Friday, April 27, 2012

Reba's Crepe Myrtle

Today is the year anniversary of the Alabama tornadoes.  I woke up thinking about Reba and her dear family.  I know that today is going to be hard on them.  I wish them peace.

About two months after I found Reba's mailing label in the roses, I decided to plant a crepe myrtle in her memory.  In the root ball of her crepe myrtle, I placed the label, thereby returning it to nature, which was as I had found it.  I did not blog about the plantings, as I knew we were experiencing drought conditions, and I was afraid that the tree would not survive.  I didn't want any additional heartache visited upon her family (even a heartache so small as a tree not taking to a transplanting).  So, I planted her tree, with a brother tree across the sidewalk, quietly and without fanfare.

This is a photo from 29 June 2011, the day I planted the two crepe myrtles.  Reba's is the one on the left, still in the pot, waiting to be planted.

About two months later, Reba's son messaged me to ask how Reba's crepe myrtle was doing, because he remembered that I mentioned that I was planning to remember her in such a fashion.  Happily, I was able to report:

...funny that you mention the crepe the time that I planted the crepe myrtle in which I placed Reba's address label, I planted another crepe myrtle across from it. Both trees came from the same nursery (the local master gardners), both the same size/age (leggy adolescents), and neither had flower buds on them (wouldn't expect any until next year, since I planted them late spring). But when I saw your query this morning, I went out to take a closer look at the trees. Interestingly, Reba's tree has a lot more growth on it, and surprisingly, I found one tender little flower bud cluster forming on one of the top branches. So Jeff, Reba's crepe myrtle is doing surpassing my first year expectations. I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised...

Both crepe myrtles are still doing remarkably well to this day, as you can see in the photo below:

But Reba's is still knocking it out of the park.   I love that her tree had flowers on it last year...I expect many more this year. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vernacular High Life

This is an art piece that I made for Christi Robinson back in February (while I was deep in the creative territory of the GPL Book Arts Project).  I just gave it to her Friday night at dinner because we haven't really had a chance to hang out in awhile.

It is entitled High Life, and is made from reclaimed wood, beer can tin, beer bottle caps and quotes from Jack Kerouac, Ray LaMontayne, & Robert Frost.  Eric was kind enough to sacrifice his time by consuming certain wheat-contaminated adult beverages so that I could create the piece that I wanted for Christi.  He's sweet that way.

You cannot tell that Howard Finster and Jean-Michel Basquiat are two of my favorite outsider artists, right?

I Wish I Had Me Some of Them Right Now...

Eric just posted photos yesterday that he took from the outrageously delicious dinner that we had with the Robinsons and the Hyatts last Friday night at the Robinson's place.  Chris  made an appetizer of shrimp grits that were so good, any lesser woman would have slapped her momma.

Photos used with permission, Eric T. Wright, copyrighted.

And for the main dish, he made blackened tilapia that he placed lovingly on a bed of spicy black beans.

Seeing these pictures makes me wish I still had some leftovers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do you do Blues?

Back in July of 2008, my friend Eric Wright (this was about two months before we stared dating) asked me via email the simple question, “Do you do Blues?”

My response was this:
“Do I do blues?!?  *sputtering*  Yhuh!  Oh man, deed I do!  I have a very small collection of Robert Johnson, Son House, B.B. King, Johnny Shines and Howlin' Wolf…(I was missing some of the other greats I loved like Charley Patton and Blind Lemon Jefferson because they  belonged to my ex-husband and had remained in Denver with him)

I started listening to the Blues back in my senior year of college, about the time that I accidentally heard Johnny Shines playing at the Crossroads in Jacksonville.  I was running round the college party scene with some friends one evening when we decided to stop at the Crossroads (present day Cooter Brown's) to hear this "blues man" who was playing in town that night.  No one amongst my friends could tell me what the name of the fellow was, but when we got out of the car and I heard the music, I knew he wasn't one of the ordinary so-called blues men who came ‘round these parts.  Problem was, the place was packed and they wouldn't let us in, no matter how much begging and flirting we did.  So, I pleaded with my friends to stay outside just a bit longer to hear a little more.  With my ear placed against the building to hear the music, and my hands placed on the wall to feel the music (cause dang, you sure could feel THAT music), I listened until they peeled me away to go find a place we could actually get into.  I found out later who the musician was that was pounding and sliding on the guitar, his voice trained and untrained all at the same time...and I quit hanging out with those friends for making me leave that night.   Johnny Shines died a couple of years after that.  I never saw him sing, but I can sure say that I heard and felt him...”

