Tag Archives: Tennessee

Road Trip Therapy

truckswebThere is not a better form of escape that comes to mind than other getting in the car with a friend,food, music, and having no one expect you at a certain place and a particular time.If an old water tower signals the location of a forgotten town, you are free to explore. If peeling paint and falling trim catch your eye, you investigate. Driving as far as you want and stopping for no real reason is expected. Curiosity reigns and the mantra is “No Maps, Just Drive”.The long, crazy school year vanishes after the first mile markers. I actually cleaned out my CRV, got new tires and am ready to put on miles! Tomorrow we are heading across Tennessee out towards Asheville, North Carolina, and excited about the opportunities to make discoveries. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some new adventure in a week or so.

Memphis Makes Its Own Music

memphisguitar-webMemphis has its own rhythm. It’s not limited to Beale Street.You can’t help but notice the motion of the river, the cadence of the traffic, the blends of voices and accents and the feeling that something special is happening right around the corner.Every part of the city is directly connected to its musical heritage – whether it be Stax, Graceland, Sun Studios, or Al Green’s church.Rock, soul, R and B, rap, ragtime, it’s all here. Every performer comes here when they feel the need to connect with their musical roots and cut an album.When I saw this guitar case in a shop, I felt like it served as a reminder and needed a larger audience.Sometimes it’s easy to ignore what’s right in front of you and the music is one of our city’s greatest treasures.

Lessons From a Vineyard: Growth in Unexpected Places


When you say vineyard, France, Napa, and Sonoma come to mind.Very few people would say Tennessee, Kentucky or Florida. Connoisseurs would discuss the soil, its acidity, clay or loam or the terroir that is achieved. Yet,half-hidden, on a small road in Kentucky , a small vineyard thrives in the late afternoon sun. Are the grapes the same? No. Is the soil duplicated? Probably not. But here , stretching themselves in the sun and lazing under wispy clouds are vines that are more than just alive. They are growing. Is it the climate? The care they receive? Specialized knowledge of the vintner? Perhaps. Could it be that they are in a place that suits them , where there is room to grow, and that they are responding to the environment in the best way possible? As they receive nourishment , they in turn produce and return the gift. It seems so simple, but for many of us, accepting that we can grow , even if it is in a place that we didn’t choose, is difficult. It is easier to find fault and wish we were growing in Napa rather than on a back road in Kentucky. Yet the wine produced here , while different in character, may taste as sweet.

Standing Tall, Feeling Alone

Standing tall in Reelfoot Lake, this  pine tree commanded attention. I’m not sure it was proud just because of the height it attained. It seemed more a case of, the odds were against me, too much water, too much wind, little shelter and still I thrive. Providing a home for osprey and perches for birds passing by, it also helped anchor a little bit of its world. From the boat, it looked effortless. The best in every situation make it look easy. While the rest of us often create excuses. it’s too cold, I’m tired of waiting, no one cares about what I say, I’m no different than anyone else. I’m afraid , and the list goes on. You wonder how tall we’d stand if we maintained our piece of the earth and reached up towards what it is that calls to us, towards what we truly need. It’s time.

Elvis Week in Memphis

Every morning this week I’ve gotten up and readied for school, pretty much oblivious to Elvis Week here in Memphis.

On Sunday , we played tourist and headed downtown to the Arcade for breakfast. We were seated in Elvis’s old booth, it seems he liked to sneak in the back door, so we sat in his booth and enjoyed country gravy and biscuits and sweet potato pancakes.

We wandered the city and reached the Peabody Hotel.

There we found a baby jumpsuit at Lansky’s ( Elvis’s favorite clothier).

Even the ducks were decked out for the week. As we walked down Beale, I shot a photo of both Kings to round out my impromptu collection.

Going to Graceland would have been too predictable so I chose to see what appeared in town.Shooting with my iPhone and processing with apps, I had a great day playing tourist. I hope you enjoyed  this mini-visit to Memphis.

Laundry Days

A side porch in North Carolina is where I borrowed the ancient washing machine and abandoned materials. The weathered siding came from a garage in Tennessee. Together they hint at a time before everything was electric, fast and disposable.Sometimes taking a step backward isn’t wrong. My memories of my grandmother spending all morning with a wringer washer and hanging the clothes on a double line across her front yard are strong. My job was to capture the errant clothespins and corral them in a pouch that waved in the breeze.. The kitchen smelled from warm soapy water and the scent of the clothes was a blend of sunshine and zinnias. Detergents and fabric softeners can’t compete with the memory.

Pink Buildings Call to Me

There’s something about a pink house , maybe it reminds me of birthday cake decorations or happy spirits, but I noticed that I shoot a good number of pink buildings. The ones I’m sharing here come from Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Maybe it’s a southern thing, but the color is lighthearted . Even in their states of disrepair, there’s beauty.

Barn Spotting

Last week while traveling through Tennessee and Kentucky we spotted many different and wonderful barns – some for tobacco others for hay, but they all expressed their personalities in different ways.

Shiloh at Sesquicentennial Reenactment

The last Saturday in March found us trudging through ankle deep mud to reach the encampment at Shiloh.Ahead we could see the sutlers’ tents as we heard  the pounding of gunfire and saw smoke in the distance. I felt transported in time.

One week short of Shiloh’s sesquicentennial anniversary and the conditions were much the same. The mud, heat, and bugs plagued re-enactors and spectators just a they had a century and a half earlier.Unlike the soldiers, we had made the conscious choice to visit , mine based on photo opportunities and my husband’s on his interest in history.

