Manna Meditations

cut me a thick slice of sky…

… ¬†pile it high
with white-cloud whipped cream.

we can share it,
you and I —

two spoons,
the plate between.

that wet dab of blue
on your lower lip …

ah, Love!
let’s lick the day clean.

(Manna Meditations Day 22 – For T)

ūüíõ

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What Happens Next

One Last Look Back… & Then Forward

I’ve let this place lie fallow for a week now.

I’ve been resting. ¬†Contemplating what’s come, and what comes next.

Almost two months ago, I built this blog out of sheer desperation. ¬†Because at that time, wherever I looked I saw a lot of loneliness. ¬†I felt marooned in a city where I didn’t belong.

And somehow, by expressing that to you, and by intentionally trying to see the beauty, over and over, day after day — somehow my heart opened to this place.

I saw this:

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And this:

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And this, and this, and this…

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And I suppose these look like small things, but they opened my heart — they really did — and now I find myself wanting to put down roots here, at least for a time.

I don’t mean just in my city.

I also mean here — right here, on this page, with you.

Because here’s what I’m learning:

Roots need soil.  And maybe, when I began, the ground was dry and full of stones, but I chose, in the face of that dryness, to fertilize and water.  To pull loose the boulders and wrench out the broken glass.

Now?  I have a field fresh-tilled, full of good loam.

And all 40 of those days, I kept thinking that the goal was to till the field.  But suddenly I see that what I really needed was to get myself to a place where I could grow something in it.

Which is what I intend to do.

So let’s set¬†aside all the symbols and the metaphors for a moment¬†and just say it like this:

I’m not finished yet. ¬†I’m leaving this blog open, and I hope¬†to do some good and even beautiful things with it …

I can’t wait to tell you more.

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Signs & Small Wonders

A Metaphor in the Beating of Wings: Day Twenty-Nine

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.¬†¬†Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge: ¬†each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place. ¬†And then I’m going to tell you about it. ¬†If you want to follow my journey, start¬†here.¬†¬†Today is Day Twenty-Nine.)

Because I am one who makes much of small things:

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Today, while running an errand downtown, I saw a cloud of these small, black birds wrench up as one from the building where they’d perched. ¬†They whirled across Campbell Avenue, dipped and settled down on the opposite side of the street.

I sat in my car, waiting at the red light, and my breath caught:

This.

I watched them leap the street again, spooling up into a cyclone, a thunderhead, a swell.  In a moment, their shape shifted into something else entirely:  something animal.

Or perhaps something not animal at all.

There is a phrase for this, this synergy, that we humans use: ¬†The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. ¬†It’s a cold, mathematical way of explaining¬†something¬†that resists¬†all mathematical laws. ¬†Something very nearly supernatural.

But here the birds were, expressing this concept in a way that felt more truthful.

So here is the truth:

I have been on my own for a long time now, beating my wings in the dark.  And now I can feel it, a kind of convergence coming.  The birds whirl as one, and they become something other than birds.  I want that, too.

Tell me:  how do the birds know, to gather and leap into empty air?  When to dive?  Turn south for the winter?

I don’t know these things, but for now, the instinct inside me is enough.

I lean forward into the steering wheel.  I cannot hear the sound, but in my chest is the beating of wings.

I reach for my camera.

I press the lens to the glass.

I hear the shutter open with a click.

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Highlight Reel

Week in Review: Day Twenty-Seven

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.¬†¬†Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge: ¬†each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place. ¬†And then I’m going to tell you about it. ¬†If you want to follow my journey, start¬†here.¬†¬†Today is Day Twenty-Seven.)

IMG_4072IMG_5280IMG_3941IMG_4169IMG_4646IMG_4360IMG_4463IMG_4352This¬†was a week of stretching out for me — in my city. ¬†In my heart.

In deliberate resistance to my own aesthetic, I shot in color all week, with a telephoto lens, for the first time.

I found a silver lining in a sky full of stars.

I deconstructed the Taubman.

I fell in love with downtown Roanoke.

I met friends in Grandin Village, was treated to a free grilled cheese and ice cream, and felt, for the first time in a long time, like I belong here.

I stumbled on a a secret garden (sort-of).

I wrote a poem in a burger joint (sort-of).

And also, I used that new telephoto lens to shoot about a hundred photos of the light catching in my neighbor’s sprinkler:

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Which might well be one of the single most transcendent images I’ve witnessed in a long, long time.

(I am an absolute loon).

And I just want to say this:

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

I’m grateful.