Today:  4/25/2012
Johnny Shines was the sound of a voice and a guitar to me, and a sepia-toned image of a middle-aged man off of the cover of his CD.  I had never seen a photo of a young Johnny Shines…until yesterday. 

Prompted by a Radiolab piece called Crossroads that Eric tuned me in to, I went out looking for more info on Robert Johnson (‘cause you know Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads just so he could play the blues after his wife and baby died, so there's stuff worth looking up about him).  And while I was looking for more info on Robert Johnson, I stumbled upon a November 2008 Vanity Fair story entitled Searching for Robert Johnson that centered around an old snapshot purchased in 2005 off of eBay of two very young blues singers, potentially Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines.  The young men look like they just got paid for the first time, and aren’t sure of how their new suits fit.  And although we know better, they look untouched by liquor, bad women, and hardship…

The verdict is still out on the authenticity of the photo.  If it is authentic, it would be only the third existing photo of Robert Johnson (there are two bonafide photos currently out there), and maybe the earliest of Johnny Shines (there are lots of photos of Mr. Shines floating around the Internet...most of them of a middle-aged and older Shines).  But now that I’ve seen this particular photo, I can’t imagine Mr. Shines any other way than the angel-faced kid in the cream-colored pre-zoot suit.  I can’t even imagine what was on his mind when that photo was taken…he may have been thinking of the lyrics he had rolling around his head that he needed to set to guitar music.  He may have been thinking about the rest of that leftover suit-buying money that was burning a hole in his pocket.  Then again, he may have been thinking about how it was time to part ways with his friend Johnson, who was maybe drinking more frequently by then, and trying to make time with ladies he shouldn’t have been. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

But Even Then

Last Saturday, while in Oklahoma City for a wedding, we visited the Oklahoma CityNational Memorial.  It is a moving experience to visit such a beautiful, peaceful memorial for such a tragic event in our nation’s history, and in our nation’s psyche.  I was even more moved by the heartbreaking elegy that has grown from a chain-link fence along the edge of one end of the official memorial.  This chain-link fence has become a depository for mementoes:  American flags, stuffed animals, necklaces, keychains, photos and messages.  Walking past a small sock monkey, I couldn’t help but run my thumb across its rain-soaked belly and wonder how long it would survive in its present state, being exposed to the elements as it is.   

Three years ago, on April 27, 2009, my friend Craig Arnold went missing while doing research on a volcanic island off the coast of Japan. Exactly two years later, on April 27, 2011, Reba J. Jones (a woman whom I did not know but would become acquainted with because of her mailing label finding its way into my rose bush) perished in the devastating tornadoes that tore across Alabama that day.  Two months ago, on February 16, my cousin Mark A. Smith left his home in Kentucky, and has not been heard from since.

In the case of Craig, after a great deal of searching by individuals familiar with the island, as well as an international special response group, it was determined that he suffered an injury that led to a fatal fall.  His body was never recovered. You may read my original blog posts about Craig here and here.

When I found Mrs. Jones’ mailing label in my rose bush the day after the tornadoes, I blogged about it in the hopes of finding out who Reba J. Jones was and what had happened to her.  Mrs. Jones’ friends and family happened upon my blog and generously responded by sharing many details of her story.   To read the blog post and responses about Reba J. Jones, please go here.

And Mark…well, we have nothing to go on for Mark.  He just seems to have disappeared without a trace.  All that I know about him at this point is what I blogged last month, which may be viewed here and here.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about closure lately:  what is closure, and do we need it in order to move on after a loss and/or trauma?  Personally speaking, closure is the denouement: the resolution or outcome of a situation.  Or, more easily though of, closure  is an ending to a story.  I (and I’m sure the majority of other people out there) prefer to have closure, but sometimes, closure is just not there to be had.  When I don’t have closure, it makes it more difficult, but not impossible, to move on.  I learn to deal with the memories and feelings over time, and they eventually cause me less sadness and anxiety (usually).  But even then, there is always the possibility that something will trigger my memory of that person…be it a rose bush, a dish of spicy curry, or the beginning strums of Waylon Jenning’s guitar as he plays the theme song from The Dukes of Hazzard…and darn, if I don’t feel a lump in my throat.  And no matter how hard I swallow, that lump just won’t go away anytime soon.

In the initial days following Craig’s disappearance, I had a seemingly irrational, yet very realistic fear that he was being rained on, and that he couldn’t find shelter.  I felt the same way about Reba.  And now, as much as I don’t want to, I have the same feeling about Mark.  Again, it seems irrational, this worry of mine.  But I was, and am, bothered by the possibility of Craig, Reba, and Mark being exposed to the elements.  I can’t verbalize it any better than that, and I try not to dwell on it.  But there it is.