Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Autumn

 

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I have lived in Michigan all my life so I have seen a lot of Autumn’s glory, wonderful childhood memories that now bring me smiles of joy. This would be a very long post if I listed them all, but my fondest are of raking leaves into piles for jumping into, using leaves to outline a home’s rooms with the goal of playing house only to find raking the leaves was the real fun. I remember how special the smell of burning leaves seemed on a cool October evening. And I remember the fun turning to drudgery of raking tons of leaves that fell from the six big maple trees in the yard of our previous home, dragging them across the road in tarps to dump in the woods for future mulch. What joy came from watching for the first branches of changing leaves, then finding whole trees that were blazing red or yellow or orange. Then the leaves would begin to fall and I would collect the most beautiful ones to press between wax paper. And then they dropped in mass, dancing in the wind and fluttering down around us as we walked to school, shuffling our feet in leaves so deep they came over our shoes and would make wonderful rustling sounds.

My most memorable experience in recent years of autumn was driving the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway in 2014 on our annual drive from Michigan to Florida. We began the drive at the northern end in West Virginia on a rainy, foggy morning. I didn’t mind the light rain because wet newly-fallen leaves give off a scent that is powerful and unique to Autumn. On a wet autumn morning a person can’t resist taking deep breaths.

They say the speed limit is 35 mph but there aren’t many stretches straight enough that we could go that fast. Every curve opened up beautiful colors and frequent stops allowed me to find the perfect tree.

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We walked in woods, shuffling our feet in the fallen leaves just as we did when walking to school as small children.

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We explored hidden treasures along the parkway, as if they were there for us alone, decorated by Autumn for our pleasure.

As we were beginning to wonder where we could eat our picnic lunch from the cooler packed with healthy food (the less-than-healthy food is in a box on the seat where we can reach it when a craving hits), we went around a curve to a break in the clouds. We were ready to enjoy autumn’s glory in some sunshine.

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For the past 10 years we have missed most of autumn in Michigan because we leave the middle of October and the leaves are just beginning to turn. The one Maple tree we have in our yard usually hasn’t begun to turn and when we return the end of November the wind has carried most of the leaves away (awe darn!). I’m sure that people who live in southern Florida notice the change in seasons from summer to autumn but this change still eludes me. Its a subtle change that takes place over several weeks – not the big bang of a change that the northern states experience.

We still haven’t decided if we will be able to go to Florida for this coming winter, but right now I’m thinking we will stay in Michigan until after Christmas. That will eliminate flying back for the holidays and will hopefully be enough time for Florida to get the corona-virus spread under control. I’m looking forward to experiencing, for the first time once again, all the joys that autumn brings.

Here is the link to this challenge if you want to join us.

Minimalist

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week is Minimalist. It seems that this hardware couldn’t be made more minimal as a way to keep a window shutter from banging in the wind. I photographed this at the Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Landscape of Aging

parkway 300 003-2If you look at a few of my posts, you might be able to learn who I am – at least pretty close. I don’t have any hard evidence but I believe what catches our eye, what we find interesting, reflects our inner landscape. If I shared what my inner landscape looks like right now, you would think I was an adolescent trying to figure out who I am. My inner dialog has been asking questions like; who am I? and, how do people see me?parkway 300 098-2

I am sometimes very outspoken, standing out strong, being different than the people around me. I have always had strong convictions. As I have gotten older my convictions haven’t weakened but I have become aware of the the complexity of truth. I’m finding it is much more difficult to express what I believe because I have grown to know that beliefs about our worlds need to be supported with truths – whole truths. I still want to stand out, but I don’t want to become just another talking head – yelling over the other talking heads expressing opinions as if they were facts.

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Other times I recognize how much I blend in with the crowd, and I like it. It’s not because I want to be like everyone else, but it is a recognition of the diversity of personalities. I enjoy how the random combination of genes created us to be very different but also how we share similar core feelings and experiences. I have grown to appreciate and be comfortable in my relationships with people as I have become more confident in being the person I was created to be. Parkway 100 062-2

One of the characteristics of getting old is that we become more of who we have always been and most people become more complex. Because I have been open to new experiences, I continue to develop new aspects of my personality.

If I were to pick a food that best reflects my personality it would be a well-made vegetable soup. Like all the flavors blending together in the soup, I have developed a rich blend of characteristics. I’m complex, but with nothing hidden. When we lean over that pot of soup we smell the complex aromas but when we give it a stir we understand the nature of the broth; we see all the ingredients. How fun it is to experience how different combinations of ingredients creates unique tastes. It is a simple dish, and with simple variations it has nourished people since fire was harnessed for cooking.

I like being both simple and complex. I like being a unique individual but also enjoy being part of something bigger. I like being who I am but am excited when I feel change happening. The change I am experiencing now seems to be finding a new voice born of wisdom. Would you like to join me around the table for a bowl of soup and stimulating conversation? I’m confident we will all be nurtured.

(My thoughts today were stimulated by these photographs I took on our travels down the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall 2014.)

Milepost 173: Mabry Mill

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The Mabry Mill was our favorite stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was mine because it is a photographer’s dream on a beautiful fall day.

We could drive a little over 100 miles in a day and this was our second day. The Parkway changed after we left the George Washington National Forest. Now private land edged the road in many places and we could leave the Parkway to travel along a road that paralleled it. I was thinking about the joys and challenges of living in the mountains and taking time to wonder about the early settlers in this region.

Ed Mabry had worked in a coal mine of West Virginia and saved his money. Somewhere around 1910, he and his wife Lizzie moved here, the Meadows of Dan in Virginia, to built this mill. There are lots of small streams running through this area and it was interesting to see how the Mabrys diverted this water to turn the wheel that powered his mill.

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parkway200 154-2They must have been industrious because they used this hydro power to run a grist mill, saw mill and a wheelwright’s shop. He had another building for his work as a blacksmith. One of the books I read said that he was remembered as someone who could fix anything that people could break.

After more than 15 years of steady work and good living for the couple, Ed hurt his back and the area went through a few years of low rainfall that made it difficult to run the mill. The mill fell into disrepair and Ed died in 1936. Timing was on our side, because this was the same period of time that the right-of-way was being secured for the Parkway and the mill was acquired and slated for preservation.

I’m glad that this homestead was preserved because it tells a story we need to hear. We want to believe that we have the power to make the good-life-as-we-know-it go on forever. We want to believe that bad things shouldn’t happen to good, hard-working people. We want to believe that we deserve better than injury and bad weather conditions. Even though we believe this, it is not the way life happens. It seems we want to blame others and make sure the powers-that-be fix life when it goes bad. Is this a result of privilege? Has the pendulum of entitlement swung too far? I wonder if Ed was bitter because of what happened, or was he grateful for the good life he had those years he and his wife run their mill.