Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Photo journal

I started a political update and there just wasn't really anything new I wanted to say. We are in a really boring place in the campaigns with both major parties settled on their candidate, both of whom we already know what they have to say and what positions they will likely take as each story develops. There doesn't seem to be any personal sex scandals or big stories about either of them. So both sides are trying hard to gin something up. Sean Hannity is desperately trying to get some interest going in all the "vetting"of Obama that wasn't done the first time. But, it's all stuff we've heard before. And the left is busy telling us that Romney is all about money and likes to fire people (well, the idiot did say actually say that, but we know what he meant). Ironically, the right's biggest problem is a candidate who is perfectly cast for the role, and is a chameleon or mirror for whatever it is he thinks the people he is talking to want to hear. If he's in Michigan, it's about how the trees seem just the right height there (see how riveting that is?) and if he's in the south - he loves grits.  So, not so fascinating a time, maybe at least until the conventions and debates a few months from now. While thinking about it, I started looking at some photos I've taken and the next thing I know - photo journal. I hope I haven't already shown many of these pictures here. I'm sure some are repeats but it is too hard to keep track.

This first picture is the icon I use online when websites want a picture of me. I'm not real comfortable putting my actual picture on them - never have, actually, but that's because I feel there aren't any good pictures of me (good reason for that too) rather than privacy, which is a quaint notion with satellites in the sky and Google grabbing all our computer data. This shot is from the James River not too far from me. I took it the first year I was down here - 2008. I doubt the hanging branch is still existing there like that. At least, I haven't seen it since that year and don't remember exactly where I took it. The river changes every year with respect to its plant life. I took my first river trip of the year this past weekend. I went about 24 miles - a marathon - in six hours. It was a Goldilocks trip - not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. The first half was a stretch of river mostly unfamiliar to me, the second part well traveled. I've probably done that part 20 times or so. There were places I couldn't believe how much it had changed in one year. In one spot, the trees in the water had always formed a short channel with a few danger spots, in particular one rapid that took a little skill and energy to avoid. Now, all the trees right in that spot are gone and though the rapid is still there, you'd have to go out of your way not to avoid it. In other spots, the channels on the sides of the river are filled with water, so you can glide in them, each one being like a pristine wonderland of woods and water, often with trees lying across your path or blocking your exit back into the main channel and the light colored green from the foliage. Often I end up in the water in them, and not voluntarily. These channels can be the best part of the trip, but are only available early in the season while the water is high.

This one is of one of the famed Peaks of Otter, about 20 minutes from me, on a beautiful, but very snowy, fall day, around dawn. Dawn is a great time to be awake. Given a choice, like most people, I'd rather be sleeping, but, most of the time, I'm wide awake by then. In fact, as I type this, it's 4:32 a.m. and I've been up for an hour, having slept four. But, I'll get sleepy later and maybe get another hour in.  On this day, I woke early and saw it was snowing. I got in my car and drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway which runs along a ridge a few hundred miles not far to the south of my house, and which also runs by the Peaks a few miles down the road from where I enter. When the sun came up I took picture after picture as I traveled around. Some of these by the Peaks are among the best I've ever taken. Not that I did anything different. I find something pretty, frame the picture and click. Modern technology does the rest.

Pictures like this give us a great feeling. Without getting maudlin about it, low light feels mysterious and exciting, full of promise. I can't imagine looking at a picture like this and not feeling good about it, but I am wired to appreciate nature since I'm a child. Only one of my five brothers and sisters seems to have anything like a similar interest. I don't know why it was so important to me and not to them. Right from when I was a little kid I wanted to know all about animals and wild places and thought my career would have something to do with that. When I was young I even thought I might be a forest ranger. I even thought that as I headed towards college. Then I realized that I had never really gone camping or knew anything about it. For some reason, I thought that mattered. It would not have at all. But, we can't go back and change things like that, can we? Ever thought about how different your life would be, if you made even some small change? Most of my friends in my adult life I knew until I moved four years ago, I knew because of my profession. Most of them I would not know had I been a forest ranger instead of a lawyer outside of high school buddies and a few women I dated. I would not even have the same daughter - or maybe a child at all. If you by the multi-universe theories that physicists throw around that seem pure ridiculous speculation to me, there is a David out there in a parallel universe who is just retired from the federal government after 25 years as a ranger with three kids, a wife who can't stand the thought of having me home full time and a pet porcupine named Fluffy. Or, maybe I fell off a mountain in my rookie year. Who knows?

This next one is about the clouds, not the buildings you see at the bottom. I don't know why you have to be a kid to look at clouds with great interest. I've never stopped, but people do look at me as if I had two heads if I talk about how much I enjoy them (why do I hear in my head Bear snickering that this isn't why they look at me like I have two heads?) One of my favorite things to do on airplanes is look out the window at clouds from the top, where they often stand up from the main body in great towers of mist. You can only look at it so long, but a they are some good minutes. Here, in southwest Virginia, I get to see them from a much different perspective than from when I lived on Long Island. This is due to the mountains and the James River a few hundred feet away. Even the rain is more exciting here for me, because when it is ending, there are clouds caught in pockets in the valley or playing around the mountain peaks. One day I had a visitor and we went out to eat while it was raining. I realized when we finished that there would be a spectacular sunset from up atop the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooking the valley. I made it up to the top to my favorite spot with a few minutes to spare. I am, if nothing else, a sunset afficiando, having probably hundreds if not thousands of photographs of them. But, this was, in my view, the most amazing one I ever saw. My guest, who was seriously addicted to facebook, looked for a few seconds, noted how beautiful it was, and then got back in the car and tried desperately to connect to facebook while I watched the sun set for ten minutes. It was surreal, magnificent and a crying shame my guest could not appreciate it. I did not have a camera with me. He had an ipad, but I didn't know anything about them. A couple of months later I was out west and watched people take pictures of it with them. It has a really good camera on it. I could have asked him to do it, and I'm sure he would have taken at least a few seconds for me to take the picture. Talk about a moment I'd like back.

