforgettable Characters”, says that you can tell a lot about a character from his hands.

It’s in the details that our characters come alive. You can tell whether a character is a worker bee or someone who does no physical work at all. A guitarist will have callouses on his fingers. What does the reader learn about a pianist with short stubby fingers or long graceful ones? Are the hands of a character manicured or are the fingernails chewed off crookedly? Chewed from worry? Is there dirt underneath the fingernails?

When I was reading Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike, he mentioned that John Updike never wore a wedding ring during his first marriage to Mary. During his second marriage to Martha, he wore a wedding ring. This told me so much, not about the writer, but about the man.

One of the things I love about the photographs of Ansel Adams and the paintings of Andrew Wyeth is how much dignity they bring to their subjects.

My Uncle Howard was a butcher. He was larger than life. He could fill a room just by walking into it. One time I asked him, “What happened to your pinkie?”

He threw his head back and laughed that big laugh of his. “I lost it years ago when I was slicing sausage. You can’t imagine the blood that poured out of that hand, enough to start a swimming pool. Anyway I got that hand all patched up. Decided I would honor that pinkie with a name. So I called it bologna.” At that, he winked at me.

“Where’s that pinkie now?” I asked.

“It’s in heaven, waiting for me. Guess I had better be good or I am going to have to spend eternity with one less pinkie, huh?”

Just want to thank Robyn Graham for her beautiful photograph and reminding me of the details that I need to pay attention to.