Tag Archives: summer

I am not a fan …

of Mother Nature’s pranks … her dark clouds, whipping wind and errant bands of rain should not be allowed to play with my emotions.

It is, on many levels, unfair, to anticipate the power, brilliance and soothing qualities of a wild summer thunderstorm only to find the clouds whisked away; the sunlight filtering through, laughing and dancing as though it were there all along.

Dark clouds, upturned leaves in the wind, the enticing smell of rain in the air … these things tell me a storm is imminent.

I quiver in anticipation as I prepare to absorb the extravagant power of it.

The mood of it.

The overwhelming presence of it.

And then …

As though it never was, it is gone.

I hear many folks complaining about the rain.  I don’t complain about it, even when it threatens to wash me out of my valley.

I love the sound of it, the feel of it, the thought of it.

Add some thunder, lightning and wind and I am in my own personal Heaven.

Nothing, at least to my way of thinking, is quite so soothing as the sky split open by slashes of lightning while the rain falls; big, fat drops that soak the earth and water the trees all the way to their roots.  The sound of thunder, bellowing, rolling, rumbling is a beautiful thing.

It reminds me that I am alive.

That I am a part of, however insignificant, the whole of the world.

The sky, the grass, the mountains, the trees, the wind, the rain, the clouds … I am part of each of them and they of me.

For a space of time, we are one with one another and I am as free as the birds that inhabit the space between earth and sky.

It is hard to feel insignificant when surrounded by such incredulous power and energy that beats within my heart and soul and takes me into itself.

I am the storm.

I am the lightning.

I am the thunder.

For those moments when I am standing in the midst of the chaos, I am one with nature.

If there is a greater feeling than embracing the full fury and magnificence  of an awesome storm, I fear it; I’m not certain that I could bare the emotional and physical magnitude of it.

I’m content with the storm.  Nothing else is required.


Going to work tomorrow …

is a chore.

I wonder, sometimes, if I can be a nurse for next twenty years, until I can retire.  I have a  hard time envisioning it.  A hard time seeing myself there.

For twenty more years past the twenty-five that I’ve already given.

Seeing the harshness of humanity, the sickness, the sorrow, the depravity … the death.

It is difficult for me when all I dream of is traveling and taking photographs.

I want, first and foremost, to see my own country, and then Ireland and then all of Europe; Germany in the springtime.

I have dreams.

I have aspirations.

I am too soft-hearted to be a nurse … to see the suffering, to feel the suffering, to hold the suffering unto myself.

I bring it home with me.  I dream of it.  I cry for those who cry.

I sometimes think I don’t have the strength or the courage to do what I do and yet, I cannot turn my back on those who cry on my shoulder.

I feel overwhelmed, at times.  I feel inadequate at others.  I am only me, but still, I am called to be more than I feel I can be.

I pray with them.

I don’t know what else to do.

My life experiences, many of them troubled and harsh, give me an insight into the suffering that these people who lean on me need.

I hope I am enough.

I fear that I cannot measure up.

I want to encourage them and know, that somehow, through my own discouragement, I can help them.

I continue to pray that I can be a part of the answers they seek.

I see the fear, sorrow and uncertainty in their eyes.  I know their pain, I have been through the fire and I can relate.

But I’m not sure I can continue to face that every single day.

Not sure I have the strength to carry the burdens of those I seek to encourage.

No certain that I even want to.

And yet, I cannot abandon them for their tears touch me so deeply.  I succumb to their sorrows and find myself weeping in the wee hours of the morning for that which I cannot alter.

I have told myself many times that, in my heart I am photographer and while that is true, also,  in my heart, I am a nurse.

And I know now, that no matter where I go, or what I photograph, the love for humanity will always take precedence.

I will always, whether a recognized photographer or not, be a nurse.

It is the burden I bear.

And I bear it with confidence that I, in some small way, can bridge the chasm.

I want, whether through photography or nursing, to make a difference …

If I can’t, then I, on all sides, have failed.

I don’t want to be a failure.

A young praying mantis sits in the sun of early summer

A young praying mantis sits in the sun of early summer

On the first day of June …

I went to my favorite place … Little Stoney Falls.  Once I got there, however, the parking space was full of cars.  I was in no mood to share MY falls with all these people, so I simply turned around and moved on.

