Walking to the Banquet

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This early morning poetography is too personal, too idiosyncratic to be GOOD. But, like the dream from which I just awoke, it is TRUE.

The elements don’t go together for anyone outside my head. But for me, they all belong. I know when and where I took the background photo: December 22, 2019, west shore of White Rock Lake. I know what I was thinking then: I was beginning to recognize my judgmentalism, how unreliable I am in whether people are attractive or repulsive to me.

I’m still learning my place on the trail. What I think of—or feel toward—people I encounter on our respective paths is not what’s ultimately important.

Wherever we go,
See ourselves as sent:
Not for our pleasure, but His.

#thebanquet #judgmentalism #blessing #theheartisdeceitful #jeremiah17v9 #poetography

Animating Nature

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One of the things I love about walking is that it wakes up, or animates, my imagination. It does so especially when my walks are away from the humdrum, clattersplat of city life. That’s one reason I value the nearby White Rock Lake park. I was walking there the other day, and here’s how my mind took in some of what I saw….

I call the above image “Serving Shade.” Generally, a tree that grows so crooked will get cut down. But I posted on Facebook, “DON’T REBUKE THIS TREE! What do you do with a tree that sees its purpose as providing shade for walkers? Make sure it’s watered!”

I call this image “Miscreant Path.” Here’s how I described it on social media….

There was a time when I resisted taking shortcuts in my walks around White Rock Lake. But the park service has replaced all the charming, narrow little paved paths with concrete paths so wide a car could drive on them. The best way now to feel like I’m in nature is to cut across country, taking the route that coyotes, opossums, and other fellow miscreants take.

Walking, Well Worth the Effort
I keep running into stories of philosophers, theologians, poets, and other writers who testify to the high value of taking walks. Here’s an account that I recently read:

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”

― Søren Kierkegaard, from a letter to his favourite niece, Henriette Lund, in 1847

Beauty, A Wordless Language

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)
I titled this photograph “L’Abri,” which is French for “the shelter.”


In the years when I walked frequently around White Rock Lake, I increasingly recognized outcroppings of beauty as expressions of a wordless language. Its grammar was unrecognizable, but its vocabulary was everywhere — in flowers, sunsets, paintings, music, and human kindness.

For several years, I have been trying to grasp and define something that I sense, but cannot identify about BEAUTY. Beauty strikes me as a fundamentally important quality, something closer than almost anything else to the nature of God. I may ultimately find this to be above my mental pay grade. Two of my friends who have done PhD-level work on the subject of beauty have referred me to the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar. This 20th-century Swiss theologian wrote a 15-volume trilogy focusing on beauty, goodness, and truth. Since I’m such a slow reader, I’ll probably resort to someone else’s introduction to Balthasar’s thinking.

Here’s what prompted me to revisit the photograph above, and reflect on its significance. I was going through my large collection of Instagram posts, and got to a section from about three years ago where almost every image was of something that struck me as beautiful. If you click the image below, and then scroll down through the results, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about (it’s especially easy if you have an Instagram account):

Today, Will I See Beauty?

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)


One of the better things about Facebook is that it brings up posts from the past. Today, it brought up this post from September 14, 2020. I had posted the photo with the question “Today, will I see beauty, or will I be blinded by ugliness?” That prompted me to think about how I have been answering that question over the last two years. Here’s what I wrote today:

In the two years since I posted this question, I have have become far more aware of ugliness. In fact, I’d say that it has been necessary for me to remove blinders about the evil in my culture. Already in 2020, I was asking myself, “Why do I so readily identify sins on ‘their side’ and don’t recognize sins on ‘my side’?” Major events in the US took care of that naïveté, as did some of my reading. Pride, ambition, selfishness, arrogance, shortsightedness… these are equal opportunity sins and weaknesses that afflict both ends of the political spectrum, and everything between. I’m left with profound sadness about the prospects for my nation. On the other hand, I no longer despise people on “their side” as I once did. I’m able to pray prayers of blessing for people on “their side.” Sadness is better than hatred.

“The end of the Maker’s dream is not this” … or that, or that, or that.

Reflection Inversion

This is the stream that runs down from Norbuck Park and feeds into White Rock Creek before it enters White Rock Lake. I pass by this on my frequent walks over to Flagpole Hill. One day, I stopped, sat down on the bridge, and started filming. For interest, I tossed pebbles into the stream. Back home, I turned the footage upside down and added music in the InShot app (on Google Play; on the App Store). There’s something really satisfying about creating graphics and tweaking videos on my phone. Yes, I have the full Adobe Creative Suite on my workstation, but it’s just fun to see how far I can push the smartphone.

Broken Sunset

How I Built This

On a rainy day walk around the lake, I came across a smashed-up smartphone. It had no identification on it, and wouldn’t power on after charging, so I gave up on trying to find its owner. However, I did notice that there was a pretty interesting reflection when I turned the phone just right. I initially tried to take a picture of that, but gave up. Instead, I took this straight-on shot:

I decided to see if that could be layered over an older shot that I took near the Bath House:

I boosted the saturation of the above shot with Snapseed on my Pixel 3a phone:

Then, I used the double-exposure tool in Snapseed to combine the broken screen shot with the super-saturated sunset.

Grape Hyacinths With a View

Often, I have to sit on the ground or lie down in the grass to get the best perspective for photographs. It always occurs to me that this is the view that little critters in the field have of the world around them. Do they appreciate beauty? I hope so.

In the days since I took this picture, the grape hyacinths have really taken off in other areas around the lake. But I want you to see how small THIS patch actually is, so you can appreciate the importance of a selective point of view. Also, you’ll see that I pushed the post-processing of the image above pretty far (maybe too far). I was trying to isolate the colors in a late-afternoon shot. At that time of day, the light is very yellow, and to separate out the elements as our magnificent eyes do, I had to reduce yellow (increase blue). In any case, I was doing the post-processing on my phone, which isn’t always the best idea!

