Monday, December 6, 2010

Birds & Trees

So, while I was down in Hobe Sound, FL, I had the good fortune of finding a favorite perch used by several birds. Here are a few samples of what a few of these characters were up to possibly not being aware that they were being watched. Once again, the pelican, is the most fun and I think the most expressive bird alive. Now, what this pelican was trying to say is left to interpretation. As for the trees, I love the stretch of road that leads to and from the island covered in Banyan Trees. It makes for a suitable point of demarcation from reality and the other a fine place to sit and watch the sun set. As with other locations I post here frequently, this is yet another that has a deep family connection that goes back three generations and is the keeper of childhood memories.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Was 65 and perfect here in NC today. Caused me to get out and roam to see what November had to offer. I found myself around the Deep Creek Dam and ultimately on a perch looking north to the foothills from Dennyville (I know all of you know exactly where that is - I'll let you google it)

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walked the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What makes a teacher?

Those of you who know me know that I was never much of an academic. For most of my time in the hallowed halls I viewed my work as something to be endured and pushed through in order to keep one or more people in my life off my back. Most of my teachers and ultimately professors simply had me regurgitate information and those that asked for original thought really only wanted to see if I had discovered what they wanted me to see, not what I actually thought or found. This all changed one fall at the University of St. Thomas when my roommate charged through the door and exclaimed - "you have to to take Graham Thatcher's class, you'll love him." This turned out to be an understatement. The rhetoric class was already full, or at least theoretically it was with 30 people or so. Graham ultimately let about 50 of us in. He asked us to stand on the shoulders of all the great philosophers and orators that had come before and handed us a copy of William Safire's "Lend Me Your Ears".  He then proceeded to set our minds on fire with all the possibilities that came with powerful persuasiveness. Looking back, the experience could have been a classroom scene from "The Dead Poets' Society" with one or more students Yawping from a desktop; throwing conventional approaches to classical teaching theories on speech and rhetoric out the window of a speeding bus. I was never better as a student. My work was mine for the first time. Unfortunately, like Robin Williams' character in Dead Poets' Society, Graham faced the ugly side of academia and had to resign as head of the Communications department. I resigned shortly after. Graham has since gone on to build a successful business portraying everyone from Clarence Darrow to Justice William O. Douglas in a series of one-man two-act plays recounting these great legal minds and their amazing use of rhetoric to help shape our nation and it's laws. He is so good at his portrayals, that his audiences are usually comprised of mostly lawyers who get CLE credit for attending!

I had the privilege of attending his first performance at St. Thomas, reenacting the "Monkey Scopes Trial" as Clarence Darrow in 1993. I mention this because just last night I got to see him again in Charlotte, NC performing "The Impeachment of Justice Douglas". Over 17 years had passed since I had seen my old professor, but sitting in that front row last night, I was once again a student, only this time the homework, not assigned by him, was to go and find my speech.

Thanks for being a real teacher Dr. Thatcher - God knows there aren't enough of you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


It has hardly felt like October lately, but I did catch a good whiff of it this last Sunday out at the farm. I suspect that this weekend will have some time dedicated to preparing for Halloween and some final yard work. Trying to choose between loving the fall over the spring here in NC is like trying to decide between the mountains and the beach or coming to a final decision on the finest sunset I have ever seen. It can't been done, at least not conclusively. I can say this much; that being outdoors some place like the farm, or up in the mountains or the outer banks during a change of season is a humbling and beautiful thing. Its good to be in awe of the seasons, it reminds us of how small we really are and that for all the power, intelligence, creativity we may posses, we cannot recreate these changes at will. Its good for us to be reminded of who is really in charge. Click here for more October photographs - Music by U2.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

by Robert Frost
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Buzzard

This rather graceful menace was circling above me yesterday as I roamed the farm. There were two actually. I was walking, I wonder if to them I looked as if I was about to drop dead in my tracks and they would have an answer to the question of dinner. Nonetheless, watching them glide and arch was something.

(Can't find any poetry about a buzzard, so this will have to do...)

Vulture by Robinson Jeffers
I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling
high up in heaven,
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its orbit
I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight-
Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer.
I could see the naked red head between the great wings
Bear downward staring. I said, "My dear bird, we are wasting time
These old bones will still work; they are not for you." But how
he looked, gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the
over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak
become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes--
What a sublime end of one's body, what and enskyment; what a life
after death.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The sea answers all questions......