I took the long way around to get there to begin with, for what better way to spend this magnificent day than driving around with the convertible top down and the music playing?  From there, I took the long way around again and wound up in Coeburn, taking the turn for Flag Rock and the High Knob tower.

I lost myself in thoughts and dreams as I drove up the curvy, winding mountain road.  It was one of those perfect days where the sky is blue, the clouds are white, the weather is warm and the light is magnificent.

While I did stop at Flag Rock and was bewitched by the beauty of the mountains, the blooming rhododendron and the sheer beauty of creation, I bypassed the High Knob tower.

There is no longer a tower there and the trees had grown up the last time I visited making the view nearly nonexistent.

I just kept driving.

Over the mountain.

The dirt road in front of me, the dirt road in back of me, the forest on either side and the incredible sky above.

At some point, I did get behind another car and found myself, once it was said and done, covered with a layer of dust.

Small price to pay for driving along with the top down and all of nature surrounding me, filling my head with dreams and images; I was in another place for that space of time.

I ended the day with a stop by the cemetery to talk to Jim about this, that and the other thing.  It seems that my visits there over the past few weeks have done wonders to balance my spirit.

I have things to say and no one, in particular, to say them to.  I talk to the sky, the wind, the grass, the birds … and I talk to him.  Nobody knew me the way he did.  I doubt anyone ever will again.

But that is neither here nor there.

It was a lovely day and I am grateful.





a single day in a remarkable journey

Early this morning, well before sunrise, I was up because I had planned to go to Sunrise Service at church.  Had been looking forward to it.  There is something inexplicably peaceful about standing in the cemetery on Easter as the first blush of morning blooms behind the quaint little country church.  There is a knowing that this is real, that what I have believed, what I have based my life on, is true.

Standing there in the cemetery.

But the sound of the pouring rain and knowing that because of it, the service would be held inside the church, changed my mind.

I tooled around the house a bit, restless.  During lulls in the rain, I stood on the back porch, absorbing the heavy, moisture-laden air, smelling the scents that can only be found during springtime in the mountains.  Thinking about things.

As the seemingly random thoughts passed through my mind, I found myself immersed in memory and longing.  It has been over three years since Jim died and I haven’t dreamed of him once.   Now, though, images that have been building over the past few days floated before me in a lovely haze.  Annie’s song.  The bagpiper in the cemetery.  A sharp tux at my first gallery showing.  The painting of the tree in my closet.  Looking back, the signs were there.  I think the memories were likely kindled last week when I was fiddling around with his clarinet.

Out of nowhere, it occurred to me that in all the years we were married, he never played for me.  Not once.

Of course, thinking of such things can do nothing but ruin an otherwise lovely day and I said as much to myself as I turned on the music.  It didn’t matter what kind, just anything would do until, as usual, I migrated to what was on my mind all along.  The melodies and verse filled my mind.  It didn’t stop the memories, though; they came anyway, unbidden and uninvited.   That’s the way of it sometimes.

The more I listened, the more I allowed myself to be carried along as I stepped back, in my mind, in time.  The music continued to play as  background to my thoughts while scenes long past wavered and became clear on the edges of my subconscious.   Jim and I had a great deal in common when it came to music.    It was a huge part of our lives, both a joy and a heartache; a double-edged sword.  At least it was how it seemed to me.

We took something very different away from it.  I shared with him the thoughts and feelings the music evoked; the way it made me want to weep or laugh or scream … to dance in the grass under the light of a full, summer moon … the excitement in the pit of my stomach.  To him, it was only sound and what I was trying to explain made sense only to me.  Seeing it now years later, with eyes unobstructed by grief, I realize I wanted him to want to understand me and was perplexed when he didn’t.

That knowledge chipped away at something vital to my well-being and made me feel foolish and insecure.  It was hurtful.  It wasn’t intentional, but it was still hurtful. I had not yet reached a point in my life when I trusted the way that music made me feel; didn’t realize that it held the same power over me whether anyone else felt it or not. I tried to bury, or at least quiet, the discombobulating range of emotion that it evoked in me … but the music was just too powerful.

