Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Autumn in Virginia

November 12, 2012










Bring Your Camera

April 18, 2012

“Come with me to deliver this load of mulch,” Bruce said last night after supper.

I never know what our trips will bring. He doesn’t usually ask me along; so I know when he does invite me, there’s something he wants me to see.

“Bring your camera,” he added as I walked toward the front door.

The dump truck is an International road tractor. You need a ladder to climb up into the thing, but once there, you survey the world on your side from a high vantage point.  Bruce started the engine and pulled out of the driveway.  We bumped along Rt. 250 toward the foot of Afton Mountain. At Rockfish Gap Country Store, we took a left onto Old Turnpike Road. It’s a gravel road I’ve never traveled. On our right was an old factory with abandoned cinderblock buildings, peeling tin roofed structures, loading docks with bay doors rusted shut, old equipment smothered under weeds and vines, and off in the distance stood a tall, brick smoke stack.

Bruce stopped the truck next to the Realtor’s For Sale sign. “I wonder what this used to be,” he said.

“I don’t know, but it sure is a mess,” I answered.

He’s been looking for a little piece of land to move his mulch business to. He needs a place where a tractor trailer can get off the main road easily, turn around, and dump the load.

“I’d love to have it if the price was right,” he said.

“Oooh no,” I said. “There’s too much to clean up here and you don’t know what that factory made. It may be one of those situations where the EPA has to get involved, asbestos clean up, lead based paint, underground oil and gas tanks. Can you imagine what a mess that would be? How much money you’d have pour into it? And that would be after you bought the property.  You can just put this idea right out of your head,”  I stated with crossed arms.  My tone must have sounded firm enough, because he pulled back out onto the road mumbling something about “just a thought.”

The road was narrow and the truck is big and wide. I was glad not to have met any cars coming. They would have had to back up, or pull over if they’d met us.  The Blue Ridge mountains rose to our right. We were so close to the foot of the range that we could see individual trees where the slope graduated upward. Spring hay in the pastureland between us and the mountain waved under the breeze. A fence stretched along the roadside with rails arranged like clasped gray fingers. The sun had dipped below the mountain and the warm spring air had begun to cool.

I lifted my camera when I saw three deer standing in the field adjacent to the truck, but the side mirror obstructed my shot and I put the camera back in my lap.  “If you wanted me to take pictures,” I said, “we should have come back later in the car.”

“Keep your britches on,” Bruce said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

We traveled for another two or three miles before making a sharp left and climbing a steep driveway. The road surface was littered with large loose gravel and good sized pieces of crystal quartz. I could hear them hit the bank as the truck rolled over them and they shot out from under the tires. The driveway was rutted from rain and we bounced from side to side in the truck seat. I hoped this realignment of my brain was worth it.

At the crest of the hill, spread out before us, was the acreage of our destination, a flat, terrace of spring green dotted with hot pink and white azalea bushes under weeping willow trees. The view of the mountains was crisp and clean. My intake of breath was audible. Bruce looked over at me and smiled. He pulled up beside an old weathered gray barn with a rusted tin roof. It leaned back against a tree, tired from years of holding farm equipment and bales of hay.

The farm house was circa 1920, a non-descript two story brown dwelling with square white pillars holding up the porch roof. I was not impressed with it.  What caught my eye was the small rock house to its right. It was quaint and old, probably dating back before the Civil War. The mortar around the rock was rough placed and the craftsman had taken something like a stick and traced a line in the mortar around each stone.  We have many rock walls, pillars and buildings in Albemarle County, but I had never seen one made like this. The roofline had been changed at one time to add height to the cottage, and the structure had a later addition, crafted by a different rock mason. The lines were missing. The two windows facing us were stained glass. The door was a wide paneled mahogany with a white porcelain knob.    “It’s beautiful,” I said.

“Thought you’d like it,” Bruce said as he tipped the dump body and unloaded the mulch.

The owners of the property had been spreading the last load of mulch Bruce had brought and came over to the truck to hand him a check. Bruce is not shy.  “She’d like to see the rock cottage,” Bruce said motioning to me with his thumb.

“Sure, come on in,” the woman said. “I’d love to show it to you.  As much work as I did to the place, I like to brag about it.”

And it was lovely, with its original hardwood floors, exposed beam ceilings, stone fireplace and walnut mantle. She had sanded the wood to its original burnished finish and was in the process of taking the layers of paint off the inside rock surface of one wall. A huge high four poster bed sat in a corner of the front room near the fireplace.  I had my camera in my hand as I walked through the cottage admiring the renovations that brought the original look back to the building. I didn’t take any photographs though.

