Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I was on my way to work this morning, when I saw you lying in the road. Stretched across the yellow lines, you lay there exposed to the weather that has so thoroughly beleaguered Georgia and Tennessee. But instead of paws or a furry countenance sticking up vulnerably into the air, frozen by rigor mortis, pages fluttered lifelessly. No lifeblood dried stickily on the tarmac, but words and occasionally sentences spilled out into the road. I speculated - were you chased onto treacherous Ochs Highway by some literary critic who runs with the coyotes of Lookout Mountain? The hunt is over, at least for you.

Now the dark silhouettes of students circling in the sky herald your disembowelment. One lands, and greedily snaps up a few quotes out of context to be taken back to its young paper, to whom they will be fed without correct citation.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Other Lookout Mountain

There are a number of posts that could follow that title, most of them dealing with some kind of socioeconomic issue, examining class differences. This not about that; rather, it's something much more trivial. I'm sure you've had the experience where you dream about alternate versions of familiar places, and that's what I mean by "other" Lookout Mountain.

So, in my version, which comes back every now and then, I'm driving south on the mountain (or sometimes inexplicably flying - those are the best). And while Lookout Mountain is a long mountain, stretching from Tennessee south through Georgia into Alabama, this dream-version is huge. I come across huge canyons with sheer cliffs, stretching down to wide rivers, dwarfing anything in Cloudland or Little River Canyon. The mountain keeps going, becoming a high Southwestern scrubland with Utah-like rock formations. Sometimes, when it's an aerial view, it'll be under a full moon that illuminates immense waterfalls that lead off the mountain through a kind of pine wilderness. I think it's in this area (much higher than the 2000 ft real elevation) that there's this secluded lake between a number of peaks.

The real Lookout Mountain is pretty cool, for sure, but man, I wish I could find this version.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


It's so good to be in PA, even if it's just for a week. As I look at the gardens in the back (which look great and have supplied us with vegetables - Mom has really put some work into it), I'm reminded of how much my parents invested in us five kids. Whether it was a trampoline, making us work in the garden, supporting our excavation and construction in the far corner of the yard or, most recently, helping us in our world traveling to expand our view of the world, MAN! They really worked hard to give us the best and train us in the way we should go. It's great to come back and see our house transforming, growing, becoming more and more that place of refuge that it always has been. I can't wait to come back when all five of us have families of our own, and our kids can play in that yard and in that tree.

More pictures from the Europe trip are up on Flickr.

(the best tree in the world)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Possibly the Best, and Saddest, Song I Have Ever Heard

It reminds me of everything I've ever found, lost, hoped for and cried over. I was listening through "Freewheelin'" and having not been too familiar with it rediscovered this. I think I may have listened to it once before; but by myself in the international wing of O'Hare it hit hard. It's going to stay up there with my favorites. It's number one for now.

The Girl from the North Country - Bob Dylan

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hagia Sophia

Often erroneously called the church of St. Sophia by tour guides and websites, the Church of the Holy Wisdom was built in the late 6th century and still stands imperiously on the tip of the Golden Horn. When Sultan Mehmet conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque (that's where the minarets came from). In the early 1900s, Ataturk, as part of his plan to modernize Turkey, converted it to a museum showing the history of the Christian Byzantines and the Muslim Ottomans.

It is huge. There is no other way to describe it as you walk inside - gigantic medallions with Arabic lettering hang from colossal pillars, and early Christian mosaics glitter on in the archways. There are lots of tourists, but it's ok; there is plenty of room. One quarter of the main dome is under restoration, but most of the rest of the building is viewable.

Once an iconic part of the Christian church, it is perhaps a little ironic that it has since become the architectural model for mosques around Istanbul. The domes of the Blue Mosque serve as a good example of the Hagia Sophia's influence (see right).

It was interesting to finally see Christ depicted in the Hagia Sophia. In a city that seems to be somewhere between secular and Muslim, seeing the image of the Savior (in the Greek, called Pantokrator) was strangely refreshing and relieving.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


This is as far East I've ever come. A number of things contributed to my desire to see this city: first, doctrine classes at Covenant. Learning about the traditions of the Eastern church, the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople and others, the early fathers Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil as well as Athanasius and Nicholas really placed what used to be the capital of Christendom squarely in the realm of my imagination. Secondly, for a class with Dr. Stewart - Renaissance and Reformation - I wrote a paper drawing heavily on Steve Runciman's book on the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. In particular there is a section that describes the Emperor Constantine XI tearing off his imperial badge, making a pact of honor with three nobles fighting beside him (one of whom was an Italian who claimed to be related to the Emperor and traveled to the city to defend Christendom), and charging headlong into his foes, never to be seen again.

This morning, having been forced to greet the day at 5am by the muezzin's call to prayers from the mosque, I jogged around the old walls here in Sultanahmet (the part of Old Istanbul that has the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and other famous landmarks), most likely not far from where Constantine XI made his final stand. iPod in hand (or in ear?), I listened to Ralph Vaughan Williams' Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis to complete the mood. It was a good way to start the day.

After taking a cruise on the Bosphorus, grabbing a nap and making sure that everything was set for me to catch the bus to Athens tomorrow, I went to the Rumeli Cafe and ordered a dish composed of minced beef and garlic-seasoned yoghurt sauce that was quite tasty. For a starter I got a mixed cheese plate featuring a number of Turkish cheeses, one of which I really enjoyed - it was salty, like feta, but a bit harder and had a local spinach-like green in it. Really good. My waiter, Lutfu (u=oo as in book), was very sociable and we talked for quite a while. He lamented the fact that Turkish visas make it very hard to travel, and he doesn't have much of a chance to practice his English.

Apparently I was a likely candidate for English conversation, so he invited me to go with him and try the the nargile, or water pipe, when he finished his shift. He would be meeting two friends of his and I was welcome to come. It was an incredibly unique experience (the nargile uses no tobacco or anything; it's really just steam and whatever flavoring you put in there - Lutfu put in rose petals and mint leaves. They also serve hot water with those same ingredients, and you put in a sugar cube for a kind of tea-like drink. Also very good). I found out that Lutfu is 19 and that he and his cousin Selda moved to Istanbul from east Turkey. They are Kurdish, and Kurds make up 35% of the 71 million people in Turkey. Great people, and I really enjoyed talking to them.

Coming back to the hostel (from which I can see the Hagia Sophia), I met and talked with Adem, who is involved with film and theater both here in Istanbul and the UK. We shared ideas and dreams, and let him listen to a few songs as well as showing him Drew's "All My Friends", which he loved. It was great to connect through art with someone in a lasting way, and we hope to continue talking through the internets.

Tomorrow I will actually go into the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, and hopefully some of the Bazaars in the city. Then on to Athens.

Flickr (more coming soon):

Sunday, September 7, 2008

1.5 new songs: Icarus and Asheville

Recorded a little bit with Jon tonight. They're up at

Icarus is about a lot of things - mainly about moving from a straightforward, narrative structure to something a little more poetic, more meandering and a little darker, along with the risks involved. Stepping off the beaten path of the familiar leads to new kinds of beauty, but it carries with it an inherent wildness; the deeper and darker woods are often more intriguing than the trail, but it's easier to get lost.

Asheville is about nostalgia, and wishing things could stay. I'll finish it soon.