The slight sweet scent of multiple wildflowers lingers on the warm breeze as I meander along the edge of my forest. I live in an area known to be populated by rattlesnakes so I tread lightly and listen for the tell tale buzz that would let me know I’m not alone. I have lived in the area since the early 90s and only spotted a handful of rattlesnakes but they are definitely around. I don’t fear them but it’s wise to treat the one you didn’t see with respect. Eventually I heard a buzz but it wasn’t a snake. It was a busy little bumblebee lazily floating from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar for her bread. She loves the Jewelweed and crawls right up into the flower as deep as she can often disappearing completely.
It took me a long time to get comfortable with any kind of bee after a bad experience with the European Bald Face Hornet as a young child. There was an empty wash tub upside down near the barn and I jumped on it. It was rusted out my foot went through the bottom and right into the nest. Hundreds of angry little warriors covered my foot and lower leg but fortunately couldn’t sting through the thick clothes if that era. However, the fear stuck with me up into adulthood. By facing my fear and forcing myself to get closer to them I can now even tolerate that black hornet and allow the wasps to get close.
The bumblebee is a great mom but a lousy business partner. She only makes enough honey and bee bread for her brood. No extra for the human who refused to clear out the weeds she feeds on. But that’s ok as long as she visits my garden too.
I snapped a few shots of her as she went about her chores and eventually left her to the tasks at hand.
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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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The September sky was crystal blue and the time of the Equinox signaled an end to Summer’s warm carefree days. The sun hangs low on the horizon. She meets him by the boat launch as her father and brother packs the camp. The last weekend is nearly over. This is last hour of their summer romance. Here on the edge of the fading lake they embrace beneath the sun and moon. Like the celestial bodies above they can only share the same sky for a short season. The lake boy looks deep into her eyes which are the same color blue as the sky. She noticed how the summer sun has left it’s golden tone on his skin. They continue stare silently into each other. Memorizing every line of the other’s face. Every freckle on his face and every colorful fleck in her eyes. The summer was a time when two worlds met and joined as one. But like the sun and moon the forces of nature will only allow the sharing of the sky for so long. As the embrace for summer’s last kiss, he reaches into the pocket of his shorts and pulls out a small box. “Close your eyes” he whispers. She’s a little bit nervous about what comes next but she trusts him and does as he asks. He places a golden chain around her neck. Suspended from it was a locket. It was small but elegant. Inside was the picture of the two of them on the local fishing pier. Her brother had taken the snapshot when they wasn’t looking. “Don’t let me be forgotten” he whispered once more as he clasped the necklace about her neck. A single tear rolls down her cheek and she thanked him for the gift. By now her family waits patiently in the packed car. “I’ll be waiting here for you next summer” she replied with her voice cracking. “True love is faithful no matter how long and cold the nights to come will be.” She added. With no way to delay their parting any longer the young lake boy stepped aboard his day cruiser and drifting off of the shore. He watched with anguish as she got in the car and went home for the school year. Throughout the coming months they would call, text and even attend prom together. The following summer they met again in the same spot by the boat launch. And never parted ways again.
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Softly the brightly colored wings float in on the warm breeze. The sweet smell of water mints mingles with the Virginia Bonset and Goldenrod. The sun is low in the marbled sky and I let my big blue truck drift to a halt. The Monarch Butterfly has been playing on edge of the parking lot all day. Gently it flutters from flower to flower sipping the nectar. I roll the window down and raise my camera into the ready position. The Monarch teases me as it feeds by fluttering it’s wings quickly. Further up into the bush a mockingbird gives it’s long song. The shutter snaps at just the right moment as the Monarch pauses. A peaceful feeling washes over me as I preserve the mountain beauty in my lens. Soon the sweet scent of all the bloom will fade and the warm breeze will be chilled by the changing seasons. But, I will have this moment to warm my heart and this beauty to sooth my eyes against the coming grey. With my task complete I start the motor and turn my big blue truck towards home.
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 rewardedfor 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.
As I explore the little nooks and crannies of my Appalachian Mountains in late summer my eyes are bathed in wondrous beauty. The simple Black Eyed Susan abounds on the roadsides. Everywhere I look leaves me with the sense that setting sun left a piece of itself behind as it passed by. Or maybe that magical golden hue simply fell as part of the rain and took root as it soaked into the earth. However they got started, they bloomed and spread across the mountains like a living flame. Soon that fire will spread to the trees as summer ends in its grand finale of colors. For now, I have little drops of sunshine popping up everywhere.