Tag Archives: VA

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.






I know a trail shoot was succesful …

This gallery contains 25 photos.

when I come home filthy, covered in mud, bleeding from my brush with thorns and other sharp things of nature and smelling of the earth that I was crawling around on.  There are few things in this life that renew … Continue reading

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As a photographer …


days like today are off the charts on the  list of experiences that I don’t want to miss.  It was simply my good fortune that the company I work for decided to open on a delayed schedule, giving me two extra hours.  Two extra hours on a bright, sunny, blue-skied morning that followed on the heels of a big, heavy snow.  As I look out my windows, I see that overnight, the entire world has been turned into a painting and I, being mortal, have it in my mind that I’m going to try to capture it; freeze it as it looks to me.  Hoping to do it justice.

I know when I’ve nailed a shot.  I don’t know a photographer who doesn’t.  Ansel Adams was quoted as saying “Sometimes I get there just at the moment God wants someone to click the shutter”.  He knew. That moment the shutter snaps, I am without doubt that even if nothing else I have shot the entire day satisfies me, this one shot will make every minute worth it.


There isn’t always “that shot”, though.  Some days, there is a handful of mediocre photographs and nothing that stands out.  There isn’t that one; the image that is full of words and in the words within the image, beauty.  That’s what I strive for, what I aspire to do; at times, it is all I can think about.   If only there was more time.


This day, the epitome of a winter morning, the kind of day I fantasize about; today, pure and simply, leaves me speechless.  Let the images speak for themselves.


I thought I was prepared …

for the sheer depth of joy that would come with the total immersion of mind, body and spirit into the wilderness.  I wasn’t even close.  In three short months, I had forgotten the thrill of knowing the exhilaration of finding that there is nothing between me and nature except the air I breathe and my Pentax.   I had forgotten how awe-inspiring creation is when I can see it up close and personal.  I had forgotten just how alluring the smells of the earth in winter could be.

Today, however, I was reminded.   The sights, sounds and smells took me from my present self and put me in an altered state of mind.  One that thrives on finding out where the trail leads, then, when the trail has run its course, the adrenaline punching adventure of veering off to become one with the hills and valleys, the streams and creeks of my mountain; for today, it was on my mountain that I wandered.  My mind was peaceful, my thoughts were clear and my body strong as it responded to the challenges and physical demands of making my way through thickets and briar-laden brambles on steep, rocky hillsides.

The mind-numbing exhaustion of the past few weeks dissipated like fog under a summer sunrise.  With every step, I felt my energy level rise and my stress level fade into oblivion and it didn’t escape me that I can find myself in this same state of mind over and over; that nothing can happen to me in a week’s time that I can’t undo with a hike into places both known and unknown.  My mind is already full with thoughts of where I will go next week. I am blessed beyond measure by the simple things in life that God knows I have a need of.

Even now, I feel as though the energy inside me will simply burst forth, creating a display of light and shadow all around me.  I suppose, since there happens to be no other, more enjoyable outlet, I will expend that energy on laundry.  Pity.


Psalms 96: 11-12 ~ Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice.

When hatefulness spews forth …

I am nearly always sorry afterward.  Nearly.  My closest friends and my sister know my moods and how my mind works.  They understand that there are times when I am not feeling myself and I try, with everything I have, to pick a fight.  If someone decides to fight back, knowing that in the grand scheme, it is irrelevant, but crucial to my psyche, then all is good.  When I am left to my own design, I deal with the the only way I know how.  The way that works best for me.  I throw things.

