Friday, July 31, 2009
Dry Falls, 1929 and 2009
But for today, here's an accidental then and now pairing. I visited the newly reopened Dry Falls access area on US 64 in the Cullasaja Gorge this week. After returning home, I happened upon a Masa photo of Dry Falls taken in 1929. Though one of my shots was taken from a higher vantage point, I'm not sure I could have recreated the exact view that Masa had. Given the abundant vegetation of the hillside facing the falls, this is probably as close as we'll get to matching the shot from eighty years ago.
An exhibition of George Masa photgraphs will open at Western Carolina University's Fine Arts Museum on Saturday, August 1, with an opening reception from 2:00 to 4:00. And if you've never seen the Paul Bonesteel documentary, The Mystery of George Masa, you've been missing something really special.
Back to Dry Falls - after a long, long closure, it is open again, with a new and improved parking lot. Also, a catwalk paralleling US 64 provides handicap access for a nice view of the falls (including the scene above). I was worried that they might have "messed up" the trail that leads down to and behind the falls. Certainly, it could have used some work, but if any significant repairs were made to that trail I couldn't tell. Not a problem, though. I'm just happy to get back to one of my favorite waterfalls in these parts.
Here's another Masa image and, appropriately enough, I'm not sure where it was taken. But the play of light is this photograph is striking.
Masa photo of Dry Falls courtesy of the Highlands Historical Society, Inc.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Patrick Dougherty Lecture, “Sculpture: Primitive Ways in an Accelerated World”
Saturday, August 1, 5 pm
A native of North Carolina, this sculptor with a worldwide following (http://www.stickwork.net/) will discuss nature and his monumental sapling constructions. Preview the artist's ideas for a custom-made outdoor sculpture planned for The Bascom in June 2010. Dougherty has built over 150 large-scale, site-specific works throughout the United States, Europe and Asia!
$10 / Free to members
I discovered the vision and artistry of Patrick Dougherty a couple of years ago, and posted the following on January 23, 2007:
A master of stickwork, Dougherty crafted the structures in New Harmony, Indiana using hornbeam trees.
New Harmony, one of the most memorable places I’ve ever visited, was a great utopian experiment TWICE, and some of that spirit lives on. A likely setting for Dougherty’s art. After its completion in 2003, Common Ground became a New Harmony landmark.
My affinity for trees as a material seems to come from a childhood spent wandering the forest around Southern Pines, North Carolina – a place with thick underbrush and many intersecting lines evident in the bare winter branches of trees. When I turned to sculpture as an adult, I was drawn to sticks as a plentiful and renewable resource. I realized that saplings have an inherent method of joining – that is, sticks entangle easily. This snagging property is the key to working material into a variety of large forms. -Patrick Dougherty, Sculptor
And from 2008, here's an artist profile of Patrick Doherty:
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Small Purple Fringed Orchid, Platanthera psycodes
It’s one thing to hear an English professor lecture on Robert Frost, and it’s something else to hear a biologist discussing the poet.
Recently, UNC botany professor Peter White spoke at the Highlands Biological Station. The title of his talk was “Turn the Poet Out-of-Doors: a Natural History of Robert Frost.”
His was a unique perspective on Frost. According to White, the poems reveal not merely a casual observer, but a dedicated student of the natural world. White identified a dozen poems that illustrate basic concepts of ecology and conservation that he teaches in his own college courses.
While growing up in New England, not far from Frost’s home, he became familiar with the poet’s works at a very young age. White’s mother would read poetry to her children and Peter was able to recite many of the poems by the age of five or six.
The poetry made such an impression that he was convinced a road on his grandfather’s farm was the famous “road not taken.”
For me, the best part of 2009 has been learning the wildflowers of the southern mountains. White’s lecture underscored what I have been discovering: the study of nature can encompass both science and poetry.
Some of the greatest challenges and rewards in my botanical quest have come from the search for native orchids. White shared a Robert Frost poem on one of the most beautiful wild orchids, the purple-fringed.
