Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Last Frontier

I did take some great pictures; but, as splendid as they may be, they still don't to nature justice.

Recently, I've been giving names on the map much consideration. As a matter of fact, research is taking place on a specialize project for publication. Being the history nerd I am, it is very exhilarating to me. Two of the last three Sundays has found my trusted ride, Mosby (after the Confederate spy "The Gray Ghost" John Singleton Mosby), cruising the Virginia country side. Perhaps if my car was blue, I'd name it Grant and the Union would be represented. My friend or two, and I were spending time combing through the Great Valley of Virginia and its associated Blue Ridge Mountains. Last month, when I attended a conference at The Homestead, I had the thrill of experiencing the Allegheny Mountain chain which comprises the "other bookend" of The Great Valley. A member of the Mensa Club in Stiller Nation, VA.

Many people may feel they own sections of this land, but there is only one name of deed: God. It gives your heart, mind and spirit the freedom to just be. Don't get me wrong, I love Alexandria, Pittsburgh and my new found love, Louisiana (particularly south of Interstate 10).

Another project being accomplished is the travels of "Flat Stanley" for my second grade pen-pal, Oswaldo. What a great name. Mr. Stanley liked the barrels comfort after a long walk.
The Shenandoah Valley is a subset of The Great Valley and is a spot which was populated by "poor" Germans and Scot-Irish back in the late 1600s. When I say "poor" I mean more than they just didn't have much money. I'm talking about the risk involved with their fate. Following lean times in Europe, wealthy British land barons paid for them to go into the valley and surrounding mountain chains and function as human shields between the British plantations and the savages held by the wild frontier.

We meandered down the road nestled between the Massanutten Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains (I prefer the French spelling, thank you. Held over from the days of "New France" and yes, people also use Alleghany and Allegany interchangeably. Let them do as they please: viva la difference.) It was spectacular. Every little inch, every pebble, every drop of spring fed water.

The sign reads: "In June and July during corn-choppin time, this cliff serves the folks in White RCommunity as a time piece. Twenty minutes after sunlight strikes the rock face, dusk falls on the valley below." Sounds to me like you'd better be gettin' on home. How fantastic it is that an entire community is tied to nature like this.

Spring house photo: Holy Cross Abbey Farm, Berryville VA
Spring houses are everywhere. Little stone sheds poised over a naturally chilled spring of clean water, bubbling diamonds with clear ripples. Farmers' once stored their dairy products in there for the constant cool temperature and, centuries later, they are still chilled, but empty. Milk, cream, and cheeses for a farm's family use has subsequently been relocated into the interior sanctuary of a refrigerator.
As one of our days developed into a spectularly blue bright and sunny afternoon, we slowly graduated to a startling height just beyond Reed's Gap. It was without a doubt that the air may have been thinner, but it was incredibly delicious. Later, well before returning within the I-495 Washington Beltway, you could sense the shift from magical to the chase your tail reality of densely populated areas. The air was full of it in more ways than one.

Roads out that way are getting wider. Restaurants are open 24 hours. You can buy a book at 10:45 on a Sunday night just across from where brothers fought brothers to see if 11 states had the right to succeed from the United States. (Legally, they did.) Mom and Pop shops are all homogenizing into the blurred horizon we can see on nearly every other landscape, to our collective knowledge. It all makes me sad seeing its unique beauty slowly ebb away as this year's crop of concrete pilings blossom along with their building permits in a former grassy field.

My friends and I will be imitating Ken Burns for at least a few more Sundays and then we may shift to another part of the Old Dominion. I'm glad of it and can't wait. It is there, patiently waiting for another temporary excursion. We won't be seeing the Grand Canyon or the Matterhorn; but, we will be seeing the local equivalent. Smaller scale? Sure. But only in size, not meaning.

Take the time, wherever you live, to appreciate the changing times and the sights that might be here tomorrow and next year, but will be fallen in the next 20 years or so. Maybe scenery will become the victim of forgotten importance, back taxes or ill kept property, but it will be there waiting only a while before it is history of a different ilk.

Do what you can folks. Give yourself this visual gift that keeps on, but not forever. Go drive somewhere nearby and be a tourist. Stop for a roadside attraction. Soak it up. Don't be in such a rush. You'll never regret it. Channel the energy of a teenager who finally slows down long enough to speak with a parent and realize they are pretty interesting for being nerdy dorks. Go get in touch with your historic self. Who knows, maybe someday someone will slow down to read about you.

Let me know your discoveries, Lewis or Clark or whomever you are.

And so it goes, Scoop.

Okay, so it is not the finest advertisement for man's interfacing techniques with nature. I love it because, unless the wind blew it there, someone took the time to place a cinder block on this well-digging truck's hood to ensure its behavior.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from a "Lewis" part of the famous duet. Lewis was the crazy one but he's no relation. Your blog reminded me of why I hate the thought of video screens in back seats of cars to pacify kids. They miss everything you just spoke about.