Yep.  I throw things that shatter and break.  Tonight it was a Bone-China cup.  A wonderful sound does Bone-China make when it shatters into a hundred pieces.  It seems that, as that glass shatters, so does all the hatefulness and stress that is, at the moment, overtaking my body and mind.  When my husband was living, he became adept at dodging flying objects.  I hit him once and, after the first pump-knot, he learned that I aimed to hit.  We laughed about it, even though, at the moment of impact, it wasn’t funny.  Fulfilling and comforting to me, but not funny.  Not at the moment.  I hurt him, physically, and shocked him otherwise.  I was sorry, but not enough to promise to never do it again. I did it again, a few times, but he had learned to gauge my moods and knew when flying objects would be part of his world.  He would never fight back with me though.  And so, the outbursts to my sister and friends continued, escalating after his death, and  now back to normal outburst frequency.  It amazes me sometimes that they don’t just tell me to get lost.  I am so very blessed.

It is a rare thing for me to get so stressed that I resort to that.  If the truth be known, when I stopped at my sisters house last evening, it was to provoke a fight.  She knows better than anyone that sometimes, I just need to have it out with somebody and is, usually, a willing sparring partner.   She wasn’t home, though, and I couldn’t find enough hatefulness in my heart to take it out on my niece and brother.  So I turned to my friends.  They must feel so special to get a message a couple of times a year that tell them just how badly they have pissed me off.  I know, were I to receive such a message, I would just cry; maybe for days.  But they know how my mind works.  They understand the need for release and none of them, so far, have held it against me.  I have, however, had to offer an apology or two when I forgot my boundaries.  I don’t forget my boundaries as much as I ignore them.  But I never, ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings intentionally, although, on occasion, I do without meaning to. For that, I really am sorry.

I used to apologize for myself all the time, but in the last few years, I have decided that I am who I am.  And who I will be is yet to be determined because I haven’t crossed that bridge yet.  My friends know me, my family understands me and I am at peace, for the most part, with myself; what else on earth could anyone ask for?


Proverbs 27: 5-6 ~ Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Dreams are dreams …

whosoever they belong to.  I have dreams; big ones.  Great big ones.  But that doesn’t make my dreams any more important than someone else’s.  I find that, while of course, I would like to see my most cherished, life-long dreams come to fruition, I don’t mind waiting.  While I’ve waited, I’ve seen the dreams of my family and friends come true.

I once told a friend, truthfully, that I wanted their dreams to come true even moreso than I did my own.  It is as true now as it was when I said it.  I want those I love to have the things they wish for on falling stars.  The things they hope for.  The things they pray for.  I know, in my heart, that the things I long for will be granted to me.  I have never doubted that a moment will come that will open all the locks and change my life forever.  I am known for my optimism, that is true, but I want to be known for my faith.  It isn’t because I’m optimistic that I know my dreams will come true (though a bit of “half-full” doesn’t hurt), it is because I believe the promises made by a faithful God.

There are places I’ve seen so clearly in my mind that even without going there yet, I know what I will find when I do.  The clarity of my sleeping dreams is, at times, disturbing.  They are often more real than I am comfortable with.   But, I digress.

As I get older, I find more things that I really want to know.  I’ve been studying Spanish and the piano, and if nothing happens, I will start art classes next month.  I cannot draw.  At least, not yet.  But there is that hope again.  Hope that I can put onto paper what I see in my head.  I think that being able to do so would help while I’m waiting for my own dreams to come true.  I am certain.  I am thankful.  I am anxious.  I am blessed.  I am rambling.  I am, mostly, an open book.  I speak my mind.  I am true to myself.  I am a Sagittarius.  I am me.


But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him ~ Jeremiah 17:7

Living for the Weekend …

isn’t really wishing your life away.  During the five long days between Sunday and Saturday, while I wish for the weekend to be here, I’m living.  Every day, every minute, I am going about the daily grind that is a big part of my life.  I wish for 5:00 on Friday starting first thing Monday morning.  I know that once Saturday comes, I will be up and out before the sun, doing, living, moving and embracing a beauty that otherwise lives in my head.