THE QUEST OF THE PURPLE-FRINGED
I felt the chill of the meadow underfoot,
But the sun overhead;
And snatches of verse and song of scenes like this
I sung or said.
I skirted the margin alders for miles and miles
In a sweeping line.
The day was the day by every flower that blooms,
But I saw no sign.
Yet further I went to be before the scythe,
For the grass was high;
Till I saw the path where the slender fox had come
And gone panting by.
Then at last and following him I found –
In the very hour
When the color flushed to the petals it must have been –
The far-sought flower.
There stood the purple spires with no breath of air
Nor headlong bee
To disturb their perfect poise the livelong day
‘Neath the alder tree.
I only knelt and putting the boughs aside
Looked, or at most
Counted them all to the buds in the copse’s depth
That were pale as a ghost.
Then I arose and silently wandered home,
And I for one
Said that the fall might come and whirl of leaves,
For summer was done.
White’s appearance in Highlands was part of the Zahner Conservation Lecture Series. This week’s program, scheduled for Thursday evening, July 30 at 7:00 looks like it will be another interesting talk. Heidi Altman, Georgia Southern University and Tom Belt, Western Carolina University will speak on “Cherokee Ways of Naming Places.”
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Once in our lives we ought to concentrate our minds upon the Remembered Earth. We ought to give ourselves up to a particular landscape in our experience, to look at it from as many angles as we can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. We ought to imagine that we touch it with our hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. We ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. We ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.
-N. Scott Momaday
The past is visible to those who have learned to see it. It is possible to break out of the present and move through time to view the world in a different way.
I’ve been doing plenty of time travel this week, thanks to the new book, Jackson County, by Nick Breedlove and Lynn Hotaling. This beautiful pictorial history includes a vast collection of photographs dating back to the 1800s, showing street scenes, churches, schools, and landscapes. In the blink of eye, you can travel to a Jackson County before the hydroelectric projects and a Jackson County before the arrival of automobiles.
The text of the book offers just enough background to give you an appreciation of the images, and the older scenes are matched with contemporary shots taken by Breedlove to reveal a "then and now" comparison.
Some of the places have changed very little. Some are gone completely. And others take a moment to recognize.
Take, for instance, this building…
Hoey Auditorium still stands at Western Carolina University, although with considerably less elbow room today.
And that’s one of the delights of this book. It allows you to see Jackson County in a different way. Every day, I pass by a nondescript parking lot on Main Street in Sylva. Little did I know that back in 1959 the lot contained a whole fleet of shiny new cars for sale – Oldsmobiles and Jeeps and Studebakers and Ramblers. Wow!
Lynn and Nick will have a book signing for the debut of Jackson County, this Monday, July 27 at 5:00 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore, East Jackson Street, Sylva.
Thanks and congratulations to the authors for their latest contributions to the cultural heritage of this area.
Jackson County, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/ or (888) 313-2665.
These Are the Days
- Van Morrison
These are the days of the endless summer
These are the days, the time is now
There is no past, there's only future
There's only here, there's only now
Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence
The fires of spring are kindling bright
Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory
Crying freedom in the night
These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one magician
Turned the water into wine
These are days of the endless dancing and the
Long walks on the summer night
These are the days of the true romancing
When I'm holding you oh, so tight
These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one great magician
Turned water into wine
These are the days now that we must savour
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
You've got to hold them in your heart.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Every weekend now, it happens. I'll be sitting down to breakfast, and then I hear the scream of the hawk. I want to see this bird and I want to photograph this bird. And so, camera in hand, I step outside and look to the sky. But the hawk sees me, I'm quite certain, and doesn't care to have its picture taken. So, the hawk adjusts its flight to put a tree between me and its gliding loops.
It is beautiful to watch, a hawk soaring on the morning thermals that rise up from this ridge.
Until I can get a better photo, this one will have to do.
