Nameless Creek and the “New Road”–the old horse-traveled postal road–converge about a quarter mile south of the house. They travel side by side, the road often high above the little stream that plunges and riffles its music audibly below. In this image, the roadbed forms the boundary between light and shadow.
Here, the rocky fingers of old mountains form a ravine of rhododendron and jumbled boulders, a secluded and special place for us. This far corner of this piece of earth is what won my heart, back this time of year in 1999. Yes, I thought when we first found this “fortress of solitude”, this might be the place after all, it whispered to me. Someday, you will come here often in early mornings. Someday, you and Ann will spend an hour late in the evening just watching the day become night. Here, night is becoming day. Morning comes slowly to this deep cleft in the hills.
The pine tree beside the lawn chairs–that we could never bring ourselves to put back in the barn–was only head high when we saw it there on our first walk down this way. Things are different now. And things there are just the way they’ve been since the first settlers found this valley in the early 1800s. The seclusion and peace is unchanged since both Confederate and Union deserters took refuge in this wonderfully-forsaken place. It is the same as yesterday, even on days we don’t go there.
The Christmas ferns grow ever-green along the banks. The squirrels chatter from the tops of White Pines, shedding fragments of their morning meal like crumbs from the table. The creek sings whether we are there to listen or not.
And so this is more to me than just a picture of two chairs lost in the woods. These are my woods, and by the possessive I mean so much more than legal ownership. This place has been ours to become part of. It has grown into us. I feel it most here in this spot, a quarter mile from the house, and in the very heart of home.
Behind the storm, the sun broke out–a good omen, I thought, for New Years Day. I set out with the camera, and didn’t make it any farther than the end of the driveway when the lighting stopped me in my tracks. It is a scene I’ve seen so many times before, but it never fails to dazzle me. That is good–to not take for granted anything that ever has the power to create awe and joy.
Trite as it seems to say it, I hope to see this place again, for the first time, every day this year. Some of that will end up in pictures–very ordinary images of very ordinary places and scenes–sometimes with the words they evoke, sometimes alone. (Many, like this one, will go to a larger image if you click on it.)
Another image picked up on the way home from the winery last weekend–and the first using the combination of (new) tripod, 80-200 telephoto lens (and new tripod mounting collar for same) and the 2x teleconverter.
The silhouetted shape behind the house takes the reposing form of a buffalo, hence its name, Buffalo Mountain.
Were there buffalo in these parts in the days before the western migration of the white man? Does anybody have any info or stories about that? I’d like to know.
“Did you come east on the Parkway to get here?” asked a booktable visitor yesterday at the winery. “There’s ice on Mabry Mill pond” she said, herself a photographer, and, seeing my photo-notecards, she knew I’d want to know such a thing.
So, as smile-weary as I was after four long hours of the last of four such days, when four o’clock came, I cleared the table of my dog-and-pony-show paraphenalia in two trips out to the car, and headed west toward Meadows of Dan and Mabry Mill, a few parkway miles away.
The beauty of a visit to Maybury Mill in December is that there’s nobody there but me. And a few ducks. If you click on the image above it will take you to a larger image on Flickr; this is actually a (poorly done) merging of three different images: a normal exposure, 2 1/2 stops underexposed, and one that is 2 1/2 stops over exposed. This is a rudimentary first attempt at what is called HDR photography. High Dynamic Range is a technique available to digital photographers to take advantage of the computer’s ability to create an image where both the highlights and shadows are optimally exposed. The three images were slightly out of register, even though I used a tripod, so this image is a little blurry, and the difference between the shadows and highlights was probably not significant enough on this image to do justice to the technique. More not-quite examples sure to come on FFF in coming months!
I used this image on our Christmas Gathering invitations this year (and last, and the one before that, I think) because first of all, it is a winter scene. But then in any season, it speaks to me of refuge, of serenity, of the blessed silence and solitude of our homeplace we enjoy sharing with friends this time of year.
I pulled the image up on the screen yesterday morning and looked at it for a long while, a December meditation. Just then, from the kitchen radio, the words from Who Will Watch the Homeplace seemed aimed for the gut, and hit their mark.
Now I wander around touching each blessed thing
The chimney the tables the trees
And my memories swirl ’round me like birds on the wing
When I leave here oh who will I be
Who will watch the home place
Who will tend my hearts dear space
Who will fill my empty place
When I am gone from here