Tonight’s post contains extra information for Facebook users who are being blocked from using the links on my blog.
The New River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places in West Virginia. Normally photos taken of this area feature the New River Gorge Bridge spanning the gorge 876 feet above the water. However, once per year the bridge is open to pedestrians and there’s a chance to get the opposite angle featuring Fayette Station. The view of the canyon is as good as it gets without a helicopter. I remember back in late 70s and early 80s there was a hang glider craze and at least one time I saw gliders on the canyon rim. I have no idea if it was a good idea due to wind but it sounded like fun. The big concern would have been winds blowing the glider into a rock. I’ve stood up on a ledge along the canyon walls and experienced the rain coming up from valley below due to those winds.
Walking the bridge and the high cliff overhangs of West Virginia always inspired the sensation of flying for me. As a child with a very active imagination I always pretended that I could build a giant paper airplane and sail it from the edge of canyon. In my little fantasy I would bank by leaning one way or the other and sail all the way to Gauley Bridge. It’s a fantasy brought back to me by standing on the edge of the New River Gorge Bridge and looking down at Fayette Station.
Hello Friends! I hope that are enjoying my blog. In the closing of my nightly post I normally include links built into the images to give those who interested in subscribing or buying a copy of the photo a way to do so. The vast majority of my readers find my through Facebook and I have enjoyed exchanging comments and the occasional email with feedback about the image or the story. All made easy by the links on my website which I keep free from ads and spam. Unfortunately in their last update Facebook gas found a way to block those links. I’ve checked the posts by other bloggers and their links are deactivated as well. This only happens when a reader gets here via Facebook. So, below each photo I’ve included a separate link that can be copied and pasted if the link in photo doesn’t work.
The road home can be a steep climb. Sometimes there’s unexpected twists and turns. Some days the journey is through wind and rain or ice and snow. Some days are full of warm sunshine and the trees are full of singing birds. The journey home can be long. Blessed is the one who is joined by companions who encourage you to continue on. Even if they can’t travel along beside you every day. The warm smile in greeting and the voice that speaks gentle words of encouragement was a greater gift than you ever knew. It shouldn’t come as a shock that you made it home first. You should know that those encouraging words will echo in my memory until the day that I also approach that gate that marks the end of the journey. I won’t be surprised to see your smile or listen to the excitement in your voice as the gate opens up to welcome us home.
In honor of Billy. I’ll see you when I get home too.
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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.
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.
The days are noticeably longer in the Appalachian mountains. Mother nature has begun to open her sleepy eyes. The buds on the trees have begun to swell and some of early flowers will be in bloom in just a few weeks. We’re still expected a few cold days and a spring snow is quite common in the end of March or early April. The Southern breeze occasionally peeks up out of the Gulf of Mexico to share warm kisses and hasten the thaw. Soon it will be time to plant gardens and make plans for cookouts and family gatherings. Most of all, there’s opportunity to find a nice quiet spot and just breathe in nature.
The tree in the image above grows in a park next to New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge is over 3000 feet long (924 m) and 876 feet high (276 m)
The catwalk under the bridge is open to the public and tourists can walk out over the gorge. I have texted with and seen pictures of one of the engineers walking the steel beams without a net or safety line. But I digress.
With the weather warming up I hope to bring you some fresh images of West Virginia. Our mountains and valleys are truly beautiful in the Spring.
I’ve always been interested in certain trade skills. Cutting stone is one of them. To properly cut a stone one must have to be able to read the small lines that tell you where small faults are inside the stone. Stone cutting is thought to be a very masculine endeavor. The uninitiated often has visions of the stone cutter as a muscle bound brute striking mighty blows until the stone gives way. While it takes some elbow grease to wrestle a large piece of rock into place one doesn’t have to have extreme strength. Ancient technology like A-frames or block and tackle make it much easier.
But I really want to talk to you about the actual cutting process. It’s not about strength. It’s about control. A mighty blow with Thor’s hammer would be manly for sure but it’s also going to ruin the work. The key to getting that nice straight cut is patience. It often starts with abrading a line in the place you want to cut. Sometimes you need to drill and use a wedge. Then you place your chisel on the spot and tap it with the hammer. The vibration of chisel travels into the stone weakens the spot until a crack forms.
This is also how to change a difficult situation. Or deal with a difficult personality. If your goal is to destroy a relationship then hammer away like Thor and vanquish the enemy. But keep in mind that an enemy is what you will produce. But, if that goal is to shape a relationship from raw stone then the small light taps over a long time is how it’s best done.
It’s also how to set someone free. (Including ourselves sometimes)
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo
In today’s microwave world of instant gratification we’ve lost the value of accomplishment. Some of Michelangelo’s works took decades. The investment of time and imparting of life energy is what gives value to an angel shaped hunk of rock. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that don’t be surprised if instant success leaves us with a hollow victory. Accomplishment is born from the struggle. The harder the struggle is then the more satisfying the accomplishment will be. Even Michelangelo struggled. I don’t have a source but I remember one of art teachers talking about Michelangelo’s unfinished works and that how some of were abandoned because a fault formed in the wrong spot. The lesson I learned was that to become a master is to have failures and move forward anyway. If we want success then we walk away from the ruined piece with our tools and our experience and we get to work on a new piece by making those small taps in just the right place. And, we do it again and again until the angel is free.
The Hawk’s Nest State Park overlook is one of my favorite places. When I was a small child I lived next door in Lovers Leap,West Virginia. The cut stone and general architecture reminds me of an old world castle wall. In contrast, I still think the coin operated binoculars look like a robot from a 1950s science fiction film. The old gnarled tree in early Spring provides an interesting focal point. In the valley below is the New River. The New River is one of only three rivers in the world that flows from South to North. I love to stop and walk out onto the overlook and feel the wind blowing up from the gorge below. This is what it feels like to be on top of the world.