Monday, August 31, 2009

Considering a Name Change...

Flying Yellow Butterfly
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
After having blogged under the name, "A Payne Hollow Visit," for lo, these nearly five years, now, I am considering a name change.

It has been pointed out to me that I don't really talk about my blog's name's sake (A Payne Hollow Visit) very often. And it's true, I don't. It was never my intent.

I only chose Payne Hollow Visit as a way to honor the Hubbards (Harlan and Anna) who lived a simple life on the river a few miles east of me for the last half of their lives. My intention, when I started, was to speak of simple living ideals, peaceful ideals, practical ideals - ideals that I learned somewhat from the Hubbards in Harlan's books about their lives. So, in honor of those ideals, I had chosen that name.

However, I have tended to spend a good bit of time talking about politics and religion - two topics that the Hubbards were pretty quiet about. And, as a result, I'm not sure if it's helpful to the memory of the Hubbards and the work at the actual Payne Hollow to continue using the name when I'm really not spending as much time talking specifically about their ideals.

So, at least for now, I have renamed myself to Through the Woods, while I consider what path might best fit this blog. For now, the address will remain the same, although that, too might change. I expect the content to remain the same as it has been.

I'd be glad for any thoughtful suggestions and/or comments or name ideas, but there is a good chance they may be ignored... Maybe I'll just rename the blog each week, depending upon my mood?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scrutiny of Nature

As I have noted not long ago, I've been reading from a John Burroughs reader (Birch Browsings). Burroughs was a contemporary of John Muir and, while largely unknown today, was well-read in his time. And rightly so. His nature writings are an excellent, albeit more commonplace and every-day, complement to Muir's majestic sweeping prose. In one essay, Burroughs writes...

The casual glances or the admiring glances that we cast upon nature do not go very far in making us acquainted with her real ways. Only long and close scrutiny can reveal these to us. The look of appreciation is not enough; the eye must become critical and analytical if we would know the exact truth.

This is me. The casual admirer of nature. As much as I wish it weren't true, as much as I wish that it could reliably stated that I was a student of creation, it's just not the case. I love being out in nature, my soul is fed and nourished by my jaunts through woods and along streams, my heart soars with the birds and swims in delight with the fish, but all the same, my glances tend to be the short, admiring sort.

When you read a real naturalist, like Burroughs, writing, you can tell that they have learned things about the behavior of birds or plants by careful, extended, precise and consistent observation and it is a rewarding education. Rewarding, but time-devouring!

Where does one go to apply to be a naturalist? And are they taking applications?

Anyone here have experiences with long and careful observation of, and schooling by, nature that you'd like to share?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jeff Street Youth Sunday

Mikaela Reyna
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Yesterday, our teens led the service at our church. My wonderful 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, and her very good friend, Riley, co-wrote the sermon and Sarah preached it! How about that? (I'm told that Riley did the bulk of the writing, fyi).

Needless to say, I'm very proud of her and all of our fantastic kids. You can see some photos, hear some music and read the sermon at the Jeff St blog...

It was also the last Sunday before two of our kids leave for college. Shameka and Robert are leaving this week, both going to Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY. We love them so very much and want them to be sure to study hard, be good, enjoy themselves and visit home every weekend. Or at least some combination of the above.

My own son, Jordan, doesn't leave for college until the end of this month. And speaking of proud, Jordan has really taken off on his song-writing and performing these last few months. His songs demonstrate a depth and poetry beyond his mere 18 years. You can see him singing a song at our church's coffee house down below. The song he's singing is called, You Belong in Louisville - or at least that's what I'm calling it. I think he's still working on the title.

I just about couldn't be more delighted with my kids and all the kids in our community.

If the snow should ever fall again
I'll shake the dust from my cold heart
Look out my window as far as I can
At all the miles that hold us apart

The road is as long as I can see
It dips and curves around dusk and dawn
The rocks and gravel that took you from me
I know that it goes on and on

I wish that you were closer so I could sweep you off your feet
I wish that you were closer so I could say you're beautiful
I wish that you were closer 'cause I do believe that you belong in Louisville...

~Jordan Trabue, 2009

"You Belong in Louisville"

Friday, August 7, 2009

John Burroughs

Misty Tree 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I’m currently reading Birch Browsings, which is a collection of John Burroughs (1837-1921) nature writings (thanks to Kevin, who loaned me his book). Burroughs was a contemporary of John Muir, albeit not as famous, and I have read many snippets of his writings over the years and always enjoyed them. This is my first time to read a complete book of his writings, though. Good stuff.

Here’s an excerpt from his essay,
Summer Voyage, in which he describes a simple, pleasant boat trip he made down the Delaware River to Philadelphia. It seems appropriate timing with the Great Rain of 2009 we’ve just experienced here

The wind still boded rain, and about four o’clock, announced by deep-toned thunder and portentous clouds, it began to charge down the mountain-side in front of me. I ran ashore… and took my way up through an orchard to a quaint little farmhouse.

But there was not a soul about, outside or in, that I could find, though the door was unfastened; so I went into an open shed with the hens, and lounged upon some straw, while the loosed floods came down. It was better than boating or fishing. Indeed, there are few summer pleasures to be placed before that of reclining at ease directly under a sloping roof, after toil or travel in the hot sun, and looking out into the rain-drenched air and fields. It is such a vital yet soothing spectacle.

We sympathize with the earth. We know how good a bath is, and the unspeakable deliciousness of water to a parched tongue. The office of the sunshine is slow, subtle, occult, unsuspected; but when the clouds do their work the benefaction is so palpable and copious, so direct and wholesale, that all creatures take note of it, and for the most part rejoice in it. It is a completion, a consummation, a paying off of a debt with a royal hand; the measure is heaped and overflowing. It was the simple vapor of water that the clouds borrowed of the earth; now they pay back more than water: the drops are charged with electricity and the gases of the air, and have new solvent powers. Then, how the slate is sponged off and left all clean and new again!
Hallelujah!, right? I have a question about this. In this essay, Burroughs happens upon a farmhouse where no one is home. He proceeds to make himself at home in the henhouse, to get out of the rain. It is my estimation that this was more of a common thing in centuries past. That it would be assumed that it’s okay for someone to just enter your barn or shed to get out of the rain, even if you were a stranger. It reminds me of the Old Testament passages, in which it is assumed that good folk ought to welcome strangers, that “aliens” visiting Israel had a right to just come up and harvest at the edge of a farmfield in order to keep themselves from starving. In a time with no hotels or fast food joints, the presumption of at least a degree of Welcome makes sense.

But I don’t know that to be the case here. In this time period, would Burroughs’ actions have been commonly acceptable? Does anyone know? Greenman Tim, are you around reading this?