William Butler Yeats
‘Call down the hawk from the air;
Let him be hooded or caged
Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
For larder and spit are bare,
The old cook enraged,
The scullion gone wild.’
‘I will not be clapped in a hood,
Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist,
Now I have learnt to be proud
Hovering over the wood
In the broken mist
Or tumbling cloud.’
‘What tumbling cloud did you cleave,
Yellow-eyed hawk of the mind,
Last evening? that I, who had sat
Dumbfounded before a knave,
Should give to my friend
A pretence of wit.’
Tomorrow morning, when I hear the scream of the hawk, I'll leave the camera on the shelf. Instead, I'll scream back at the hawk the words of this poem. Perhaps a dose of Yeats will bring that hawk around.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Mountain St. John's Wort - Hypericum graveolens - St. John's-wort family.
To make the most of limited time while hunting wildflowers, I'll often wait until I get home to consult the guide books for a proper identification. But relying on photos and memory alone has its drawbacks. One habit I need to adopt is to stop and smell the flowers while I have the opportunity. When I found the description of this plant in Wildflowers of the Smokies, I learned that these flowers "smell sweetly of butterscotch," and that graveolens means "heavy-scented" in Greek.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
~George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. ~ Agnes De Mille
Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. ~ William James
How can we know the dancer from the dance? ~ William Butler Yeats
To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak. ~ Hopi Indian Saying
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Lady In Red
-by Allie Wrubel and Mort Dixon (1935)
Say! Have you ever met the girl
Who’s the toast of the town?
A work of art without a question,
You’d better write her number down.
Oh! the lady in red, the fellows are crazy
For the lady in red.
She’s a bit gaudy, but laudy,
What a personality.
Oh! the lady in red, is fresh as a daisy
When the town is in bed.
Dancing and dining and shining
She is very proper.
She’s nothing more than a pal,
But oh me! and oh my! You’d never stop ‘er,
She’d be a dangerous gal,
If she should ever meet the right guy.
Oh! the lady in red, the fellows are crazy
For the lady in red.
Is she a study, oh! buddy
What a personality,
She’s got vitality.
Friday, July 17, 2009
But the other day, I did gain a new appreciation for a wetlands that I pass by everyday. It’s a fraction of an acre near the edge of the Cullowhee recreation park, and it is a beautiful place that is full of life.
I might have walked right past it, but I saw dozens of iridescent neon-blue matchsticks darting around above the still water and landing on the different aquatic plants that lined the pond.
As I continued to watch, I was intrigued with the many damselflies and dragonflies and other colorful fliers flitting around this little oasis. I have to plead ignorance when it comes to identifying them, but dragonflies and their relatives have always fascinated me, from the time that I was just a tyke on a fishing trip at Badin Lake.
Several pictures I snapped may be of the common bluetail damselfly, but don’t take my word for it. Even if I can’t call them by name, they put on a good show and make for a challenging photographic subject.
Years ago, Mickey Henson told me about this project. And a sign at the park explains how his company, Appalachian Environmental Services, designed and installed the stormwater wetlands to capture runoff from a big paved parking lot. What a great job they did!
Whenever I walk around the park, I think about the history of the place. For the better part of 10,000 years people have occupied the Cullowhee valley. The flat lands that were the site of corn fields for hundreds of years have finally given way to classroom buildings and apartment buildings and parking lots.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
- Jack Kerouac
Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.
- John Muir
This evening in the garden, I was disappointed by what I found, but not surprised.
The sparrows’ nest was empty.
Of course, the animals can do without my artificial judgments. I recognize that I am the interloper here. What I call my home encroaches on their home. If I actually strive to respect the great circle of life, then I have to see my own sentimentality for what it is. Indeed, why am I not happy for the black snake, or the crow, or whatever animal found the baby sparrows today?
