Images Outside the Pandemic Box

None of the following images are related except that I like them. At least, I don’t think they are related. Maybe the choice of the three makes them related. (Where’s a therapist—or philosopher—when you need one?) I’ve wanted to start a simple series here at TheStoryIsTheThing, called “3Photos.” The aim is to lay off the sprawling essays, the tangentialism, and attempts to be wise, but which may just be a bad case of P.A.W.S. (Pseudointellectualism At Work Syndrome).

Plus, for the first time in awhile, quarantine life and pandemic politics have landed me in a deep funk. I feel like I’m walking through molasses as I move through sheltering in place. Nothing seems worth doing.

When that happens, I need to make something simple.

So, then.

“3Photos | No. 1.”

How I Feel Today

“Screen Time.” | Hagerstown, Maryland, Dec. 2019 |

Crossing Maryland in December, on my my to New York City to see “American Utopia” and Before the World Changed, I stopped for a cappuccino in Hagerstown, Maryland. I espied this fellow. Actually, the first notice I took of him was his staring off into space. He had a thousand-yard-stare, contemplating who-knows-what.

I know that stare.

I quick-shot a couple photos of him and ran them through a photo-editing filter. Here he is below—either pondering his fate, blanking out, or trying to decide whether to get a muffin.

“Space: The Final Frontier.”| Hagerstown, Maryland, Dec. 2019 |

Be well, O Stranger. Be safe.

Swamp Creatures

I love this photo below of my older brother, David. I took it sometime in 2018-19, on a visit up WV Route to Hoeft Marsh, near the Ohio River, north of Huntington WV. It’s an untouched photograph, straight outa my smartphone (with thanks to Steve Jobs for the assist). My former newspaper colleague, Jim Ross, noted of the photo when I posted it to Instagram:
“I don’t know what you would do to improve this in editing. It looks to me like everything fell in place at the right moment — light, the guy, the sky, everything.” I wholeheartedly agree and add that sometimes even we amateur-squirrel photographers find a nut!

“Creature from the Blue Lagoon.” | Hoeft Marsh, West Virginia | 2018 |

Hoeft Marsh is a pretty special place along West Virginia Route 2, near the Ohio River. It’s part of the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area. The area was used by prehistoric Indians as long as 12,500 years ago when Paleo-Indians passed through the area in search of caribou and mastodon.

Any similarities to mastodons and the fellow at center stage in the photograph are completely incidental. He came up with the name I’ve christened the photo, by the way, when remarking upon it on Instagram. Christened with love. 😉

Below is a different take on Hoeft Marsh, a lovely work by the West Virginia artist Thad Settle, who often paints out there.

Hoeft Marsh by Thad Settle | View more of his work at

The Tree Considered as an Elephant

For the past year, I have been attending retreats at the Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Philadlephia, PA. It is a sweet and curious place—a tree-chocked Quaker redoubt in the midst of Philly’s bustle. And what trees!

Consider this fellow (do trees have gender? Could this be a grandma, instead of a grandpa?!)

“Elephant Beech.” | Pendle Hill, Philadelphia, Fall 2019 |

According to a placard near the tree, it is an American Beech—the oldest of its kind in Pennsylvania and more than 300 years old. That would mean it was a sapling as Jonathan Swift was writing “Gulliver’s Travels” in Ireland and a young tree around the time William Penn founded Philadelphia. 

Up close and in person, the tree resembles the girth and enormity of a mature elephant. That resemblance is even more explicit, I realize, seen from this vantage point below, with that branch at right lifted in the air like a trunk.

You could probably trace a history of the retreat center and community from the graffiti carved in the trees many trunks and branches. My brother, the mastodon shown above at Hoeft Marsh, is a well-informed former naturalist, who observed of the tree when I posted this shot to Instagram:

“Beech don’t normally branch into multiple trunks like that. It must have been lightning struck, wind broken or suffered other struggles during its long life. It is not only an old tree but a weather worn, tough, gnarly old thing.”

PS: Preparing this post, it came to me in a flash. Let’s, for the moment, say this tree is a girl. A very appropriate response, when first encountering this grandmother growth in the woods around Pendle Hill, would be my Italian Grandma Catherine’s exclamation:


“One Big Tree.” | Pendle Hill, Philadelphia, Fall 2019 |

PSS: I realize that’s more than 3Photos. But it IS three entries. So, there’s that. Subscribe to my free new newsletter for future entries.

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Anunrelated Relative says:

What do you mean that the photos are unrelated? Are you now denying being related to me!?

Douglas Imbrogno says:

That’s actually a pretty good joke.

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