Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, November 30Jean and Dan Higgins' home sits on a hill overlooking the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29This is the section of Maryland Panhandle between the Cumberland Gap and West Virginia.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Visiting Nancy in Rockville... and Washington

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday, November 27
ROCK CREEK makes its way down to the Potomac River from Montgomery County Maryland. It's only a small branch as it runs by Nancy's neighborhood. By squinting my eyes and mentally blocking out traffic noises I could imagine today what this area might have been like when Washington was first being built as a capital for the new country. Urban sprawl has surrounded and choked off all but a few remnants of the original wild country.NANCY'S TURKEY


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald are buried in the churchyard of Old Saint Mary's Church on Rockville Pike very near Nancy's house. I rode my bike there and paid homage. I have come to appreciate these winter-time bicyclists. They are hard core. I had almost forgotten how cold this East Coast cold can be. I set my camera up on a grave stone and set the timer, which I wasn't sure would work in the cold.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Photo du Jour for Tuesday, November 25United States Capitol

What a great country! I was on the Capitol Mall again today, and noticed the progress that has been made since last week in the preparation for the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the nation. Wow! Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

MONDAY PHOTOGRAPH, DECEMBER 24Washington D.C. Cityscape: Tenth and G Street from the steps of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art
Although it is now in the newly reopened Museum of American History in Washington, this is the lunch counter from the Woolworth Store in Greensboro, North Carolina, where four African American college students sat down and politely asked for service in 1960. They were refused and asked to leave. With great dignity and determination they remained in their seats. Their actions ignited a movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the south. ENABLING BIGOTRY

Perhaps the passing of Proposition 8 in California will turn out to be a good thing. Some of my liberal friends who in a pre-prop. 8 world would never think of letting the “n” word go unchallenged were willing before the election to let offensive homophobic language and jokes pass without comment because they thought, I guess, that objection wasn’t worth the trouble. Actually, I don’t know what they were thinking then, but I know they are not willing now to let it pass. Not any more. Reasonable straight and gay citizens are no longer finding it acceptable for people to say bigoted and hateful things about gays or anyone else. That’s a good thing. If the bigots thought they could finally slap down gay men and lesbians by passing Proposition 8 and that their bigoted hurrah would silence once and for all the American citizens who believe in liberty and justice and respect for all, they were mistaken. Apparently the hornets nest hadn’t been hit until the the night of November 4th, 2008, when poll results came in and the reality of Proposition 8 was confirmed. The gay rights movement that had its start in 1969 in Greenwich Village at the Stonewall Inn got its second wind. Before the election a few rallies held in opposition to Proposition 8 were more like the old love-ins of forty years ago. They were celebrations of being. Groups of people holding hands and holding candles ambled peacefully along several city streets; but there wasn’t much of a feeling of protest in the rallies.

Now the assemblies are different. There is indignation without resignation. There is determination. There is intelligent protest that says justice must be done now. There is a coming together of gay and straight citizens to demand that all civil rights and privileges be extended to all citizens. Proposition 8 will ultimately be nullified. Contrary to the predictions and lamentations of bigots like James Dobson, America is getting better.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My photo for November 23 was taken in one of my very most favorite places in Washington: not the Capitol, but the third floor of the old Patent Office Building. It is now the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The building was used as temporary barracks in the early days of the Civil War and later served as a hospital and morgue after the battles of Manassas (Bull Run), Antietam and Fredricksburg. Walt Whitman tended to wounded Union soldiers here. The second inaugural ball for President Abraham Lincoln was held on the third floor while wounded soldiers were being tended in the rooms down below. It was written that he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a ball during the time of war.

In the photograph Michael is trying to figure out what Elsworth Kelley had in mind with his blue painting. When I walk in this floor of the building, I think always that the world we live in is almost completely incomprehensible... and yet artists persist in trying to make us see it in ways that we haven’t seen it before.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Friday, November 21, 2008

