The darkened sky hangs ominously overhead as a chilled wind races across the ridges. I can already smell the rain in the damp air. I quicken my pace as the first few drops begin to change the color of the pavement. The old gnarly sweet gum tree seems to reach out to offer shelter for those who pass by it’s grounds. It has stood here on this windy ridge for hundreds of years and witnessed the passing of many generations. There was a time when it was not so tall and strong. A time when the Shawnee hunting parties passed silently by in moccasins. Then came the lumberjacks with axes and saws. But the gum tree was too twisted and crooked for their needs. Then came the farmers whose cattle rested under its boughs. Finally, a workman came with transits and plumbs and cement. With the skills of an architect and the heart of a poet. He fell in love with the knots and twists in the wood. This ancient and weathered tree would be a centerpiece of his creation in the park. As the people came and admired the old tree it felt a new sense of purpose and loved them back. Today it stands on the rim of the New River Gorge and welcomes all who pass down the trail. Including a photographer who sheltered from the rain a few days ago and imagined it’s story. In your travels through the heart of West Virginia take a few minutes to view and enjoy the New River Gorge Bridge at the little park just outside of Fayetteville and stretch your legs under the friendly old sweet gum tree in the park.
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Genesis 9:13 gives us a promise. The clouds will part and the sun will shine again. Things will be made right. It might take some time and there will be rebuilding process but recovery will happen.
In the spring of 2016 I thought that I would never see a flood on my mountain. Then one day the clouds gathered and dumped massive amounts of rain. The water ran off the hills and swept through my neighborhood. By the grace of God my property was relatively untouched. But just a little further downstream my neighbors were looking a disaster of epic proportions. I really expected to see the tiny community of Alta become a ghost town. There were piles of debris as tall as some of houses. But the people are strong and two years later there are only traces of the flood. The news called it a one thousand year event.
I’m telling you this story tonight because I have so many friends and family who are facing the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. I know that there will be heartbreak and dark days ahead. I know that the amount of effort to rebuild is daunting. But I believe in you and I believe in the promises of God. I hope that tonight’s feature image brings you hope and encouragement. I also have just learned about Typhoon Mangkhut which is twice the size of Florence and headed for the Philippines. I want to encourage you too! We’re praying for you as well.
With love and prayers,
Lloyd A Dempsey II
Gently floating on the Kanawha River just above Kanawha Falls the fishermen works his line. I was a bit envious when I spotted him peacefully maneuvering his one man craft across the river. He seemed to be so free. The morning mists were cascading down the mountains and spilling out over the falls as he casts out and slowly retrieves the bait. The ducks on my side of the river slyly slip into the water unsure about the big blue truck that came to an abrupt halt near their perches. As I scan the water a trail of bubbles break the surface. That’s the tell tale sign of big mud turtle lumbering on the bottom. With my camera in one hand and my ever present coffee in the other I step out of the truck to enjoy nature for a few minutes and thank God for the new day. Silently, I wish the fisherman luck as I preserve the peaceful scene in my lens. The ticking of my internal clock urges me to resume my daily commute. The engine purrs and I check the mirror as I pull out taking the peaceful feeling with me as I drive away.
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.