Live as sibling to the beasts and flowers? I would like to think so. I wonder, though, how they perceive me. Is my presence in their world a minor disruption…a cause for alarm…a matter of curiosity? How can I relate to them without presumption, even if it appears to be a more benign form than the presumptions that have inflicted such injury on them?
"Oneness with the natural world" is an appealing idea. But sometimes, even when I am in the midst of it, nature seems to be on the other side of a great chasm surrounding me.
It would appear that the common conception of evolution is that of competing species running a sort of race through time on planet earth, all on the same running field, some dropping out, some flagging, some victoriously in front. If the background and foreground are reversed, and we look at it from the side of the 'conditions' and their creative possibilities, we can see these multitudes of interactions through hundreds of other eyes. We could say a food brings a form into existence.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—(there are millions of suns left;)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead,
nor feed on the spectres in books;
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me:
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them from yourself.
-Walt Whitman , Leaves of Grass
Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.
If one keeps loving faithfully what is really worth loving, and does not waste one's love on insignificant and unworthy and meaningless things, one will get more light by and by and grow stronger. Sometimes it is well to go into the world and converse with people, and at times one is obliged to do so, but he who would prefer to be quietly alone with his work, and who wants but very few friends, will go safest through the world and among people. And even in the most refined circles and with the best surroundings and circumstances, one must keep something of the original character of an anchorite, for other wise one has no root in oneself; one must never let the fire go out in one's soul, but keep it burning. And whoever chooses poverty for himself and loves it possesses a great treasure, and will always clearly hear the voice of his conscience; he who hears and obeys that voice, which is the best gift of God, finds at least a friend in it, and is never alone.
-Vincent van Gogh
You humans think that you are insignificant, while there is a great universe contained in you.
-Ali ibn Abi Talib, warrior, poet, and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad
Sometimes, I think my purpose on this hilltop hermitage is to embrace insignificance. Since I’m compelled to write about it, that must mean I have a ways to go. Today, I couldn’t help but be aware of the life and death all around me. I was grateful to witness it, and wondering just how I fit in. Denise Levertov’s words have stuck with me, where she says we have
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors
All day, I heard the hawks down at the end of the ridge. Why they were screaming, I just don’t know. Was this some noisy mating behavior? I watched them circle and glide and I tried to figure out what they were saying, but it was a mystery.
My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck, on my distant and day-long ramble;
They rise together—they slowly circle around.
I believe in those wing’d purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet, and the tufted crown, intentional;
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else;
And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me;
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.
I stopped where the bees were working the red poppies. But under the shade of the flowers, something was missing. The delicately sculpted mushrooms that sprung up yesterday were gone.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her, it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
between my hat and boots;
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good;
The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
Later this morning, I went to the garden to pull weeds. And in the grass near the okra, I saw a garden hose. Funny, though, I didn’t remember leaving a hose there.
Then I recognized it wasn’t a hose, but a black snake. As I stepped in for a closer look, the snake remained motionless.
I thought about the sparrows nesting in the beans. The babies were less than a week old, and this snake was only forty feet from the nest.
It wasn’t even noon yet and I faced a moral dilemma. Part of me said to stay out of it. Another part of me sided with the birds. I knew what to do, or what not to do, but my heart won out over my head. Finally overcoming my hesitation, I went to grab a bucket from the truck. This snake would do just fine someplace farther away from the garden. Or so I rationalized.
By the time I returned with the bucket, the snake was disappearing into a thicket of strawberry plants.
And all I could do was say a little prayer for the birds.
This evening, I dug a few hills of potatoes – white, red and gold - and left the shovel standing to mark the end of the row. I went to find a box for the potatoes when I saw one bird, and then another, swoop past overhead.
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied—not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.
So they show their relations to me, and I accept them;
They bring me tokens of myself—they evince them plainly in their possession.