Photograph for Friday, November 21


Nancy’s cat is bright. Scooby knows how to get what he wants... without expending too much energy and without resorting to aggressive behaviors. It has been said about cats that their brains are more similar to human brains than any of the other domesticated animals. Dogs are easy to train to do tricks in a show. Cats are traditionally much harder to train because, unlike dogs, they do for their human friends what they are asked to do out of loyalty or emotional reassurance. Cats seem not to see the point of doing something without direct benefit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Daughter Nancy’s home in Rockville, Maryland, is a haven for winter birds. A couple of cardinals and a bevy of sparrows compete with squirrels for the food she leaves in bird feeders all over the yard. On the day I took these pictures the temperature didn’t rise above forty degrees Fahrenheit all day. Pecking order has been established, and all birds know what it is. The squirrels stand aside only for humans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Historic BALTIMORE HARBOR gets little of the attention showered on Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Every school child hears the story of Francis Scott Key’s inspiration for the “Star Spangled Banner,” but few adults remember that the battle described in the story took place in Baltimore Harbor. Fort McHenry overlooks the harbor. The modern city of Baltimore spills onto the water across the harbor from the ruins of the old fort. It was from one of these places that Key could see in the morning after a battle on the Chesapeake Bay between the British and American Navies that the American flag was still flying. The 35-year-old Key, an amateur poet, wrote “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” It was from his poem that the lyrics of the national anthem were taken.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TUESDAY PHOTOGRAPHMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

This handsome head of a Greek was sculpted twenty-five-hundred years ago.

From India (Uttar Pradesh), this 5th century Standing Buddha Offering Protection embodies the qualities of inner calm and stillness. The missing right hand would have made the abhaya-mudra gesture, imparting reassurance and banishing much needed now as when the statue was carved fifteen hundred years ago.(Clicking on an image enlarges it.)

WHAT MOVED ME MOST in the museum was not the fine art or the artifacts but the man in the wheelchair who moved slowly about the the special exhibit rooms. He was obviously exhausted by the effort of moving from one painting or sculpture to the next, but he just as obviously thought the effort was worth it. He could hardly raise his head enough to see some of the paintings, but he kept doing it. Sometime he could see something only by looking at it sideways, but he looked with concentration. One time his head dropped to his chest for at least five minutes, and he appeared to have fallen asleep. But he was resting. After the rest he moved on to look at something else. I may forget some of the art, but I won't forget him.

Monday, November 17, 2008


For all its troubles, there is no city in the world more exciting than New York

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brother Jim and Margaret at the Famous Stonewall (New York City) TavernTEACHING TOLERANCE

For years to come teachers in California will be seeing in classrooms and on playgrounds the results of often subtle and sometimes outrageous displays of intolerance leading up to the November 2008 election. For several days before the election, clusters of “Christian” zealots lined the corners of intersections and overpasses urging passersby to vote YES on Proposition 8. Alongside adult demonstrators were young people holding and waving yellow signs of intolerance. The young people were being carefully taught. They were learning the lesson of intolerance. The intolerance they were learning was undoubtedly being reinforced in their homes and in their churches. In sermons and lessons about God’s LOVE, many pastors had been sprinkling the idea that God HATES, that he hates homosexuality. Those preachers may insist that they are saying God hates homosexuality; but young people in their congregations are hearing that God hates homosexuals. On Sundays before the election, pastors were busy urging their congregations to believe that God is intolerant, so therefore they should be. Of course, the pastors weren’t using the familiar language, “GOD HATES FAGS,” but that is exactly the message many young people were hearing; and that is exactly what many of them will be saying on playgrounds.

So in a culture where messages of intolerance are taught and preached by people whom children are supposed to trust, how do you raise a tolerant child?

The important, deeper question is: Where does a kid learn prejudice? He doesn’t learn it in social studies class. He learns it first at home. He learns it when his parents say they are looking for an elementary school without so many Black and Latino kids. He learns it by hearing parents say he may not get into the college of his choice because the pool of Blacks and Latinos is so large. All of the intolerant, bigoted kids I encountered when I was a teacher were themselves suffering from feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. A teacher soon learns that the bully in the classroom is the one who hears at home that he is stupid, that he is a moron when he does something an adult doesn’t like. The bully doesn’t come from a nurturing, understanding home. The bully comes from a home where abusive language and aggressive violence are used by bigger people to control weaker people. It’s about power. At home the bully is controlled with verbal and physical aggression, and he is made to believe he has no power there. He is made to feel smaller and less powerful than others in the family. Outside the home he looks for power in a negative and anti-social way. He finds people whom he considers inferior, and he tries to make them feel smaller and less powerful than he is.

