Is This Home?

On a recent blue-skied and windy day, I walked the Orange Avenue pier in Fairhope.

The sun was hanging low in the winter sky and a large pine tree shadowed me as I stepped on the boardwalk. Mobile Bay was choppy, frothy, and brown.

“This is not home,” I said to myself as I started walking down the pier toward the covered area. The place seemed unfamiliar, though I come here often.

Standing under the metal-roofed shelter, I looked down at the open deck below. Two boards had popped off their nails. The water had not risen high enough to float them away, but they rested perpendicular to the steadfast boards.

There was no one around so I sat on the railing above the built in seats and wrote down a few observations in my journal. It was a clear day, Mobile and Theodore were visible and in focus.

My eyes, sheltered by sunglasses, teared up as I stared into the west wind.

Not feeling inspired by anything in particular, I decided to leave.

The wind ceased about halfway up the pier. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. Looking landward, I caught sight of a hawk-like bird just above the tree line. He dropped into the foliage of a live oak and I lost sight of it.

I kept looking. He landed in a pine, closer to the water. I watched him.

Osprey were plentiful around Waquoit Bay in East Falmouth, Massachusetts too. I find it fitting that I’ve lived close to two WBNERRs, the Waquoit Bay and Weeks Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserves.  I have admired the osprey’s strength, beauty, and fierceness in a northeasterly wind in Waquoit Bay, from the beaches of Nantucket Sound, while in a raft in the Gulf of Mexico as an extra in a Nic Cage movie, and now on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.

The osprey unfolded it’s wings and leapt into the wind.

It hung in the air to my right, searching the muddy brown bay for life. With a tip of his wing and a wave of his tail, he came closer and lower, flying 20 feet in front of me, my back to the bay. He hung there without effort, scanning the brackish bay for his late afternoon meal. He coasted above the shoreline in front of or just above the tree line of Magnolia Beach park.

As I watched him, he seemed still, motionless, only the unseen air moving around him. It was as if he were hanging from a fishing line, and not under any of the Earth’s gravitational, physical, or natural rules. Surreal.

I don’t know how long I had been watching when we sized each other up by making eye contact. I became lost in this experience, as if the only two things in the world were me and this osprey. A few seconds became suspended in the engagement of two living things.

Time does not stop for man or osprey, but the beats of my life rested in the mesmerizing feathers of that osprey.




Next Door to the Dead


Yesterday was Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), a time, especially in Mexico, for people to gather at cemeteries and pray for their deceased loved ones. As the leaves drift off the trees and the acorns pop on rooftops, I often, for reflection and remembrance, read and write poetry this time of year. The day made me think about Next Door to the Dead, a book of poetry by Kathleen Driskell. A Poetry Foundation national bestseller, Driskell lives in a former country church with her family just outside Louisville, Kentucky. Next door is an old graveyard that she was told had ceased burials when she bought the historic church. In this keenly observed and contemplative new collection, this turns out not to be the case as Driskell’s fascination with the “neighbors” brings the burial ground back to life, both literally and figuratively.

Driskell is the associate program director and poetry faculty member of Spalding University’s writing program, and is where I received my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction. While a student, I was fortunate to hear many great authors and upcoming writers read their works. It seems to me that hearing the spoken words of the writer, just as you read them on the page, and I immediately had an appreciation for Driskell’s writing and voice.

While reading the poems in Next Door to the Dead, I heard Driskell’s voice, not her actual voice like an audio recording, but  rather, the memory of her voice from her readings.

Of course her poetry is much more than a remembered voice, it is personified, humorous, organic, and moody. Her poems articulate the cemetery much like creative nonfiction grounds you in place. The details taken from history, or from observations from a kitchen window, or during a walk, convey the author’s authenticity of her surroundings.

“Epitaph” the grave of Colonel Harlan Sanders is her only nod to celebrity.Now that Norm McDonald is satirizing Sanders, this poem seems more relevant as seems to both question and acknowledge Sanders as less than an original recipe of a man.