It still is.  It will always be.  I not only know and understand what it can do to me, but embrace it and that in itself is freeing, like falling through the air.  Through his indifference, not just about music, but other things, came encouragement to find my own skin and be comfortable in it.    To everything, there is a season.

Memories teach me many things … for one, life goes on … my past doesn’t change, but my perception of it often does.  God takes the pieces that seem out of place and puts them in perspective.  Even with its ups, downs, doses of reality, complexities and melancholic rantings, life really is quite remarkable.  There is enough joy and wonder to balance out the rest if we embrace it.


If it isn’t going to snow …

and snow BIG, then I am officially done with winter.  I am filled to overflowing with frosty windshields in the early, still dark mornings.  I am finished with the cold wind whistling through trees that have been bare for too long.  Winter weather advisories that never come to fruition and the forecasters who get my hopes up are now on my short list.


Since I love lists so much, it is time to make a new one; a warm weather one.  This new and improved list will not include heavy winter coats, gloves or scarves.  It won’t include three layers of clothes or multiple pairs of socks worn under fur-lined boots.  It also won’t include walking home because the ice is too thick to drive in.


I was recently reminded by a friend that boating season is just around the corner.  It took less than two seconds for the image of skimming across the lake with the sun hot on my skin and the wind in my face to fill my warmth starved brain.  I foresee cold drinks and much laughter as we frolic in the lake.  Actually, I suppose I should clarify; I foresee much laughter as THEY frolic in the lake as I’m not really box-ankled about jumping into water that I can’t see through.  I’m more of a “float-on-the-top” kind of gal.



I look at my pale, winter skin and think of sunning myself like a lizard and admiring my tan lines (after the redness fades).  I love the sun and, unlike many people I know, don’t mind the 90 plus temperatures of a steamy Appalachian summer.  I long for the thunderstorms that come out of nowhere, bringing with them the stunning display of lightning and sky that only God can provide.


I look forward to long hikes along shaded trails and wading in the clear, cold pool at the foot of my favorite waterfall; speeding with the top down over curvy mountain roads to get there.  My sister’s pool with the shimmering water and full-sized slide call to me like a siren’s song.  Trips to the ocean and embracing the sunrise in the wee hours then sipping boat drinks at sunset will find their place at the top of my list.



beachday1 542

Yes, I am officially done with winter and realize as I write this post and compose my list that I am going to need more paper.   Now, if I can only get Mother Nature to cooperate, all will be well with the world and I can stop shivering.


Worshiping God in the Middle of His Creation

This morning, for Sunday worship service, our congregation didn’t meet in the churchyard as happens each time we have church services.  Instead, we took a detour and went down to the creek.   The beauty of nature became a sanctuary like none I’ve ever been in.  Overhead, the trees, bursting with the leaves that come with mid-summer, made a canopy that swayed in the morning breeze.  The overcast sky threatened rain and the light, soft and yielding, cast a lovely glow on the people that had gathered to worship God and on the beauty of God’s creation surrounding them.  Behind the “pulpit” made up of a picnic table underneath one of the huge trees, the creek gurgled and laughed as it flowed over rocks and made it’s way, as all flowing water does, to the sea.

As I looked around at the people, I saw an array of dress and I couldn’t help thinking that there are places some of us, myself included,would not have been allowed.  Knowing what hangs around creeks and pastures, I wore my jeans and boots.  Nobody cared.  We were there to worship the Lord, not critique what each one was wearing.  While we sang songs from the old Church Hymnal, I walked around taking photos.  I could not pass up such a rare opportunity to get shots of God’s people worshiping Him in the midst of His creation while all that surrounded us sang along with us and, in my mind, took an active part just by being.  After the service, the food and fun began.  There were grilled burgers and dogs with all the fixin’s.  Not long after they got their bellies full, the kids found their way into the water.  With splashing and squealing, the ones who were fishing were, I’m afraid, wasting their time.

