Category Archives: travel

My New Year’s Resolution …

is to not make any resolutions.  It doesn’t matter what I say to myself on the eve of the the first day of a new year; life will come as it will come.  Things are stressful enough without adding to it unrealistic expectations and spur of the moment declarations.  There is more than enough on my plate now.  I find that the moments of quietness in my brain come further and further apart.  It’s not that I worry about things as I’m not a worrier by nature, but that there seems to be a revolving door of thoughts and images, ideas and dreams, revelations and memories that filter through 24/7.  Keeping up with what society deems to be important through material things and thought processes are as far removed from me as they can get.  I could make promises that I know, even as I make them, I won’t keep them, but in doing so, I am setting myself up for failure and, doing it on purpose.  I fail at what I attempt enough without doing it purposely.  But failing at something doesn’t make it a lost cause, on the contrary, it gives me insight for when I try again.  If I fail again, I will fail better and eventually, I will either succeed or gain better understanding of my limitations.

When I can see the things that failed in the past, trying again is easier because I know the things to avoid.  I understand more of what makes me tick.  It is a work in progress.  I can’t expect others to understand what I, often, have difficulty understanding myself.  I have failed at friendships, relationships, and many other things, but the only thing that will truly make me a failure is if I stop trying.  Once the will to try is gone, then nothing remains but to become a useless entity in the world.  I am who I am and will be who I will become because of the experiences I’ve had and the ones I have yet to experience.

The definition of a resolution is the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.  There is nothing simple about making a life-altering decision at the spur of the moment simply because it is New Year’s Eve.  Instead, it is irresponsible and self-deprecating to place unrealistic demands on myself that will plague my already overflowing brain with the  idea that I am not able to do what I vowed, in an otherwise magical moment, that I would do.

I want to experience that which I haven’t experienced and repeat that which brought me great joy.  I hope to see places I’ve never seen, visit places I’ve never been, find what I didn’t realize was lost and be there for the people who need me.  My life is a simple one, for the most part, and I can’t think of a good reason to complicate it with unnecessary static.

No, there will be no resolutions this year.  Instead, I will continue to take one day at a time and live it to the best of my ability, following the plan that God has for my life and relying on my faith to protect me from fear and indifference … and hope that, along the way, I am able to impact someone’s life by the one I lead.  Tomorrow is only lost if I decide it isn’t worth the effort and as long as I have breath in my body, the gift of life is worth the effort.


If you’re too sick to go to the doctor …

you probably have the flu.  It is that time of year.  Actually, it’s a little early, meaning that the season will be in full swing by the time everyone starts traveling to visit with family and friends during Christmas.  There will be many who will have a fever and feel as though they have been beaten nearly to death with a hammer, but will travel anyway because, hey, Great Aunt Ethel will be disappointed if she doesn’t get the pair of socks they spent two minutes picking out.  They will hack and cough, sneeze and sniffle, wipe their eyes and forget, at times, to cover their mouth, touch everything and leave their germs behind for dozens of others; kind of like paying it forward, but in a bad way.  Unless they are walking around in a bubble, they are going to give it to many unsuspecting people, who will in turn, give it to many other unsuspecting people.

Imagine yourself on a plane, closed in with a few hundred others, a third of whom may have or have been exposed to, the flu.  Breathing the air, touching the surfaces.  There isn’t enough soap or hand sanitizer in the world to protect you.  Now imagine yourself on the subway platform with all the same scenes.  Now imagine yourself on the train, or at the rest area, or in a restaurant, or at the mall … I could go on for pages, but first, multiply the  above by a hundred thousand or so.  If you or someone you know hasn’t yet tested positive, just give it a little more time.

The flu virus can live outside the body anywhere from a few seconds to 48 hours and on your hands for about an hour.  The vaccinated have a better chance of avoiding the flu than the un-vaccinated, but there are no certainties either way.  It is important to wash your hands or use sanitizer between every contact with every surface.  Will it make you feel like the skin on your hands is going to fall of?  Of course.  What can you do about it? Use lotion.  That will make  you even more susceptible, but at least your nails will look good.