One of my favorite views from one of my favorite hikes on Cornelius Creek Trail in The Jefferson National Forest. It is one water spout or slide after another. Walking on a trail next to a flowing creek is another of my great pleasures. It never gets old. Recently, when Montana Don was visiting, I went to one I hadn't seen before called Roaring Run. Climbing a not too difficult trail outside of a small town called Eagle Rock you are right on top of the bustling stream coming down the mountain the whole way. At one point you come to the top of a beautiful falls. This is more unique than you might think as at most falls around here it is difficult to find a spot where you can see it from above. Most trails are made so as to pass the bottom of them and you can't get to the top of it. Already, it is among my favorites.

This one is of a frozen river on my way to the Appalachian Trail. Coming across blue reflecting water in the winter is one of the great benefits of hiking in the snow. I was disappointed this year that there were no real opportunities for it. You have to make choices when you hike about where you go, and often I don't want to drive so far. I tend to hit the same beautiful trails again and again, with an occasional excursion to a new place. But, that doesn't mean the ones I don't go to much aren't spectacular as well. As I've gotten older I've come to appreciate familiarity a little more in some things - going to the same places to eat, watching the same movies, even re-reading some of the same books I've loved, even closer than the first time. Even in travel I notice that the last couple of years I've revisited places I've been to long ago rather than tried new places. Many of my friends enjoy going to the same place year after year. I can't say that appeals to me yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it does in a few years. Actually, though I still love to travel if given the opportunity, since I moved her my longing for it has decreased a great deal, as my day to day sojourn fills many of the needs that travel fulfilled, mostly in pretty vistas and outdoor opportunities. Still, I have a list of places I'd like to go and perhaps some day.

I never, and I mean never, get tired of looking at Mt. Purgatory from my backyard. This one was in the fall (obviously), when the mountain is, in my view, at its most beautiful. I have mentioned here before that a friend of mine from New York, who is among the politest people I know, asked me with a bit of a sneer if I didn't get bored looking at the same mountain every day. I found that very funny as she looks at the same boring neighborhood every day. Then another asked me the question, also with a sneer. And then another. Unlike when I lived in New York (and, by the way, I still love Long Island, but for different reasons), my mountain view often changes minute by minute. I eventually put a block of pictures on Picasa.com which I called "Why I live here," which highlighted my mountain and seemed an easier way to explain it to people. I used to frame pictures I took and put them on a wall. Maybe I will again some day. But, now that I've slowly gotten more used to the digital world, I'm satisfied with them here, particularly as the real thing is right outside my door.

I passed these falls on a country road on my way to Warm Springs, Va. Finding waterfalls is one of my great joys since I moved here. I knew of none on Long Island, which is famously flat, apparently having been ground so by glaciers back in the last ice age. I have read that Manhattan was once filled with waterfalls, but whatever there was is now long gone, undoubtedly paved under a parking lot or building. A few years ago they (the powers that be) put up a few fake waterfalls in New York City. That is, they strung a hose up to a high spot and let the water come down. I was not only surprised, I was actually shocked and saddened for people that they had to look at a fake contraption to sort of experience nature. But, many people were very pleased by it.  I passed one once while visiting and was just appalled, I say with a sneer, much like the ones my friends from New York had on their faces while thinking of my life in the country. Don't get me wrong. I love New York City. I think it is one of the great places in the world and it is filled with history. But, a fake waterfall? Please. You're killing me here.

Despite the fact that I am slowly getting more used to the digital world, it is not getting more used to me, and for some reason the thingee that uploads pictures to my blog stopped working. So, maybe it is God-o-matic's way of saying to me - Stop!


  1. You are going to be sorry for posting these descriptions and pictures if it causes a huge wave of people moving to Buchanan.

    And I still say Bring back Looney's Ferry!!!


  2. I wouldn't expect anyone who hasn't been here to know what Looney's Ferry was. The James River runs through my little town. Once upon a time there was a ferry there. They've located that spot, or at least believe they have, which is easily walkable from my house. The equally historical Route 11 runs right past it. Now, it looks no different than any other woodsy spot on the river. Once though, it was an important place. One day, a few years ago, I was in a museum and came across a survey made by Thomas Jefferson's father, Peter, and I believe another man named Joshua Fry, of the inhabited parts of Virginia (and parts a few other states). Much of the coast had place names on it, but most of the rest of Virginia was empty. Except, there was this little spot on the map where Looney's Ferry was marked. Nowadays, the river is damned, and much lower than in past times. Of course, as Don, being facetious, well knows, there is no use for a ferry now. Washington apparently came there during the French and Indian War, but was unsuccessful in raising some troops. If there was a building there, it might not have the same effect on me it does, but I do get a charge out of passing, almost every day, that little spot on the river, marked now only by a sign.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .