Keeping The Wonder

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I don’t really know the history of the stone wall with it’s waterfall cascading down just outside of Charlton Heights West Virginia but it’s one of favorite places to stop and catch a moment of peace. The old stone wall looks like something that could have been left behind by forgotten civilization. In my imagination I can clearly see an Indiana Jones type adventure cautiously entering the nearby cave. ( visible on right of the panoramic)

I have to admit that more than once I’ve been tempted to gear up and see if there’s a deeper level of the cave with any ancient artifacts hidden away right under our noses. However, having grown up around miners I’m well aware of the dangers of a roof collapse or that it’s possible to simply step out of the breathable air deep underground and become an artifact myself. In my wild imagination I can see an Adena architect leading his tribe as they construct the wall. Or, perhaps the cave was a mine where chert and flint were brought up out of the Earth’s depths. Perhaps later on people used the cave for shelter. Pocahontas herself traveled this area and it’s possible that she camped in this cave with it’s nearby water source. Maybe it’s better not to know. The old saying goes that “the unknown is always more grand than the truth.” Maybe it’s better in some cases to have the wonder and mystery to inspire our dreams than it is to be anchored by the mundane. An unsolved mystery can inspire multiple stories with a variety of roots and outcomes and that might be the real reason why I have not looked inside the cave or climbed up to peek over the wall. Maybe I want the mystery to endure.

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I Was Here

As humans we are hardwired to build. No matter if it’s a child making mud pies or a master tradesman crafting a skyscraper we can observe a meditative like state of mind as that person works. I wasn’t present when the cairn in tonight’s feature image was built but imagine that each stone was specifically chosen with planing and forethought. I imagine that the actual stacking would have involved mentally placing each peace in multiple positions so as to prevent the whole thing from collapsing. In the past I was fascinated with megalithic works. Everywhere you find humans you find large stones arranged by human hands. And of course my favorite was Stonehenge. Everyone has a theory about why it was built and in fairness it has been used for many purposes over the past Five Thousand Years but I have to wonder if it’s simply a work of art. Assembling Stonehenge would have been a massive undertaking but what if like the random hiker stacking stones near Cathedral Falls the builders simply wanted to be remembered? After all, stacking stones is a great way to say “I was here”.

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An Echo On The River

Tonight’s image is the remnant of the old bridge at Gauley Bridge. If memory serves me it was burned down during the American Civil War. To me it not only represents history but also a lost future. The fog that surrounds the old pylon gives me the feeling of something ethereal like a visitor from the past has come to the future to check up on things. Is it a manifestation of a memory or am I a vision of the future? It’s in these moments when the past and the future seem to collide that fascinate me. Maybe it was the fog on the river and maybe it was the contrast between the old stones and the seedling trees that are growing out from it that seemed to suspend and warp time for me. I can imagine that I can hear a lament echoing out from the fog. It’s a voice from the past warning not to burn bridges and be quick to reconcile with those on the other side of river.

Morning Coffee

Pictured above is the trestle bridge at Gauley Bridge West Virginia. The Gauley River was peaceful and calm when I stopped at the convenience store to top off my morning coffee. You can see the last pylon from the old bridge still standing in the water.

Once part of American Civil War the remnant of the old bridge now imparts a peaceful feeling as I look out over the cool green water. Just beyond the trestle is the point where the Gauley River meets the New River to form the Kanawha River. The flat water seems to be popular with kayak enthusiasts who paddle up stream to relax on some large flat rocks and play in the shallows. The place always seems to give me nice reflection for my lens as well. After taking a few deep breaths I pulled myself away from the urge to call off work and headed back onto the highway slightly heartbroken due to leaving such a peaceful scene.

On Justice and Vengeance

Above is the Nicholas County Courthouse. While taking the picture I began to think of it as a place of justice. But what is justice?

We’ve all been there. Somebody does you wrong and you cry out for justice. The world seems out of balance you just won’t rest until things are set right again. But, is it really justice that we’re seeking? Or, is it vengeance? Common sense would seem to imply that the two words describe the same thing but do they really? As I contemplate the terms and try to sort out the answer I have come to find more questions.

Can justice truly exist without mercy and grace? ( which incidentally are not the same thing either). Mercy is when we are found guilty of some infraction and yet, we are spared the consequences of guilt. Mercy also has a tendency to come with conditions. When a police officer lets you off with a warning instead of a full blown citation as long as you’re not caught speeding on his street again. He knows that you’re guilty. He can prove it. But, he doesn’t pursue the charge. Maybe it’s your first offense or he just likes you or he he’s sympathetic to your circumstances. Whatever the reason, he granted you mercy.

Then what is grace? From the time I was a child I was taught that grace is the unmerited favor of God. We don’t deserve it, but he gives it anyway because he wants to. Now, let’s take our same police officer and same situation. Only now, he gives you money for lunch in place of the ticket. Our good officer has just demonstrated both mercy and grace.

So with the above example in mind let’s re-examine the difference between justice and vengeance.

Does vengeance allow for mercy and grace? Not really. We might claim to have shown mercy or grace or both but if we’re honest with ourselves we must admit that isn’t really so. We have either grown weary of vengeance or we felt that the other party has suffered enough. In either case, we didn’t allow the escape of a certain amount of punishment.

Justice however does allow for mercy and grace. Punishment is avoided under the right conditions.

One other thing about vengeance. Is it possible for an innocent person to suffer undue vengeance? I’m sure each of can find at least one example from our own past of a person being paid back for something that they didn’t do. However, if justice is true, then true guilt is established prior to pay backs.

It would seem that under a close scrutiny that there could be holes in what we call common sense if we can’t separate justice from vengeance.

Common sense may be easy to understand but in reality it isn’t always accurate and it isn’t always neutral.