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Signs & Small Wonders

Small Wonders in Downtown Roanoke: Day Twenty-Three

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.¬†¬†Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge: ¬†each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place. ¬†And then I’m going to tell you about it. ¬†If you want to follow my journey, start¬†here.¬†¬†Today is Day Twenty-Three.)

Confession:

I have a bit of a crush on downtown Roanoke.

It’s a little downtown, as far as downtowns go, but I’m learning that it’s got so much heart. ¬†And I could tell you about it, but today I thought I’d let the images speak for themselves.

No iconic shots or major landmarks here.  Just small, beautiful things that are easy to miss:

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Small Adventures

Finding (& Making) Art at the Taubman: Day Twenty-Two

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.¬†¬†Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge: ¬†each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place. ¬†And then I’m going to tell you about it. ¬†If you want to follow my journey, start¬†here.¬†¬†Today is Day Twenty-Two.)

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I spent my day off today wandering around the Taubman Museum of Art.

I tried out my telephoto lens for the first time.  Made friends with the security guard as I wandered in and out and in again, photographing inside, outside, inside.

I lay down on my back on the sidewalk and shot straight up into the sky.

I climbed halfway across the bridge over the railroad tracks.  Shot back at the museum, with cars and trucks shaking the pavement beneath my feet.

I pushed the lens of my camera up against the mirrored windows.

And I have to tell you:

I love this place.

It’s just a baby art museum, as far as art museums go — barely six¬†years old. ¬†But it’s ours, and it’s free, and I can come and go whenever I like.

I feel at home here.

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*

When the museum began to go up in the middle of downtown Roanoke several years ago, I was still living an hour away in the New River Valley, but I heard the uproar all the way over the there.  The building Рdesigned by Randall Stout Рrose in wild peaks and angles, sandwiched between old factory buildings and the giant Tudor expanse of the Hotel Roanoke.  The art museum, structurally speaking, was edgy.  Strange.  Almost frenzied.  A lot of people hated it.

Which, for the record, is exactly how it should be.

I mean, if you decide to build an art museum and, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the general populace stands up and says, “My, what a lovely and tasteful building. ¬†How perfectly congruent with the rest of the architecture in town,” then you’ve probably gotten something wrong.

But that’s a different story, for another day.

I will say this, though: ¬†I can see why some people have a hard time accepting this building. ¬†Because it’s kind-of all-over-the-place. ¬†(A lot like a certain someone who writes this blog). ¬†And if you’re a contemplative person with an eye for simple things (ironically, I am), the architecture¬†can be … overwhelming.

So today, I decided to use my first session with the telephoto lens to take the building apart a little bit.

To go slow.  Let my eye travel and rest.  Experience it in small, carefully composed angles.

Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite photos (all unedited). ¬†This is the Taubman, deconstructed:

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But of course, an art museum is more than the building that houses it. ¬†It’s about what’s inside, too — the art, and the people who come to experience¬†it.

And I took some photographs of that, but I don’t want to give too much away. ¬†If you’re local, I really, *really* hope you go for yourself.

So here’s just a tease, to get you started.

Here’s a shot of the atrium, with the briefest¬†edge of the giant, fluffy white sculpture installed there¬†— Fuzzy Kudzu by Ralph Eaton, two parts whimsical and one part disturbing (which I think is a good thing):

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Here’s the thoughtful¬†face of Thomas Houseago’s Standing Boy, who stands with his back to the window in¬†the upstairs hall:

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Here’s a little sneak-peek at one of the works in the ticketed Beg, Borrow and Steal exhibition (from the Rubell family collection out of Miami):

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Here’s a brief window (literally) into the¬†Canstruction project on display downstairs — a really special event¬†in which local teams¬†build sculptures out of donated canned goods. ¬†In a few weeks, the sculptures will be dismantled and those canned goods will go to area food banks with Feeding America Southwest Virginia:

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And here’s one of my favorite shots from all day, even though it could¬†use some editing. ¬†I think it highlights a little moment of genius in the installation of these two works, John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Norah Gribble and Betty Branch’s Dancer.

I really love it when disparate pieces of art are installed in such a way that they can encounter one another, converse, and sometimes comment on each other. ¬†I think this is one of those moments. ¬†To place Ms. Gribble — clearly the subject of the male gaze, even if that male *is* internationally renowned master Sargent (who I’ve had a creative crush on for years) — opposite the dancer that Roanoker¬†Betty Branch is seeing —¬†a fierce, fluid, but faceless woman caught in the act of motion and movement — is to invite a whole lot of reflection.

I really hope you’ll come meet these two ladies yourself, and reflect:

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Feeling very grateful for the Taubman today.

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