Crows

Crows on power line Dade County GA 7/11/2004 photo by Roy Burke

Crows were one of Doc’s favorite creatures. They are one of the easiest birds to watch because they live almost everywhere, from downtown to the forest and most places in between. Their raucous calls(crows) to one another always seem to be delivered with the spirit of the back-row heckler or inveterate smart ass. A regular funny highlight of our back roads runs was the sight of  a diligent crow or two(or three) patiently hopping out of the state route right of way as the cars passed, then heading right back for some tasty roadkill. “Must be something good there, Rob.” “I think so, Doc. Good as the Golden Corral to a crow.” At one point Doc purchased and learned to use a PS Olt crow call. I admired it so much that he bought one for me as a Christmas gift one year. But you have to be pretty savvy to try to call up/fool a crow. They are legendarily smart, shown able at various points to remember people, give gifts, and use tools. Your best bet is to lean flat against a large tree trunk and act inconspicuous as you blow the call. Most of the time the crow will spot you and call you out for the piss-poor crow imitator you are. Every now and then you can fool them into returning a companionable call, beginning an authentic crow call and response, but not often. Corvus brachyrhynchos is no fool.

Strangely enough in Doctor Flowers’ photo archives there aren’t too many pictures of crows. The one above is the only one on hand, although he kept a dozen or more archival pictures of crows from other photographers. Now-days when I spy a crow I think fondly of my friend and usually start up a conversation with the crow, an animal spirit stand-in for Doctor Flowers. “How’s it going today, Doc?” The crows seem to cut me some slack, not thinking me crazy. I’d like to think if there is a heaven, it is much like that Dade County, Georgia transmission tower shown above, my best friends and loved ones gathered on the cross beams, cackling and crowing to each other, no more care for the world below.

Stone Mountain Lake January 3, 2009

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Stone Mountain Lake January 3, 2009 photo by Roy Burke

Stone Mountain Park was Roy’s refuge, relief, workout facility and subject for much of the final 30 years of his life. It was a woodland buffer from the grind of urban life, all the fine particulate matter in the air and the bureaucrats downtown. Those of us who knew him would give anything for another of those walks together through Stone Mountain Park on a breezy day. Post full-time retirement he walked there every day that he could, taking pictures in all seasons and all weather. His second blog Stone Mountain Meanderings is worth your time if you didn’t catch it first time around. This photograph of Stone Mountain Lake at the beginning of 2009 evokes Monet and his water lilies in its painterliness. They were both old men with beards who were familiar with their subject matter, and the brief moments in an average day when nature and weather combine to focus the eye, the hand on the canvas, the camera’s lens.

Bell Wringer: A Humbug’s Christmas

Stone Mountain Park, 2013 photo by Roy Burke

Stone Mountain Park, 2013 photo by Roy Burke

Doc loved Christmas in his own way. In 1988, to celebrate his move into his new home and new way of life in Stone Mountain,  he created one of his greatest cassette mix-tapes Bell Wringer:A Humbug’s Christmas(tape #319 in the archive).  You can see his original playlist below. This  Maxell UDXL 90  minutes-worth of his lavishly curated collection of Christmas music runs the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the canon to Scrooge McDuck.  Clarence Carter’s Back Door Santa? Natch. Harvard Glee Club? Of course. He gave me a copy for Christmas that year, and for the quarter century or so afterwards we regularly set aside a holiday season opportunity to listen to it together at his Stone Mountain home, lights strung across the INSIDE of the house, an obscure college football bowl game soundlessly providing our ‘fireside’ holiday glow as we soaked in the music, sipped some liquor, and talked and laughed about the world at the end of another year.

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Windows And Doors, Murphy NC, October 2003

Reflection Portrait In Window, Murphy NC 10/12/2003

Reflection Portrait In Window, Murphy NC 10/12/2003

Roy loved small town photo walks, and made dozens of them over the years. He always looked for windows and doors, the more weather-beaten and unrenovated the better. I accompanied him on many of these walks, rambling the back alleys and main streets in search of a perfect combination of light, vernacular architecture and setting that worked for him. This photo, taken on a cool, misty October morning 13 years ago in Murphy, North Carolina(Clay County), includes a reflective portrait of the two of us. Roy created a monochrome version of a different shot from this same photo walk for his Doctor HP Flowers blog in a post called Epistemological Indifference.

Doctor Flowers Redux Aborning

Roy Burke a.k.a. Doctor HP Flowers, was a friend, polymath, a poet, musicologist, photographer, and scientist. He was a teacher to everyone he met. His insatiable desire to study everything from wildflowers to country roads to Lightnin’ Hopkins and fluid dynamics was reflected in nearly 50 years of professional and ‘amateur’ work. In the last years of his life from 2010-2015, Doc published first Doctor HP Flowers and then Stone Mountain Meanderings on WordPress as a way to express himself and amuse his friends. I encourage you to visit those sites to feel the full 100 proof buzz. Doctor Flowers Redux is an attempt to post additional Roy Burke photos, musicology, and writings by him and about him in an effort to keep alive his inspiring mind for those who knew him and some who might find his work for the first time.

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Roy Burke, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area-East Palisades Trail