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Serenity in Western North Carolina on a Mid October Morning

 View from Black Balsam Knob Before Sunrise

View from Black Balsam Knob Before Sunrise

About a month ago, I went on a hike with my new neighbor, the wonderful photographer Robert Priddy, to watch the sunrise from Black Balsam Knob.  When we arrived and saw the cloudless, star-filled sky, we knew that the sky would not be our ally and that it didn't promise to be spectacular for photography.  Even so, I appreciated being there and seeing the fingers of mist hover over the valley and the lights from cars and homes gradually disappear while it got lighter.  During the day, you do not know anyone is remotely near you, except for the cars coming along the Parkway.

 Black Balsam Knob at Sunrise

Black Balsam Knob at Sunrise

As it got lighter, the earth's shadow became apparent.  It was a subtle and serene sunrise, with the shapes of the rocks on the knob echoing the layers of mountains in the Blue Ridge.  I felt one with these gentle undulating hills and remembered that the less dramatic moments are often the most connecting.  There is balance and harmony and we feel our energy connect with the place we are in and the life forms around us.  No domination, but rather infinitely expanding waves of life force energy, in a universe in which we belong without disrupting the flow of life.

 Nantahala Forest Road Creek with Reflections

Nantahala Forest Road Creek with Reflections

The day only got better.  We traveled to a creek on a forest road and clambered down the banks.  From the stream bank below, the golden reflections were mesmerizing, especially as they contrasted with the blue sky that was also visible in the water.  The wildness of the riparian banks added to the natural beauty and diversity of the scene, with rocks scattered by the elements and lichens, leaves, vines and plants filling in the nooks and crannies.  Bear hunters were driving trucks above.  I felt sorry for any bears they might find fishing and minding their own business on a quiet creek far from the hoards and throngs of visitors that stick to the advertised trails or the parkway.

 Nantahala Forest Road Stream with Lichen Covered Rocks

Nantahala Forest Road Stream with Lichen Covered Rocks

The image above accentuates the lichen-covered rocks, which I climbed to get more within the scene.  It is often that way for me in photography and life.  First I survey the big picture and then move closer in, until I feel at the heart of it all.  Standing here, in the midst of this pure, unpolluted waterway, I experienced a profound sense of health and realized that our whole planet must have functioned this way in all places when all the earth's arteries were clean.  

 Dill Falls with Fallen Tree

Dill Falls with Fallen Tree

Though nature often appears serene and tranquil, how its elements came to be is often anything but.  This fallen tree and another behind me were deposited by remnants of hurricanes that form in the Gulf of Mexico and pass through the mountains. A stream that flows so gently when water levels are low can well to torrents and carve through rocks.  Dill Falls is a hidden gem and even on a mid October morning we did not see a soul. 

 Graveyard Fields Upper Falls

Graveyard Fields Upper Falls

The Upper Falls in Graveyard Fields were wonderful in dappled light, but it required scaling rocks and getting onto the other side of the stream from where the trail was.  Takoda was hiking with us, and fortunately he was willing to navigate the rocks slowly, even though he is far more sure-footed than I.  Luckily, he takes his job of photography dog quite seriously and is always content to inch around with me until I find the perfect angle.  It is rare to find any other non-photographer being who will indulge me this way.

 Leaves Dancing in the Breeze Before they Fall

Leaves Dancing in the Breeze Before they Fall

Though this fall was not a very vibrant one, with many leaves turning only to brown before falling, I did spot these maple leaves which seemed to dance as the breeze blew their spindly branches.  The blue North Carolina sky made a great backdrop.  Though as humans we always quantify what is the best or most dramatic or largest or brightest in the last five years, ten years, our lifetimes, there is always something to celebrate and we should never discard the "ordinary," because what makes it that is our perspective and not life itself.