Rustic is Good

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I made this photo a few days ago, and it represents a specific photo subject I enjoy very much: rustic building windows and doors. It’s the wooden texture, reflections in the old glass, peeling paint, and thoughts about what sort of things lie behind, that get to me … every time. While I was making this photo, an old man came driving onto the property I was on, illegally I might add because there were “No Trespassing” signs in view. However, a metal farm gate was open, and I’d been to this old house several times before. I figured better to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Anyway, the man was a farm hand, carrying items out from behind the house. I explained what I was doing and he welcomed me to stay as long as I liked. Maybe it was my rural SW Virginia accent that did the trick, or the US Coast Guard hat I was wearing. We chatted a bit about the old home, which he said was built in the 1870s, and had been enlarged over the years. He said folks had lived there well into the 20th Century. It was indeed rustic. The foothills of the Blue Ridge where we live sure do have character. Like this rustic old house, and the nice old man I ran into that day.

Fitness is Good

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Our daughter Amy teaches 3rd Grade students in North Carolina. She’s also been trained in various aspects of “physical fitness”, and plans to obtain her professional certification in that regard. Being retired military, I understand what fitness is all about. When Amy’s son Stephen decided he wanted to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard, Amy took it on her own to help get him ready for the rigors of Boot Camp. Her youngest son, Daniel shown below to the left is a natural athlete himself, so he’s sort of along for the ride, and when called upon may serve as a “demonstrator.” He did just that showing Amy how to walk the parallel bars at an Army Corps of Engineers built and managed “Fitness Trail” near where I live. While Stephen and Amy “sweated it up” jogging in-between fitness stations, Daniel and I walked ahead to recon the difficulties that they’d see, and Daniel noting how he’d done a lot of these rigorous exercises when he was playing high school football in Texas before they moved to North Carolina. Like my title says, “fitness is good.”

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A Walk in the Woods and Fields of Henry County, VA

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It was a nice day, sunny and cool, so I decided to take a stroll at a nearby recreational center, that has lots of fields, walking paths, a nearby river and many other attractions that for me from time to time spell “camera and exercise time.” Like I do whenever I go on a photo road trip alone in my car, I had no exact idea that day where I might go, so I just let my feet lead the way.

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As I wandered in an area I’d not been before, I saw this interesting scene, and positioned myself so as to use the small drainage ditch to lead the viewers eye into the photo. Afterwards, I saw another interesting sight; a lone tree in the field, with colorful leaves barely hanging on.

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Walking along, I eventually came to a familiar wooded trail that wound its way along a small river. I especially like making photos when the leaves are gone from trees.

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And then I saw one tree that had lots of leaves remaining.

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As I neared the end of my walk that day, I saw a familiar sight I’d photographed before (below), and the colors made me want another. It was a good day all in all.

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A Quilter’s Country Home

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My wife Barb is a very good “Quilter” and she has close friends here in SW Virginia who are equally so, or better. They each truly love what they do, and spend a good bit of time doing it together. A few days ago, I drove Barb to her quilting friend Patsy’s country home, to deliver an item she had made to be “machine quilted” on Patsy’s large frame machine. I was excited to go along because I wanted to see and photograph Patsy’s century-old family home. The brick style is classic, and it’s in very good condition. There were outside aspects of the home that caught my eye. Such as …

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After I went inside, and after Patsy kindly said I could go look at whatever I wanted, I wandered about being most attracted to the warm wooden textures, especially on the well-worn stairs. The stained glass window in the front door was also interesting. It’s not an original, but looks like it.

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I also walked around outside, making photos of her apple trees and the grape arbor, noting that birds and bees were thoroughly enjoying themselves on the fruit. Patsy also has a vegetable garden, and before we left she took me into her “root cellar” to show me all that she has preserved for later use. She offered me a couple of mason jars full of goodies, which I happily accepted.

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Three hours after we arrived, we drove home having just experienced the true hospitality of a “SW Virginian” … folks we are so very happy to be close to.

The Dick and Willie Trail

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Before the arrival of railroads in the Dan River Valley region of SW Virginia, goods were transported to city and town markets via flat-bottomed boats. By the late 19th Century, railroads had taken over that purpose. A rail line was completed from Danville to Stuart in 1884 and passed through Martinsville. The “Danville and Western Railroad” was nicknamed the “Dick and Willie” by local residents and while train traffic was discontinued years ago, the roadbed of the line has been converted into a multi-purpose recreational trail as it passes through Martinsville. The 4.5 mile long trail is used today by thousands annually, and the name Dick and Willie remains affectionally in the hearts of many. Recently, I took a early morning walk along the trail, and was rewarded not only by the exercise I had, but by the beauty of wildflowers and greenery all along the route. Kudos to local government planners and officials for making this all possible.