All in all, it was a wonderful day of worship, prayer, food, fun, playing, wading, swimming and fishing.  Amidst it all was laughter and fellowship.  I can only imagine that God was pleased to see His children gathering under His canopy to sing His praises and worship His glory.  When I count my blessings, I count photography with them for, through the eyes of the spirit, I see what magnificent beauty God has made.

Just Another Day in Paradise

The trip from Southwest Virginia to the beautiful area on the Gulf Coast of Florida known as Madeira Beach seemed to take forever, but, as with all great things, the time is passing rapidly and, all too soon, it will be time to return to the mountains with nothing but a tan and some wonderful memories.  While vacations are meant to be taken at a slow pace with sleeping late, lazy brunches, lounging around and doing a whole lot of nothing, those things have been elusive.  Before the sun shows its face, I’ve been out on the beach looking for shells in the moonlight, listening to the song of the ocean and watching the fishing boats going in and out of John’s Pass, a Channel which was named, allegedly, after a peasant turned pirate called John Lavique.  Spanning the Channel is a magnificent drawbridge, waiting patiently for the tall masts of the sailboats to signal their arrival or departure, then slowly lifts to allow them passage.  Although I’ve seen drawbridges before, I continue to be fascinated by the mechanism and the whole idea of breaking the road in half, raising it up to a near ninety degree angle and then putting it back in place again.

Even though it is quiet in the wee morning hours, before the beachcombers and kids start pouring onto the sand and into the surf, there is no way to get up too early for the fishermen.  With their tackles, nets and

waders, they come out early to try to catch the big one out of the sea.  For many fishermen, my dad included, it doesn’t really matter if they catch anything or not, although it is always cause for excited celebration when they feel that familiar tug on the line.  Just the act of having a line in the water is enough for them and outwitting a fish is just a bonus.  One of the birds that hangs out near the outcropping of concrete and rocks that bellies up to the Gulf has befriended my dad, or rather has learned that he is quite adept at outsmarting the fish.  He’s also learned that if he hangs around, there’s a good chance he’s going to get a saltwater snack and is ever so willing to wait.  While he doesn’t mind that other birds come near where he waits, when the fish comes in, he starts moving closer.  At first, he would only come within ten feet or so of where Dad would stand, but this evening, when I went down to photograph the sunset, the bird was just a couple of feet away.  He has obviously learned that the hand that feeds him is a safe place be near.  Although I can’t prove that it is the same bird, I am fairly sure, just from the markings, that it is.  Why mess with success has likely become his new motto.  I’ve seen pelicans dive into the water and these large cranes skimming the surface, but until this past Sunday, I had not witnessed one of them actually eat a fish.  Usually, squeamish would describe me best in such situations, but in this case, I couldn’t take my eyes off the bird as it maneuvered the fish into a position where it could just gulp it down.  That long skinny neck doesn’t look like it could swallow a fish, but as with many things of nature, looks can be deceiving. Before long, the throngs of people will flock, pardon the pun, to the water and the sand, bringing with them their chairs, towels, toys, sunscreen (hopefully), drinks and children.  The kids will splash, the adults will toast and the sounds of summer fun and helpless laughter will fill the muggy, tropical air of this little slice of perfection that we have been allowed to enjoy.  The sky is a blue that is often seen in October, the water a lovely shade of light aqua blending, churning and merging into a deeper, darker shade of the same beautiful tones.  The Channel is alive with activity including wave runners, parasail boats with their smiley face parachutes, motorboats, yachts and of course, the ever-present fishing trawlers.  I can’t say I have a favorite as I like to watch them all, but hope that I never have to be out in the ocean on something that lets my legs hang in the water.  Irregardless of the beauty in front of me, if my feet are in the water, the image of Jaws is always in the back of my mind.  So for now, I will  continue to feast my eyes on the beauty and activity around me, watch my nieces play and splash in the surf and be content that I get to be a part of what the locals would consider just another day in paradise.

