Brighten the corner

red lilies in empty lot

These brilliant lilies are brightening their little corner of the world which happens to be in a former location of a family home, now an empty lot. The neighborhood, so far, has seen and gone past its best years. Someone forgot to tell the lilies.

Few of us can  find fault with urban beautification projects and organizations. In this day and time there is an abundant amount of urban acreage which can benefit from the noble efforts these people put forth. Since the prospective areas to benefit far outweigh available resources, we are grateful to our Maker for any help we can get.

I was reminded of that when I spotted these lilies in an empty lot in what I suppose one would call a “transitional” neighborhood. You know the type: a few homes, a few empty businesses, a few operating businesses, a partially filled strip shopping center, a couple of churches, and a Sears store turned public building — the neighbor hood can’t decide what it is.

ground spider in tunnel

Click on the picture and see more of Ms. Spider

Normally at this point in our Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind epistles, we invite you to take a look at a related subject on the current Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.

This week, the invitation stands, but the subject is totally unrelated. Well maybe a little, these are Spider Lilies. Go to the Photo of the Week page and check out my visit with a ground spider in her home. She was reluctant about the whole thing but finally acquiesced to an up close and personal shoot on her premises.

Back to the lilies

red lilies in abandoned lot

Take a gander at the lilies up close. These are complex boogers that bear close examination. Each flower is akin to a free standing arts and sciences gallery.

Mother Nature has her own program of beautification, manifested in surviving plants, which for whatever fortunate reasons, are not molested by surviving humans. These lilies are propagating and bursting forth with beauty where we need it most. The tour buses will miss ’em but us serfs who ply the less-traveled public streets can benefit if we will take the time to notice. And further, to alert your friends.

Brighten the corner where you are

As I looked at the lilies, I harkened back to my “up-brangin’.” Giving the flowers a good once-or-twice-over, I found myself humming the old hymn, “Brighten the corner where you are.” Being one to share, I looked around and found a video with old church scenes and Burl Ives singing the hymn in his fine Southern Gospel mode, chased by Willie Nelson singing the “Unclouded day.” You will tap your feet.


red lilies in an old home place

Here are the lilies with a bit more of their environment. Mother Nature’s perfect balance of complimentary colors (remember what those are?)

The lilies and I appreciate you dropping by. Now brothers and sisters, let us go forth and brighten the respective corners where we are.


Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


A cool country barn again

old barn in grant county arkansas

The basic structure of this old barn in Grant County, Arkansas is built from logs felled on the property. The builder’s granddaughter gave me the information.

On July 3, 2010, I stumbled across this old barn in Grant County, Arkansas. I hit the jackpot for wandering writer-photographers. The owners of the barn lived across the highway and were more than willing to let yours truly crawl through and around the barn.

After my exploration and shooting, they regaled me with historical details of the barn. It deserves a second look. Click here for the original post uploaded July 4, 2010. At the end of the story on the original post, you will find links to galleries which show additional inside and outside pictures of the barn.  Also, Click here for Corndancer dot com pictures  of the barn and the original story.


Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

They ain’t lilies

Water lily bloom and bud

This is not really a water lily. It is an American Lotus, with a scientific name of Nelumbo lutea. However, since I am a card-carrying denizen of L.A. (lower Arkansas), I am yielding to the lexicon of the land and will refer to the poesy as a “lilly.” You will see more of it.

Water lily bloom with a bug

Click on the flower to see and read more at Corndancer dot Com

The home waters for this water lily are at one of the busiest intersections in this neck of the woods. I’m hoping this post gets a lot of local heads nodding, “Yep, ah’ve seen them flares,” but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. The jury is still out.

Regardless of notice or scorn, the flowers are interesting. I shot all of the pictures for this story in three days. During those three days I noticed an accelerated life cycle. I shot the picture above on day one, not knowing then that I was at a starting point.

Before we go too much further, may I suggest that you go to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com and see more pictures and how this story started. We’ll wait here.

Water lilies

This is the same bud and same flower as the top picture in different light and a slightly different angle, a little less than 24 hours later. That’s a lot of life cycle in a short period of time. Notice the stem of the former bloom in the fold of the leaf. Scroll up for comparison

Overnight, the big bloom dropped its leaves and the bud bloomed. The dots at the top of what’s left of the big flower are seeds which comprise the next generation. The next step is below. The yellow pistil (I’m recalling biology 101A here, so forgive me if I have er, ah . . . misnomer-ed), will turn green, enlarge and disgorge its cargo of seeds for the next generation. Perhaps this is not terribly strange since enlarging is common among soon-to-bear-young creatures. All the while, the pod, nee pistil, is facing the sun. That changes too.

Enlarged water lily seed pod

A few days ago, this was a yellow pistil. Is it now a s “seed pod?” Who knows? It still has a drop of water clinging from an overnight thunderstorm.

In the final stage, the pod is empty, dried, turned brown, and returned to the “full upright position.” Once this happens, interior decorators cast their eyes on the spent pods to include in their collections of dried sticks and leaves. If you’ve ever wondered what those weird looking things were, now you know. American Lotus skeletons.

Water lily seed pod

The final stage. It’s mission accomplished, the plant will finally wither and drop into the pond with its ancestors. That is, unless an enterprising supplier to the interior decoration business harvests it first.

According to what I can find out, most of the plant is edible, particularly the tubers in the plant’s root system. The same source says that the plants were originally confined to the southeastern lower 48 and that as Indians migrated north, they brought the plants with them as a source of food.

Grasshopper on water lily

It is said that migrating Indians brought the lilies from the southeastern lower 48 and a source of food. This grasshopper looks convinced.

October 15, 2012 – See how the pond has changed

Since I see the pond at least twice daily, most of the time more than that, I can observe subtle changes which in aggregate a month later are not subtle, but dramatic. The lilies are gone. All of the giant leaves, save a scant few, have withered and turned brown. Most have fallen into the pond.

The ubiquitous yellow flowers of a southeast Arkansas fall have replaced the lilies at the edges of the pond. This afternoon, the pond was like a mirror and the mid-October afternoon sun bathed the pond in irresistible light. I captured three images to show what most people miss when driving past the pond.

Pond at I-530 and Hazel

You can see how close I-530 is the pond. Not much more than “rock-throwing” distance. The diagonal in the middle of the picture is the access road from the 1-530 / Hazel Street exchange.

Traffic sign reflecting in pond

This is the pond and sign reflection from the fence down. The colors of fall are developing, emphasized by the golden light of a setting sun. A few remaining lily leaves are on their last legs in the background along the fence.

truck from interstate highway reflecting in a pond

Since still photography does not record sound, I’ll have to fill you in. Despite the serene appearance, the pond is inundated with interstate highway noise, which is the price we pay for convenient transportation modes. This 18-wheeler reflected in the pond as it sped by. Finally got it timed right after about 40 shots.

Yellow wild flowers

A sure sign that fall and cool, crisp mornings are not far away.

While one plant is biting the big one, others, harbingers of coming fall, are peaking out. Here in LA, the roadways burst with yellow flowers in the waning weeks of summer.

rainbow at the end of a road

A few seconds later, the rainstorm obliterated the rainbow. This is the only shot.

Last week, a good friend called to advise me of a huge rainbow on the east side of our fair city. I beat a path to what I figured would be the best place to shoot it. The accompanying storm was crashing headlong to the same location. I arrived a few seconds before the storm and squeezed off one barely acceptable shot before the storm obliterated the rainbow. I am grateful for that one shot.

And I am grateful you dropped by.


Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Back to the Cossatot

Tommy Wingard in rapids on the Cossatot River

World-class kayaker Tommy Wingard negotiates Class-V rapids on the Cossatot River in western Arkansas after hurricane Gustav dumped a plethora of water on the river in September. 2008. Click on the picture to see our original 2008 post and pictures.

After our epistle on Isaac last week,  I recalled another encounter with the tailings of a gulf hurricane, to wit: Gustav in mid-September, 2008. After watching Gustav plod into Arkansas, I watched his progress on radar and noticed that he would dump a deluge on west central Arkansas. That portends well for the Cossatot River’s reputation for it’s Class-V stretch of rapids in periods of high water.