Occasionally something comes along that distracts me even from wishing for days off.  When that happens, there is little to do but hang on for dear life and ride the wave until it either drowns me or dumps me out somewhere; broken, blessed and sometimes disheartened.  Each failure and triumph is a lesson and my purpose is to learn them.  I have no illusions, however, that there are not others who feel this way.  Some  call us weekend warriors, some call us wannabe’s, some call us weird and unsatisfied and others just call us nuts. I don’t consider myself a warrior on the weekends, nor a wannabe, nor unsatisfied or nuts; I am just somebody who wants to see and do and see some more for the vastness of creation can never been fully experienced in a single lifetime.  I have difficulty staying in one place when I know there is somewhere else to go … and there is always and forever, as long as time lasts, somewhere else to go.

Some days I wish could go on for weeks and others cannot possibly end soon enough.  But inevitably, I know that if I can hang on for  a few days, (because once I’m set free I will be rewarded by one amazing thing after another) I will be set free as a bird from a cage.  I don’t mind working, not overmuch anyway, but there are many other things I would rather be doing.  A disheartening thing  for me is looking out the window and seeing the light change and knowing that, for the most part, I am missing it; as a photographer, watching the light change without me becomes, at times, physically painful.  At times like that, I wish even harder for time to pass.  I don’t feel bad about it and have no intention of not wishing for weekends.  The drum I march to may not be the same rhythm as others’, but it suits me just right and, at some point, they meet up anyway.

I’m not much of a joiner.  Where I am, for the most part, I am there alone.  I, unlike many, however, don’t mind being alone.  It would be a fallacy to say there was never a time I didn’t wish for company, for someone special to share the beauty that embraces me, in the recesses of my mind, like a lover …  but there is something so serene and renewing about being in the middle of a beautiful place in nature with nothing but the sound of the earth mingling with the music in my head to keep me company.  If anyone has ever stood on the top of a mountain, feeling the wind, lifting their arms and face to enjoy the sheer freedom of it … or  lying down in a field of blooming flowers, letting the sun warm their body even as the fragrance overtakes them … or standing close enough to a waterfall to feel the mist as it moistens their hair and skin as it plummets to a clear pool below, or feeling an intimacy that moves the soul and spirit in ways that were never expected or imagined; they understand.  They know what words can never describe.

These days, my time off is spent hiking in and around Southwest Virginia, not just because it’s where I live, but because it is a spectacular sight to see.  I pack my gear, put in my earphones and listen to the beauty of music while I immerse myself in the beauty of nature; a Pentax around my neck and my eyes always searching for what I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been looking.  That is part of being a photographer at the core of my heart.  Everything is beautiful, everything is alluring, everything is a photograph and nothing is too small to stop and admire.  During every moment, every adventure, every triumph and every disappointment, I know that I have been blessed beyond imagination by a loving God who knows what moves my heart and soul.  There are lessons to be learned and joys to be experienced.  It’s too late for me to change now, being as I’m getting old and set in my ways, so I’ll just go with it.  So far, it seems to suit me just fine … but eventually, the need to photograph will overtake everything else.  I feel, as I have for years, that this is God’s will for me.  He has encouraged me when I became discouraged and opened new doors into photography.  I am humbled that He would use me to encourage His people by doing what I love.  I am truly and excitingly and reverently and beautifully and gratefully blessed.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

