Friday, March 23, 2012

The Artists World

I stayed close to home today while the rain came this morning and then eventually cleared this afternoon.
It is warm.  It is very warm.  And after Juneau Alaska which was cold and Cody Wyoming which was even colder, 80 degrees in March is still a shock to my system for which I find it difficult to adjust.
I spent some time this afternoon digging through pictures of some of the things I have photographed since arriving back in Tennessee in September.
Many are nature pictures.
In fact most of them are nature pictures.
Pictures of trails and hills and mountains and grassland and forest and lakes and waterfalls.
There are many of each of these in Tennessee, and I have not ventured that far from the house since we got back, so there is still much to see.
Instead of nature pictures though, these are pictures of.......things........random things I have seen over the past months.
Colorful things.  Artistic things.  Unexpected human touches.  Signs of the seasons.
Human things touched by human hands.
The pictures above and below were taken during one sunny visit to what was then the quiet town of Bell Buckle.
It is located less about 30 minutes drive from our home, and is known primarily as a tourist town.
Surrounded by beautiful and old and very large historic homes, the strip of old-timey stores that make up the downtown in Bell Buckle is filled with antique and country craft stores, ice creams shops and down-home restaurants.
The very sweet painted sign above is located on that strip and advertises that the little store it stands in front of sells ice cream cones.
Juneau is a town that lives primarily in a world of grey. 
It is a SE Alaskan coastal town filled with continual rain and fog, and as such also contains abundant and wonderful art work found on the exterior of many buildings.
The locals successful attempt to provide color in a world that sometimes feels devoid of color.
Since living in Juneau I have become a big fan of outdoor building paintings.
There are a few of them in this region, and I found this one on the side of a very large commercial building on a side street in the tiny town called Bell Buckle.................
On a freezing cold day this past January I briefly stopped in the small town of Cowan located outside Winchester and on the way to the mountain-top town of Sewanee.
Over the year I had driven through this small town that serves their farming community surrounding it, many times without stopping.
Just a town to pass through on the way to somewhere else
On this day I pulled into a gas station parking lot, climbed out of the truck, pulled my hat down lower on my head and pulled my jacket collar up (unsuccessfully combating against the cold) and began to wander.
I spent much longer than I had planned walking around the almost deserted town, slowly wandering and taking in the very wonderful things that I had never noticed even once before in the times I was blown through Cowan.
Tucked in among a series of stores was a used furniture store.
Standing outside the store was this strange creation.
Steel frame, a concrete couch with many different colored beads that had been inset into the concrete while it was still wet.
I stood looking at it for a few moments in bemusement, wondering who on earth would make such a thing and who on earth would want such a thing.
Maybe someone wanting unusual outdoor furniture?
I have no idea, but loved this one-of-a-kind piece found outside a small town store...............
There is a large park in the nearby community of Estill Springs that I have visited a couple of times since making my way back to Tennessee.
Another one of those towns and communities that I always blew right by on the way to somewhere else, and a community that I always gave little thought to.
I had always thought that the park was solely made up of children's play park and a few ball diamonds, and in fact those things are located there.
But in the two visits that I have taken to this place I have found a few surprises.
There is a fishing bridge, a point and boat ramp allowing fishing boats to enter the lake, old remnants of a hydroelectric dam that are hugely interesting and that have been out of use for 70 years or so, picnic tables and a walking horse area and a boy scout building.
I have begun taking pictures of bobbers and fishing lures that I unexpectedly come across during my travels.
I see them frequently because fishermen fish along the shores and then constantly get snagged in trees.
When they reluctantly realize that they are caught and cannot get free they inevitably cut their lines, leaving colorful objects hanging.
Until random women walk along, take pictures of them, and then sometimes manage to dig them out of trees for their Mountain Boys...............
I took this picture from the fishing bridge at the park in Estill.
I did not know what it was at the time and still do not know.
My guess was a man-made habitat to draw in the fish, and I guess I will stick to that until or unless I hear something else.
Regardless, when I looked at these pieces of wood jutting up and out of the water at all angles all I saw was rustic and interesting and geometric.
In my previous life I was never one to take a lot of pictures.
When my oldest son gave me a digital camera for Christmas right before I headed up to Juneau my first thought was that I probably would not get a lot of use out of it.
When I decided to try and put a blog together so that I could keep my boys and my guy up-to-date on my life in Alaska, I hoped that this less-than-savvy-computer-person would be able to figure the whole "blog thing" out.
After taking many many thousands of pictures in Alaska and Montana and Wyoming and Tennessee.....and after 2 years.....and after 540 (or so) blog entries, that little digital camera was one of the best gifts I have ever received.
I have learned to find art in everything.
And learned to look at many things from the perspective of the camera lens.
I walked around a salvage yard with Jamie not too long ago while we were both waiting for LC as he rummaged around looking for a part.
Without much excitement I wandered with my dog, deep in thought and only partly aware of my surroundings.
And then all of a sudden I saw these car springs.
They were lying in a huge pile in the middle of the salvage yard and suddenly I realized how beautiful they all looked.
A tower of haphazardly thrown, piled high, circular rusted car springs.
I took a couple of pictures and then began to really LOOK at my surroundings.
And suddenly there was art everywhere around me................
An old Native American canoe, carved centuries ago and sitting outside the beautiful stone Visitors Center at Old Stone Forte State Park just outside of Manchester...............