Jesus is the reason for the season, but flu is the reason for the sneezin’.  Try to stay well everyone …

I’m not the envious type …

never have been, thankfully.  I’ve always been the type of person that was so very happy for anyone doing what it was that I wanted to do; experiencing the things that are on the list of things to do before I die … important moments that I can only hope to be a part of. That is no different now.  Although being in New York City and seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center on my birthday is on the top five things to do before I die, I could not be more happy for my sister.  She is there.  She and my brother (my sister’s husband), walking the streets, looking in the windows, stopping to listen to the saxophone player and then putting a bill in his case because he is just damn good.

And though I don’t see her walking into the seedier part of town just to get to a little hole-in-the-wall Italian joint, (I do, however, remember this place in China Town with a secret door and weaponized thugs where she tried to have me killed over a purse), a place that treats a tourist like a tourist and a local like a local; a place that I would do my very best to make friendly so that, even though I was a tourist, they would treat me like a local.  I’d have my camera out, hoping they, whoever they at that particular moment would be, would grace me with a few moments of their life in my lens.  I have so many lives in my lens.  I look back at the photographs sometimes and simply sob with gratitude that I was allowed to be a part of a life moment, at some time, in some place.

Yes, I hope she is having the time of her life, she and her husband, as they enjoy the beauty of New York with the drab streets and bare trees.  I hope she takes a photograph of the “virtual billboard” in Times’ Square, not really because she wants to but because she knows I would.  I hope she enjoys the subway and takes in the sounds and sights as she flies through the tunnels.  I hope the late Autumn, Christmas ready New York is everything she hoped it would be.  I hope, beyond all rational thought, that she has the best time of her life.  We may not always see eye to eye, but when it comes to the sticking point, I know who to call.

another of my many mottoes ~ Wherever you are, whatever you do, do it for yourself; otherwise your life will always be lived vicariously and the real experience will never be your own.  Dreaming is dreaming, irregardless of the dream.

The Wonder of Nature, Baby…

a force to be reckoned with.  As Hurricane Sandy makes her way up the East Coast, I find it both exhilarating and humbling to follow along.  I have many friends, some in flesh and blood, and others on Facebook and Twitter that I follow along with.  I wonder and think about their well-being and hope they will be well and safe, but at the same time, well, what can I say?  I want to be in the midst of the waves and snow and wind and carnage.  I want to wield my weatherproof Pentax and document the most awesome entity that is called Nature.  It is in my blood, my heart and my soul and even though I have mixed feelings about it, it doesn’t change the desire.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I knew, beyond all rational thought, that I wanted to be a photographer, but it was somewhere in the middle of Mrs. Duncan’s third grade class.  I was caught taking photographs of the classroom and of the teacher, and she took my camera away.  As far as I know, if she is still living, she still has it.  Documentation of life as it happens became a pure obsession, one my parents (as those long ago sought after piano lessons) thought would pass.  But it didn’t pass.  Instead, it became an inferno as opposed to a campfire.

As years passed and photography consumed me, it had to take a back seat to the reality of having to work to feed my family.  A day job has, as far back as I can remember in my adult life, been the bane of my existence.  I got married and then had a child.  It wasn’t in my nature to quit once I had started something, so even though I loved my daughter and tried my best to make my husband happy, I could think of little else than leaving it all behind to pursue my dream.

But dreams are just that.  Imaginings and hopes that may or may not come to fruition.  The timing, at that particular moment, wasn’t right and I had responsibilities that kept me grounded.  I have no regrets (well, maybe some regrets where the philandering, cheating, no-good husband was concerned), but as far as my daughter, absolutely no regrets.  She was,  is and will continue to be a driving force in my life.  I had pretty much given up the hope of ever being a “real” photographer.

Fate and destiny has a way, though, of cutting through all the nonsense and paving a way where there didn’t seem to be one.  God knows the most intimate secrets and desires of my heart.  I began creating greeting cards a few years ago and have, to date, sold well over 20,000 cards.  God has blessed me well beyond what I believed I was capable of.  I have recently signed up to be a part of the Virginia Tourism team and excitement doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel.

Saying things out loud has always been a problem for me, but writing about or photographing and then writing about them is as natural as the breath in my lungs.  I look forward to every new adventure, each new sunrise and everything in between.   One has only to look at two sunrises or sunsets in succession to realize that they are completely different and have very different things to say.  Many times, I have (much to my family’s chagrin and disapproval) made myself a human lightning rod in the midst of thunderstorms, but take not into account my safety.  As I see it, if I die while photographing the wonder of nature, it has been a good death.