We thanked the owners for the tour and climbed back into the truck. “I could stand there and feel myself transported back in time,” I said to Bruce.

“Why didn’t you take any pictures?” He asked.

“I felt funny taking pictures of the inside of someone’s house with them standing right there,” I said. “Like maybe they’d think I was casing the joint.”

Bruce laughed. “I think you look pretty trustworthy,” he said. “Besides, they have my name, phone number and address. You wouldn’t get very far before you were caught.”

“Oh well,” I said. “I guess I missed out. I’ll just have to keep the pictures I have in my head.”

We left the way we came. As we turned at the bottom of the hill, I pointed and called out, “Wait! Stop! Look at this.”

“Oh yeah, I saw it the last trip,” Bruce said. “I thought you had seen it.”

“No, I missed it. Pull over,” I said. “It’s so sweet. I want to get out and take some pictures.”

He pulled over in front of another stone cottage and let me slide out. He drove the truck down a ways from the cottage and waited for me.

The building looked to be constructed by the latter mason who had added onto the house we’d just come from up on the hill. This rock was smooth on the surface with neat mortared edges. The small entryway was framed by a pillared arch. Two round-top windows on either side of the front door reflected the yard’s white dogwood trees in their dark surface. A rock chimney rose from a roof shingled in weathered gray cedar shakes. A neat stack of firewood sat near the front door. Its small split logs ready to warm the little house.

To the right side of the cottage, a retaining wall made of the same rock rose behind the building with a set of stairs climbing along its side to access an upper level door that lead to a room that had been dug out of the hillside above.  The door mirrored the same rounded arch as the porch and windows.

Bordering the tiny front yard, a rail fence stood next to an old fashioned climbing red rose, its fragrance perfumed the evening air as no hybrid rose could.

I stood staring at the cottage for a long time after I took my photographs. I imagined its interior inhabited by elves or fairies. I smelled the aroma of meat stew simmering over an open flame in the fireplace. I tasted buttery cornbread cooked in an iron skillet. A grandmother rocked in her chair, reading to a child from a storybook written long ago.

“You alright?” Bruce called from the truck.

I put the camera into my pocket and walked down the hill to the dump truck. “I want that little house,” I said.

When we got back to the old factory, Bruce pulled to the side of the road again and stopped. “You want to take some pictures?” he asked.

I looked at him and frowned. “No,” I said. “I thought we decided against this.”

“We?” he asked.

“I’d rather have that cute little rock house back there,” I said smiling, my arms crossed over my chest again.

Bruce crossed his own arms and smiled back at me. “There’s no ‘For Sale’ sign there,” he said.

On My Own

October 31, 2011



I’ve been talking all week about taking pictures, about this weekend being the final one before all the leaves are gone. I’ve mentioned several times how pretty I bet the countryside is going to be. I’ve said I want to spend some time this weekend taking pictures.  I didn’t go yesterday, it rained and snowed. Today was Sunday, the last day of the weekend. It was now or never.  

When I got up this morning, Bruce was busy gathering his lawn maintenance equipment, gas cans, short little keys to the mowing machines on the trailer he pulls behind the truck. As he does every day of the week, he planned to work.

The sky was bright, clear with a few white puffy clouds. A slight breeze blew in from the north, and the leaves were on their way to becoming the gold and brown of past peak. After yesterday’s weather, it’s definitely the last weekend for colorful reflection. When the wind blows this week, leaves will rain off the trees.

“I’m headed to the doctor’s office in Crozet to mow and get up leaves,” Bruce announced on his way out the door. See you later this afternoon.”

I stood dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it.

After growling low in my throat and pulling my hair in frustration, I charged my batteries, put the camera in my pocket and stomped to the car. My plans included a trip to Mint Springs, Sugar Hollow, and Beaver Creek Dam. I wouldn’t be home until later this afternoon either. To heck with laundry, dusting, dishes, toilets, sinks and tubs. The winter wardrobe could just hibernate in its plastic tub one more week. The boys wear shorts all winter anyway.

I sped through Crozet ten miles over the speed limit before the colors of my purpose slowed me, calmed me enough to notice them. The mountains to my west pulled me to their reds and yellows. The blue sky met them on the horizon to make a palette of primary colors and their secondary offshoots of orange, green and purple.

Mint Springs is closest to home and the sun was still low in the east. I’ve been admiring a barn for the past year, but the light hasn’t been right when I’ve been there. It was my first stop, and I was feeling adventurous. I don’t usually break rules. When Bruce does, I get nervous, stand back, and worry about getting caught. I’m not a good Bonnie to his Clyde.  My heart beats fast; and I hesitate.