      The sound of the sea is the most time-effacing sound there is. The centuries reroll in a cloud and the earth becomes young again when you listen, with eyes shut, to the sea - a young green time when the water and the land were just getting acquainted and had known each other for few billion years and the mollusks were just beginning to dip and creep in the shallows; and now man the invertebrate, under his ribbed umbrella, anoints himself with oil and pulls on his Polaroid glasses to stop the glare and stretches out his long brown body at ease upon a towel on the warm sand and listens.

    The sea answers all questions, and always in the same way; for when you read in the papers the interminable discussions and the bickering and the prognostications and the turmoil, the disagreements and the fateful decisions and agreements and plans and the programs and the threats and counter threats, and then you close your eyes and the sea dispatches one more big roller in the unbroken line since the beginning of the world and it combs and breaks and returns foaming and saying "So soon?"

E.B. White, February 1941

Friday, October 8, 2010

Under The Harvest Moon

Most of you know that I love Carl Sandburg, summer, Brookberry Farm and my time behind the lens. So when we had our first Harvest Moon since 1993, I ran out to the farm and parked myself out on top of a hill and waited - and I was not let down.

UNDER the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

     Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

Carl Sandburg

Thursday, September 9, 2010

As A Man Thinketh, By James Allen (With my photographs)

I am very proud of this first attempt a publishing my photographs. I have always loved James Allen's book, so it was the perfect choice for my maiden project.

"It has been said that James Allen is the “most quoted man you’ve never heard of.” In 1902, Allen published As a Man Thinketh, universally acknowledged as a classic book on self-examination. The precept conveyed in Proverbs 23:7 (“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”) inspired the book’s title. It also captures the essence of Allen’s philosophy. Through his eloquent and succinct prose, Allen conveys his thesis that it is up to the individual to form his own character and create his own happiness.       

In 1985, 15-year-old Bowman Gray IV lost his father to a heart attack. Later that same year, his mother gave him two gifts—a copy of As a Man Thinketh and a 35-millimeter camera. At the time, he did not fully appreciate how important these two gifts would eventually become to him. In his 20s, Gray, like many others, finally understood Allen’s words and began to change the way he viewed himself and how he interacted with the world. Through the years, Gray also developed his skills as a photographer. In this gift edition, he couples his own color photographs with Allen’s timeless advice to produce an inspirational book that will stay with readers for years to come."

John F. Blair, Publisher
$24.95 hardcover
11 x 8 1/2
112 pages; Full-color photographs throughout

Order the book here.

Or if you want a signed copy, click on my profile and email me and I will send one to you - I will invoice you via paypal.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Second Chances

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while have read about the old family farm - Brookberry Farm. It's a special place and over the last few years I have grown frustrated with those that trespass at will to hunt, ride ATVs or use one of the old vacant houses to hide out from parents to smoke a little dope and drink. Well, this last Monday night as I crawled into bed and turned on the news I was horrified to see one of the vacant houses on the back of the property on fire. I flew out there and met with the Chief and investigator, etc. Long story made longer, after I had sent emails and made phone calls to all of the local schools, homeowners associations, the Chief of Police and the Sheriff, the boys knowing the noose was tightening, came forward. Four of them, one age 15 the rest are 14. All from good families. As angry as I am, I find myself a little heartbroken for them. Although their records will be sealed when they turn 18, this will haunt them for the rest of their lives. The fear they felt, the anguish of disappointing their parents and greater yet, the uncertainly of what their fate will be now having been charged with trespassing and arson. I pray that this is sufficient enough for them to pivot off and move forward in good orderly direction. The alternative is that they just believe they are simply bad kids, so they do what bad kids do. This is a quandary that takes a lot more pain and effort to drag oneself out of.  We are a nation that not only believes in, but counts on, second chances. God knows I would be nowhere without them. I believe that these are good kids who did a terrible thing. I just hope that they believe the same of themselves.

The photo really has nothing to do with this post, but being that it is a black and white negative of a positive color shot, it shows that there is always more to everything we see.

"When you make a mistake, don't look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power. "

Hugh White

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tobacco Auction - Guest post by Doug Grimes

This was done by a good friend who was knee deep in the industry - 
Tobacco Auctions Making a Comeback?
by Yarddawg, AKA Doug Grimes

For most of the last century August created a special stir and air of excitement for local tobacco farmers as the leaf auctions opened. It was an annual late summer ritual. The streets of Winston-Salem and many other communities throughout the southeast were filled with the sweet perfumed aroma of the golden leaf. To this day not many smells will rival that of freshly cured tobacco. The type mostly grown around here is famous and known throughout the world as Flue-Cured Virginia or Bright Leaf. The sale of the crop put food on the table, clothed the family, paid for college educations, bills, and afforded a decent lifestyle for many hard working folks. Despite its controversial reputation, tobacco farmers are still a viable part of many communities in Forsyth County. Controversy is nothing new for tobacco. It goes back to Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions in the late 1500's. Tobacco remains a resilient weed in many ways.

For almost forty years I was involved in the leaf tobacco auctions and leaf trade as a buyer. When I first entered the business it was considered an honorable profession. Despite the popular notion and negativity in vogue today, tobacco farmers and tobacco workers are good, honest, hardworking folks. I traveled around the world buying tobacco. As I like to say from America to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between. Beginning in the late 1990's tobacco companies started to re-think tobacco auctions. By 2001 nearly every company was entering into contracts with farmers directly to grow tobacco. These contracts all but killed tobacco auctions. By around 2005 or 2006 auctions were no more. The old auction system was certainly not perfect. The new contracting system isn't either. Sometimes change can bring about unintended consequences. The reasons are complex and too difficult to explain simply or effectively here. There is a small movement afoot to re-establish auctions. I witnessed one such attempt on August 17 in Rural Hall in an old unused tobacco warehouse. Yes there is a tobacco auction in Forsyth County once again. There is another attempt to revive the auction in both Danville, Virginia and Wilson, North Carolina with something akin to a "silent auction". But the one here is an honest to goodness, real, live, old fashioned tobacco auction. There will be a few more auction sales in Rural Hall in the coming weeks. In case anyone is wondering, it is open to the public and is an interesting spectacle if you've never seen one. Right now the chances of a successful long-term revival appear slim. But who knows?

As a way of introduction to the uninitiated, allow me to introduce you to a five minute video narrated by Mr. Page Roberts, retired tobacco auctioneer. Page won the 1982 World Tobacco Auctioneer Championship competition, beating out about 50 others, which was sponsored by RJ Reynolds for several years as part of its "Pride In Tobacco" campaign. You will not meet a finer human being or professional than Page Roberts. Simply put he was one of the best ever. Page, a Virginia native, auctioneered in Winston-Salem for many years. This is part of my history and the history of many locals whether directly or indirectly or even not involved with the industry. Tobacco is still an important part of Winston-Salem's past, present, and future. I think many will enjoy this short and informative history of the Tobacco Auctioneer. I should also mention that the auction in Rural Hall was led by another class act and another former World Champion Auctioneer, Chuck Jordan, who currently resides in Winston-Salem. But if you know Chuck please don't tell him I called him a class act.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back from Maine

Its only been three days since we left and I already look back on our time up there as in a dream. The intense blue sky, the heavy blankets of fog, the cold waters, country lanes and of course, that soul filling ever so sublime smell of the pine forests combined with the salt water. I did pick and have started reading E.B. White's first collection of Essays "One Man's Meat" if you have not, click on the title, buy it and read it, you'll be glad you did.  I took upwards of 1000 pictures and saved around 640 or so. I'll get to producing the slide show as in years past soon. One highlight was spending an afternoon with Jim Fowler, you may remember him as host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and the guy who let wild animals climb all over Johnny Carson. We talked about the health of the oceans and the environment in general. I was honored that he shared his vision with me. More about that later. For now here are some samples of what July had for us.

Click here for the slide show - sound on.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Update from Maine

Just a note to say that I am not being negligent here, just that I only have my laptop which I do not use for photo management, etc. I have taken about 700 photographs from lobster boats emerging out of the fog to more close ups of seals on the rock, some lighthouses, etc. I will download, edit and post when I am back at my desk.

I also am reading the first collection of E.B. White's essays "One Man's Meat" which is no less amazing than the collection I read last year. I have met the current owners of his farm just down the road from where we are and will be taking tour of the place soon. Serious food for the soul.

Best - BG

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back to Maine

It's interesting that my two favorite poets, Sandburg & Longfellow, are sons of two of my favorite places: Sandburg, NC - Longfellow, Maine. I should also tip my hat to E.B. White and his time in Maine after leaving New York. I fell in love with Maine as a child. My parents had a house in Port Clyde where we spent our summers. My memories of learning how to ride a bicycle and being allowed to take off on my own at age 6 or 7 to ride all the way to the Port Clyde General Store (Now owned by the LL Bean people). I can still smell the moisture from a morning rain rising off the asphalt warming under the August sun as I strained against the pedals climbing the hill before it crested above the bay by the Marshall Point Lighthouse. I swear I thought that I was going so fast by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, that had I grown wings I would still be flying. I miss that. Anyway, this Friday my family and I will be heading back to Blue Hill for a short stay. We will stop by the Port Clyde General Store to look at my hill and to refill my soul with a touch of my youth. This year will be special however, being that my Mother will be with us. She and I have not been together in Maine in about twenty years or so. It will no doubt be a trip down memory lane as much as it will be a vacation. Thanks Mom.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday afternoon just off the highway.