By Paul Simon
There once was a teacher of great renown
Whose words were like tablets of stone
Because it’s easier to learn than unlearn
Because we’ve passed the point of no return
Gather your goods and follow me
Or you will surely die
I was only a child of the city
My parents were childen of immigrant stock
So we followed as followers go
Over a mountain with a napkin of snow
And ate the berries and roots
That grow along the timberline
Deeper and deeper the dreamer of love
Sleeps on a quilt of stars
Sometimes you can’t catch your breath
It’s so cold
Time and abundance thickened his step
So the teacher divided in two
One half ate the forest and fields
The other half sucked all the moisture from the clouds
And we, we were amazed at the power of his appetite
Deeper and deeper the dreamer of love
Sleeps on a quilt of stars
Sometimes we don’t know who we are
Sometimes force overpowers us and we cry
My teacher carry me home
Carry me home my teacher
Carry me home
Proserpine, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The verse that Denise Levertov borrowed for her poem, Beginners, was from a work by A. C. Swinburne (1837-1909).
I'm going to be lazy and lift a paragraph from Wikipedia:
Proserpine (sometimes spelt Proserpine, Prosperine or Prosperina) is an ancient Roman goddess whose story is the basis of a myth of Springtime. Her Greek goddess' equivalent is Persephone. The probable origin of her name comes from the Latin, "proserpere" or "to emerge," in respect to the growing of grain. Proserpina was subsumed by the cult of Libera, an ancient fertility goddess, wife of Liber and is also considered a life–death–rebirth deity. She was the daughter of Ceres, goddess of agriculture and crops and Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder.
The Garden of Proserpine
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Here, where the world is quiet;
Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds' and spent waves' riot
In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing
For reaping folk and sowing
For harvest-time and mowing,
A sleepy world of streams.
I am tired of tears and laughter,
And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.
Here life has death for neighbor,
And far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labor,
Weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither
They wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither,
And no such things grow here.
No growth of moor or coppice,
No heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies,
Green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes,
Where no leaf blooms or blushes
Save this whereout she crushes
For dead men deadly wine.
Pale, without name or number,
In fruitless fields of corn,
They bow themselves and slumber
All night till light is born;
And like a soul belated,
In hell and heaven unmated,
By cloud and mist abated
Comes out of darkness morn.
Though one were strong as seven,
He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
In the end it is not well.
Pale, beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with calm leaves she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love's who fears to greet her,
To men that mix and meet her
From many times and lands.
She waits for each and other,
She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
And flowers are put to scorn.
There go the loves that wither,
The old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither,
And all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken,
Blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken,
Red strays of ruined springs.
We are not sure of sorrow;
And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man's lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure.
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.
I agree that poetry is meant to be heard and not just read, so John Gielgud has graciously agreed to help with that:
And from the 11th Edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911)
PROSERPINE (Proserpina), the Latin form of Persephone,' a Greek goddess, daughter of Zeus and the earth-goddess Demeter. In Greek mythology Demeter and Proserpine were closely associated, being known together as the two goddesses, the venerable or august goddesses, sometimes as the great goddesses. Proserpine herself was commonly known as the daughter (Core), sometimes as the first-born.
As she was gathering flowers with her playmates in a meadow, the earth opened and Pluto, god of the dead, appeared and carried her off to be his queen in the world below. This legend was localized in various places, as at Eleusis, Lerna, and "that fair field of Enna" in Sicily. Torch in hand, her sorrowing mother sought her through the wide world, and finding her not she forbade the earth to put forth its increase.
So all that year not a blade of corn grew on the earth, and men would have died of hunger if Zeus had not persuaded Pluto to let Proserpine go. But before he let her go Pluto made her eat the seed of a pomegranate, and thus she could not stay away from him for ever.
So it was arranged that she should spend two-thirds (according to later authors, one-half) of every year with her mother and the heavenly gods, and should pass the rest of the year with Pluto beneath the earth. There can be little doubt that this is a mythological expression for the growth of vegetation in spring and its disappearance in autumn. According to Theopompus there was a Western people who actually called the spring Proserpine.
