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One thing I really, really enjoy about being a teacher is the fact that there is a definitive beginning and ending to the year. It’s a profession that lends itself to renewal, yet each year also has its rituals and routines.

For this week’s PhotoWednesday, I have chosen pictures that represent each season of my 2010-11 school year.

For fall, I have a photo of freshmen rowers tossing their coxswain in the river after winning their first race in October. It’s a tradition for gold medal boats to send their coxswain for a swim, but I have to say, these guys did an especially good job with the launching.

Winter 2011 brought the greatest spate of snow days this Southern school has ever seen. Lacking sleds, the boys improvised with kayaks.

For spring, a photo that one of my students took with his cell phone. Since March, this little sparrow (I think it’s a sparrow) has been visiting the windowsill of my classroom. It’s always an event when he shows up – lots of clamoring to get pictures of him. We named him Pedro.  At this point in the year, Pedro reminds us of how close our freedom really is. Agonizingly close. Pedro, why must you taunt us??

Gold medal coxswain toss. Tennessee River. October 2010

Kayaking down three flights of stairs.

Ask not for whom the sparrow sings. Pedro sings for thee.

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Last night was Poetry Night at the school where I teach. As soon as I get their permission, I will post a couple student pieces on the blog. Until then, it’s on with our regularly scheduled PhotoWednesday. (Actually, more like a Photo Essay Wednesday Night. Variety is good)

I have gone through many, many stages in my life when I was inordinately influenced by books. Shortly after college, I read the entire collected works of Norman Maclean, and nothing would do but that I move to Montana, which I did in early 2002.

After I’d lived there for a while, I decided I needed a dog to accompany me on my adventures. I was reading many books about the South at the time, being perhaps a little homesick. (wow, we’re just never satisfied, are we?) After reading about the Smooth Fox Terrier hero of Willie Morris’ My Dog Skip, I decided that was the breed I needed – intelligent, sturdy, lively, and portable. I did more research and looked at many other breeds, but the SFT is what I kept coming back to.

And so, on Tax Day 2003, I left work early and took the drive from Kalispell to Missoula to fetch my new fox terrier.  I remember calling my sister as I zipped through Polson and on past the Mission Range (Hey, guess what? I’m on my way to Missoula to get a puppy!)  I remember pulling off at the Cracker Barrel just outside town and seeing the couple who’d collected my puppy from the breeder via a dog show in Sacramento (long story).  The woman was walking three dogs who trotted calmly and did their business. The man was attached to one small, white dog running frantically to the end of its retractable leash, flipping itself over backwards, hopping forward on two legs, and repeating the process. “Oh lord,”  I thought, “I hope that one’s not mine.”

But it was, of course.

Once we made it back to Kalispell, I remember sitting on the floor, trying to keep the puppy from eating all the Gore-tex and synthetic fiber in the house while my housemate read place names from Glacier National Park off the map on the wall.  But I didn’t want a dog named Camas, or Avalanche, or Huckleberry.  The dog was black and white, so I decided to name him Winston after my favorite black-and-white photographer, O. Winston Link.

This morning, almost exactly eight years after the drive to fetch the puppy, Winston is under the covers on my bed. He climbs up there every day to luxuriate in the warm spot left when I wake up to get ready for work.  His other daily pleasures include tennis ball fetching and eating scrambled eggs. And, as I’d hoped, he loves the woods and is a wonderful hiking companion.

We’re celebrating Southern Literature in Chattanooga this week, and I thought it was as good a time as any to thank the late Willie Morris for writing about Skip and inspiring me to find a Skip of my own.

Here, I give you three  of my favorite shots of the Winstigator –

his silent suffering pierces the very soul

in the Great Snow of 2011

don't let the energetic persona fool you; he'd really rather be on the couch.

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I don’t mind winter much. However, I do have to say I’m not a huge fan of March – the month that can’t make up it’s freakin’ mind. Two weekends ago, I was wearing shorts and sandals, sitting in some clover by a playground. Last weekend, I walked my dog in wet, blowing snow. But, like I said, winter itself isn’t so bad when it’s all in.  I like the bare trees, the sunsets, the way the skeletons of the mountains are exposed.  I like baking bread and reading and watching TV on DVD without feeling like I need to be outside.

So, before it leaves us altogether, let us pause for a couple looks at the winter that was. Both of these shots were taken from the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga.

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I will return tomorrow with updates about my Nashville readings, but I was just reading the Times Free Press and this article caught my eye. It seems that this is destined to be a week where I get to learn about young people doing some pretty cool things because of the vision and dedication of a small group of people. This photography camp seems like a great idea and a lovely testament to the real world power of art education. I wish I’d known about it sooner.

Chattanoogans, note that the Girls Inc. campers will be displaying their photos from the week at an exhibition tomorrow (Friday) at 5 p.m. at First Lutheran Church on McCallie Ave.  I will be unable to make it myself, but I hope some of you can go.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that line in the article about the the girls sharing cameras. Hmm, I’m pretty willing to do my part to rectify that situation. I wonder how many they might need to have one child to a camera?

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I am not any sort of photographer, but I do enjoy taking pictures.  I have found that carrying my little point-and-shoot helps me to be an observer. I frequently focus my shots on, well, not so much “architecture” as physical space, and when I’m walking around on any given day, I find myself thinking about how we move in space and what we build there.

This is all a long way of saying that I hope to have a weekly photo posting on this blog which will focus on what we build or how we use it (lots of latitude for interpretation there).  For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting shots from my book travels.  Today, I give you two (two! it’s your lucky hump day!) of the Adams Morgan Metro station.  I took these  late at night on Feb. 5 – the last day of AWP.  I’d been in the station twice every day during the conference and thought it was rather bleak, but the wine good humor of the WVU MFA 10th Anniversary gathering, caused me to see the Metro in a different way.

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