~Robert Frost

A dance with shadow and light

On this past Fourth of July weekend, while many folks were out and about boating, traveling, vacationing and watching fireworks, I was walking a beat in the middle of the countryside, immersing myself in a life that I knew absolutely nothing about.  Although color and vibrancy is expected to surface on a holiday such as Independence Day, with the flag flying and fireworks blasting, there was more to what I was seeing than just color.   A wise man once told me that no photograph that is about color should be developed in black and white.  I’ve held onto that advice and have learned along the way that sometimes an image is about color…  And sometimes it’s not.  The ones I was looking for were about light and shadow and I was not disappointed.  So while the rest of the country was caught up in the celebration of freedom, I found myself caught up in the lives that live under the beauty of that freedom.  I spent the Holiday weekend with a bunch of rough, cigarette smoking, tobacco chewing men, tough, driven women, brave kids of varying ages and a myriad of horses, mules and dogs.  A small group they were, but nonetheless, an interesting bunch of people who held a common interest.  On this particular weekend, they brought their campers, horse trailers, wagons, bridles, saddles, grills, tables and vittles and set up camp.  In a flat piece of bottom land in Scott County, VA, what was just a bare place became a starting point for the week ahead.  Each day, beginning on Independence Day, the riders planned to mount their horses or mules and the wagon masters to hook their equines to their wagons and take off for the day.  There was friendship alongside friendly rivalry, but at the root, there was a love of something that bonded like glue.  Photographs can only take me so far and without the intimate knowledge of how a group of people thrive together, the story stops at the image.  When I first showed up with my camera in hand, there were, as expected, some curious glances and several “who is that” questions mouthed amongst themselves.  A close knit group who didn’t have the time or inclination to entertain outsiders, especially ones who knew little to nothing about horses or riding, they were leery of a strange woman with a camera.  I was fortunate enough to have an invitation to this event and was, after a few hours, accepted as part of the gang.  My main goal, secondary to photographing the happenings in and around the camp, was staying out of the way.  I asked questions when there was something I didn’t know, and kept my eyes open for anything that could be used to document what these people were about.  Though there was plenty of coming and going, I was drawn, not inexplicably, to the lined faces of the older men, the laughing smiles of the children and the character of the animals.  Shadows, shades, contrasts and light have always fascinated me and here, with these people, there was no shortage of real life happening right before my eyes.  No one posed for photographs or changed their habits in the event that they might find themselves caught on film.  They did what they had come to do and paid little mind to the gal with the camera around her neck.  After three days trolling the bottom field in the hot sun, I had a “tog tat” around my neck in the outline of my camera strap and a collage of photographs that reminded me, as I developed the RAW files in Lightroom, why it is that I so love being a photographer.  In each face, line, smile, grimace, frown and laugh, there was evidence of a Creator who is able to take the same features and make them different millions of times over.  I am thankful for the opportunity to, for just a little while in a span of time, be a part of something that previously had been foreign to me.  These people work hard, live hard and play hard.  They have lives outside of the wagon train, but for this stretch of days, they come together to share what they love.  And this time, I was allowed to be a part of it.  So to those who made these images possible by doing what they do and being what they are, I am grateful, for without a subject, be it human, animal or nature, a photographer is just a person with a gadget hanging around their neck. I don’t want to sit by as life happens around me and let lessons that I could have learned pass me by.  I don’t want to regret not learning what makes people tick, what makes them laugh or cry and what makes them want to work so hard to accomplish something.  I don’t want to let the colors in the world blind me to the brilliance of shadow and light.  I want to be more than just a gadget rack.

Spiritual Encouragement… we’re all on a journey to somewhere

Over the years, I’ve taken tens of thousands of photographs and created nearly 800 greeting cards; birthday, love, funny, serious, soulful, uplifting and more… but of all of them, the Spiritual Encouragement ones are my favorite.  They are thoughts and verses that have come from the ashes of the trials and difficulties in my life, the sorrows, disappointment and heartbreak… born of the refining that I didn’t realize was even happening.  I know that just as I stumble and fall, there are millions of people in the world I live in facing the same trials… hitting the same walls… struggling with the same demons.  During my own journey, with each refining came learning and the more I learned, the more I knew and the more I knew, the more I wanted to know and I started listening.  Once I became still and listened to what The Spirit was whispering to my heart and soul, it all started to fall into place.  Before I created a single card, spiritual encouragement or otherwise, there was a phrase that exploded in my mind and it was crystal clear ~ Through the Eyes of the Spirit ~  He was setting me on a path and I didn’t even realize it…