As wife of Pluto, she sent spectres, ruled the ghosts, and carried into effect the curses of men. The lake of Avernus, as an entrance to the infernal regions, was sacred to her. From the head of a dying person Proserpine was supposed to cut a lock of hair which had been kept sacred and unshorn through life.
She was sometimes identified with Hecate. On the other hand in her character of goddess of the spring she was honoured with flower-festivals in Sicily and at Hipponium in Italy. Sicily was a favourite haunt of the two. Some, however, regard Proserpina as a native Latin form, not borrowed from the Greek, and connected with proserpere, meaning the goddess who aided the germination of the seed.
Friday, July 10, 2009
by Denise Levertov
Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla
“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—“
But we have only begun
To love the earth.
We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
-Henry David Thoreau
While gathering a mess of beans back on June 27, I discovered a sparrow's nest cradling four tiny eggs.
Ever since, I've kept a watch over that nest whenever I was in the garden. Today, I had a feeling that the time had come for the eggs to hatch. In fact, after starting out to the garden this evening, I returned to the house for my camera...
...just in case.
As I approached the bean patch, the sparrow flitted away as it always does. But glancing at the nest, I could see movement.
The baby birds had hatched today.
Monday, July 6, 2009
MUD WRESTLE MANIA!
When it comes to episodes of over-zealous lawyering, this story has to rank right up there with the best…or the worst…depending on how you look at it.
Attorney Gregg Trautmann is representing Legasus of North Carolina (East Fork Investment Group, LLC and High Grove Development, LLC) in their lawsuit against the lender Kennedy Funding, Inc. (KFI).
Trautmann has represented numerous plaintiffs in suits filed against KFI, and while working such a case two years ago, Trautmann got more than he bargained for from the lawyers defending KFI.
Trautmann’s adversaries came up with a brilliant strategy – exploring whether or not Kennedy Funding could purchase Trautmann’s personal mortgages. Henry Gottlieb reported on the incident in the July 6, 2007 edition of the New Jersey Law Journal:
When Hackensack, N.J.'s Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard admitted that an attempt to meddle in an opposing lawyer's finances was a terrible mistake, it apologized to the target and offered a package of self-sanctions to appease the angry judge.
It withdrew from the case and three companion matters. It said the offending lawyers would be sent to ethics classes. It pledged to reimburse the targeted opponent for fees and expenses.
But the judge isn't ready to say the firm did enough.
During a hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Harold Ackerman reserved decision on sanctions. He said he would refer the matter to the state Office of Attorney Ethics. And without saying what struck him as criminal behavior, he said he would send the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The firm had admitted days earlier that an associate -- with two partners' knowledge -- asked a bank representative whether a client, Kennedy Funding Inc. of Hackensack, could purchase the personal mortgages of the attorney suing Kennedy Funding in four federal fraud cases.
Such a purchase would have made Kennedy Funding, a commercial lender, the holder of the home and office mortgages of adversary Gregg Trautmann, who has a firm in Rockaway, N.J.
A bank lawyer alerted Trautmann, who complained to Ackerman, the judge in one of the Kennedy Funding cases, Royale Luau Resort v. Kennedy Funding Inc., Civil No. 07-1342. Trautmann represents borrowers who claim they were charged exorbitant and unwarranted fees.
Berated by Ackerman at a June 28 hearing for what appeared to be a "back alley" tactic, Cole Schotz admitted that the inquiry to the bank was improper and said the firm was dropping out of Kennedy Funding cases in which Trautmann was the adversary.
As you might expect, the folks at Kennedy Funding denied any prior knowledge of their counsel’s attempt to pressure Trautmann:
If the U.S. Attorney's Office does look into the matter, investigators will find that the company did no wrong, Kennedy Funding President Jeffrey Wolfer suggests.
"We knew nothing about it, and if anybody investigated they would find that out," Wolfer says. "We're very disappointed in what transpired and they are no longer representing us in these cases because of that."