Today, on my own and angry in my independence, I stepped around the locked chain and no trespassing sign guarding the barn and the orchard to the west of Mint Springs Park. What could happen to me? I had no gun, was only armed with a camera, and all the apples had already been harvested. Not a soul was in sight, but I didn’t care either way. I took my time, and found the angle I needed with the sun behind me. On the other side of the red barn with its rusted roof sat an equally rusted hulk of a truck, its steering wheel open to the air, its engine and tires missing. A highway of weeds stretched out in front of it. In the distance, an abandoned gray hornet’s nest, clung to a bare apple tree branch. Pay dirt.

Back at Mint Springs’ lower lake, I surprised a young couple as they walked their dogs through the woods on the edge of the tree line.  “Beautiful day,” I announced as they walked past me.

“Oh hi,” the girl said.

“Great day to get out and enjoy the leaves, huh?” the boy said.

“Sure is,” I said. What I didn’t say was, “I’m glad you saw fit to accompany your other half on an outing today. Glad you didn’t have grass to cut and weeds to pull and parking lots to sweep.”

I got in the car and drove the ten miles farther west to Sugar Hollow. Halfway there, a pine tree lay in the road blocking my path. Several cars had parked on this side, their passengers obviously deterred. I wasn’t.  Making sure there were no oncoming cars, I swerved to the other side of the road and drove through the top of the pine, paying little attention to the branches as they scraped the side of the car. “Let Bruce polish them out,” I said to no one in the passenger seat.

I stopped at the bridges and snapped the river. I parked at the reservoir, walked down the hill and took some shots of the huge split rock. I walked down the path, and sat on the bank overlooking the lake. Following the shoreline, I took pictures of a duck swimming in the distance.

“Hi,” a man sitting in the sun behind the windbreak of a boulder said.

“Oh, you scared me,” I said putting my hand to my heart.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to. Getting some good shots?” he asked.

“Beautiful,” I said.

“You should have been here yesterday evening with the snow under these trees. It was magnificent.”

“I bet,” I said, wondering where his other half was. “Any luck with the fish?”

“Nope, too windy, I think.”

When my heart got its beat back to normal, I headed up the bank to the main road and back to the car. I still had one more stop.

Beaver Creek Dam is three miles from home. Local boys launch their boats from the shore and spend all day fishing from one end of the lake to the other. When I arrived, I was the only one parked in the lot. The sun was at such an angle, I had to walk to the south and into the shade of some trees to avoid glare on the water. As I stepped along the edge, my shoes squeaked in the wet grass. Yesterday’s freak snow had left its moisture behind. Frogs plunked into the water from a half-submerged log, and birds rustled in the dry leaves of the cat tails.  When I reached my destination, I looked in the distance to see a couple of young men in a flat bottom boat fishing along the bank. One of them waved to me, before the boat turned left into a shady inlet. I thought about our boat at home in the garage. Today would have been a perfect day to take her out.

It was three-thirty when I pulled into the driveway. I had two hundred seventy-nine photos stored on the memory card. My feet were muddy along with the seat of my pants from sliding down an embankment at Sugar Hollow. My face was pink with windburn and my muscles were tired from all the walking I did. I was calm though, most of my anger having been exercised. I leaned back in the car seat and closed my eyes.

I awoke to a peck on the window.

“Where you been?” Bruce mouthed.

I turned the switch and lowered my window.  “Where haven’t I been?” I said. “Mint Springs, Sugar Hollow, Beaver Creek Dam.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going?” he asked. “I could have gone with you.”

“You had work to do,” I accused.

“Shoot,” he said, “that could have waited until tomorrow.”

I closed my eyes and shook my head as I was reminded just one more time that men don’t take hints. They need a billboard and at least three reminders.




October 24, 2011

I’ve been meaning to drop by Mint Springs all week. It’s that time of year, my favorite. Bruce has heard me talking about it every night and I still haven’t found time to drive the five miles west of home to get there. My window of opportunity is closing,  next week will be too late.  

 This afternoon, Bruce sat at the kitchen table looking at the wooden box of golden delicious apples on the floor.  “What are your plans for the rest of the day?” He asked.

 I knew his plans. He wanted to make applesauce. That’s what he’s been talking about all week.

 “I want to go to Mint Springs,” I said, not following his gaze.

 “If we don’t do something with these apples, they’re going to rot.”

