As summer season comes to a close in the Appalachian Mountains it’s important to enjoy the sunshine as often as possible. Already the morning air is beginning to feel crisp and cool. As we draw nearer to September the afternoon is generally warm but without the oppressive humidity of July and early August. It’s a great time for a walking some ignored backroad or forest path. Occasionally I meet a fitness walker who’s just trying burn off a few extra scoops of ice cream, but I’m here simply to decompress from the day. I turn off the music and podcasts. Let my Facebook notices wait a bit and keep an eye towards the roadsides. I’m looking for anything interesting to catch in my lens. The little tortoise shell butterflies dance and play in sunbeams as I walked. The one in my feature image circles around my head a few times as if to say “Look at me! Look at me!” And begins a game of catch me if you can. First it lands on some golden rod and I step over for shot. Before I can focus it flutters over to an elderberry bush on the opposite side of road. Then it’s off to explore some red clover. I’m trying to keep it in frame and getting a better workout than the fitness walker who giggled slightly as she passed. Finally the little guy comes to rest on the lespedeza and unfolds it’s beautiful wings for me. Who needs a personal trainer when mother nature is so playful?
I’ve always liked to just sit quietly by the water and look at the reflections. The shallow waters of Muddlety Creek is a great place for thinking time. On this particular day I was looking at these trees and bushes. The rest of the world just faded away into nothingness leaving only the occasional ripple where a small sunfish broke the surface. Tiny tortoise shell butterflies darted through the tall grasses stopping only for a moment to catch their breath. Sapphire blue Damselflies hover just above the water and the only sounds are the songbirds calling out from some hidden branches. A slight mist drifts in the breeze and droplets form tiny jewels at the tips of each leaf. I found myself wishing for a boat. I wanted to paddle upstream just to see what treasures lay just inside the trees. The mist began to thicken into a sprinkle and I knew it was time to move on. Placing my camera back into its case I climbed up into my big blue truck and took my journey just a little further down the quiet country road and on to my next destination. I’ll definitely be back to this spot.
Standing on the banks of the beautiful Kanawha River at Glen Ferris, West Virginia. The cool mountain breeze washes over me as the sun brings a golden dawn. The fog rises up from the water as if sleeping clouds are waking up to go to work. A faint buzzing noise catches my attention as the morning air brings the fresh scent of water mint to my nose. I look along the water’s edge to see the honey bees collecting their morning meal. There’s a soft splash off in the distance and I look out across the river to see the ripples where the fish had jumped out to catch a mayfly. As the last cloud makes it’s way skyward to greet the sunrise I climb back into my big blue truck and continue on to my destination.
Some of my most cherished memories are the long walks with my grandfather. He was World War Two veteran who walked with a cane due to shrapnel that was embedded in his leg but that never seemed to slow him down. He would come over to our little house trailer which was next door to his house and invite me to help him check on the cattle. He was also a survivor of the Great Depression and on our walks he would teach me about the things that they used to do to stretch the budget. One their best resources was the wild edible plants that are found in abundance in Appalachia. Pictured here is Chicory. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are eaten as a salad green and the roots are roasted and then ground into a coffee substitute. ( no caffeine). The blue petals if Chicory are a natural litmus test. When exposed to an acid they change from blue to red.
In the background of the image is Queen Anne’s Lace. ( the white flowers). Now, you have to be careful about collecting it because there’s also poisonous look-alikes such as hemlock. Queen Anne’s Lace usually has one tiny little blood red flower in the center of all that white. How’s it used? Well, I’m pretty sure that most of the world already knows because it’s simply a wild carrot. The root doesn’t really look like what you buy in the store or raise in your garden. It is small, white and kinda bland. But, it is a carrot none the less.
Most people look at the plants that grow without any help from humans and all that they see are weeds but I see the province of God and hear the voice of my grandfather.
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.
I have a confession to make. I’ve spent all day today wearing my “Monday Face”. It’s been one of those days where you want to be productive but it seems like the universe is flowing in the wrong direction. I once heard a survival instructor say that hiking in the Amazon was like being on a treadmill that’s raised to its highest level while people throw rocks, sticks and mud at your boots. I’m certain that he thought that up on a Monday. Its on days like this that I long to escape into the mountains for a little peace and quiet. It was on such a day that I found the Trillium pictured above. These are early spring flowers that start off as a deep maroon and fade to a pure white. It is as if the the flower mellows out over time. Just looking at the photo gives me sense of peace. I can almost smell the moss on the forest floor and feel the breeze. A quiet moment in nature is the perfect cure for “Monday Face” even if it was enjoyed digitally.
The subtle hint of rose petals wafts through the meadow. All falls silent for a moment. The tall grasses part softly. Down by the water’s edge the deer raise their heads and point their ears in her direction as they gracefully give way for her passage. The light takes on a soft golden glow around her as she approaches. She whispers and the warm breeze speaks peace to all who listen. I would have thought it to be a dream had it not been for the snowy white feather she left behind.