"I'm not happy with what has gone on here and I am very bothered," he says. "This is not the kind of company we are."
For the entire story from the New Jersey Law Journal:
And here is the transcript from the court:
And for the complaint filed by Gregg Trautmann on behalf of Legasus in their current lawsuit against Kennedy Funding:
And, coming soon...
HIGH ANXIETY IN CALIFORNIA
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The lawsuits stem from loans that KFI made to the Legasus shell companies East Fork Investment Group, LLC and High Grove Development, LLC.
In a complaint filed with the United States District Court in New Jersey in March of this year, Legasus leveled numerous allegations against KFI and/or its principals:
- Violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act
- Unjust Enrichment
- Breach of Contract
- Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
- Common Law Fraud
- Violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Statute
- Illusory Contract
- Void Option Contract
- Unconscionable Contract
- Fraud in the Inducement
In their answers to the complaints, KFI denied the allegations made by Legasus.
The judge in the case scheduled a settlement conference for this past Tuesday, June 30 at 2:00 between KFI, Legasus and several other plaintiffs who had filed similar lawsuits against the lender.
There’s no word yet on whether a settlement was reached during this week’s conference.
After the closing on the Legasus loans in April 2008, KFI issued a press release which read in part:
Legasus developers Robert A. Corliss and Theodore C. Morlok needed a major loan to build the Tuckasegee neighborhood of River Rock, a community in Cashiers, NC, along the Highland-Cashiers Plateau. As a longtime permanent or vacation home destination for affluent buyers, this area holds promise for success despite the oft-reported housing market downturn. With wooded hiking trails, a planned entertainment and fitness complex, and accoutrements consistent with high-country living, Tuckasegee will present buyers with scenic settings and desirable lifestyle elements. The $20.5 million loan will pay off existing debt and fund improvements including new roads, footbridges, an entrance feature, utilities, community lodge design, and construction startup for Phase I. The builders offered 677 acres of appropriately zoned land for collateral.
The same team is putting together High Grove Estates on more than 500 acres along mountain ridges in Whittier, 40 miles northwest of River Rock. Thirteen of the 91 lots already have buyers, leaving the remaining 78 lots as collateral. Additional acreage will eventually hold 85 single-family lots. The builders also own an existing 12,000 sq. ft. lodge and cottage and an industrial building along the nearby highway. Corliss and Morlok needed $9.54 million without a long waiting period to refinance present debt and to renovate a community center, complete an overlook pavilion with spectacular views, and finish the entire property's roads and bridges.
The Legasus loans demonstrate Kennedy's acumen and willingness for funding based on raw land collateral, virtually shunned by other lenders, while recognizing property potential for solid development and financial appreciation.
At the time, KFI was already embroiled in legal battles with some borrowers and potential borrowers, as reported by the Wall Street Journal on July 1, 2008:
Kennedy Funding is named as a defendant in nine civil lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey. The lawsuits allege the company engaged in an "advance fee" scheme by charging clients upfront "commitment" fees of as much as 3% of the loan amount, but then did not deliver commercial real-estate funding.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Gregg Trautmann, says his clients paid a total of $3.6 million in fees without receiving loans.
In December, Kennedy was ordered by a federal-court judge in New Jersey in a separate case to return fees of $260,000 to Omni Credit Alliance Inc., an Atlanta lender that said it applied to Kennedy for $25 million in funding for a boxing tournament but never received the loan. In his opinion, Judge Peter Sheridan wrote that Kennedy "did not take any reasonable steps to close the loan." Kennedy is appealing the Omni decision.
On its Web site, Kennedy says that it is "able to make multimillion dollar loans in a matter of days." Matt Cole, a senior vice president at Kennedy, says the firm has been in business for 20 years and has completed many loans. He said business is up lately "due to the lack of liquidity in the credit markets."
More to come…
To read the complaint filed by Legasus, go to: