Purple Haze

Want Some Bread With That Jam?

Obviously, I’m drawing on many of the photos I took in Gordo a couple of weeks ago, because I haven’t been taking any new one. Why? Because I keep forgetting to take my camera to work with me! (Getting older is not for the faint of heart.)

This is Sandee’s eccentric cousin, Butch, one of the small group of artists who lives in this town. A talented metal sculptor, he was nice enough to show me some of his pieces, large and small ones… a Pegasus horse, a fish, bugs, etc. Despite their physical heaviness, the form of each piece was light and playful.

On this day, Butch approached Sandee and me showing off his new (to him) guitar, on his way to a jam session in preparation for a music and art festival to be held later that week.

As he ran his fingers over his new find, Butch got lost in a memory and regaled us with the story of when, as a teen, he attended a Jimi Hendrix concert. He was so entranced with the music, the presence, and the skill of Hendrix that when he left, he knew exactly what he wanted to be… a black man who played the guitar.

Ith Mine… All Mine!

"I'm Going to Hold It and Squeeze It and Love it..."

During the Easter egg hunt a couple of weeks ago, someone had the idea of snapping the plastic egg onto Boudreaux’s fur. He had other ideas, however, and claimed it for himself.

The look of satisfaction on his face at his prize is awesome!

100 Lenses

Art for the Masses

It might come as a surprise to some folks, but Gordo, Alabama, in Pickens County has a thriving arts community, especially for a town its size (approx.1,700 people).

I’m sure a large part of the draw is the fact that at least three regionally and nationally known artists live and work there… Glenn House, Sr. (Sandee’s uncle), Kathy Fetters, and Amos Kennedy. A blog post from 2009 covers Gordo’s annual Mule Fest and mentions these characters better than I can relate it.

While I was in Gordo a couple of weekends ago, I met Rhys Greene, a tile artist who was securing a beautiful work to the wall of a building housing the mayor’s used book store. I struck up a conversation with her and found her to be interesting and delightful to talk with.

Through a project called Black Belt 100 Lenses, she has worked with children in the surrounding communities to increase their love of and participation in the arts, her specialty being the tile mosaics. In this photo, she created the center piece, and then directed children as they placed in the surrounding pieces.

Rhys doesn’t live in Gordo, but somewhere between there and Fayette. She was telling me that she has pieces at church gardens, in Northport (where the Kentuck Festival is held), and other places around the region. Surprisingly to me, she said that she did not take up the tile art until later in life, that photography is her true passion, as it is mine.

I find it inspiring to know that art and creativity does not have to be defined by your location or your age… it’s really limited only by your imagination and your passion.

Sweet Shrub and Grandmother

Inhale....

The title of this post sounds like a title from a bad 70’s action movie! (Remember Thunderbolt and Lightfoot? Tango & Cash? Why not Sweet Shrub and Grandmother, starring Holly Hunter and Betty White?)

But I digress…

This plant is one that I came across during my recent trip to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. I know it as a Sweet Shrub (aka Calycanthus floridus), and I have rarely seen or smelled its flower since I enjoyed the one in my grandmother’s yard many years ago.

In the very corner of her yard, underneath the shade of a large mimosa tree, there was this small shrub/bush that had the most fragrant flowers. I remember that every Sunday in the spring and early summer when we would visit my grandmother, I would stop and smell the sweet shrub flowers. It’s a very distinctive smell and hard to describe…. something like strong pineapple or almost-ready-to-ferment fruit.

My grandmother’s name was Gertrude, and she died in1983 at age 91. I don’t remember the exact day that she died, but she had a stroke and went into a coma on the day I got my first real job out of college. She passed away not too long afterwards. My aunts and uncles were kind enough to let me have her bedroom suite and some of her furniture for my first apartment which I got a month later.

Going to her house almost every Sunday, I would play with all the cousins in her yard while the adults talked. The large, silver natural gas cylinder at the side of her house was alternately our horse, our ship, our school, our slide, and whatever else we could imagine for hours at a time. A lone pecan tree stood in her back yard for many years, and I remember our family being the beneficiaries of many hours of her selfless labor, not only picking up the pecans, but cracking, shelling, and cleaning them too.

Inside her home, it fascinated me that she had a washing machine that still had a hand crank to press the water out of the clothes. It seemed to me as if she was a pioneer woman! As she got older, I dreaded going to her house in winter because she would have on one space heater in the kitchen, blasting it to what felt like was 95 degrees in there!

I saw her every Sunday at church as well. She always sat on the right side on the fourth pew. She was one of the women who always had hard candy, and would absentmindedly (or hard-of-hearingly) unwrap the really loud cellophane during the service. If it ever bothered the preacher, he didn’t let on, but I remember thinking I’d get popped on the leg if I made that much noise during church! :)

She loved crosswords puzzles, jumbles, and word searches, and I would like to think that working those brain teasers helped her stay mentally agile. I hope Sudoku will do the same for me. :)

I don’t remember any real heart-to-heart conversations with her, but I do have several good memories about her that make me smile.

Coming across this one sweet shrub flower in the gardens made me smile too.

Luna-tic Cat

The Feline Spawn of Satan

Meet Luna, officially, the meanest cat I’ve ever met.

Luna is a transplant (apparently to her great displeasure) from the streets of New York to Gordo, Alabama, and she will quickly let you know she wants nothing to do with us fleshy bipeds.

I consider myself to be very good with cats and will probably wind up some day being known as the “crazy cat lady” to all my neighbors. Even the most skittish of cats eventually seem to warm up to me. In my own head, I think of myself as the Cat Whisperer.

And then… in Sandee’s uncle’s print shop, I met Luna.

The folks who worked in the print shop warned me that she was mean, and I believed them, and yet at the same time, I thought I would be able to charm her into letting me pet her. I was sitting near the door where she was wanting to pass. I held the back of my hand down to her as she neared. She tentatively smelled my hand, and as I spoke sweetly to her, she lightly bumped the back of my hand with her head. The whispering had commenced.

She passed on by and went outside for a few minutes. I didn’t see her come back in, but eventually, she was once more walking toward the door again to go back outside. I thought we’d make another step toward becoming friends, so again, I extended the back of my hand, and again, she bumped it with her head. Then she sat down, and her tail started to twitch… I recognized that twitch and made sure not to take my eyes off of her as I extended my hand closer.

Sure enough, a slight tilt of the head was just enough to warn me that razor claws were about to swipe in an arc toward my fingers. I pulled back just as she attacked and avoided any injury. Her eyes narrowed into slits and she held her paw in the air a couple more seconds as if to ask me “You want a piece of me?!” I did not.

Luna won that round, but as she was leaving, I made a sound that got her attention, hoping to get a good picture of her. All I got was a face full of disapproval.  :)