As the Creek Flows

_C1_9664I should never have said it was too dry.

You probably remember how prodigiously rainy May and June were, but those days seemed long gone when some friends and I went down Friday evening to Ozarks National Forest for a couple nights of camping. We drove to the other side of Devil’s Den, and Lee Creek was so low that some segments were stagnant, interrupted by islands of rounded stones and trees bent by a past current. But it was a beautiful night starting a great weekend with a fun group of people.





_C1_9741The water situation began to change the next morning, with a decent but quick thunderstorm, then fog that slowly gave way to warmth and sun. Some morning walks brought a few scenes and details I’d never come across before.











_C1_9981Even with the storm, much of the stream bed was still exposed when we went hiking around, with worn limestone rocks interspersed with flakes of black shale, as if someone dumped bags of black confetti here and there. I’ve seen this type of rock nowhere else, so fragile it can’t even be held without crumbling in your fingers.








_C1_0065Saturday evening was cool and clear and perfect; we had no cell service to check the forecast, but I figured everything must have blown out. Instead we woke up this morning to a two-hour storm, as if nature were saying, you want water, here’s your water. I woke up at the beginning of the storm and fell back asleep, realizing an hour and a half later it had been raining the whole time. We scrambled to pack everything away in the sandy mud.

The river was much higher when we left. It was a good adventure.

Thanks for looking!


Mt. Kessler

IMG_9708Mt. Kessler is the grand name of a big hill covered by a patch of Ozarks forest that’s tucked inside Fayetteville’s southwestern city limits. Being within a city doesn’t mean it’s small: A three-hour hike Sunday wasn’t enough to get to its best rock formations and overlooks. I’ll have to head back to find what else it has tucked away, but this time I focused on some of the place’s smallest details, such as this passion flower:

IMG_9718The “passion” in the name of this complex and vivid bloom refers to the Passion, as in Jesus’ last days of life in Christian tradition — missionaries centuries ago saw reminders and symbols of those events in the numbers and shapes of the flower’s different parts, such as the three “nails” prominently displayed at the top. I think this was the first time I’d seen one in person.

I also almost walked face-first into this little thing:

IMG_9673For years I’ve wondered what these little green danglers are doing hanging down from branches like a fish lure. It turns out they’re inchworms, usually smaller than their name suggests, and this bungee-jumping behavior is a way to flee from predatory bugs in the trees above. After the threat’s gone, they reel themselves back up on their silk threads, as this one was doing.

Speaking of caterpillars, I also came across this devilish-looking mass of them:

IMG_9716Not sure what they are — Googling “fuzzy caterpillars with red heads” isn’t helpful — but they are remarkably social, and they might be a kind of tent caterpillar, the leaf-eaters responsible for those clumps of silk that smother tree limbs all summer long.

To round out this bunch of images, here’s a strange growth on a tree that looks like a mushroom and an actual mushroom for your viewing pleasure.


IMG_9684Thanks for looking.


Selling Flowers

IMG_9639If you see people at Fayetteville’s Farmers Market walking around with fistfuls of boisterous lilies, pale puffs of virburnums and other bright flowers, chances are they came from the Dripping Springs Garden stand, where there’s always a line for the blooms and organic vegetables. A woman there named Nancy has bundled blossoms, matched up customers and available workers and overseen the swarm for more than 20 years. She has a quick smile, keen eyes, a lined face, flyaway hair and a bright gingham dress, so I asked to take her picture.

IMG_9647Yesterday was a solid market day, bright and warm and crowded. Down the block from the flower stand, another swarm gathered around a row of painted doors.

IMG_9594An Arkansas artist named V.L. Cox painted them, and apart from the bold colors and messages on those doors, I suspect they also drew a crowd because Fayetteville is still working through a years-long debate on the proper rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; an election on whether to punish discrimination against them in their workplaces and homes is coming up next month.

Anyway, have some more photos.








IMG_9586Thanks for looking! And have a good Sunday.


Big Crowds in Little Italy

_C1_1135The fair/festival season has begun: The annual Tontitown (pronounced like tawny-town) Grape Festival has been going strong this week.

Italian immigrants founded this little town in the late 1800s, and they, as many of them had done in their homeland, grew a lot of grapes. Vineyards of Concord grapes have been such a fixture in the town’s history that they’ve gotten their own festival 117 years running, featuring grape-stomping competitions and community spaghetti dinners on top of the standard carnival rides and booths.

I went up there three times this week, the crowd at least doubling in size each time. Traffic lined up for probably a mile on a four-lane highway to turn into the place before sunset yesterday and it’ll probably be packed during the final run tonight.









_C1_2082Every time I go to a big, public event like this, I feel for a while like I’m relearning how to do photography — relearning how to relax and see the images as they come, relearning how to ask strangers if I can take their picture, relearning where to point the dang thing. I push myself to make images different from and better than the ones from all the other festivals I’ve gone to before.

Once I settled down a bit, I tried playing with the millions of lights on the rides and food stands in new ways and simply keeping my eyes open. A fair is a place of infinite moments, a churning mass of characters at once totally familiar and continuously new. Gaggles of high-schoolers, families towing little kids, straw or gravel covering the ground, a cacophony of chatter and honks and yells and whistles — you could probably imagine any fair fairly accurately without even leaving your chair, yet the people and the stories there have never been seen before. At all times, the photos I’m capturing are a sip from the firehose.







_C1_2599I didn’t stay so long during the third trip last night and don’t have many photos to show for it — like the crowd size, the temperature and humidity have gone up with each day, too. It’ll be around 90 tonight. Be sure to pick up some overpriced water.



_C1_2812Thanks for looking.