My routine of the morning down now to coffee, breakfast, writing, relaxing in the balmy air of the NC mountians...has left me without any compass of time or day. Of course there is always the glance at the Iphone I carry to enlightenment me, should I want to, but I don’t. I carry it only to take pictures with, since there has been no signal since leaving the flat lands.
This morning has a heavier breeze, and more clouds to the sky, perhaps indicating a rain coming. I don’t know how to gage the forecast up here. In a lot of ways it is so much of a feeling like being on the coast in Maine, but without the lobsters. The air is similar in humidity and temps, a nearly constant breeze, there are the wild blueberries too, and since I am on vacation, as I am when in Maine, the psyche is the same.
Yesterday’s adventure was a trip begun down a gravel road beside the Santela River, not a huge river but a good size pretty stream with good energy. Our first stop was at a bridge which crossed it. We stood over the water and watched it flow under our feet, babbling, and gurgling, it swirled into patterns and chaos, and was gone.
Observing a mountain stream from afar is not the same as being along its banks or in the standing in the flow. It is there beside or in the water that one becomes engaged with the energy it is releasing. There is a feeling like no other when beside moving water, and to hear, feel, and touch the spirit of the moment is soothing, and calming, and very good for the soul.
I left this bridge and walked the banks down a softly worn path thru the cool vegetation. There was no trash left behind as is so common in the warm waters that I am used to at home. Here I think there is more reverence to the sanctity of this type of place that makes one realize leaving behind a sign other than foot prints is a sacrelige. The mosses under my feet were soft and quiet and I eased slowly towards a smooth pool where I had seen a trout rise from the bridge, and hoped to catch a sight of it closer. I was not disappointed and the fish flashed a silver side as it rose from its hiding place under a rock to catch a drifting morsel. Trout are magical and almost mythical beings and live in such lovely places. Maybe they are the angels and they live in heaven on earth and perhaps their job is to lead us to these holy places where ones soul can be recharged.
On the side of the bank that I crept along were hundreds of tiny mushrooms of outlandish colors of yellows and oranges. There were also white ones with intense black caps, red caps, curly caps, there was just an unimaginable number of ones I had never seen. There were banks of ferns and tall trees canopying it all, the long branches and trunks reaching to the sky like the buttresses of a cathedral. I drew deep breaths and just stood and felt the peace.
One of Mark’s students for the workshop had followed me down this path with his tripod and camera. This man was very new to photography and reticent about the whole thing, but keenly interested. He was also quiet and a bit shy, a tall fellow with intense blue eyes. I suggested that a good shot for him might be from the middle of the stream looking upstream, as he had on wading shoes and the water was not terribly deep nor swift and would be easy enough to set up his tripod in. He advanced into the water and took his shot and began his wade to the shore.
When he got to the shore he laughed and showed me that his shoe had lost its sole. They were old wading shoes and had earned their keep but he looked pretty comical with the rest of the shoe still intact but with a flap dangling under it as he walked. He had been telling us a story about a run in with some Native Americans up in Michigan, where he had grown up. These fellows had been seriously into some firewater and made for an amusing but a little scary situation for him back then. The story tho got his brain going and he now renamed himself “Jim One Shoe”.
As the day moved slowly along we, Mark, myself, and One Shoe, explored other stretches of this lovely stream, stopping to take photos here and there. We stopped by a stream side picnic table and ate our fabulous lunches which the lodge packs daily for its visitors. Stories were shared and and relationships formed.
We stopped by a log cabin built so long ago yet it stood proudly without a lean or crack in its chinking. Upon closer exam of the dovetailing of the massive beams that formed the walls, I found them to be cut unlike any I had ever seen. It was a unique double tailing that once the logs were joined there was no way for them to move, hence the reason it stood here now in such perfection still. It was a legacy of a master craftsman who’s work has lived long past his own life.
Once again we returned to the stream to photograph and take in the beauty before us, each stretch, each turn of the meandering water totally different and unique. Then ol One Shoe started laughing in ernest. He was now “Jim No Shoe’’, as the second of his wading shoe soles had now also come unattached and he was left with just two flapping flipper like covers over the bottoms of his feet. We had a good chuckle at his predicament and when we returned to the lodge he photographed his old dear shoes. He set them on the low stone wall by the garden and took a photograph of them. He then said farewell to them and threw them away.
Mark spent the evening helping the students look at their various shots of the day and then helped them see how to print them, to complete the process of seeing and communicating to others what they saw. When it came to No Shoe’s turn he wanted to see his shoes printed. It was indeed a very nice shot and the print was beautiful. The most important part was that this was the first shot this man had ever made which made him feel something. He was giddy and proud and had turned a corner in his approach and attitude to both his photography and, I think, himself. He may have lost his soles but maybe found a new one, metaphorically speaking of course.
Another wonderful dinner with friends, some newer than others, but all were basking in a glow of the new discoveries about their photography. It was great fun to see their improvement in their work and feel their excitement. After dinner we sipped a cool martini under the stars and off we went to dream until the next dawn.