Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Truckside Jesus and a vinyl cross

Here's a couple of iconographic images from a recent trip through southwest Virginia. Several trucking companies place religious quotations and slogans on their big rigs, but these folks like to place large, tract-worthy graphics on their 18-wheelers. Keep on truckin' while keeping Satan firmly underfoot:

Another roadside favorite is the huge cross on the I-81 near Bristol, Virginia. It appears to be clad in vinyl siding, which should provide an eternity of carefree, paint-free iconography:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring rain

A few photos after the day-long spring rain this weekend. A wet violet in the backyard:

Asta's ball, temporarily unchased.
View from the western end of the backyard, looking east.

A tulip in the front yard. One of the great joys of our first spring in our new house is discovering what has been planted. Bulbs abound.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poetry Shouts? National Poetry Month?

It’s National Poetry Month, and while I’ve never bothered to investigate why April is tagged with this distinction, I’ve always suspected at least somewhat of a T.S. Eliot connection. Not that the man himself said “and let April be National Poetry Month,” but that it comes from the oft-quoted first lines of The Waste Land:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Of course, we have a display up for NPM in our library, filled with book covers from recent poetry books, some nice spring photos, and a cart of poetry. We had a slim handful of newer titles on our nice cherry display cart, so I ransacked through the American and British poetry and nabbed a stack of things with attractive covers: Fred Chappell, Nicki Giovanni, Robert Penn Warren, William Blake, Diane Gilliam Fisher, and a bunch more. Nice graphics. Good poetry. Watch the books fly out of the library.

Pushing poetry on the masses – ah, one of the joys of librarianship. Another librarian strolled by the other day, and feeling poetically frisky, I followed her while quoting Eliot: "April IS the cruelest month," I said, stepping around the reference desk and picking up my pace behind her. “Breeding lilacs out of the dead land…” I was getting her attention now, and as she smiled I went on “Mixing memory and desire…” as she quickly moved out of vocal range.

I wanted to toss off the next line down the hall, but I felt like I couldn’t yell because I was in a library! But somehow the idea of bellowing poetry across the library seemed like a REAL celebration of National Poetry Month. Make it a poetry shout, somewhat like a Slam, but less subtle. (Note: all irony is intentional.)

That’s the ticket. Shouting poetry out loud in the library. Blustery verse abounds at every opportunity. Sonnets pile up in the corners. Couplets coupling in the corner. Alliteration in every info lit session. Every reference interview would feature a few choice lines, of the librarian’s choice, at an inflated decibel level. Here’s an example:

Patron: “Do you have any books on the banana trade in Central America?” ( a recent real reference request, by the way).

Librarian, after searching the catalog with the patron: “Yes, we have several books on the United Fruit Company,” and then, sans sotto voice, wind filling your lungs, with a bit of Pythonesque bluster and volume:
A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,
As old medallions to the thumb
Followed by the requisite: "Is this what you need? Please come back if we can help you with anything else. Perhaps a few lines from Bob Dylan next time?"

And for those wondering, the lines bellowed at the lucky patron are the first few lines from Ars Poetica by Archibald Macleish. Who just happened to be Librarian of Congress. It all comes around in the end!

Happy National Poetry Month!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Winter wanes...

Spring's on the way...technically, it's here, since the sun has done its yearly jaunt across the celestial equator on its northward passage -- an event commonly known as the vernal equinox. Winter's letting go slowly, as is its wont and whim. Nights are still in the 40s, but the days are creeping up into the 70s. Fortunately it's been raining, which we certainly need. Early spring, cool and damp.

So it's time for a goodbye to winter, thanks to a quick romp through my iPhoto files.

Our snow-covered street, unplowed and happy for it:

Asta enjoyed the snow, and found that her flying ring didn't slip below the snow's surface like her old standby tennis balls did. Her she poses between frolics in the backyard:

We took a drive up to the War Spur Loop trail, in the Wilderness area on top of Salt Pond Mountain. While the snow was nearly gone down in Blacksburg, the snow was still six inches deep at War Spur's 4000 foot altitude. Here's the trailhead:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Roadside iconography - Coffindaffer crosses

Nestled up in this field beside I-77 in West Virginia is a set of Coffindaffer crosses. You’ve probably come across a similar set of crosses if you’ve traveled in the South, as it’s the most ambitious effort at roadside iconography that I’ve found. Called “Caffindaffer Crosses,” these were originally envisioned by Bernard Coffindaffer, a West Virginia native and Methodist minister. He had a calling in his mid-40s after several heart operations, liquidated his $3 million fortune, and began erecting these sets of crosses across the U.S. and the world. Eventually he set up 1864 crosses, including 352 in West Virginia, 131 in Virginia, and 106 in North Carolina. Coffindaffer died in 1993, but his crosses project continues under the auspices of Crosses Across America.