January’s Crossings 1

The winter winds whip across the three rivers as the steam rises up from my morning coffee. The wintery scene makes me feel like I’ve woken up inside if a snow globe. If not for the fact that I’m on my way to my day job I’d engage the four wheel drive and just idle my big blue truck through the Appalachian Mountains looking for magical places to just sit and watch the snow. The mists and snow seem to merge together as I begin to set up the shot making it look as if the other end of bridge disappears somewhere beyond the known world. For a moment I’m tempted to call off from the day job and allow my inner child to explore the frozen wilderness.

I know that if I travel beyond the bridge and up Gauley Mountain there will be frozen waterfalls with long icicles hanging from the painted sandstone cliffs. There will be little alcoves formed by snow covered bent trees that bright red cardinals play in. Across the forest floor squirrels bounce from tree trunk to tree trunk trying to remember where they stashed their acorns. It was just about that time that the real world recalled me from my daydreaming and I eased my big blue truck back onto the main road.

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Tracking People And Making Decisions

Not that long ago I was fascinated with Tom Brown Jr and his books on tracking. His reputation in the wilderness survival community is unparalleled. He’s actually been a consultant for several Hollywood Movies and it’s been said that he can track your footsteps across a bare concrete floor and tell you what kind of mood you was in when you passed through. I was never anywhere near that good but even today I have a tendency to notice footprints and try to figure out what was happening when the tracks were made. People will often say that they talk with their hands meaning that they gesture a lot but believe it or not we also talk with our feet too. It’s a little more subtle but it’s there in one degree or another. For example, a person deep in thought might have a tendency to move his/her feet in semi-circles as if mapping out their options. As a lefthander I normally take longer strides with my left leg than I do my right. There’s a whole discipline of forensics dedicated footprints.

On a more philosophical note, I sometimes wonder what I would learn about myself if I look into the past and read my own tracks at key moments in my life. Especially those moments when I “built experience” ( AKA made the wrong decision). I’m willing to bet that I would see evidence of talking myself out of what I knew was the right choices. Search & Rescue trackers will often comment that they could tell that a person paused for an extended period facing the right path before turning and heading into danger. We can only see so far into the past but we can be active observers in the present. I don’t think it’s essential to base our decisions on our foot placement but if I catch myself hesitating towards a particular choice I know that I should probably investigate that choice a little closer before walking away from it. And of course ask myself if I’m just trying to take the easy way out for the wrong reasons.

The footprints in the feature image are not mine. They belong to a young lady who I stumbled upon just enjoying Cane Branch that feeds Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge. What do I think that her footprints say? They say “This a great place to enjoy life!”

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The Explorer

I remember watching Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom every weekend when I was a young boy. I wanted to be a famous explorer and wildlife biologist like Marlin Perkins Marty Stouffer or Jacques Cousteau. I would sit and watch them on t.v. for hours upon hours. I also had a healthy appetite for the world of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and Johnny Quest. All of this came together in my young mind to form the view that the world was created just for the specific purpose of being explored and documented. All I needed was a ship, some technical gadgets and a crew of science guys. And oh yes, A few bodyguards. Johnny Quest was constantly getting into a tight spot and bad guys seem to target young explorers for some unknown reason. But I digress.

I suppose that the entertainment of my youth is where my desire to follow a stream like the one in the feature image until I just can’t go any farther. An exploration of anything is more than just reaching the goal. It’s taking the time to experience the quest. One of the most memorable moments of Wild Kingdom was when Perkins rode a monitor lizard through the water. Perkins wasn’t really a young man at the time but he often did things like that. Looking back I see that there must be two kinds of explorers. The goal oriented explorer who just wants to find the finish line and the experience oriented explorer who needs to be truly absorbed into the journey. I tend to gravitate towards the later. I find myself staring downstream from this spot wanting to pack as much gear as I can possibly carry and turn over every rock in the creek just to see what’s down there. So what if there’s no giant lizards to ride like Perkins did or cold war intrigues like Johnny Quest but there’s adventure none the less and the world was created just to be explored.

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A Winter’s Refreshing At Cathedral Falls

As the evening sun begins to retreat behind the mountains it grants one last gaze into the cove at the foot of Gauley Mountain. The soft light spreads through the forest floor as wood and stone are bathed in the cascade of Cathedral Falls. The oxygen charged air within the natural cathedral enhances the sense of peace as I cross the wooden footbridge. Time itself seems to slow to a halt as the elements of nature coalesce into my frame. It’s been said that God first set the word of His testimony into nature. I believe that is true because as I look at the beauty He created for us to live in his love for us is written on every stone, carved into every tree, bound into every drop of water and energized by every ray of light. With my spirit renewed in this natural sanctuary it’s time to replace the cap on my lens and return to the big blue truck and head home.

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Fire On The Mountain & Alone Time With God

They had been walking for a very long time. Everyone was exhausted and cranky. The children were crying and the old people just sighed with “that look” on there faces. Along the way there were miracles and even now all of there shoes looked like brand new but still the people complained. Moses lifted his eyes to see the fire settling down on top of the mountain.

One of the most important things in life is alone time with God. That’s actually a lot of the reason why I crave the moments of solitude and the quiet places. It always helps to get out and away from society and the distraction of various responsibilities and obligations. I like to sit down and talk to God just like I talk to anyone else in the room or on the trail. There may not be fire and smoke or the voice of a trumpet but He’s always there just the same.

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A Bright Spot On A Rainy Monday

The cold rain falls from the darkened sky as the big blue truck takes me on my daily trek out of the mountains and into our capital city of Charleston West Virginia. The Carpenters had a valid point. Rainy days and Mondays are less than a joy in modern life. Rainy Mondays can be the worst. The rain collected on the windshield while I was having fuel pumped and there it was. A bright spot on my cold rainy Monday. I watched as the rain tried to wash away my bright spot but it only grew larger. In fact it continued to grow larger and brighter until I had enough to focus on and I captured it. I quickly pulled up the image and quickly edited for composition and brother the color and lighting back to what my eyes saw and held onto my bright spot all day. I made it the wallpaper on my phone and workstation at my day job. I focused on the bright spot all day and by afternoon the rain stopped.

Dark days are going to come. There’s no avoiding it. Rain is necessary to fill the aquifers that we draw from in the heat of the Summer. But I’m betting that if you look closely during the rain you’ll find a bright spot that refuses to be washed away. If you can focus on it then it will carry you through the dark times.

Shout out to Brown’s Service Station of Belva West Virginia for being a genuine full service gas station and coming out to operate the fuel pump no matter what the weather is.

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A Matter Of Perspective

The Kanawha River is often turbulent in this spot. There’s days when it climbs up out of it’s banks and threatens to wash away everything and we would be powerless to stop it. But every other day it’s calm and peaceful. Most days it’s a great place to sit down and enjoy life. You can fish or if you’re observant you might spot a bald eagle or an Osprey in this spot. In the Spring violets dot the landscape with blues, purples, reds and yellows. The songbirds are abundant here as well. As I look towards the distant shore beyond the falls it’s hard to think about the raging waters that have been here and will come again. It would be easy to look at the little park at Kanawha Falls (or any other body of water) and live in fear of the next stormy day and the rage of nature but then we would miss the beauty on the good days. Life is all about perspectives. We can focus on the good times or the hard times. Both are going to be present. But if we are focused only on the hard times will miss out on beautiful times in between the storms.

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