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Find your path and follow it

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To those young people undecided what to do with their lives, I’d counsel visualizing a “path” just like in the photo above. I’d say, look at that path in your mind as an adventure in discovering, through life experiences, what lies beyond each twist and turn. Other than taking a mental leap into the unknown, there’s often no major risk involved, and much to gain. Perhaps a few months or years may pass “walking” down this path of discovery, but events encountered during that adventurous span of time, simply add to one’s better understanding of their true mission in life. And, most importantly, to be able to perform that mission with much greater purpose and determination than they had when they set forth.

Change is never easy, especially when it involves heading into unfamiliar territory. But, that change may very well be exactly what one needs to make them realize what it is they really want to do in life. Be bold. Take a step out on your path.

Special Tennis Match

We were visited recently by our daughter Amy, her husband Mark and son Daniel. They had traveled from their home in Texas to spend some time touring the mountains of North Carolina and SW Virginia. During the visit, I had the pleasure of watching Daniel play a match with his father. Both are excellent players and were evenly matched throughout the game, with the “old man” winning closely. I had my camera handy of course and got some nice action images. Note Daniel’s form. Very nice indeed!

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When I Hiked

Recently I was walking around a public park in Greensboro, NC and there were two specific aspects I saw, on a life-sized bronze statue on display, that got my attention. The first was a hiking stick being held, and the second were the hiking boots being worn. These two images reminded me a lot of my past.

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Up until the time in my life when I was no longer physically able to do the sort of rugged hiking I once did, there were few things I enjoyed more than exploring alone, trails, woods, lake shores and mountain scenery on foot. I usually had a stout walking stick to help my balance, and always wore a sturdy and comfortable pair of boots. Most times I carried a camera to record what I saw. I recall one time specifically when I finally reached the bottom of a rocky gorge I’d hiked to in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, descending about 2000 feet elevation over steep twisting and ankle bending trails, when I had to stop, sit down on a large fallen tree trunk, and begin to regain my breath and to let my shaking legs rest. After eating an energy bar, and draining about half of my limited water supply, I asked myself if this sort of strenuous outdoor activity was really worth it. Well, after I continued on my way along a stream flowing through the base of the gorge, toward the trail that would eventually take me back up the steep gorge to where I had parked my car I discovered something that made it easy to answer my question of “worth” with a resounding “yes.”

Off in the dark woods, I spotted a rock wall about four feet high. It was obviously man-made, and surrounded what I saw right away was a cemetery. There were about twenty, crude stone-slab grave markers there, and the ones on which the carved letters were still legible, I determined that the people buried there had died before 1910. Many were the graves of babies who had died in less than two years after being born, a testament to exactly how hard life was in these mountain valleys during that time. Strangely, a few of the graves had artificial flowers neatly arranged on top. Someone, I thought, had been visiting this old cemetery recently. Who were they and how did they get here I wondered. Had they hiked down the steep trail I did, or was there some other way to the site? No matter how they got there, they deeply cared about the place.

As I began my hike back up the slope I concluded that doing what I was doing that day was not only excellent physical activity, but the real benefit was being able to discover such a relatively hidden place, clearly with a great amount of sentiment being given to it by those who had placed the flowers on those graves. When I finally made it to my car (again gasping and straining to walk easy) I finished off my water supply and promised myself that so long as I was physically able, I’d continue to hike and explore. It’s memories of such times that give me joy today. When I see objects like the hiking staff and boots on the bronze statue in Greensboro, I flash back to those days when I hiked.

A Special Photo Walk in Danville

Danville, Virginia is but a short drive of thirty minutes or so from our home. It’s a very historic place with many wonderful photographic opportunities. I’ve been there many, many times and each time I go I find some different view I’d missed before. Right after Christmas 2015, I made the trip with folks who had never been there. Our youngest daughter Amy and her three sons (in order behind Amy) Stephen, Brandon and Daniel had traveled from North Texas and I was of course most happy to have them with me on this very special “photo walk.”

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One photographic attraction and popular visitor location I wanted them to see was the Main Street Historic District and it’s intricate and colorful Victorian Style homes. I was not the only one with a camera. Brandon (below) is very creative in both photo/video work and perhaps one day that will be his chosen life’s journey. Amy and Stephen had their phone cameras and the images they made showed a talent for composition. Daniel, being a high school athlete excelling in both football and tennis was the catalyst of the group, offering wise and inspiring comments along the way.

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Here are a few photos I made for my personal enjoyment that day.

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This trip to Danville was my last photo walk of 2015, and I have to say it was certainly my most enjoyable for that year. May those in 2016 be equally so.