Friday, October 30, 2009

Once Removed

Robert T. Valliant, my grandfather, at his father's shucking and packing houses in Oxford, Md., where Bates Marina is now. Circa 1905.

My dad turned his knee around backwards. Kneecap got whacked side-on by essentially a 2" x 10" or so and spun it clear off its hinges. He was a boardsman for a Chesapeake Bay log canoe at the time, likely racing with Doug Hanks at the helm. That was the end of his log canoe sailing days.

Our family has become further removed from the water with each generation. My great grandfather, Jeremiah Valliant, was a partner in William Valliant & Brothers packing houses in Bellevue, Maryland, until a business falling out saw him open his own competing shucking and packing houses in Oxford. He had four young'ens, an even two boys (Robert and Jeremiah) and two girls (Louise and Harriet). The two boys would end up running Valliant Brothers Marina, where Bates Marina currently sits at the end of the Strand, same Oxford location as the shucking and packing houses.

Robert was my grandfather. He's the young lad pictured above. He was born in 1899 and lived to be 95. Marina owner and beyond, he was a lifelong fisherman. He kept detailed logs of every time he went out, what they caught, who he went with, what they used. He took my dad fishing, and he lived long enough to take me fishing a number of times from when I was little. I still remember turning around and seeing him peeing in an empty milk carton at the back of the boat. I never asked where the bathroom was after that.

That love of fishing, boating, and being on the water translated directly to my father. But he doesn't own a marina, he's an accountant. His education and occupation don't put him right on the water, though he'd no doubt love to spend more time there.

When I was 15, I came into a 13' Boston Whaler with a 40 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor on it. It was tied up behind our house, in shallow water or mud if the tide was out. $5 worth of gas and you had more than a day's adventure. There wasn't a creek between Oxford and Easton that we didn't explore or a beach we didn't pull up on. Maybe a couple, but not many. I wasn't that concerned with a driver's license when I turned 16, it couldn't hold a Zippo to being on the river.

I feel connected to Oxford, the Tred Avon, the Eastern Shore, the Bay. A bond in the blood and in the bones. But I am further removed. I wonder if I have it like my grandfather did. Or my father does. The water, creeks, rivers, bridges, is where I feel it inherently. But I don't do enough with it. I get it when we're on the water with the girls, or this summer on a stand-up paddleboard. And I look for more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unrelated Fragments

Downpours glut. Senses
and themselves. Hum
or drone to roar. Background
to forefront.




Coffee. Dog. Candles.
Ground. Light inside
stands out. Turns wet. Succumbs,
assimilates into noise.
Gray. Sleep.
Or more awake because


A camera is permission to look closer. To see through the surface. A deeper glance.

Patterns. Metaphors. Productions. On the house.
Newly framed, things

beyond common.


That there were train tracks next to Holiday Inns was a running joke. There always was. It became comforting.

Shaken awake at 2 a.m., the bed rattled out smiles.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Money Back Guarantee

One of a few photos shot for today, 10/27/09, while waiting for a writer/editor at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

With a name like "Rollo," you likely want to be tough or have something worth saying. I don't know if Rollo May ever got his ass kicked, but he could sure get folks to pondering with the wisdom he could spit.

"Freedom is a man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves." --Rollo May

I first came across Rollo by way of an artist friend 10-or-so years ago. He liked to quote R.M. by way of a question and proceeded to scrawl it onto an abstract painting he gave me. The quostion (quote/question) goes like this: "What if imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience?"

That question sticks with me. It comes from May's book, "The Courage to Create," which now sits on my bookshelf with a fair amount of underlinings, dog-eared pages, and chicken-scratch in the margins.

I generally relegate my own writing to the margins of the day. I get to it before the day officially starts or at the end of it, when the kids are sleeping. The inherent problem is that there isn't always time in those margins as the page itself seeps off into the sides. The same thing can happen with running, yoga, longboarding, etc., but I have found a way to make time, push the margins, to give those activities permission to happen.

Enter the 30-day challenge. My aim is to write something worthwhile--essay, aphorism, blog post, poem, fragment, etc.--and to take at least one "cool" photograph for each of the next 30 days. Cutting myself some slack, I didn't say the writing or photos have to be good, just that the practice gets instilled and I make a commitment to myself, the time, and the attempt. The writing and the photographs don't have to relate to each other, though they might. I'll be posting photos on Facebook. And I'll see if I can't share some of the writing and/or photos here.

That's my challenge. We'll see where it leads. What challenges or gauntlets have you thrown down for yourselves?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kinda Like Free Beer

Running is an aesthetic experience. Wait. Ascetic? Well, maybe that too sometimes, but I'm talking ripe with the sublime, not beating yourself with sticks, wearing burlap running shorts.

There are times out on a run, where my body and mind have emptied themselves of everything but the rhythm of breathing and foot strikes, and I'll come across sunlight, mist, and clear sky above, playing games with the surface of a river or pond. Or come face-to-face with a deer who's decided it's a better idea to freeze than to bolt.

Often it is a run-in with nature (or Nature), but it can happen in town or a city as well. Times when the run feels like it happened, in part, to put me in front of something or to give me the opportunity to experience something I would have completely missed if I hadn't gotten out there. What do you do with that?? Personally, I like to say, "thank you," and smile.