Chalktober Fest in Focus

This was our third year attending the Marietta Chalktober Fest.  Happening in mid-October, on the streets and sidewalks of our local square, Chalktober Fest is art in action.  Ninety-five artists travel here from across the United States to create, in just two days, fabulous chalk pastel scenes on the actual streets of Marietta, Georgia.  Children, adults, artist enthusiasts, beer drinkers, revelers…they all muse about the avenues marveling as vivid images burst forth from dust and pavement.  The colors are phenomenal.  Onlookers crowd around each artist’s plot to catch a glimpse of Dorothy or Luke Skywalker.  Artists hunch over their tools and pastels pushing the limits of space and perspective.  This community scene is pure fall joy!

On this day, my goal was to take focused festival photos.  You probably have noticed that I’ve been struggling with blurry pictures for months.

“How am I going to solve this problem?” I thought.

I figured I’d give this photography thing one more try, and watch a few videos on a possible fix.

“Close down your aperture,” they tell me. “Shoot at F11 or higher to capture depth of field.”

Surely that’s something I can try.  Otherwise, I’m selling all this camera gear and switching over to embroidery.

So, these photographs are my first rational attempt at capturing foreground and background subjects in focus with a higher aperture.

You’ll have to tell me if you think I’m on the right track!

It was fun practice and a beautiful day out there with the family.

The Tree Fairy


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They found her in the fairy ring.  She was lying on her back, her body shrouded in soft dappled light, her head propped on a backpack.   She’d been there all night.  Her parents, when they found her, were only comforted by the fact that she was far from any busy street.  They had worried all night that she had been kidnapped or mauled by some mountain lion.  Instead, they found the preschooler lying on the forest floor, eyes closed, clutching a tattered Barbie doll.  Encircling her were a dozen enormous Redwood trees, giants holding some ancient council of which she was their leader.  As the parents approached, the girl slowly opened her eyes and rolled onto her side.

“Where have you been?” the young mother asked, stepping inside the ring.  She knelt down and grasped the small child by the shoulders.  “Where have you been all night?”

Soft tears were flowing down the mother’s face as she pulled the little girl into a hug.  The father squatted next to them.

“I was here, Mommy… with them,” said the girl pointing upward.

“With whom? The mother asked incredulously.

“With the fairies,” the girl said peering across her mother’s arm at her father.  “The fairies like to play here, so I came to see.”

The mother looked at the father, who had now come closer to the two.  His pale face was accented by the dark circles under his sleepless eyes.

“We’ve missed you so much, sweet pea.  Daddy is so glad to see you.  We are so glad you are safe,” he said and placed his hand on her little arm.

They crouched there together in the fairy circle for a long while, holding their daughter, crying soft tears of relief and regret.  After some time, the dad stood and gathered the little girl with the Barbie into his arms.

“Let’s be getting home now,” he said.

The mother stood and gripped the small backpack from the middle of the ring.  It was the same purple backpack the girl had received from her aunt last May, only the left strap buckle had broken. With some effort, the mother slid the pack over her right shoulder and started home on the path behind her husband.  Quietly, both girl and Barbie, stared back toward the tree cluster as they retreated from that place.


Now, no one quite understood how the little four year old managed to walk around the neighbor’s pond, across the steep ditch and over two busy streets to that ring of trees two miles away.  The small family, glad to have their child, did not speak of it on their way home.

At the house, distracted by several bunches of flowers at the front door, the mother dropped the purple pack to grab the house keys from her pocket.  Her husband was in the driveway, still holding the now sleepy girl and speaking happily to several curious neighbors. The mother opened the door and walked inside.  It had been an exhausting 24 hours, filled with horrifying thoughts and urgent pleas with neighbors for help. She sat down on a couch and rested her head against a pillow. This will be a quiet moment to calm down, she thought.

Not 20 minutes later, the mother was startled awake.

“Mommy, my backpack!”  The flush girl held out the violet colored bag with the broken strap. The mother sat up and rubbed her eyes.  There, she noticed that on the front side of the pack was an image of a colorful garden fairy, standing against an enormous tree, a fern embellishing its face.

“Yes. Your backpack,” the mother replied. “The fairy backpack.”

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Reflections on the Year 1982


IMG_0316With all the talk lately about the early 1980’s, I thought I’d pull my dusty yearbook off the shelf and reflect. I was 16 in the Summer of 1982, and like any rising high school senior, I wasn’t fully aware that this was a transitional time between two very different eras.

On the one hand, we had films like Animal House which exposed and celebrated the drinking and sexual excesses of college fraternity life.  We had songs like AC / DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil,” anthems of a sort blaring from our cassette players as we drove into school.  We had the drinking age at just 19 and we were partying like it was 1999!

On the other hand, we heard about 32 Billy Graham Crusades worldwide in 1982 inviting people to come “just as you are.”  In 1985, Sting suggested that “the Russians love their children too,” a new concept for us post Cold-War era teens whose parents were born on the heels of McCarthyism.  And, we had MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that movement of people mad as hell about the vast number of drunken drivers who were destroying their families.


Here are a few more remembrances…

  1. I went to a public high school in Neptune Beach, a small North Florida community near Jacksonville. For the better part of my high school years, I lived in a mobile home on a marsh which overlooked the Intracoastal Waterway. Most of my neighbors were working class people just trying to get by.
  2. Somewhere along the way, I figured out that if I didn’t want to live in a trailer all my life I’d better do well in school. Nobody else was going to give me a ticket out.
  3. My mom told me early on, probably at age 8, that you don’t go in boys’ rooms, and if you do happen inside one, you keep the door open. That included while visiting family, friends or neighbors. Even though the rule seemed extreme at the time, I’m glad she shared this piece of wisdom.  I applied it to high school and college parties.  If people were going into bedrooms, I stayed clear.
  4. Another rule-of-thumb I followed is that people associate you with the people you associate with. In other words, you become the people you hang out with, at least in the eyes of the onlooker. This principal proved invaluable. I did not want to be linked with people who were going nowhere.  I did not want to be at the back of a restaurant shucking oysters in my 50’s!
  5. Generally, the boys in my high school were gentlemen. They were traditional, asking you out on a date and paying for it. Or, they’d open a door for you or carry your surfboard for you.
  6. People went to church and participated in youth groups.
  7. High schoolers drank beer. That one doesn’t seem consistent with # 7, but it was the culture. People drank beer at parties. Parents hosted parties and provided the beer…Gasp!  But it was a different time. Just think, 1982 was only 10 years after Vietnam.  Our country hadn’t created a unified legal drinking age. Teen drinking was becoming an issue and local officials were struggling with what to do about it.  MADD – a new movement was working to change the drinking age and the drinking culture.
  8. I remember a school-wide assembly when MADD organizers came with a program showcasing the catastrophic consequences of drinking and driving. Slides were projected on a big screen showing graphic photos of people who had been horrifically killed or injured because of a drunk driver. Pleas were made, “Don’t drink and drive!”  This was the beginning of the change.

So, why this reflection?

Several important things come to mind.  Certainly, we’ve come a long way toward getting the teen drinking culture under control in this country.  Teenagers and college students have a real awareness of the dangers associated with drinking and driving.  They still drink, but they call an Uber or they walk.  Most parents I know would never dream of hosting a beer drinking bash in their homes.

We’re better at accepting others and their differences.   The Cold War is over, and everyone knows that the Russian people were victims of a forced political ideology.  In the South, we’ve moved on from the forced busing and the racial makeup quotas imposed on us by the local school boards.  Nowadays, we live next door to people of all races and nationalities because we want to.

Finally, even in the midst of all the decadence, the drinking and the lack of parental supervision, it was still possible to keep an even, narrower path and progress onto greater things. It was possible to move on from the 1980’s and the trailer.  The environment of this time, prepared us to be better parents.

Today, I remember the early 80’s with fondness, grateful for the friends I experienced it with and appreciative of what this era was: a moment between two epochs.



Wednesdays we’ve been studying photography.  Since it was going to cost me about $700 to enroll Gabe in an elective photography course, I decided to step in as his teacher and keep the costs down.  Too bad for him, because I’m a student of photography myself.  Now, there are two of us studying photography.  Hopefully, we’ll improve twice as fast.  On a whim, this past Wednesday’s assignment took us to the chicken coop.

“Let’s work on getting comfortable with the Manual setting,” I told Gabe as we strode out into the back yard.

The heat had broken so the bugs were down and the coop stink was at bay. I figured the hens would provide a little bit of gorgeous and a lot of goofy for our practice session. On our approach, the chicks all gathered to greet us, apparently waiting for a tasty handout. We took in the situation, plopped down right outside the coop gate and started shooting.  This was a brave move, considering the large globs of manure within a foot of our station, but proved to be a great location for some close ups.

IMG_7498IMG_7493IMG_7521 (2)IMG_7520“It’s cloudy, so you’re gonna have to open the aperture some,” I said showing him the small black dial on the top of his camera.

The hens, sensing some new freedom, poured out and around us.  Red came in for a peck at my wedding ring (as long as we have Rhode Island Reds, we are going to have a chicken named Red!).  The lovely, and newly laying Barred Rock sauntered over to surmise the commotion.  It was the perfect set up.

“Mom! All the photos are looking blurry,” my boy complained.

I was struggling to get my own photos in focus when I saw that Gabe had grabbed the Rock and placed her into a patch of tall grasses nearby.


“You’ll need to raise your shutter speed and increase your ISO,” I instructed.  Gabe was now laying on his side, going for the ground-up view.

“What is the ISO?” he asked, eyes squinting into the view finder.

“I’m not sure, but it’s a setting that allows the camera to take in more light,” I said.

Next, we moved back over to see if anybody had dropped an egg-sized load in the nest boxes.  We were in luck. There was a mamma chicken just outside the box.  Like a human parent gazing adoringly into the crib of her sleeping newborn, we captured this broody hen admiring a small batch of recently delivered eggs.


At that point the door to the boxes flung open and a camera was shoved into a nest box wit a hen assuming the position of egg-birth.  There’s only so much restraint to be offered by a 12 year old!

“Oh boy!” I said, as I snapped a quick photo of this weird scene.  “We better give her a little privacy.”

At that, we packed up our equipment and got out of there.   Time to get back to the books.

Time for Latin and science; although, I suspect the real learning this Wednesday took place right out in the back yard.

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