Monday, December 28, 2009
I am not sure when I first met Rennie Perrone. My first clear memory of him is fixed however. After his dear wife passed away he moved up to Greensboro from Florida. One day he came to church with Charlie and Terry. As with many people and Rennie, it was friendship at first site.
Rennie was always the best dressed guy in the room. He had suits of every color of the rainbow, with matching kerchiefs. He liked to look good.
I started hanging out with Rennie as did many others, mainly going with him to lunch. We usually ate Italian food – and Vito’s Italian was our favorite hangout. Dennis Frohlich more often than not joined us. Rennie liked the food at Vito's, and he liked talking Italian with the owners. He always insisted on paying. He was a very generous man.
Rennie always had a glass of wine for lunch and usually no water. He would situate his cloth napkin just so, with half of it under the plate and the other half hanging down in his lap. Usually we both ordered Eggplant Parmesan. Well, I always did, and he often did.
It was fun to shoot the breeze with Rennie. I liked it that he would occasionally cuss. Nobody likes to cuss around a pastor and I’m glad Rennie felt free to do so. He always made me laugh.
Usually our conversation at some point would bring to his mind his wife or the business he owned or his time in the army. Rennie was Italian and was very free with his emotions. Thoughts of his wife always brought Rennie to tears. He missed her terribly. He liked to tell stories about his children too – Paul and Terry. I heard the story of Rennie meeting Terry’s future husband Charlie many times.
Rennie looked at me to some degree as one does a priest, and our conversations were often much like a confessional. Rennie was Catholic by culture and upbringing. He was faithful in attending Catholic mass on Saturday evenings. He was of that generation that did not speak easily about matters of faith, and he was also of a generation of nominal Catholicism. He didn’t buy a lot of it, yet he could never walk away from it either.
I think that Rennie had a real and legitimate faith in Christ. Despite his natural generational reticence we talk many many times about faith and belief and about life and death.
I loved sitting by or near Rennie in church. He had a really nice voice and very good song memory, singing not only the hymns but the more syncopated modern choruses very well. He liked my preaching too. “Good speech,” He would say to me. Rennie liked to grab your hands when he talked to you. There was no talking in passing with Rennie. It was hold each other’s hands and talk closely or not at all. As his eyesight failed him, touch became ever more important.
Rennie was a gentleman, and he was at his very best in the presence of ladies, whether five or ninety years old. He was so very kind to my daughters. He always sent birthday cards, and always asked me how each individual child was doing. They had the privilege of knowing and visiting him often along with Susan.
It is not the norm anymore to bring an elderly parent in one’s house to live out his or her days in familiar surroundings, and that is what Charlie and Terry did, thus giving Rennie the stability and the dignity of a home. They lived out in a very real and personal way the commandment to honor your mother and your father.
Rennie’s real name was Arazio, or something close to that. I think the “z” had a “dz” sound. I liked calling him Arazio. I think he liked it too.
Rennie was an army veteran. He served in the European theater in WWII, not as an infantryman but as a cook. He often told the story of how one day his camp, close to the front lines, came under mortar attack. He had been standing in front of the big metal coffee pot making coffee for the guys, and for some reason unknown to him had just moved a few feet to one side and then Bam!, a mortar shell exploded outside of the tent and a big fragment sliced right through the coffee pot. Rennie liked to say how God had given him a chance at more life that day, and he was always very grateful.
Rennie had taught himself to play a Liberace type piano over the years, and Charlie and Terry had set up a very nice digital piano for him in the den. I loved to listen to Rennie play. Sometimes when no one else was around I would play a little with him or sing along. We were a good team.
I had not seen Rennie much in the last six months but so many many times spent with him are etched into my mind and heart. I count it one my greatest honors in life to have been Rennie Perone’s friend. I will cherish his memory all my life, and await with joy holding his hands and talking in the New Heaven and New Earth.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
For the sake of modesty and warmth people need to put on clothes. But clothes hide what people “really” look like (though I’ll just take the clothed look, thank you). As for trees, all those leaves, as beautiful and green as they are, hide the unique and often magnificent personality of the tree beneath. The uniqueness of each and every tree is more evident in its nakedness.
There is a White Oak out my side window. It is almost completely leafless now, with only a few red hanger-on leaves dangling here and there. I see its twisted and gnarly branches more clearly than ever. They reveal its story. This White Oak grew up in its early years with some good competition, but then, that competition diminished. About thirty feet up some very stout limbs grow straight out from the trunk. I am guessing, by the size and age of the tree, that the “competition” was cleared for the building of the houses around, and the builders decided to spare that White Oak. It’s a grand old tree, though it’s a little sick, and I worry for it.
It’s easy to notice tree bark in winter. I am one of those odd fellows who thinks that tree bark is very beautiful and quite cool. The sun likes to highlight the bark of a leafless tree, especially the higher-up bark. Winter is time for the bark to shine. Some bark literally does shine. Sycamore trees peel off huge plates revealing a bright chalky white underbark. Take a walk through Latham Park and you will see plenty of that.
Lots of stuff hangs from trees in winter letting you know about the tree. Tulip Poplar balls like to hang around for a while bouncing in the wind. Plus the last Spring flower cups are very visible reaching to the sky at the end of the high stems. Locust Tree bean pods like to flutter in the breeze throughout the winter rattling like old bones. There’s always the stubborn Sweet Gum balls that won’t let go, just waiting to drop in early Spring when your are just first walking out in your bare feet! Gotcha!
Many trees keep their berries throughout the winter. You’d think for example that the birds would eat up all the dogwood berries right away, but the berries often dry out a little and provide food for the birds all winter long. Same for Red Cedar berries, those lovely little gray-blue balls that often cover a Cedar tree. Same for Black Gum. Same for American Holly. I know our Holly bush is not a Holly tree, but it brings joy all winter watching the Mockingbirds eat berries from our Holly bush. It’s like they know how to ration the supply. Interesting.
You may need to be a bit of a tree geek for this one, but tree buds and tree stems are fascinating in the winter. By looking at a bare tree stem you can tell how much it grew the last growing season. It’s really easy. You can also tell a lot about the leaves, even when there aren’t any. You can tell if they come off the stem opposite to each other or whether they come of the stem in whorls. You can also tell how many main tree “veins” feed each leaf. From this, more or less, you can often guess if the leaves are compound or not. You can know a lot about what kind of tree it is by how the buds are arranged. Is there one big bud at the end of the stem? Is there a cluster of buds at the end of the stem? Is the bud really at the end or sort of off to the side toward the end? In fact, you can key a tree, that is determine what it is, in winter, without the leaves at all.
The future fate of life on earth is nestled in those little buds. That is just barely an exaggeration. What is it that protects the life inside that bud (and hence next year's growth, and next year's ability to feed flower and seed) from the cold of winter? It is those scales around the bud. Different trees have different kinds of scales. Some bud scales are like two plates meeting in the middle. Some are like fish scales. You can tell a lot about a tree from those scales.
Winter is the time for Pine trees to make their presence known. They kind of pop out and say "We're here" in winter. Hey, I am a South Carolina boy. I was raised on climbing Pine trees to the top, looking up to the deep blue sky through the black branches and green needles of Pine trees, spending half an afternoon trying to get Pine sap off my favorite jeans, engaged for hours in Pine cone wars with the enemy across the wall next door, and nursing skinned up legs from shimmying up and down Pine trunks. In Greensboro there are a few places where I like to go just to breathe in the Pine tree air, peel off some plates of Pine tree bark, fiddle with Pine tree cones, and just generally feel at home.
It’s nice to walk the woods in winter. You can see farther for one thing. You can tell more easily what has been the history of the land you're walking for another. I like trying to figure that out by the ages of the trees, the kinds of trees, the ways that the terrain has been changed by man, how or where a fire may have swept through fifty or so years ago. It’s a kind of sleuthing that I enjoy.
Maybe my favorite thing to do, especially on a cold winter day, is to find a nice stout tree that I can sit against, one with the sun shining full force right on the bottom of the trunk, and just take a seat. Oh how I love the sun on my face in winter. And there I sit. No bugs. Quiet. As quiet as I can be. If the winds are right, and if I'm still enough, the animals will soon not notice me. Many times right here in Greensboro deer have walked near, hawks have flown and perched close by, even squirrels have nervously scampered quite close to my feet. I cannot measure the joy of such times.
Such joy gives me strength to go back and re-enter the world of people. Trees are not fickle and moody and complicated and proud like people, like me. They just "are." How I love them so.
(edited from a post first written November 17, 2006)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 04, 2009
I don't repeat this comment in any spirit of self congratulation but simply because it feels good when the purpose for what I do is realized. Here is the comment:
"Anonymous said...Love the Photography!!! Makes me really proud of our downtown. I just started tweeting as GborRealPolitik. I tweeted your blog post this am, I hope you don't mind because I thought it was fabulous. I look forward to reading and viewing your work in the future."
