Ode

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Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
Isaiah 57:2

I have met many men who could quote the Bible and many men who preached for a living.  Yet, I have never met a man more learned in the Bible and its teachings than Anna’s great-uncle Michael, who passed away yesterday.  Michael was a lay preacher, and he dedicated his life in an uncommon way to God.  Michael was Anna’s grandfather’s brother, and he was predeceased by his wife auntie Pat.  David, or Ardy as Anna and her sisters called him, was wise beyond measure, and was a strong student of religion.  As successful as he was with his mill, his business, and his family, even David would admit that he could not hold a candle to Michael’s vast ecclesiastical knowledge.

I regret not seeing Michael the last time I was in England.  I hadn’t seen him since David’s death nine years ago, where he spoke so eloquently about death and the afterlife.  His death leaves a void in our family—I say “our” because Anna’s British family has adopted me as one of their own.  It also leaves a void in the community, because a gift and a dedication like Michael’s is almost unheard of these days.  Very few laypeople dedicated their lives to the study of God’s words like Michael did, and even fewer such people exist today.

We will go to church this weekend, and I will think fondly of Michael finally being home.  His belief was absolute, and I know that he did not mourn his passing but instead embraced it with the knowledge that his “light and momentary troubles” in this life achieved for him “an eternal glory that far outweighed them all.”  Corinthians 4:17.

I rarely quote from the Bible, mostly because I know so few verses, but also because my faith has been tested so much over the past ten years.  With faith restored, I do not feel as hypocritical drawing from the knowledge that has been set down by generations of believers.  And so I close with a quote, as Michael would have done.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Cabin in the Woods

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My parents stay in North Carolina twice year on the land of a family friend, who has become part of the family.  I have taken hundreds of photographs on David’s property.  There is just so much beauty on the land.  Even this simple photograph of one of the two cabins on the property turned out well.

I took it simply is a documentary photograph, to remind Kemper in years to come where we had stayed the Christmas when he was five, but its simple elegance made me keep it in the collection of photographs that I consider to have made the artistic “cut.”  The cabin is surrounded by black pines, hemlocks, and huge magnolias.  It overlooks a large pond that is stocked with large trout, and it is just a brief walk up to the two large fields on the property.

As I’ve said many times in the past, North Carolina holds a special place in my heart.  I loved it before I went to Wake Forest, I loved it my four years I spent at Wake, and I love it every time I get a chance to come back.  A part of me will always consider North Carolina home.  These cabins on David’s property have become a home away from home, and I look forward to returning every chance we get.

They say home is where the heart is, and I know this to be true.  I have left a part of my heart in North Carolina, Yorkshire, and even Carmel.  Thus, it is no wonder that I have Nostalgia to return.  As I’ve explained in an earlier post, the word nostalgia comes from the Greek meaning an aching for home.  North Carolina is unique in that I have spent every phase of my life there.  I spent the waning days of my childhood at college there; I learned love and loss and melancholy there; I became independent there; I met Anna there; I left, cracked like a dinner plate; and I returned whole, almost reborn, a few years ago.  North Carolina has molded me, and I will continue to return – one day, perhaps for good.

York Minster Windows

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I am indebted to many of my past teachers and professors, but there are those who leave a more lasting impression than others.  My Latin teacher, for instance, was one of the most influential teachers I had in high school, and she prepared me so well that my Latin major at Wake Forest was all but a foregone conclusion.  We all use Latin daily, whether we are aware of it or not.  Us Latin geeks are more tuned in to the derivatives, and we make conscious decisions to use Latinate words wherever possible (in lieu of that vulgar German stock).

As a lawyer, I am a writer first and foremost.  It is my craft.  As a photographer, too, I view the world differently than most attorneys.  Indeed, I perceive the world aesthetically through an artistic lens, whether or not I am behind my camera.  This appreciation for art is due in large part to my AP Art History teacher.  When I was 20, I saw my first cathedral outside of my art history books.  It was on a trip with my wife and her family to Europe.  We stopped for a day in Mallorca, and I made a pilgrimage to La Seu (Palma Cathedral).

I stood before the great vaulted entrance for a terribly long time, for the first time in my life appreciating the magnitude of what Judy taught me.  I took in the carvings and the arches, and then once inside, I looked with a child-like wonder at the rose window.  I walked down the central aisle in the nave (knowing, of course, what this part of the cathedral was called), and for the first time it struck me that although I had memorized the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I had never known what it felt like to physically stand under Michelangelo’s handiwork.  I couldn’t tell you how the chapel smelled, or what sensation I had when I first walked inside.  But now, standing in the dimly lit chapels of La Seu, I knew what it was to be inside a gothic cathedral.

