I never get tired of the rugged beauty of my home deep inside the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. The dense forest seems to swallow most of the small communities. It is easy stand on one of many overlooks and imagine that the world hasn’t changed in three hundred years. On the morning that I took the feature image with my Canon T5 the mists were hovering around the the sandstone tower. I look at the large tree growing on top of the ancient and weathered rock and I know that it’s probably sixty feet tall or taller. ( about 18 meters). It’s smaller than the ones growing around the base. It’s hard to believe that I’m in a public park about five minutes from the main road. I have my camera case setting next to me on one of the wooden benches. I was here to try and get some cool pictures of the Civil War reenactment group. (In an upcoming post) I was rewarded for being there early by finding out that an international whitewater rafting event was occurring in the valley below. It was a real challenge for me and my 300 mm lens but I did manage to pull off a shots of rafts as they exited the rapids. (also in an upcoming post). The warm morning air and humidity allowed my ever present coffee to fill the air with a rich aroma. I could waste a whole day in this spot just absorbing the peace and quiet. Once my coffee tumbler was empty I stepped back to the big blue truck in the parking lot and placed in its holder. I was about to travel back in time and find the encampments of the Blue and the Grey as they prepare for the yearly clash in an effort to define the future of a nation.
My big blue truck comes to abrupt stop at my favorite morning spot along the the Kanawha River at Glen Ferris West Virginia. Across the the river the mountain rises defiantly against the darkened sky. In my imagination I can clearly hear the mountain speaking to the storm and saying “There will be sunshine today even if I have to go get it myself”. Sometimes our happiness depends on our determination. We can’t can’t stop the storms from coming our way. But we can control how we react to adversity. Will we be able to pierce beyond the dark clouds? Maybe we can and maybe we can’t. But the answer is definitely no if we don’t try. As I looked at this image I know that the sun shines just beyond the clouds even if I can’t actually see that it’s there. I also know that on my dark days there is a place of peace just beyond the chaotic pace that overtakes me. To get there, all I have to do is start to climb and not give up before I reach the top.
It’s not easy to step out onto the edge. There’s something about that place if transition from one state of being to the next that really gets our attention. We get butterflies in our stomachs and our knees begin to tremble. We can feel our hearts pounding as adrenaline surges through our veins. That’s the feeling I would have during a repelling exercise or leaping from the tall cliffs into the water. In my young mind I knew that this is what it felt like to fly. Fear, excitement and recklessness all come together to form the experience. When I was a kid I had the opportunity to spend some one on one time with some of the Blue Angels flight team and I like the way one of the pilots described this feeling. He said that “There’s no difference between the thrill of flying and the fear of falling.” His point was that it’s in overcoming your desire to remain comfortable with your circumstances that we become more than we was yesterday.
It doesn’t have to be piloting the latest and hottest high performance jet at beyond the speed of sound. It doesn’t even have to be leaping into water or sliding down a cliff on a rope. (In fact especially not the cliff in the feature image. There’s no water under the rocks here and it’s not a legal place to repell from.) It could be as simple as deciding to strike up a conversation with that person who you’re interested in or starting a blog where you share your deepest thoughts with the world. Whatever it is know that when you overcome that shaky feeling that this is what it’s like to fly.
I grew up playing on cliffs similar to the one in the feature image above. (Sorry mom, I know you didn’t want me to. ). In those days I could free climb fairly well and would spend all day sitting on the edge and watching animals play in the valley below. Later in my late teens I went on my first organized mounteering exercise with the JROTC. When mom asked if I would jump off of a cliff because my friends did apparently the answer was yes. We spent all day repelling to the bottom and then climbing back up to do it again. On one trip back to the top my friend, Bobby, stopped to catch his breath and said “Down is easy but up is hard.” That little bit of profound observation has stuck with me for my entire life and the reason why is because of what he said next. “I have to keep climbing because home is on the other side of this mountain.”
Anything can become that steep mountain in our lives. And, it’s easy to give up halfway through a difficult journey. But the journey isn’t over until you have made it home again. It’s also okay to stop and catch your breath but don’t make your home there because there’s so much waiting for you at the top. Dig in deep within yourself and find that strength that I know you possess. Find handholds and footholds wherever you can and just keep going. Mountains are climbed one foot or even one inch at a time.
Tonight’s image was taken in Summerville Lake when it’s at winter pool. The cliff overhang is just a few feet off the surface of the water for most of year.