My blog posts come from my own brain and my own heart and my own point of view.  While there are times that I am certain I step on the toes and belief systems of the people I love and cherish, I cannot stem what comes from my soul.  To do so would be to deny that I, in any capacity, cease to exist and I have worked way to hard to overcome such ideals to let them hold me captive anymore.

Funnily enough, this post began as encouragement to those who are about to face an awesome display of nature and try to survive, but, has become more of an homage to those who follow along.  I am honored.  I am humbled.  I am inspired.  Life inspires me and that, in itself, is one of the most wonderful things I can imagine.

What can you do …

when you are trapped between that realm of normalcy and  insanity?   A tough question with no easy answer.  After  years of battling hours, days, even weeks of rapid cycling, I still have nothing to offer.  When those times come about, it seems that we, as beings, cease to belong to the world around us.  Everything is distorted and there is no orientation or order to any of it.  It comes down to the ability to realize what is happening and take it, as much as possible, in stride, until it passes.  I’m sure there are many people who have no idea what “rapid cycling” is and do not recognize it when people they know are going through it.  To the “normal” person, it looks like acting out or even attention seeking behavior.  Without knowledge of the situation, it would seem, and aptly so, that the person you know has become someone that you cannot comprehend.  I suppose, without actually meaning to be, this post is as much for the people who cannot fathom a place of uncertainty,  and downright dubiety than for those of us who know it more intimately than we would like.

Rapid cycling is a real and, most often, a permanent thing.  I am blessed to only have this occur once or twice a year; not so in my youth as it would happen two or three times per month and could, in the worst of times, last a week or more.   It is not uncommon for rapid cycling to last for months or even a year, but for the rest of us, the lucky ones,  rapid cycling comes with little or no trigger and can last as little as four hours.  The mood swings are awesome and completely, enigmatically  exhausting.  By the time it is over, I usually feel like I have been ran over by a very large, heavily loaded truck.  My brain is foggy, my senses slow and my reflexes, at least for a short time, are nonexistent.  In the grand scheme of things, it is not dissimilar to a seizure that lasts for hours.  Right and wrong seem to meld seamlessly and, from previous experience, it is most important to try to maintain control during one of these episodes.  After all these years, I have learned the warning signs and work very hard to isolate myself, as much as possible, until it has ran its course.

I know, without reservation, that there are others who feel the same way.  It makes me feel extremely vulnerable to speak of such things, but one person’s experience can often mean the difference between making or breaking to someone who feels the devastating, overwhelming range of emotions that define who we are at a given time.  Everyone experiences, at some point, sadness and joy, but this goes beyond that.  It is joy that is so inexplicable that jubilant takes a back seat; sadness that threatens our very being and, in the midst, every conceivable emotion in between.

I subscribe to the supposition that most adults have, at this point, learned to recognize the warning signs and may even be able to pinpoint the triggers; for that reason, this post is not directed to you.  It is directed to younger people who have thoughts and feelings that they cannot understand and find that, when trying to describe it, the people they love and trust do not understand.  It is important to know that it is likely that they will never truly understand.  They will accept you, humor you, try to get you, but unless they have experienced the phenomenon, they will not ever really and truly know what you speak of.  BUT … that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who do.

Look inside yourself, learn to know the warning signs and be aware of the consequences of rash and often, irrational choices.  Even when you feel out of control, at the core, you are in control.  The decisions and choices you make, the roads you take, the destinations you choose will all define who you are in the end.  Just because you have moments of weakness doesn’t give you free reign to make poor choices.  It is of inimitable importance that one understands the state they are in and realizes that the choices they would normally make are much, much more complicated during this time.

If I can do nothing else, I encourage everyone to learn about rapid cycling so that when faced with it, whether personally or through someone they know and love, they will understand that it isn’t something that can fixed by advice.  It can’t be fixed by instruction or direction and it has no understanding of “buckling down”.

It just is.  And, as quickly as it comes, it will end.  Have faith that God will not let you destroy yourself and know, with certainty, that this too, shall pass.  I tell you this from experience so that  you, whoever you are, will know that you are not alone.

I believe in an Awesome God and know that the experiences and trials we face will help us help others.  If I didn’t believe in God and the unshakable Spirit of Christ, then I would be certain that I was cursed.  But I am not cursed, I am me and I will make the very best of it that I can.  Be encouraged and then encourage others.  Your life will be richer for it.

