Luminous skies, mucky alleys & chiaroscuro evenings

text & photos by douglas john imbrogno | march23.2024

“Sometimes from my doorway on a still night I become aware that the silence is set in a velvet background like a jewel in a display case, a hushing that, when attended to, becomes ineluctable.”

~ TIM ROBINSON, from “CONNEMARA: Listening to the Wind”

‘NIGHT SHADES’ | Barboursville City Park, Barboursville, W.Va. | photo | march2024 | CLICK TO ENLARGE

NOTATIONS: I had thought ‘ineluctable‘ meant something along the lines of ‘indescribable.’ I double-checked its meaning on my trusty Oxford English Dictionary app and learned something. It actually means: ‘Unable to be resisted or avoided: ‘The ineluctable facts of history …” Also, I cannot recommend highly enough Tim Robinson’s ineluctable books on Connemara, a masterpiece of teasing out the history, old stories, geography, and wonderment of one’s niche in the world with a keen eye and wide-open soul.

“Come with me into the woods where spring is
advancing, as it does, no matter what,
not being singular or particular, but one
of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.”

~ MARY OLIVER, “Dog Songs: Poems”


NOTATIONS: I was recently confined to a hospital bed for a day and a sleepless night after some minor surgery. Tubes hitched me to a clicking machine to my right. Wires constrained me to a beeping monitor to my left, while a valve dripped excess fluids over the bedside. As far as hospital visits go, it was hardly un-endurable, if uncomfortable. I enjoyed attentive, often cheerful staff, plus, a quiet room at the end of a hall with dusky sunlight and trees out the window. (May Medicare live long!). When I wished to whine, I could not help but visualize the war-zone hospitals of Gaza, and a desperate someone in dire pain and in need of attentive staff, compassion, and clicking monitors, yet finding only wreckage and violence. This is no op-ed, just what came while lying there. Sprung free, unhooked, and upright again, the next day’s cool Spring sunlight and banks of amber daffodils reminded me to closely observe all my moment-to-moment blessings. Count them. And, then, to re-enter the fray. (And along the way, donate to front-line helpers like Jose Andres’ World Central Relief Kitchen in Gaza.)

“I am here because I am here and not somewhere else… I have found no serious reason for wanting to be elsewhere, though I might like to be elsewhere at times. The fact remains that elsewhere is not where I am, or where I am likely to be … The point is that it does not much matter where you are, as long as you can be at peace about it and live your life. The place certainly will not live my life for me, I have found that out. I have to live it for myself.”


‘SOLO SUN’ | Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam, Mason County, W.Va. | february2022 | | CLICK TO ENLARGE

NOTATIONS: Given the thuggish, barbarian politics that currently dominate in the claustrophobic, Trumpublican supermajority legislature of West Virginia, you outside-the-staters who enjoy more progressive political soil might justifiably ask those of us who have rooted our homesteads in the Mountain State: ‘Why live there?’ Among several reasons, here is a large one aside from the many lovely people and dear friends here. Because from my front porch, I can point myself north, south, east and/or west and within a 10 to 20-minute drive stand in the deepest of woods. And, there, be solitary and alone with not another human soul in whiffy distance for hours and sometimes for miles.

“We possess art lest we perish of the truth.””

~ Nietzche

‘ALLEY MAN’ | | Urban Appalachia Photo Bureau of | march2024 | CLICK TO ENLARGE

NOTATIONS: On the other hand, sometimes you’ll find me up an alley. The town that first brought me to the state as a bear-cub reporter — Huntington, W.Va. — is full of criss-crossing alleys, which reveal a city’s converse, un-pretty face. Its plumbing and piping; overfull trash bins; chatty, ‘I-am-here!‘ spray-paint graffiti; cigarette-break stations; and business back-doors, so different from the natty, front-door Main Street-facing world. Plus, it’s how you cut from here to there faster, if you don’t mind the muck and maybe the smells, and with fewer people, blessedly, to have to put on a public face along your way.

I want a form that’s large enough to swim in,

And talk on any subject that I choose,

From natural scenery to men and women,

Myself, the arts, the European news:

And since she’s on a holiday, my Muse

Is out to please, find everything delightful

And only now and then be mildly spiteful.

~ W.H. Auden from “Letter to Lord Byron”


NOTATIONS: 1) I am always surprised by the low-cost, useful things I did not know I needed after cruising the crowded aisles of a Dollar General. 2) Life is better with sweet cats on the premises. 3) I have spent my life within earshot — and, these days, eye-shot — of trains and their lonesome dinosaur whistles. Since I amble so often through the train-bisected local park system, I now get even closer to their passage from here to there, before they’re gone to elsewhere. Lying a-bed at night as a boy, in the last housing development before the woods well north of Cincinnati, I would track the regular train that pierced our valley, doppler-shifting off into silence. Wondering where it was headed and what was on the opposite end of its journey? I took that train. Let me tell you about the other side. Stay tuned for that coming-up story by free-subscribing to this journal here or clicking the typewriter below.

Peace outwards.

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