Her ability to be in nature and observe the organic role of death, is why “Crow” stands out to me, as it will to many readers. In “Tchaenhotep,” Driskell’s verse personifies an Egyptian mummy on display for decades at a local museum. “Epitaph, for the man with no last name” is the story of how man meets his grave, what relics rest with him, and why some things were left out. “Not Done Yet” is a story of a dog, a fly, a flea, and the “biting sorrow” that surrounds all three.


Driskell’s poems are richly detailed, humorous, mournful, loving, and sometimes whimsical, all difficult feats given her subject. While most people avoid thinking about death, Driskell’s poems are thought-provoking. The book is not about loss, or mourning, it is about place, not just our physical place, but where our souls feel full. Her poems dance around our mortality but they never devolve into darkness. While many went to the cemetery to remember and honor the deceased on Dia de Muertos, Driskell, with a poet’s sensibility, “visits” the cemetery next door to celebrate the vivid human, animal, and botanical life that surrounds us.

Order your copy of Next Door to the Dead from your local bookstore or from the links below.


Barnes and Noble

What’s your Halloween Costume?

Josh Sundquist is a cancer survivor, paralympic skier, motivational speaker and author. At Halloween, he’s always entertaining. This year he brings a classic amputee joke to life. Click on the photograph or the link at the bottom to watch “Making of IHOP,”  Josh’s short video about this year’s costume.

Josh Sundquist’s 2015 Halloween Costume

His Amputee Rap is great too!

Rhapsodizing Librarians

Shoalhaven Libraries

After such a serious post about osseointegration, I needed to lighten things up and find a way to thank my followers.  So get comfortable, click on the link below, and enjoy the YouTube music video from the Shoalhaven Library staff.

Librarian Rhapsody

Blogging While Building a Home and Going Back to School

Stump the Librarian is branching out. This space has always been geared toward my creative writing, my work at Fairhope Public Library, and the amputees that populate my literal and figurative world. Fear not followers, Stump the Librarian will continue with two posts each month about books, movies, libraries and amputees. I’ve added “Question” and “Answer” pages to extend an olive branch to “Stump the Librarian” Google searchers. Stump the Librarian is a universal search term, so if you land on my site for that reason, great! I’ve got some questions for you and I encourage you to browse around and read more, especially if you are an amputee or a librarian.cropped-dscn1098.jpg

Building a Home Downtown Fairhope

Our builder, Delia Pierce of Lemongrass Custom Homes, has over a decade of experience and her homes in Fairhope and Point Clear are beautiful, but she knows and appreciates that we are on a much tighter budget, We went to TK Cabinets on Friday where we started to design our kitchen. We have already changed our garage location which is setting us a back a week. Thank goodness we came to this conclusion while we’re still on paper. This will give us a nice private back yard. I’ll be posting photo essays of our progress. If you want to stay up to date and “follow” our construction process go to Alan Samry. I plan to post once a week


Back to School

Later this week I will be attending orientation for the University of Alabama’s Online Masters of Library and Information Studies program.

I’m looking forward to beginning this program, and a bit apprehensive about the amount and type of work that will be required. I’m one of 43 students in Alabama’s 11th MLIS cohort. We have self identified as “Elevenses.” (AKA Elevenzies, or 11zs) My suggestion, from This is Spinal Tap, “These go to eleven,” was soundly rejected. I’m taking two courses, Organization of Information and Introduction to Library and Information Studies. I’m receiving the Friends of the Fairhope Library Scholarship and I’m grateful that it covers the cost of one course. Thanks to my coworker Rob Gourlay (Alabama MLIS ˈ15) for letting me borrow two of his books. The classes take place in real time on Blackboard. If anyone cares to follow my educational experience, you’ll find it at alansamry.wordpress. I’m told by several people who have been through the program, there could be some required blogging for future classes, but my goal is to post my experiences about the program once or twice a month.


Change is the only constant in the world. I’m trying to embrace it. I hope you’ll join me in the journey.