Happy Cinco di Mayo! I took this photograph in the same cactus garden as this shot from October 2005. More detail is in the large view. Another flower, photographed in the same patch and on the same day as the one above, is here.
On April 6, Colleen (Loose Leaf Notes) gave me a Thinking Blogger Award. "Those who have been awarded are asked to name five others to pass the 'thinking blogger' torch on to," she writes. You can find the four other recipients here.
It's been a tough job narrowing these down, and there are many folks out here who deserve this award. But the rule is to pick five, and I'm going to choose three among mine who aren't yet on my blogroll here on Blogger, but whom I've read for years over on Open Diary. So here goes....
1. A Dog With A Blog
Dave Dog comes first because I've just read his May 4 entry, "Drip," and I want to scream at him that he's got to get his stuff out to a wider audience than "OD Members Only."
Yes, you must join Open Diary (it's free) to read him. I encourage you to click here and do it, if only to read this entry, which is Dave at his finest. He's got portraits like this salted throughout his blog. He's also got entries dictated by cats, the goings-on at church, his poems, his songs, his to-do lists. Powerful pieces, some narrative, some lyric, pop up amidst things like cooking forays that make my mouth water.
But my mouth usually waters most when I visit his blog on Saturdays. Because on Fridays he goes to the Watering Hole, and then he details its cast of characters in some of the most poignant, passionate, take-no-prisoners language that I have been privileged to read. Which makes me want to drag him by the collar out of his OD corner, like all his other readers who want to see his stories more widely published. Additional prodders welcome.
2. Middle-Grey Matter - In Re: The Cerebro-Cardiac Dialogues Of A Forensic Photographer
I first found thingfish23 through his blog The Taming of the Band-Aid, with his stunning photographs, nature- and home-based commentary, and links of which I have yet to take full advantage. It was through him that I discovered Bugguide.Net, which has helped me decode many of the insects that have fascinated me ever since I moved to Florida and picked up my first "good camera."
But I'm focusing here on Middle-Grey Matter because when thingfish isn't training his camera on beauty and natural wonder, he is documenting death and often ugliness. It takes an extraordinary temperament to do what he does. It takes an extraordinary temperament wedded to striking prose to write what he writes. And he ties both of those together with a soul-searing compassion and candor that none of my articulateness here can ever do justice to. I can only give thanks there are people like him in this world.
3. Therapy for the Soul
Sunshine Wolf labors on the front lines of public education and her stories are powerful, hilarious, and heartbreaking by turns. For example, check out the slices of life in "Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales" and "Sex, Lies, and Video Tapes," the dilemmas in "Sweet and Sour," and the epiphany in "An Opportunity Missed." When I thought of including Sunshine Wolf here, the one entry of hers that came to me most vividly was "Too Jaded? Or Not Jaded Enough......"
Then read a piece she's drawn from another source, "What Teachers Make," for a useful reality-check.
4. Rubies in Crystal
Brenda Clews's prose, poetry, and art combine sharp intellect and straightforward vulnerability with a sensory richness that often stops me in my tracks. Her turns of phrase make me go back for a re-read, the way I hold quality fudge in my mouth to let its flavor and texture linger on my tongue, because swallowing it all too fast and too soon would be just plain wrong.
Take, for instance, "All-Seeing," a multi-sensory epic of enormous power crafted in an amazing eye-blink of 56 words. Or take "A Bouquet of Unopened Bulbs," which begins as a pleasant verbal snapshot that launches into a geologic and evolutionary discourse with the fearlessness and grace of a cliff diver. Treatise and poetry intersect, layered like sedimentary rock but melding, leaving past and present transparent to each other in stunning juxtapositions.
As if word-painting weren't enough, take a look at Brenda's "Dancing of the Selves." That self-portrait culminates here, accompanied by poetry and capping a series that details her creative process in equally vibrant fashion. In addition, her SoundClick link takes you to her well-sculpted aural performances.
(Reading "Bouquet...," I thought of another Thinking Blogger who combines poetic and scientific sensibilities, so a bonus award goes to biology professor and poet Paul Decelles over at "The force that through...". Take a look at how data collection morphs into a visceral feast in his poem "Ears in the Field.")
5. Chuck. Awarded posthumously.
When I first started blogging in 1999, Chuck was calling himself "Blather." He died of cancer in October 2004. Open Diary archived its unused diaries at that time, but it has preserved Chuck's entries back to September 2003, when he began the last of his OD accounts. Only the most recent "diary contents" page is visible now, but his "calendar of entries" allows further access. I wish you had a chance to read more.
A survivor of horrific childhood sexual abuse (addressed briefly here), Chuck also survived many avenues of his own self-destruction and emerged from them a man of caring and courage beyond any adjectives I can plug in. He could be wildly irreverent -- for example, waiting until he could find the humor in how he'd been mugged, and finding ways to present physical pain I can't imagine in a way that entertained while it enlightened -- for example, in "Turkey Talk." Then there are entries like his letter to his (non-existent) daughter.
Until his death, all of his diary entries were publicly accessible and set so that anyone could leave him a note, which often left him open to attacks. That can be tough enough for someone in good health. Chuck was dying and fighting for his life until the last, with an unparalleled ability to make at least some of his readers laugh and cry at the same time.