LC, Jamie and I have walked on trails at Old Stone Fort a couple of times since arriving in Tennessee.
It is close to home, and is filled with flowing rivers and waterfalls and the beautiful stone remnants of buildings used by natives who lived in the area hundreds and thousands of years ago.
On our second trip we were walking a trail high on a ridge that followed one of two rivers that converge in this area.
I looked down at the river on what was an overcast day that was filled with grey sky and brown leafless trees.
It was January and the weather had been bleak for weeks and I was desperate for color.
Any color.
As we paralleled the river I was surprised to see this bright blue balloon caught in the branches of a downed tree in the swollen and fast-moving river.
I snapped a picture of it and then quickly forgot about it.
Until 10 minutes later when I again looked down and saw another blue balloon in the river.
10 minutes later I saw two more.
I don't know why they were there but the mystery of the balloons was one that did not need to be questioned or solved.
It just simply was. 
Colorful balloons found in a surprising place in the middle of winter...............
On a very very lovely day exploring "on the mountain" LC and my pup and I surprisingly found our way to St Marys in Sewanee.
St Marys is a gorgeous campus spiritual retreat that overlooks the valley below.
At the time we had no idea what this place was and were excited to have so unexpectedly found a very quiet and extraordinarily beautiful place.
We wandered around the empty grounds for a short while before gravitating towards the edge of the cliffs that overlooked the valley.
As LC and James continued towards the edge I stood looking at this small rock tower.
It was one of a row of about 20 of these towers, each one about 3 feet tall.
The first time I saw these kinds of towers was in Juneau.
I ran into them often as first I, and then we, explored multiple rocky beaches in and around the area.
I paid little attention to them at first but eventually began to realize that I was seeing these towers very often.
I had no idea why.
But there was an abundance of rock in Juneau, and after a while it just somehow seemed "right" to encounter them.  Familiar.  Cathartic.
I had not seen such structures in a long time, but when I saw this one (and then the many others) at St Marys it took me back to Juneau..................
A very beautiful statue on the grounds of a very beautiful place................
A meditation garden still at St Marys.................
I met an old colleague for breakfast a few months ago up at Sewanee, near the University of the South.
After breakfast we slowly walked around part of the campus catching up with each others lives, and when we finally went our separate ways I spent a few minutes taking pictures of some artwork that was located on the grounds close to the restaurant.
I loved the simplicity of the pieces.................
After leaving Sewanee I headed down the winding and steep two lane road, that led back down to Cowan and then eventually Winchester.
It was raining hard by that time but I made one more stop anyway at a rock overlook.
The weather was horrible and as I stood on top of the huge and slick rock I realized that with the rain and the fog I could see almost nothing of the valley below.
This heart was painted on a rock down in the gorge and as always I studied it for a few moments wondering who had taken the time to draw this, when it was done, why it was done, the whole story behind this heart..............
The top of the very large rock was completely covered with graffiti.
One part of an entire rock filled with amateur art................
Another float, this time at Tims Ford State Park................
In October we finally moved back into our house and not long after we unpacked I walked around a small section of Tullahoma, becoming reacquainted with and exploring the town that I had lived in for a few years before leaving for Juneau.
Between a full time job and full time training in those days I had little time to explore and rarely walked around town.
In truth, Tullahoma is not a town conducive to walking.
It has no town square, few sidewalks, a busy four lane road through the center of town that it little more than a overly long strip mall.
But there ARE quiet places, quiet spaces, sweet touches, things worthy of a moments enjoyment.
I had never stopped long enough to see them before, and even on this day had planned on walking at Short Springs after taking a quick walk.
I never made it to Short Springs that day................
A beautiful over sized Christmas tree ornament found on the huge town tree..................
There is a substation located in town that is appropriately surrounded by a tall wire fence.
The entire area is fairly stark - huge metal beams, endless thick wires, chain link fence.
What prevents this place from being a complete eye-sore are the paintings that span the length of the fence on one side closest to the road.
The paintings are all the same size (maybe 3ft x 4ft), are all very colorful, all depict scenes of Tullahoma life and Tennessee life, and were all done by school aged children.
They are beautiful.  Whimsical.  Simple and intricate at the same time.
I love them and smile whenever I pass by them.
Three of the 10 or so that are there...............
A beautiful way to prevent vehicles from entering the gates leading to Rutledge Falls.................
Does PG still love KC?
One of many such declarations found carved into a large tree near the rustic and rugged steps leading down to Machine Falls at Short Springs.............
A beautiful and massive painting on the side of a commercial building on the square in Shelbyville...............
After mountain biking at the base on a cold and very sunny day a couple of months ago I drove to Morris Ferry Boat Ramp, pulled into the parking lot, and climbed out eager to explore near the water.
I had never been to Morris Ferry before, and on this particular day the sky and water were unbelievably blue and the world was alive with bright colors.
There were many ducks on the water and as I wandered slowly through the area taking pictures of the multiple fishing piers, the plateau, the lake, the boats and ducks on the water, I came across this guy.
Since there were so many ducks on the water I at first thought he was real.
After looking again though I realized that he was a decoy.
A colorful and lifelike decoy...................

The artist's world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.............Paul Strand

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