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Mysterious Mountains, Ancient Walls and New Eyes

As I look at peaks and ridges of my Appalachian Mountains I have an overwhelming urge to go explore each of them. Somewhere in this group of hills and valleys is the hidden remains of an ancient empire. Long ago a stone wall was built here that stretched out for miles. The big mystery to me is what were they protecting themselves from? There’s legends of giants in the mountains. I have always had this fantasy of finding a hidden cave entrance and stepping inside to find ancient treasures and stone artworks. At one point we would walk along and find lithics. Stone age tools and points that made life possible turn up here often. The worked stone comes from all over North America. It was often used as a barter when tribes traded with each other.

There’s also the story of a scuttled brass cannon from the “War of Northern Aggression “. (American Civil War) as well as rumors of Confederate gold.

More than likely one might find old overgrown farms. When I was a kid we could find old mason jars on almost any given day of exploration. It was probably left behind by a family who canned their garden produce but in my eyes it was always an abandoned moonshine still. Not all treasures are golden. Sometimes they are rusty tin, glass or ceramic.

Whatever is out there it’s bound to be interesting. There’s a story in everything we leave behind. Old walls, broken glass or rusty barbed wire it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the lives that filled these mountains and the stories that they left behind.

NEW ADVENTURES

I simply love living in the Appalachian Mountains. Skyscrapers and busy streets are nice but for me nothing beats a long winding road and a great view of the New River Gorge as seen here from the Hawks Nest State Park overlook in Fayette County West Virginia. It’s a place where you can look down on the valley and watch birds soaring peacefully through the canyon. Occasionally you hear the long droning of a train horn as it crosses the river. I have it on good authority that kids would jump the train in certain spots and catch a free ride up the mountain. Not something that’s recommended today but a couple of generations ago things like this would be common.

In the Early 80s I would see people hangliding from the canyon rim and today we have zip lining tours close by.

I believe that there’s plenty of adventures still left in these hills. Who knows what tomorrow’s trend will bring? Perhaps I’ll ride a drone up river and photograph from angles I can only dream of at the moment.

Be at peace tonight friends and dream of new adventures.

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A Friend’s Joyful Greetings

Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.

– To Kill a Mockingbird

On any given day during the warm weather you can hear the seemingly unending song of the Mockingbird. This little guy is the impressionist of the Appalachian mountains. He incorporates little bits and pieces of other bird’s songs into his call. They’re really quite easy to get started up. Just a few sharp whistles and they’re going to answer you. Not only will they answer but they will try to out do you! I’ve even heard them pick up on police sirens and car alarms. The one pictured here occasionally mimics a backup beeper from the local garbage truck! All of background noise is fair game to be turned into music by a mockingbird. Truly Atticus had it right as did Miss Maudie. The joy of being greeted with a song every morning by the mockingbird at my home and then again by a different one at my day job is hard to describe. I guess you could say that it’s like God himself is wishing you a good day.

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When Fellowship Happens

One of the things that I look forward to in the summer is when friends gather together just to hang out. We make little mini holiday as a framework. There will be Homecoming Sundays at churches and family reunions in addition to the birthday parties and anniversary celebrations all summer long. We’ve been holed up in house for winter and any excuse to get out into the sun is a good one. We see old friends and acquaintances in the parks having lunch just because it’s Tuesday or Wednesday. Mankind was meant to be social. It’s our nature to be together for at least a little while. Even the grumpy old curmudgeon wants someone to curmudge for.

Here in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia such gatherings are often accompanied by live music. Typically a “gospel sing” will feature bluegrass style music and a potluck dinner.

Whatever the occasion or excuse it’s all about coming together in fellowship and brotherhood. All that’s needed is a warm day, chores that are finished and good friends.

Meeting A Beauty Queen in Forest

Springtime in the Appalachian mountains is a magical experience. The buds on the trees are beginning burst into shades of light green. Little tiny flowers appear on the edges of the forest. A mockingbird is singing close by. He is like the person at every party that only knows the chorus of each song and blends them all together into one song. He’s the mix DJ of the woods. (mockingbird calls)

Several yards/meters away something scurries through the duff of the forest floor. I look over that direction and a chipmunk pops out from under a fallen tree. He squeaks out a chirp of disapproval at me for blocking his path and vanishes back into his hole. That’s when I noticed the Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) modestly occupying the ground at my feet. The crom was one of the favorite foods for Native Americans. Although I have never tried them I do consider them as part of my survival garden along with the wild wood violets that are almost as thick as the grass in my yard.

I knelt down to address this tiny beauty queen who didn’t shy away from my camera and took her portrait. She smiled warmly and with a subtle nod granted approval for me to share the picture with you tonight.

On Justice and Vengeance

Above is the Nicholas County Courthouse. While taking the picture I began to think of it as a place of justice. But what is justice?

We’ve all been there. Somebody does you wrong and you cry out for justice. The world seems out of balance you just won’t rest until things are set right again. But, is it really justice that we’re seeking? Or, is it vengeance? Common sense would seem to imply that the two words describe the same thing but do they really? As I contemplate the terms and try to sort out the answer I have come to find more questions.

Can justice truly exist without mercy and grace? ( which incidentally are not the same thing either). Mercy is when we are found guilty of some infraction and yet, we are spared the consequences of guilt. Mercy also has a tendency to come with conditions. When a police officer lets you off with a warning instead of a full blown citation as long as you’re not caught speeding on his street again. He knows that you’re guilty. He can prove it. But, he doesn’t pursue the charge. Maybe it’s your first offense or he just likes you or he he’s sympathetic to your circumstances. Whatever the reason, he granted you mercy.

Then what is grace? From the time I was a child I was taught that grace is the unmerited favor of God. We don’t deserve it, but he gives it anyway because he wants to. Now, let’s take our same police officer and same situation. Only now, he gives you money for lunch in place of the ticket. Our good officer has just demonstrated both mercy and grace.

So with the above example in mind let’s re-examine the difference between justice and vengeance.

Does vengeance allow for mercy and grace? Not really. We might claim to have shown mercy or grace or both but if we’re honest with ourselves we must admit that isn’t really so. We have either grown weary of vengeance or we felt that the other party has suffered enough. In either case, we didn’t allow the escape of a certain amount of punishment.

Justice however does allow for mercy and grace. Punishment is avoided under the right conditions.

One other thing about vengeance. Is it possible for an innocent person to suffer undue vengeance? I’m sure each of can find at least one example from our own past of a person being paid back for something that they didn’t do. However, if justice is true, then true guilt is established prior to pay backs.

It would seem that under a close scrutiny that there could be holes in what we call common sense if we can’t separate justice from vengeance.

Common sense may be easy to understand but in reality it isn’t always accurate and it isn’t always neutral.