It’s not just the bully who grows up to become an intolerant adult. Sadly, even a child who is treated with kindness and understanding at home may be learning lessons of intolerance at church. The basic message of many churches is the old Jonathan Edwards idea that all people are “sinners in the hands of an angry god.” My advice to parents who find themselves and their children in an intolerant church: Hurry away from any environment that tells children they are worthless sinners in danger of hell fire and other torments arranged by a god who may or may not “save” them depending on whether or not they have learned the appropriate lessons and behaviors.

Enough about learning intolerance! How do you teach a child to be tolerant? Kids learn what they live. The day I completed my student teaching assignment at Gray Avenue School in Yuba City, California, my master teacher gave me a wonderful gift. It wasn’t a present in a box. It was a single sentence. She said, “Remember, Jerral, you teach what you are.”

So I pass the gift on to any parents who want their children to grow up to be tolerant adults. If you want to raise a tolerant child, set the right example. Express sadness at newspaper and television reports of individual or mob acts of intolerance in the community. At home and at school there is no substitute for direct discussion. Ask your child, “How do you feel about prejudice? How do you feel about people who make comments about other groups? Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Homosexuals, Jews? Talk about prejudice. Say it is thousands of years old. Talk about the damage it has done? Talk about racism. Define it. Talk about the Holocaust. Ask you child if he knows about the troubles between tribal groups in Central Africa. When a crime is committed because of bigotry, talk about it. Personalize the victim. Help your child see that the victim has a name and a family and feelings. If your child has misconceptions, try to straighten them out. Use events such as the election of Barack Obama to talk about the progress the country has made in the area of racism.

Avoid environments where intolerance may be learned. If it isn’t obvious that your child’s school environment or a church environment is teaching tolerance, be suspicious. Ask school leaders and church leaders how they feel about homosexuals. That is probably the quickest, simplest test. If you ask how they feel about an ethnic group, it may be easy for them to put on a tolerant false face; but if you ask how they they feel about homosexuals, you’re likely to see immediately if they are intolerant. If the response is not one of tolerance and acceptance, take your children away from that environment as quickly as possible.

Allison, Tyler, and Ashley


I particularly like the way this photograph reminds me of screens I've seen in Kyoto

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The big “news” after the election in which America elected an African American to be its president is that seventy percent of California’s African Americans voted to take a civil right away from another minority group. Let me say a couple of things up front: Barack Obama will be President of the United States. There are no such designations as “right handed President” or “blue-eyed President” or “short (or tall) President.” I am an American. I am a mongrel American (Dutch, French, English, Cherokee). People who insist on speaking always of Obama as Black President must get over it. America must get over it. African Americans must get over it.

So what happened to Proposition 8?

The proposition designed to strip away a basic civil right from citizens who happen to have been born homosexual rather than heterosexual was approved by fifty-one percent of Californians who voted. Everybody knows why the proposition passed (just barely). Conservative (interesting word, CONSERVATIVE), evangelical Protestant, Catholic, and Mormon leaders rallied their troops. The majority of church-affiliated African Americans are evangelicals or Catholics. Mormons kept "negroes" from church membership until the middle of the last century, so African Americans probably didn’t figure significantly in the Mormon vote. Mormon Americans have faced as much rejection as African Americans have experienced. The Mormon effect can be the subject of another journal entry.

Back to the question: Why did seventy percent of African Californians vote to take the right to marry away from gays and lesbians? The answer became clear to me when I reflected back over seven years of teaching in a San Diego public school where the majority of students were black. Most of my African American students at Samuel P. Gompers Secondary School came from families that don’t look at all like the families that Prop. 8 supporters say they are trying to protect. Single mothers, grandmothers, and aunties were heads of households in the families of most of my black students. As a matter of fact, it should be remembered that more than half of all California marriages end in divorce. There is no evidence that gays and lesbians are factors in the degeneration of California marriages. There is no evidence that gays and lesbians are the cause of disfunction in “Evangelical Christian” families or in their churches. The failure to engender commitment to justice for all people has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the people in those churches. The problem lies in the churches themselves, in church leadership, in the failure of church leaders to understand the central message of the Gospel.

Don’t blame African Americans. There is plenty of blame to go around for persistent selfishness, racism and bigotry in American culture. We don’t blame a lame person for his or her disability. Churches have made intellectual and moral cripples of a significantly high number of people. Those morally handicapped people, whatever their ethnicity, self-righteously and perhaps ignorantly voted to strip a basic civil right from citizens.