In the late winter-early spring of March, I felt compelled to create a greeting card for people who were struggling with the death of a loved one and the profound feeling of loneliness, sorrow and pain they would face that first year.  The words were there, and they were not mine, for there was a wisdom, though I had never experienced such a loss, of complete understanding and empathy. The photograph on the front of the card is one that was taken on a country road in the Fall, beneath a canopy of the brilliant colors of the changing leaves.  It was on the way to Bark Camp Lake, a beautiful lake park located in Northern Scott County in Southwest Virginia. Dad fishes for trout there and tells me how pretty it is and that he thinks it would be a good place to take pictures.  So in late October, Jim and I made our way up to celebrate our anniversary.  It was a beautiful day, the trees more beautiful than I had seen in years.  The sky, a perfect October blue, was dotted with fluffy white clouds and the wind rustled the leaves, causing an occasional windfall.  Along the concrete paths and on the wooden dock, fallen acorns, not yet discovered by deer or squirrels, lie among the fallen leaves.  Yes, it was a beautiful day…  And it was the last anniversary we would celebrate, but I didn’t know that.  Even so, I found comfort in the words, and after Jim’s sudden death a few months after, they sustained me with encouragement.  My sweet Jesus was, as far as I am concerned, speaking directly to me and His encouragement inspired me to encourage others, using the photographs and verse that I see and feel Through the Eyes of the Spirit, an incredible gift and a blessing that I cannot describe.  It consumes me.

For more Spiritual Encouragement cards from Through the Eyes of the Spirit, click the links on the right to open a new window, or visit the homepage of Through the Eyes of the Spirit by clicking on the photo below:

Spring on Clinch Mountain

Today, I took a walk on the wild side… the wild mushroom side, that is… Under the close supervision of my guide (and dad), Steve Minton, we went deep into the hollows of Clinch Mountain.  Although the mushrooms were in short supply, there was no shortage of sheer, springtime beauty.  The blooming trees are just starting, so the experience will last another week or so… the ferns are unfolding and the leaves are putting out… but more than the sights, there are the sounds and smells that make it, really and truly, springtime in the Mountains.  The brooks and creeks, thanks to the recent rains, were bubbling and laughing, teasing the rocks and the moss like a child with energy to spare…
The birds sang and the wind rustled through the budding leaves and still bare limbs making a sound, when mixed with the rushing water, that is indescribable and one of my greatest pleasures.  While the trail was steep and bumpy, the driver was an exceptional one and handled the Ranger like a true professional.  Myself, who is usually walking because I have some weird fear, rode with confidence and had a thoroughly wonderful day.  It wasn’t long after we’d stopped that Sophie announced her first find.  I wound myself around to where she and dad had gone.  It was then I heard him announce that there was a terrapin…  he stuck his head out for a moment, but soon decided he’d just soon be left alone…
Sophie decided she wanted to walk with me awhile so we started looking around.  She is eagle-eyes when it comes to mushrooms.  Though we only found a handful, she spotted every one of them.
The morel mushroom is called by many in Southwest Virginia the “dry land fish” partly, I suppose, to the fish-like taste of fried morels.  It is unusual for sure, and not easy to find.  But once you find a place they grow, you keep your mouth shut about it.  Least that’s what I was told by the guide.  Not long after, Sophie decided that she had seen enough mushrooms, had enough bug-bites and wanted to get in the cool… so we started down..  Not far into the descent, there were some ferns, just unfolding… one of the many small miracles of nature and one of my all-time favorite spring sights…

The descent ended in the pond field where we found and army of frogs all around the pond.  Since my zoom lens is temporarily disabled, I had to get really close.  Prayed that they wouldn’t jump on me, so I was pretty confident.  There were both disgustingly gross and unerringly fascinating… odd

The tour ended back at the farmhouse.  It seems that one of the most beautiful things was right here in the dooryard… my Mother’s garden…
All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  I learned so much more with dad, um, I mean, the guide, than I could have possibly figured out for myself.  Thanks, Dad, for being willing to teach an old dog new tricks…