Last summer, I visited Anna’s family in England.  Her cousin/godmother lives in York, and we went for a short day trip to visit Alice.  Alice had inherited a tortoise from the previous owner of her home, and he was nearly one hundred years old.  Kemper still asks about the tortoise, and this will be his memory of York (for now).  For me, however, I will remember York through the photographs I took of York Minster, the grand cathedral of York.  I will remember it, because I understood it.  I will remember York Minster, not just because of its august presence, but because I was taught to appreciate the buttresses and the vaulted ceilings by an uncommonly wonderful teacher.

In many ways, I think I missed my calling.  I am always mildly jealous of my best friend (Nora’s godfather) who is a professor in North Carolina.  I was helping proof a paper for which he allowed me to contribute some research, and I was overcome with a modest pang of regret (made all the more acute when I had to turn back to the Response to Petitioner’s Motion to Dismiss that I should have been working on instead of immersing myself in the effect of language policy on the colonialization and Americanization of Puerto Rico at the turn of the 20th Century).  But I am happy where I am in life.  I have a job I enjoy at a firm I adore, and I will always have my photography and my writing.  I owe all of these things to my teachers and professors, especially those select few whose lessons continue to teach me to this very day.

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Among the Ferns

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These bracken ferns on the moors in Yorkshire are substantially shorter than those in the lake district; nevertheless, they nearly engulfed my wife, Anna, as she tried to follow the path cut between the fiddleheads that popped out from the skeletons of heather, long since overcome by the dark green ferns.  This photograph was taken at dusk outside of Haworth, England, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote.  Their stories were heavily   influenced by the moors and the hardy people who lived on them (especially Wuthering Heights).  Indeed, in this photograph, on the horizon to the left, there is a lone sycamore next to the barely perceptible ruins of a farmhouse (Top Withens), which is said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.  My mother-in-law grew up among the ferns on the moors, and she is closer to nature than anyone I have ever met.  Yorkshire does something indelible to a person.  The first time you walk over the top of a moor and look down into the Worth Valley at the train steaming along the tracks towards Leeds, you realize that you are in a living snapshot of a much simpler time.

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Bixby Canyon Bridge

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I descended a dusty gravel ridge
Beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge
Until I eventually arrived
At the place where your soul had died
Barefoot in the shallow creek,
I grabbed some stones from underneath
And waited for you to speak to me
And the silence; it became so very clear
That you had long ago disappeared
I cursed myself for being surprised
That this didn’t play like it did in my mind
-Death Cab for Cutie
This photograph of the Bixby Canyon Bridge in Big Sur, California, just after dawn shows the marine layer lifting from the bay, slowly creeping up the mountains, only to burn off completely by the early afternoon.  The bridge spanning Bixby Creek is one of many on Route 1 down the coast of California south of Carmel, but it is probably the most famous.  The bridge has a rich history, opening in 1932 to connect the residents of Big Sur with Carmel and San Francisco further to the north.  When it was built, it was the longest concrete arch span the west coast.  It remains one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world.  It is narrower (by eight feet) than the required width of modern bridges, but due to its historic relevance, expansion is unlikely.
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Remnant

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I studied art history in high school and college, learning from incredible teachers and professors.  I went to museums and saw visiting collections, but I never stood in the middle of St. Peter’s square or under the arches of a gothic cathedral until 2006 when I stood in La Seu, visited Pompeii, and walked into the middle of the Piazza San Pietro, marveling at the history that surrounded me.  Yet something about Bolton Abbey, the skeleton of which I captured in this photograph, struck me more than even walking through the ancient streets of Pompeii.  Perhaps because I was older, I had a new appreciation for the feats of architecture.  Perhaps, too, it was because I was alone with my camera and my thoughts, not being bustled about by tour guides or other eager tourists.  Whatever the difference, Bolton Abbey was more majestic to me than even St. Peter’s.  It is a memory, a remnant of time gone by, of the monarchy, of the Reformation, and of the shifting sands of faith.  While other abbeys were deconstructed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and all that remains of them is rubble, Bolton Abbey remains – like a fossil, its bones bared and resolute.  When I stood in the nave, I placed my hand on a monolithic column, lingering for a moment and hoping to physically connect to the priory.  With the weathered stone pressed against my hand, I wondered how many generations had set their hands upon the stonework, and at that moment I felt truly connected to a continuum of time – those who had come before and those who would come after to admire the remnant as I had.

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Down East

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This photograph of a squat lighthouse was taken in southeastern Maine, where my dad was born and raised.  Hundreds of these lighthouses dot the rocky coast, and each one of them is unique and picturesque in its own right.

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