 “I know,” I said.  I’ve been avoiding them.  We had spent the better part of a cold evening in early October culling them from the orchard in Batesville. I was the one who insisted we go. Bruce had worked a full day mulching and was tired, but he followed me out to the car and made the ride to the apple orchard.  

The trees are planted on the side of a  terraced mountain, each row on its own rise. It was a gray, bitter day and I had forgotten my apple picking sack. I gathered the ends of my jacket together, forming a pocket. We gathered apples until I looked nine months pregnant with a bumpy baby.

 Bruce kept picking while I made the trek back to the car to unload my burden.  Halfway down the slope, I slipped, fell, and rolled to the ditch below. I lay there amongst my harvest, laughing and wondering why I bothered with all the hassle when buying a can of applesauce in the store is so much easier. That was three weeks ago, and the apples still waited.

 “What do you want to do?” he asked, bringing me back to present. He was also sighing because he knew his argument would be lost on me when I had something else on my mind.

“I really want to go to Mint Springs,” I said with more forcefulness.

 Bruce frowned in that way he does when he’s thoughtful, or scheming. “You know there’s that apple tree over there I haven’t checked yet,” he said, suddenly excited. “Get your camera, let’s go.” I gathered my equipment and headed to the car.

My idea of a trek to Mint Springs and Bruce’s is different. We follow the same path around the lake. I look for reflection in the water, color on the trees, texture, and symmetry, a feeling.  He searches for apples, firewood, and stocked trout.

I’m not complaining. I got my shots, just like I wanted. And Bruce, he collected enough apples to replace the ones we lost to my procrastination, and some firewood for the stove, but no trout.  He’s going back tomorrow with his own equipment, a fishing rod and tackle.  I’m staying home to make applesauce.

Cherry Blossom Festival

April 3, 2011

“You don’t have to worry about the traffic. I’ll drive you there, you stay the weekend, and I drive you back. We take the tour, spend all the time we want, you take all the photos your memory card holds, no stress.” My friend Ann stood, palms up, shoulders in a shrug. “Peak is Tuesday, Saturday’s close enough. Come on,” she said.

The invitation was too sweet to resist. I’d always wanted to go to Washington, DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival, but was too frightened by the crowds and traffic. I’m a right lane, one speed all the way kind of girl. Slow speed. I’m from the country; and even though Washington is two hours away, the concrete lanes of Rt 66 and the Beltway around the District of Columbia shoot cars at rapid fire speed out of some type-A personality machine. Ann lives in Fairfax, just outside of the city, and was offering me all the perks and none of the hassle.

We pulled out of Charlottesville at three-thirty on Friday afternoon and arrived at her house a little after six. Over dinner, we discussed our next day’s agenda. I was so excited about riding the Metro, an underground monorail, and taking in the sights, I agreed to follow her anywhere, to any exhibit she suggested. I just wanted to experience the three dimensional reality of the pink and white flowering tree postcards I’d seen. “The Nation’s Capital at Cherry Blossom Time,” they read. “Wish You Were Here.” Now I was.

The sun was rising as we pulled into the Metro station and boarded the train. Few people were awake this early on a forty-degree Saturday morning. We enjoyed a clear sky and a brisk wind. I pulled my striped hat out of my coat pocket and pulled it over my ears. The Metro spit us out onto the Washington Mall, the Capital was to our right and the Washington Monument rose tall and brilliant white to our left. The only other people we encountered at that hour were runners blowing white puffs into the air.

We spent twelve hours downtown, and walked six miles. Our trek took us to the World War II , Jefferson, and Roosevelt Memorials, The White House, Capital, American Indian Museum, Moongaze and Sculpture Gardens, The original castle-like Smithsonian Building, and we strolled the two miles around the Tidal Basin surrounded by a profusion of Cherry Blossoms reflecting their pinkness in the water.

Ann dropped me off at my car this afternoon. “See,” she said, “if you take Rt. 29 North all the way to Alexandria, and park at the Metro station, it’s not bad at all.”

I hugged her. “Thank you for helping a country girl bolster her courage. This trip really was a dream come true,” I said.

“Check your email when you get home,” she said with a wink.

When I clicked on my inbox, there was a message from Ann with the subject: M. Dawn goes to Washington. I opened it and found a collection of Ann’s work: Photos of me in my quest for the perfect cherry blossom shot.

I saw online that the Three Rivers Quilt Show is in Pennsylvania this coming weekend. It’s at the Circuit Center on Hot Metal Street in Pittsburgh. The drive is a little over six hours. I’ve got the CRV now and Ann has the weekend free. Wonder if she’s up for the trip. I hear the Pennsylvania Turnpike isn’t quite as bad to travel as I used to think.