Keystone

Keystone

I give you: a keystone, pictured top center of the stone arch. A keystone locks the rest of the arch stones in place, allowing the structure to shoulder weight. When properly engineered, arches like this can stand strong for centuries, free of mortar or metal. I took this photo in early morning hours near the Mississippi River. I’d been chasing a full moon and lost it to daylight and  river mist. The ruins were a more accommodating target. As I understand it, about 1852, a German immigrant named Louis Stiritz settled along the Mississippi River, north of Alton, Ill. Stiritz brought grapevines from the Rhine Valley, terraced the hills above the river, and established a local vineyard. In this photo, you see the ruins of a stone wine cellar constructed by...
Jumper

Jumper

Writers call it the telling detail. It’s a small, seemingly insignificant event that offers significant insight into character. In literature, telling details shape expectation, inform plot, foreshadow the story to come. The moment our eyes hit the words, we recognize their weight, know they mean more than what they say. Take note, we tell ourselves. Save this for later. It’s important. As parents, we look for moments like these in the lives of our children. But they can be hard to spot. They’re scattered across parks and playgrounds, strewn about backyards and living room floors, hidden among the lesser minutes of weeks and months and years. Usually, it isn’t until we look back, in the dark calm of retrospect and reflection, that we recognize glowing bits of interest and aptitude that form constellations of character, personality, intent. But every now and then life blesses us with a shooting star—an event that radiates light enough to catch our eye as it unfolds. If we’re paying attention, we bookmark the moment in memory. * Family vacation 2006. My wife, daughter, son and I were whitewater rafting on the New River in West Virginia. Our group had taken two rafts down the rapids to smooth water and a flat bank, where we stopped for lunch. As we ate, our guide pointed out a finger of rock that jutted from the upper bank and pointed high over the river. He smiled, told us the path up the rock was smooth and the water plenty deep, and invited us to jump. From below, the drop didn’t look bad. Eight people from the group picked...
Matters of Interpretation

Matters of Interpretation

From the outside, developing an interpretive panel looks ridiculously simple. Dash off a double-spaced page of promo copy. Glue the ‘graphs to a board. Spackle it with pritty, pritty pictures. And you’re good to go. You could knock off 10 or 12 panels by dinner, right? Mm, no. There’s a reason they offer university courses in site interpretation. It’s tough. Those panels you see along highways, at battlefields, and in national parks? Iceberg tips. Hiding behind the words and pictures, well below the water line, are months of planning, research, negotiation, site surveys, materials acquisition, interviews, concept development, writing, editing, elation, frustration, communication, and emptied bottles of Advil. But the writing itself is simple, yes? Nope. Relating 150 years of history in 250 words or less takes patience, perseverance and skill. Developing a local, unifying theme for the board while addressing the overall project concept makes it more challenging yet. And doing it with flair, making it shine, harder still. You’re grappling with bloat, pushing for brevity, and all the while trying not to excise the life out of your words. That’s why good ideas die on the table: there’s ample opportunity to fail. Too many words and the target audience bypasses the panel. You fail. Don’t tell the tale with color or impart a compelling concept–audience walks away. You fail. If you don’t illustrate your work with engaging images–the audience keeeeeeps walking. You fail. Long and short of it–if you pass a panel without stopping to scan the material, that ain’t on you. That’s a panel that failed to do its job. Could be in the placement. Could...
Home & Away

Home & Away

All roads lead to the future, I’m told. And I believe it’s so. Bent on getting you where you need to be, mindless of where you’ve been, roads come, roads go. But bridges–bridges old enough to remember the sound, the weight, the heft, the feel, when men made of iron drove wheels made of steel–bridges like this keep time as they please. All roads lead to the future. But bridges, when your heart is calm and the light right, when your thoughts are quiet and the boards and beams and trusses are feeling charitable, when there’s no one present but the critters in the creek and the ghost of the boy you used to be, bridges can, if you let them, lead you to the...
Gratitude

Gratitude

It was a day of crop dust and horse spit. Of vultures mantling on middle roads. Of seeds and sun and cobalt sky. Of well-mannered dogs and kindness from strangers. It was a good day to smell dirt and taste grit. It taught me that some of autumn’s most beautiful blooms come wrapped in winter colors. * Photolog I pulled these lines from the October notes that prompted the Emberglow post. If you read the post, the seeds that feathered and fell as snow? Looked like this before wind loft. I’ll add, it was a day of looking at the everyday, and seeing a million small wonders to which I’m too often blind. It was a day of gratitude. As every day should...