I’d rather (NOT) be staked to an anthill after all

The first leg of the 2011 Family Vacation began this morning, uneventfully, at around 7:30 am.  The trip over the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, well into the muggy depths of South Carolina and into the swampy terrain in South Georgia went at a fairly fast pace.  There was a good bit of traffic and actual congestion in some places, but the Indie certified driver I was following changed lanes at the speed of light with very little use of that little stick on the steering wheel that makes either the left or right back light blink, depending on which way you are swerving… i mean merging.  Not far from Savannah, we decided, as I was begging for food, to stop for lunch at Burger King®.  I was in the mood for a hamburger and didn’t really care where it came from.  My family, willing to accommodate me as I think they were close to collapse from hunger themselves, were just as happy to be at Burger King®  as I was.  After eating my junior whopper without ketchup and what onion rings Sophie didn’t steal from me, I hurried outside to photograph one of my favorite things… Spanish Moss.  It was hanging from the branches of the huge trees like the tresses of some long ago princess, blowing in the hot breeze of a South Georgia Summer, but unperturbed by the heat or the wind, it was just there and it was beautiful.  I managed to get several shots with my Pentax, but being an avid droidographer as well, (a phrase used by a fellow tweep, @Curt Fleenor), I wanted to get some shots on my motodroid.  There were several  large trees all with an ample amount of the lovely moss hanging, in places, nearly to the ground.  As it was a public place with an access road passing by, I wanted to be certain that I wasn’t in the road.  It is hard for me to concentrate on anything other than the subject once I get started photographing something and being ran over by a passing car was not on my list of things to do today.  Between the access road and the Burger King® parking lot, there was a lovely little patch of grassy-looking flowers with some shrubs in the middle.  It looked like the perfect oasis to stand while I scouted the best vantage point for the droiding shoot.  I stepped into the grassy mound which seemed to sink under my feet.  I remember thinking it reminded me of a bog-like area at the top of Sammy’s Hill near my home.  Before the thought was complete in my mind, I felt this intense burning sensation.  I looked down and, much to my horror, I could not see my feet or, two inches above my ankles, my legs.  They were red with FIRE ANTS.  Now, such beating, jumping and swiping you have never seen.  I had heard of fire ants and their ability to cover their intended victim quickly, but had never, first hand, experienced anything like this.  I counted, once I was certain all the ants were off my person, 72 bites on my feet an ankles.  Now while that number seems really high, at least to me, it is important to remember that the ants were on my person no longer than ten seconds.  The other important thing to remember and one I am trying not to find fascinating, is that there were hundreds of them.  It was appalling, frightening, horrifying and completely, totally enthralling that they could do what they did in so little time.  As completely befuddling as it was to my parents and, if I have to say it, to myself, I consider it a rite of passage that I was deep in the Southern recesses of Georgia where the Spanish Moss grows, photographing a beautiful thing of nature and was attacked by fire ants.  It may seem lame that it was in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant and it may make some folks roll their eyes and think that my sister was right and that I am a dork.  I don’t deny it anymore than I deny getting a real taste of Savannah was a cool experience, even if it did require benadryl to thwart a potentially severe allergic reaction.  While I’ve never had a severe reaction to an insect bite, I’ve never been bitten by so many at the same time.  I’m sure the patrons of the restaurant thought I was having a seizure, but no one came to see if I were dying.  After the initial OMStars! moment, I found it to be pretty neat.  I have decided, however, that this experience has taught me two things.  First, it turns out that, after all is said and done, I actually would prefer to go to WalMart than be staked to an anthill.  While I hope not to be devoured by an alligator or attacked by a rogue dolphin while in Florida, I do hope for some more interesting, fascinating and OMStars moments in my otherwise boring life.  I could just have easily been in the wilds of Africa or deep in the Rain Forest for all the excitement I felt at this small, though painful, event.  Who knew that being staked to  (well, actually just stepping on, but staked to sounds more profound) an anthill could make me feel so proud to be a photographer.  I guess there are some things that are only to be understood by a photographer’s heart. And second on the list of things this experience taught me… it was so worth it to get shots of the moss that so fascinates me.  So it was, in the end, since I didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction and die, a quite remarkable experience and as I said, well worth the pain of a few hundred biting, stinging, itch-inducing, burning-sensation causing, ants.  With such an experience on the first day, well before our destination was reached, I can hardly contain my excited expectations of what I will experience tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.  I love being a photographer, even when it hurts.  Tomorrow is a new day and I can’t wait to see what awaits…