If you listen …

you can can  hear the songs the leaves sing.  I suppose it comes as no big surprise that my blog posts this time of year pretty much revolve around Autumn, specifically  October, which brings with it the beauty of leaves that so many people, both photographers and just onlookers, seek out.  It is easy to find places to look at and enjoy the leaves on the trees that are turning colors of fiery red, brilliant orange and intense, glistening gold.  It is also easy to find trails to walk, especially around Southwest Virginia, that will take you beneath that brilliant canopy.

But those aren’t the only leaves that call to me.  One of my favorite experiences is walking along a mountain trail and have a gust of wind come up; one that blows a hard puff and send leaves spiraling out of the trees, floating and swirling as they fall gracefully to the ground.  There they make a carpet that can only be found once a year; a colorful carpet that transforms an otherwise brown and dying earth with a brilliance that cannot be rivaled.   In that carpet, it is not unusual to find mushrooms, acorns, walnuts and a myriad of other things that add their own beauty to that which is already there.

In the silence of a trail shoot when there is only me and what surrounds me, I listen to the sound.  What a symphony.  As the wind blows through the leaves, they rustle, talking back and forth, singing because, after all, this is their time.  Their moment to shine and take the spotlight.  And they sing because they know that even on the ground, they are spectacular.

They find happiness in falling and flying, giving way to freedom and pure unbridled joy.  At least it seems to me to be a joyful experience.  They look to be having so much fun that it makes me wish I could float from the trees, singing a song of thankfulness just to be a brilliantly colored leaf in October.  I find it exhilarating to speed around the bends of curves of leaf-covered mountain roads where leaves have pooled as though waiting for me to come along.

They laugh as I speed past, blowing them up and swirling them above the road and then back again.  Sometimes they find their way through the open convertible top and into my car.  They make me want to laugh just as, at times, the magnificence that I am allowed to be a part of makes me cry.  Not sad tears, but tears of happiness that I am alive and able to become, even for a short time, a part of Autumn.  I love being a photographer, especially in October.


Ecclesiastes  3:11 ~ He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end

Today, I feel …

strong.  accomplished. motivated. tired. empowered.  It was a long day consisting of a long, difficult hike, mostly uphill, to be able to stand a bit closer to the sky and look out upon the beauty that lay below.  My trail shoots are usually five miles and under and while they are often to high places, with climbs and some measure of danger, today took the cake.  For eight hours, myself, my sister, niece and cousin trekked ten miles, mostly uphill, at a fairly steep incline.  At times, the steepness was such that holding onto trees or putting our hands on the ground was essential if we wanted to live to see another day.  It is, to date, the most difficult hike I have taken.  Had we decided to come in after visiting the White Rocks overlook, it would have likely been pretty much par for the course.  But no.  It wasn’t enough.  We went on to the Sand Cave.  I blame myself for it as I wanted so badly to see it and while we were there, we decided to bite the bullet and add an extra three miles to our adventure.  Knowing now what I didn’t know this morning when we started, I realize that in the future, I will go to one or the other, not both.  Actually, after having visited the Sand Cave, I can’t think of a good reason to go back.  Don’t misunderstand, it was beautiful, but it wasn’t what I had pictured in my mind.  The sand was deep and nearly impossible to walk in with shoes on.  I’m not a fan of sand in the first place, especially with shoes on, and this didn’t do anything to make me more of a fan.  The sand had the consistency of baby powder and didn’t stick to anything; a couple of stomps on a rock and all the sand feel off my shoes.  It was unusual and the ceiling and walls of the cave were spectacular, but still …  not a place I would purposely go to again.  The hike down to the cave was steep and, at times, treacherous, but the hike out was dangerous in the beginning and just plain exhausting by the end.  Already being tired and hungry (since as usual, I only had a pack of Toast-Chee crackers) made the climb out from the cave unusually strenuous.  The entire trail was rocky and rough, making it even more arduous.  The trail is listed as moderate, but don’t believe it for a minute.  It is, in places,  somewhat moderate but mostly difficult and not a trail I would recommend for amateurs.

Next weekend, I will go back to my beloved falls to see the foliage change and sit on the rocks for a while, enjoying the sound of rushing water and the complete solitude that I have found nearly every time I have gone there.  After today, it will feel no more strenuous than walking to the mailbox.

Let all creation sing a song
So that I may sing along.