This is a temporary setback in the civil rights movement. We will get past it. We must try to get past it without bitterness or rancor.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Diana's Ohio nanny goat gives a whole new meaning to "eating yourself out of house and home."

Although this goat has always had plenty of good "goat food" available, she has, with a little help from a couple of goat friends, insisted on eating the walls of her barn. She is a creature with personality. She has attitude. I like her.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Cambridge is getting itself ready for the holiday season by setting up its main street to look like something from a Charles Dickens story. It happens every year at this time, I expected to see one of the Cratchets step out onto the sidewalk at any moment. The streets are lined with life-size figures dressed as Dickens characters. I was walking around photographing them when I was startled to see the man in my photograph was real. There was real smoke coming from a real pipe and very real eyes watching me. He actually broke the Dickens mood by taking out an iPhone and snapping a picture of me taking a picture of him. He patted the bench and invited me to sit down. We chatted for a few minutes, and I went on to find the coffee shop where I could post my pictures for the day. I probably have never posted a daily picture more "hot off the press" than this one.


Winter etches itself on the Ohio landscape long before autumn is finished. By November, morning light comes up slowly and afternoon light fades soon after four o’clock. I took this photograph around half past three.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TUESDAY'S PHOTOGRAPHMargaret and I are driving across America. The spectacular autumn tree is growing outside a restaurant on I-40 in Tennessee. The restaurant is called Loretta Lynn's Kitchen. This part of America is the Country Music Center of the Universe. The food is very much to my liking; the music not quite. The people are the salt of the earth. They are the Americans whose praises Walt Whitman sings in his famous poem. This is a fitting companion piece to The Langston Hughes poem.

I Hear America Singing
by: Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

From "Leaves of Grass"

Monday, November 10, 2008


The bird in this photograph was singing today in a place not far from where I was born in Arkansas. It made me remember that wonderful poem by Langston Hughes and how fitting the words are to this time in our history. If he had lived until now, Hughes would have been proud to see Barack Obama at the meeting today in the Oval Office of the White House. President Bush gave President Elect Obama a tour of the White House. Hughes would have loved the moment when they passed through the White House dining room.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.
Many Americans probably do not know that Langston Hughes was homosexuaL He was closeted except to his closest friends. In this past election cycle the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church and many fundamentalist protestant churches have paid hugh sums of money in their attempts to keep gay and lesbian citizens from full citizenship in most states in America. By "bearing false witness" they have temporarily succeeded in fooling enough Californians to get a bare majority of them to support a constitutional amendment to take a civil right from a large group of citizens. In the long run they will be shown to be as misguided as those Americans were who supported limiting rights for racial groups. Justice will eventually prevail.

The time will come when openly gay and lesbian citizens will also be allowed to come to the American table. Nobody will dare say to them, "Accept less than full civil rights and full citizenship." They, too, are America.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

SUNDAY PHOTOGRAPH, NOVEMBER 11Tucumcari, New Mexico, In the Early Morning

In the morning I went with my camera to the same place where I took yesterday's photograph. Light makes all the difference. Tucumcari looks better in the light of early evening, in lower light, in the golden light of sunset.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I had fully intended to use another picture for today. I had stopped the car midday on Intersatate 40 in Eastern Arizona to get what I thought would be a good black and white photograph. At the end of the day, just as the sun was going down, I walked across the highway in front of a row of motels and snapped a couple with little expectation that they would be very good. This one struck a chord in me, the same kind of chord some Eastman Johnson landscapes strike in me; so I fell in love with the image and set aside the others.

Friday, November 07, 2008


The same people who voted Tuesday to take away a civil right from California citizens are mostly the same people who think the universe is six thousand years old. Go figure!

When I need reminding that the earth is a living, changing planet in a universe so vast, so beautiful, so terrifying that I can't begin to get my mind, my inner vision of reality around it, I look at these sand dunes near Southern California's border with Arizona; and I see change happening before my eyes. I like these dunes because they remind me of people, layers and layers of people lying side by side and tenderly all over each other. I like the idea that we finally, in our separateness and our existential selves, are one with each other. When my fellow citizens who voted to take away a civil right from other people see what I see, they will be embarrassed and ashamed for having voted to take away a basic right from others who simply want to enjoy marriage based in love. They will finally recognize that the Jesus they claim to know would not do what they did on November fourth,