What struck me first was the passion of the re-enactors. They travel from all parts of the country to play a specific  role in battle. Staying in character included sleeping in a tent in the rain with no conveniences.( Although there was a porta- potty nearby. I can’t imagine how that works with a hoop skirt. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d like to find out.) All supplies and equipment are meant to be historically appropriate to the 1860’s.The sutlers ( suppliers) travel the country supplying the troops and for some this is a full-time job.One purveyor had spent hours the day before fitting women’s corsets. The tailor repaired uniforms and a photographer used a box camera and offered tintypes. I realized how much I appreciate my digital camera.

An opportunity to meet the generals was the first scheduled event. I was surprised as to how many people crowded into the tent . General Grant , the first speaker, waved his cigar and stood on a table. A dynamic speaker , he commanded respect . One or two hecklers made their anti-Union sentiments known.After his speech,  visitors crowded Grant with questions and for photo ops ( kind of like the line at Disney to shoot photos with Mickey). They treated him with a deference and awe that surprised me since this was all an act.  General Sherman who was heckled loudly by the Georgia contingent came next. He was followed by General Hardee, a CSA general , who received a standing ovation from most of the crowd. A band played several pieces including The Bonnie Blue Flag which again brought many people to their feet standing hand over heart . They did not play The Star Spangled Banner, which left me sitting and feeling out of place.

One speaker said that The War Between the States should not be called The Civil War. While I totally agree that there is nothing about  war that can be called civil, historians do call it The Civil War.He emphasized that he was often told to get over it, and felt that it was a disservice to our history. What struck me is that the overarching issue of slavery is never mentioned or portrayed and those issues did not end with the war.

Taking time to visit the camps ,I admired patchwork quilts and garments hanging in the tents. A good number of children , also dressed in period garb, tended to chores around campsites. I tried to determine how their parents had convinced them to forgo digital devices for several days, let alone to dress in period clothing rather than jeans and tee shirts.

The juxtaposition of time periods clashed in lines at fast food vendors and throughout the camp.Hoop skirted women shopped next to those in cut-offs.On the battlefield itself, lawn chairs and coolers arranged in areas surrounded by caution tape added a sense of surrealism to the event.People handed out ear plugs to temper the cannon noise.

Before the starting time of 1:30, I wandered the battlefield shooting photos and trying to avoid getting trampled by Grant’s steed.I shot photos of children as drummers and cannon minders. Several battlefield photographers carried what looked like box cameras until I realized they were wooden boxes disguising digital cameras.I was disappointed.

As the battle began, I noticed women dressed as soldiers.I was surprised to learn of the controversy this choice causes in some reenactment circles. There documented research is that there are a number of women (stated as near to 400) who fought on both sides of the war as male soldiers. Most of the research is based on diary excerpts and reports.Still a number of groups don’t accept women outside of the standard roles of nurse, laundresses, and vivandieres. The National Park Service has ruled that women cannot be prohibited from events based on their sex , yet some continue to face discrimination or the epithet Farby Barbie.

Farby is a term that used to describe items in reenactment that are not true to the period. One site attributed the word to the comment “Far be it from me to tell you….” Barbie is self-explanatory.The issue raises interesting questions. The only women  documented are those who were discovered or those who admitted it later. Women who were truly successful in their participation as soldiers could never be counted accurately.If reenactment is meant to be historically accurate , then I would think women soldiers should be included . Obviously, those that were so easy to identify could not have kept their identities secret for long.

This was one of many issues that came to mind during the day. Re-enactments during the Sesquicentennial are major contributors to tourism. Tennessee is home to the second largest number of Civil War battlefields, and the Tennessee vacations website offer many resources on the events and touring of battlefield sites.Virginia, Maryland, and of course Pennsylvania have theirs. Next year is the Battle of Gettysburg‘s sesquicentennial, the big event, and many people at Shiloh discussed plans to participate or attend. Three days of activity and reenactment are planned for those first days of July 2013, the bloodiest of the war, a battle that was unplanned and began with the Confederate soldiers‘ need for shoes.

At the end of our day , sunburned, thirsty and hot, we drove home to air-conditioning and dinner. The 100,00 soldiers and more than 20,000 casualties at Shiloh could not.

“O Brother ,Where Art Thou?” 2012

The sun is shining on the first day of our road trip. Driving east on Route 70, the speed is fast and the anticipation high as our eyes search the roadside for photos.We slow for a road crew and the signalmen is wearing a black and white striped uniform. Transported in time, I reach for my camera as my friend slows way down. Shooting through the open window, I take two shots ,but for the next miles all we can hear is bluegrass music and think about “O Brother Where Art Thou? “As a throwback to the 30’s, the uniform fits our desire to shoot the old and  abandoned , but it feels so backward and out-of-place.

Continuing down the road, we reach Hollow Rock, Tennessee. The Main Street business district of one block is deserted. Needless to say, we spent some quality time shooting the remains.

It’s sad to see buildings and their towns end up in this state.

Later that night,  I checked online to find out more about the striped uniforms. I learned that I am sadly out of date about jailhouse fashions. I think this is probably a good thing for an elementary school teacher.Although the uniforms were first discontinued by New York in 1904 because they were humiliating, they remained in use until the 1930’s through most of the country and  abolished when they became too expensive. Recently,  counties across the country are re-introducing the striped uniforms as a way to make inmates more easily distinguishable from the public.

Maybe too many people have adopted the orange jumpsuit look and I just didn’t notice, but I can almost see the striped pants or tops lending themselves to a retro fashion statement embraced by designers and teens.

While I , and many others, love to look backward to preserve what was good and beautiful,perhaps the county law enforcement agencies will look forward to create new ideas and solutions. Meanwhile, I can just hear “Man of Constant Sorrow.”

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