It was the one phrase that stuck me - "makes me really proud of our downtown."
I am the first person to admit that I am at best just a decent amatuer photgrapher. I hope to get better - much better - but Ansel Adams I am not. I may have a mildly artistic bent, and yes, I do often "see" things that other people don't (no, I don't see dead people), but mainly because I'm looking and they're not. There is a way of looking that opens up the mind and heart for impressions and nuance of light, color, perspective, and composition. I hope that as I get better at photography I will be better able to capture these things.
But in the end my purpose in taking pictures is to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of place and of life.
Buildings may not in themselves be "life" but they are given a kind of personality as it were by their designers and builders. The jumbled interplay of forms and styles in a cityscape creates fascinating impressions. And though buildings do not walk around they do change their appearance or "impression" throughout the day and throughout the seaons as light plays upon them in a multitude of ways, the "impressions" changing with the varying backdrop of cloud and sky and sun. And as one walks around in different seasons and at different times of day, always looking, there seem to be infinite combinations of viewpoints and angles. For example, from March 21 to September 21 you will never see sunlight striking the north side of a building. And only at this time of year will be noon day sun be at such a low angle.
For me, the goal of capturing as much of this as possible is that another person may smile, or as in the above comment, feel proud of his or her "place." There is no higher compliment that could be paid to me than this.
What is true of inanimate buildings is of course even more true of forests and trails and the tiny bits of "nature" inhabiting our city. Not only are there countless things to discover along a trail such as odd formations of life and ever interesting points of view, but a trail itself is in many ways a different trail depending on season and time of day. We think of different kinds of light - the slanting light of morning, the overhead light of midday, and the slanting light of afternoon. Each provides a unique impression and opens up different interactions of light and subject. Each season provides its own glory, so that, when you do the math, a trail has twelve personalities, three each day for four different seasons. Not only that but small intangibles like fog and mist and cloud give further variation within the twelve personalities. I could walk the same trail a hundred times and never run out of things to photograph.
But then, again, the point is not that someone would say, "that's a great picture" or whatever (I take enough pictures where some of them are bound to be pretty good even if by accident). The real reward is when, like the person who commented above, someone feels blessed, proud of being a part of such a world as this and community as this, thankful for the people who helped make such views possibile, and thankful to the author of such beauty.
And for me it's not just beauty but even decay in a strange way that I celebrate. Early this week I drove back from Columbia the "back way," taking secondary (and tertiary) roads, going through small towns and seeing many many abandoned and decrepit old buildings and homes. What interests me about these old structures are the stories behind them, the histories of the communities, the reasons why people came there in the first place and why they left. Every abandoned old building was once a person's business, a person's dream, a place where they invested their fortune and their sweat. More often than not there was a time of properity for that business, and I imagine all the people who came and went and worked and shared stories with each other. It's the story of people and their lives that fills me with a sense of wonder and respect walking around an old abandoned filling station with a faded out Esso sign still dangling from a pole.
I think the same way about our own Lee Street. Yes, I'd like to see Lee Street cleaned up, but I also am fascinated by all the stories locked up in those old buildings hugging the sidewalk between Elm and the Coliseum.
Anyway, it's a nice feeling when the purpose of what you're doing seems realized even in a small degree. It inspires me to get better so as to bring more blessing and to make more poeple proud of the community and the world that they live in.
One final note: as I write this it dawns on my how much I have been impacted by my literary hero, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Thanks Gerard.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Granted we have never known such a massive influx of non English speaking people as we do today, but are we sure that second and third generation Mexican immigrants, say, won't speak English?
Seems we've always tended to blame our problems on the newest to arrive, or on the politically weakest around.
I went on a four mile walk today. I saw a lot of people working hard. They were all Hispanic. Just saying.
"And this man, whose picture I have tried to draw for you, brethren, is your God. He was your maker in time past; hereafter he will be your judge. Make him your hero now. Take some time to think of him; praise him in your hearts. You can over your work or on your road praise him, saying over and over again/ 'Glory be to Christ’s body; Glory be to the body of the Word made flesh; Glory to the body suckled at the Blessed Virgin’s breast; Glory to Christ’s body in its beauty; Glory to Christ’s body in its weariness; Glory to Christ’s body in its Passion, death and burial; Glory to Christ’s body risen; Glory to Christ’s body in the Blessed Sacrament; Glory to Christ’s soul; Glory to His genius and wisdom; Glory to his unsearchable thoughts; Glory to his saving words; Glory to His sacred heart; Glory to its courage and manliness; Glory to its meekness and mercy; Glory to its every heartbeat; to its joys and sorrows, wishes, fears; Glory in all things to Jesus Christ God and Man.' If you try this when you can you will find your heart kindle and while you praise him he will praise you – a blessing. "
from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sermon, for Sunday November 23, 1879, at Bedford Leigh.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
But I have seen blue sky through needles and branches.
I have felt sharpness of clear mountain air.
I have walked breathless in ancient cathedrals.
I have known the deep love of friends.
I have held hands as the shadow descended.
I have breathed tea olive wafting in summer
I have heard bluebirds and blue Memphis blues.
I have bathed clean in cool crystal rivers.
I have run fast along knife-edged ridges.
I have seen and I've heard the first breath of life.
I have kissed and told my mother goodbye.
I have been blessed by the laughter of children.
I have watched spiders weaving their webs.
I have held animals while they were dying.
I have felt colors assaulting my neurons.
I have cried tears until no more tears came.
I have watched seedlings burst through to the surface.
I have surfed waves from the morning to evening.
I have known joy in afternoon breezes.
I have enjoyed a hundred great singers.
I have sat on the edge of the Ponte Vechio.
I have joined voices with worshipping angels.
I have stood awestruck above Lake Garibaldi.
I have have smelled coffee at first light of day.
I have helped friends in their hour of trouble.
I have seen sundown from Cadillac Mountain.
I have heard songs that cut right to the marrow.
I have seen lighting bolts split apart pine trees.
I have smelled roses throughout Longwood Gardens.
I have seen countryside from top the South Downs.
I have watched fiddleheads unfurl in springtime.
I have been taken to the gate of third heaven.
I have waded through inlets toes feeling for shells.
I have stood in the middle of vast rustling marshes.
And I have climbed ancient castles and slept along rivers.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The talk show host then added that he has a friend who is in the temp business. They can't get enough people to fill the jobs they have!!!!! People come in saying they don't want to do this and won't do that or they want better pay. They are not willing to do whatever it takes to make money.
And you wonder why hard working tax payers are sick and tired of paying the way for lazy a_____ people who are not willing to do whatever it takes to make a living. You see signs for help wanted in practically every fast food place. But some folks think that type of work is beneath them I guess. Let's hold people accountable - no work, no eat. Things would change real fast in this blood sucking society.
Revolt is on the way!
People are getting fed up with people who are takers not givers.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Plant shrubs or trees, rake (or mow/mulch) yard, plant bulbs, baby sit, degunk slow computer, back up hard drive, clean out gutters, edit papers, take close up pictures, deliver packages (legal), take a list of desired photographs, teach SS, scan and upgrade older photos, scan slides or negatives, paint house (exterior), clean out attic, tutor, build web site while you watch, remove overgrown shrubs,write corny poems, counsel, disinfect house and car, lead blessing of house ceremony, prepare garden for spring, do botanical survey, write speech, change out light bulbs, spread mulch, get soil tested, chauffer, digitize medical and/or financial records, bless pets, help with FAFSA, make phone calls, start your family genealogy, grade papers, officiate wedding, run errands, write difficult letters, prune, write essays, clean bathrooms, wash floor, make holiday cards, lead hikes, shred paper, send daily encouraging e-mail, edit and post blog articles, moderate dispute, preach sermon, write your bio, find people for you, send Christmas cards, visit shut ins, send packages, dig up stumps, split firewood, pay bills, remove and deliver to collection center hazardous household wastes, etc.
301 S Elm Street, Suite 516
Greensboro NC 27401
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/joelsandersgillespie
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
On Sunday I took a hike on the Laurel Bluff Trail. Coming from the east this trail follows the Reedy Creek Fork of Lake Townsend eventually to it's headwaters on the western end of the trail near Lake Brandt Road. Although lake Brandt water levels have been kept up, Lake Townsend has been drying up. The top picture is taken from out in the middle of the lake a few feet from Reedy Fork. It was amazing to stand out there - it seemed like such an expanse. The former lake bottom was covered in the area with grasses that were moist and marsh like - quite beautiful really.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I see a dragon with a wry smile, with flames coming out of his nostrils. It's actually a broken, knobby, healed over limb of a Beech tree.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Taken on the Laurel Bluff Trail, Greensboro, NC, also part of the NC Mountains to Sea Trail.