Flowers In The Shadow


Only in the shadow
Was the yellow light
Sufficiently subdued
For us to welcome
Beauty unforeseen.

— Brad Hepp, 2/22/2020

There, now I have tied this to the conversation I was having with a friend when I took the photo. We were pondering how weakness and inadequacy may actually be celebrated as part of the suffering that precedes restoration and exaltation in the Divine economy. See James 1:9-18

Lamp, Moon, and Blackbird

The Original

I was zoomed in as much as I could on my smartphone (Pixel 3a) when I took the above photo. Even though I had just been watching a flock of blackbirds, I didn’t notice this one flying in and out of the frame when I pressed the “shutter release.” Later, when I went to edit the shot (and crop square for Instagram), I just couldn’t resist my perfectionistic urge to move the bird exactly under the moon. I did that with the cloning tool in Photo Editor on my phone. All of the other tweaking (rotation, deepening of sky blue, extra contrast) was done with Snapseed.

The Man From Valladolid

I walked right past this man on one of my hikes around White Rock Lake. But then I turned and asked “May I take your photograph?” I couldn’t understand his response, but he seemed to be saying “Yes.” We soon discovered that both of us speak Spanish, and I learned that he is from Valladolid, Spain. He says that the cat really seems to enjoy riding in this carrier, and it doesn’t tire him at all to carry her that way.

Since my shadow was falling right between him and the bike, I walked back just a little on the path and took my photo from there. Below, you’ll see the original. Late afternoon sun casts such yellow light that I reduced the warmth in order to separate the colors a bit. It’s still too yellow, if you ask me, but you can only push color so far before it looks fake. As you’ll see from the original, the bicycle was positioned too far from the man for an effective square crop, so I did what I rarely ever do: cloned with Photoshop. That’s how I moved the bicycle closer to him. Can you see my error? Look closely at the left handle bar in the photo above. And now that I look more closely, I see another two other errors. Good thing nobody was paying me for this!

Original Photo:

[EDIT 1/31/2020]: I ran into Raul again today. This time he was without cat. We sat on a park bench by the lake about 20 or 30 minutes and talked about Spain (he returns in two weeks), the history of the Moorish conquest of Spain, work attitudes in Spain versus the U.S.A., and unemployment there. He says there’s 20% unemployment (50% among young people under 35, who end up living with their parents as a result). He attributes the lack of enthusiasm for working in Spain to low wages and the fact that everyone is paid the same. On the one hand, it sounds dreary ($1000/month average income), but then the simpler life there sounds attractive. Raul is mid-50s, and is already retired. He says that’s common. He was astonished when I told him I expect to do some work until I’m 70. I didn’t tell him that my Dad was doing heavy-duty theology and writing well into his 80s. More than once, Raul pointed to his watch, exemplifying how the Spanish worker watches the clock. He said many do that right up until they retire, and then — shortly after — they die. My Spanish may be attrocious, but I’m pretty sure it’s a relief to Raul to hear it, even if butchered by a Gringo.

The Wholesome Response

Late last summer, I was on one of my strolls around White Rock Lake. I stopped to collect seeds of Queen Anne’s Lace by the path. After filling a small plastic bag, I continued my walk. A few minutes later, I felt in the pocket for my car key. “Oh no!” It wasn’t there. When I reached into my pocket to pull out the bag, I must have pulled out the car key as well, and dropped it in the weeds.

Returning to the area where the key had dropped, I made a careful search. No luck!

The next day, I returned with a leaf rake, and tried pulling it through the weeds to turn up the key. Still no luck!

Worse yet, while I was raking, who should appear on the running path but Phillip Paris!

“Hi Phillip!”
“Hi Brad.”

It was a training run. Naturally, Phillip just kept running. When he had gone another 20 yards, I couldn’t stand the humiliation.

“Hey, Phillip!”
He stopped.
“I know this must look crazy. I lost my key, and I was using this rake to help me find it.”

“Oh,” said Phillip with a smile. “I know how much you like the running path here, so I figured you were just helping with maintenance.”

“No, I’m just crazy when I lose something!”

That evening, I told Joshua my embarrassing story, and Phillip’s kind answer.

“What a wholesome response!” said Joshua.

“Yes,” I thought. “What a wholesome response. And how proud I am of a son who calls it for what it is!”

Light and a Motorist Who’s Polite

A passing motorist politely stopped his car to avoid messing up this photo. When I gave him the “thumbs up,” he rolled down his window and said, “That’s gonna be a helluva shot!” He could tell that the light was pretty special.

Confession: I had waved the motorist on when I saw him stop, and was slightly annoyed at him. “What’s his problem? Does he think I’m casing his neighbor’s house? Is that why he’s just sitting there?” It was only when he rolled down the window and spoke with me as a fellow lover of the light that my jaded assumption was rebuked!

One of the more notable houses around the lake

Here’s what my friend Jon wrote when I posted the photo on Instagram: “One spring evening in 1989, I sat on the wall in front of that home with Chris and asked her to marry me. Hard to believe it was 30 years ago.” So, I went back and reshot the house WITH the retaining wall and posted it for Jon and Chris. This time, it was an overcast day, so the light is very different!

Most Beautiful and Magnificent

Although I often forget it, the most beautiful and magnificent of all I encounter at the lake is my fellow man.

Below is the original image. I’m putting it here to exemplify the sort of thing I often have to do in post-processing to make an image look right. In the original, the sky is much brighter than the subject, although my eyes adjusted to that when I was standing there. For this image to serve well, I had to darken the sky behind the subject, open shadow areas, and increase saturation just a little. That was all done with Snapseed on my Pixel phone.