One thing I really love about the south is that you can pull off most any main road and find an old house or tobacco barn. They all seem to represent a slightly more simple life when we did not worry about Greek or Spanish debt, or massive oil spills and corporate corruption. I know that it was a time that held its own worries and problems, but those issues seem solvable whereas today's I am not so sure.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Not Exactly The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Chilis sang about LA in a huge hit back in the early 90's "Under The Bridge Downtown". I actually did like the song. However, here in NC specifically on the Forsyth and Yadkin County line where this bridge crosses the Yadkin River, I think the main chorus would be "Under that thar bridge over yonder...."(Insert banjo riff)

The Bridge
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I stood on the bridge at midnight,
As the clocks were striking the hour,
And the moon rose o'er the city,
Behind the dark church-tower.

I saw her bright reflection
In the waters under me,
Like a golden goblet falling
And sinking into the sea.

And far in the hazy distance
Of that lovely night in June,
The blaze of the flaming furnace
Gleamed redder than the moon.

Among the long, black rafters
The wavering shadows lay,
And the current that came from the ocean
Seemed to lift and bear them away;

As, sweeping and eddying through them,
Rose the belated tide,
And, streaming into the moonlight,
The seaweed floated wide.

And like those waters rushing
Among the wooden piers,
A flood of thoughts came o'er me
That filled my eyes with tears.

How often, oh, how often,
In the days that had gone by,
I had stood on that bridge at midnight
And gazed on that wave and sky!

How often, oh, how often,
I had wished that the ebbing tide
Would bear me away on its bosom
O'er the ocean wild and wide!

For my heart was hot and restless,
And my life was full of care,
And the burden laid upon me
Seemed greater than I could bear.

But now it has fallen from me,
It is buried in the sea;
And only the sorrow of others
Throws its shadow over me.

Yet whenever I cross the river
On its bridge with wooden piers,
Like the odor of brine from the ocean
Comes the thought of other years.

And I think how many thousands
Of care-encumbered men,
Each bearing his burden of sorrow,
Have crossed the bridge since then.

I see the long procession
Still passing to and fro,
The young heart hot and restless,
And the old subdued and slow!

And forever and forever,
As long as the river flows,
As long as the heart has passions,
As long as life has woes;

The moon and its broken reflection
And its shadows shall appear,
As the symbol of love in heaven,
And its wavering image here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tanglewood Cup Steeplechase 2010

This was the 45th running of the Steeplechase here in NC after an eight year hiatus. The break was required to figure out how to keep spectators from getting too loaded and taking off their clothes. So, a dress code was implemented and rules of conduct enforced. What an amazing time for everyone. I am looking forward to next year's running already.

Steeplechase slide show click here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

As A Man Thinketh, By James Allen

Please consider pre-ordering my new book. It is a reprint of James Allen's most famous work set along side my photographs. They will ship in September. This is a project about two years in the making as I have talked myself out of it at least ten times. I love the book and have included some of my favorite photographs that I have taken over the last five years or so. Thank you for your support.

Pre-Order the book here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Boca Grande 2010

Here is the link to my slides from this year. I went a little overboard with the sunrise shots at the end, but was truly an amazing morning, light breeze, the caws of the birds, the splash of mullet and the occasional burst of breath from an unseen manatee in the water below me.

Boca Grande Slide show 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's the conversation here?

So I says to Fred, "Hey I don't think you should eat that, it doesn't look real!" So what does he do? He swallows it whole and gets yanked up out of the water by his lips and we haven't seen him since! I mean for fish he was a really great guy.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Return to Stone Mountian, NC

Daniel and I decided to go climb in the rain yesterday. The clouds were heavy and broken and despite the low cover, visibility was great. We went and hiked about 3 years ago through the valley looking up at the mountain, this time we went to the summit. If you ever have an afternoon available, this hike is a must. It will wear you out, so eat your Wheaties before you go.

Previous post on Stone Mountain.

Stone Mountain State Park.