There were bunches of these clam-looking mushrooms up and down a fallen log, even on the drier sunnier side. Kind of cool I thought.
See more pics of Greensboro Hiking Trails Here.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Looking across the Lake Brandt cove as the sun goes down behind me. The Nat Green Trail is part of the NC Mountains to Sea Trail as well. I was wearing my Clemson hoodie that day so I fit right in. Props go out to the folks at Greensboro Parks and Rec Trails Division for overseeing, promoting, and generally looking after our trails. More Greensboro Trails here.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
25. The Cranberries - Linger
24. Fiona Apple - Criminal
23. Mama Cass - Dream a Little Dream of Me
22. Brandi Carlile - The Story
21. Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Peninsula Trail in Greensboro is part of the Greensboro watershed trail system, and the Mountains to Sea Trail. It is perhaps the humblest of our watershed trails, exploring a a small peninsula of land surrounded by Lake Townsend east of Church Street and between the two Church Street bridges. I took a short walk their last Sunday. I wasn't feeling terribly inspired or artsy or at one with nature, the weather was so so, and light conditions were not great for photography, but I took a few shots anyway.
More Penninsula Trail Pics HERE
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
That's strange, I thought. So I looked out the window thinking maybe the sun was reflecting off my car in the driveway, but it wasn't that. The large yellow-orange maple across the cul de sac was afire in the glow of the sun, and the reflection was off the maple tree itself, off the leaves, and the shimmering was due to the breeze giving motion to the maple limbs. The reflection was so bright I could see the shadow of each of my fingers on the cabinet
I stood there in the moment realizing it was unusual and special, and then it was gone. The sun had moved just enough to change the angle of reflection, and the kitchen was dark again, and the shadow no more. It was a special moment. I am glad I wasn't too preoccupied not to notice.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The e-mail had the phrase "Deadly Silence" in the title.
Personally I think rescission is abhorrent. How best to stop it and how best to reform health care as a whole I am not sure.
But what strikes me is that when Ministers speak out about abortion they are told pretty much to sit down and shut up, to quit mixing politics and religion, and to beware of losing their non-profit status.
But it's OK to speak out about this issue. What is the difference? Both are justice issues. Both are political issues?
...It was one of the very worst days of my life, a trip to Texas for a funeral of a dearly beloved aunt, a huge traffic jam on I-85, a small accident in a McDonald's parking lot, and then a massive awful migraine which caused me to abort the trip.
But in the middle of that came a gift of one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
I think I was on I-20 at the time. I was cruising down the interstate, and, as I am inclined to do, not going as fast as the speed limit (I tend to be a slow driver). I saw well up ahead the figure of a bird, a big bird up and to my left. He (or she) was in a tuck position and diving, but in a very shallow dive, from my left to my right, perpendicular to my path, and due to cross over me up ahead as far as I could tell. I kept driving and he kept diving, lower and lower and lower. It was a hawk and it was beautiful, and really cool to watch. He crossed the highway just a a hundred feet or so ahead of me, maybe by this time ten feet above the ground.
This bird had been on a perfectly smooth incline the whole way, his brain doing the complex math for him. I watched him cross the road and was excitedly expectant to see what he was after.
Then bam! He ran right into a fence, a tall chicken wire fence, and he dropped like a brick. I was just about even with him when he stood up, obviously dazed, shaking his head and his wings.
What was so funny was that he looked around with that exact kind of look that says "I really hope nobody saw that"! OK, that's an anthropomorphism, but dogs and cats get embarrassed, why not birds?
As I passed he was just beating his wings and lifting off the ground.
Whatever was just on the other side of that fence had just had one lucky break.
Amidst my throbbing pain, I smiled, and thanked God for the joy of His world.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Find myself beside a stream of empty thought,
Like a leaf thats fallen to the ground,
And carried by the flow of water to my dreams
Woken only by your sound.
Alone Ive walked this path for many years,
Listened to the wind that calls my name.
The weeping trees of yesterday look so sad,
Await your breath of spring again.
Far beyond the hills,
Where earth and sky will meet again,
Are shadows like an opening hand.
Control the secrets
That Ive yet to find, and wonder at
The light in which they stand.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
This picture was taken along the future path of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail in Guilford County NC. It is amazing how beavers can create whole ecosystems with their pond building!