Jason Mellor in rapids in Cossatot River

Click the pic for the original Corndancer story.

This week we revisit that trip. I went in that direction hoping to encounter some canoeists or kayakers. Little did I  know that I would meet my friend, and super-photographer Chuck Haralson, who had made arrangements for three world-class kayakers to shoot the rapids for us. Few get to shoot athletes at this level, so I was very grateful.  Click here for our original post.

Talk about luck. Also be sure and check our our Corndancer Photo of the Week page for that trip.

Thanks for visiting Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind I hope I am not wearing you out on this story since I sent you there in January of this year, but still licking our wounds from Isaac, it seemed like a good recall.

A farewell to Isaac. Nearly.

fishing dock at saracen lake pine bluff arkansas

The last vestiges (I thought at the time) of tropical depression Isaac are leaving town. The angry clouds on the horizon are his. Shot from the fishing dock of Saracen Lake, our downtown impoundment in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Isaac fooled us. He came back for a curtain call later that night.

We finally got some rain here in LA (lower Arkansas). Seems like we have had domino-sequence dry spells for the last two summers. In 2012, we never quite overcame the rainfall deficit we experienced in 2011, adding insult to injury.

view of storm outside window link to corndancer

Click on the window for more of the story

It was so dry, the state was considering a water pistol buy-back scheme. Before we go too much further, check out the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com where this story started.

Then along comes Isaac inching his way from south Louisiana to the LA homeland. The original tracking put the “eye” just about over us. On the way, Isaac changed his mind and skewed west, a classic case of good news and bad news.

That put us on the east side of the donut, the roughest side of the storm. The counter-clockwise rotation of the storm sucks fresh moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dumps it inland, mainly on the east side of the storm rotation. The good news is, you are finally going to get some rain.

Rural road covered with water

Saturday afternoon, September 1, I headed out looking for aftereffects of Isaac. I did not find much that was notable except perhaps for Clint Henderson Road, north of Humphrey, Arkansas. There were several stretches where water covered the road, all of which I negotiated in the faithful pickup. The road section above was the longest, but not the deepest. This section was six to eight inches deep. The deepest section I’m estimating was right at axle deep.

The bad news is it’s coming to you three ways: hard, fast, and continuous. And in the process you are going to take a drubbing. Fortunately by the time Isaac crossed into LA, he was a tropical depression rather than a tropical storm or a hurricane. That’s little consolation to someone who has three inches of water in his den. On the bright side, he still has a den.

Saturday afternoon, I was laboring under the delusion that Isaac was gone for good. I was driving around looking for Isaac aftereffects and did not find many. I did notice that most of the afternoon was marked with a stiff easterly wind. That should have been a clue.

ripe corn in stiff breeze

There was a stiff breeze from the east most of Saturday afternoon, as evidenced by the horizontal leaves and bending stalks of this harvest-ready corn in a field east of Altheimer, Arkansas. The wind was a harbinger of things to come.

This old Grapette sign adorns the north side of the now unoccupied Leake building in what’s left of downtown Altheimer, Arkansas. The old sign has been on my list for a while and I figured today was the day. Grapette was about the best tasting “cole-drank” ever made in my humble opinion. It originated in Camden, Arkansas. For far too long after the brand fell on hard times, the drink was not available. In recent years, Wal-Mart bought the recipe and rights to the name and now sells it in their stores.

The Leake building in Altheimer, Arkansas

This is the Leake building upon which you will find the Grapette sign. The building dates back to 1917. The last business in the structure was Rusty’s Package Store. “Package Store” is a term widely used in LA and throughout Arkansas to soft peddle the term “liquor store” to the general public, some of which “don’t believe in likker.”  Rusty’s last package left the store a long time ago.

Later that night, Isaac did an encore — with us being on the tail end of a storm line reaching from LA to northern Illinois and Indiana. He dumped hail and rain and hit us with some strong winds. Isaac, one of Mother Nature’s children, had the last laugh. But then, Her family always does.

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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