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On a Late Winter Day

Sunday, March 5, 2017

 Shila and I had been planning to get out for a hike one mid- February afternoon, but it was so gray and dreary that we slogged away at cleaning our respective houses instead.  Hours after we'd decided to scratch the hike, I saw a broken sky coming and called her. "We've got a broken sky. Not much light left. Let's just get out and drive around and look at clouds, cover maximum territory."

She was up for that! She raced up from town and we piled into my Subaru with Chetty. We sought out several dirt roads that I'd been driving by for a couple of decades and had always wondered about. I wanted to find out how they all connected. 

The first one we took led to a fabulous dairy farm. I have since learned from helpful Facebook friends that the white bags that I had surmised might contain spare rainclouds, saved for a dry summer day, actually have silage or haylage inside, fermenting away for the cattle to eat. I prefer to think of them as cloud storage, so I will.

 Instead of fretting that they were spoiling my photos, I decided to love the giant white plastic bags. They sure looked cool in this panorama. Please click on it to embiggen.

Shila and Chet and I lingered as long as we could in a small German churchyard, where the stones were all auf Deutsch. 

The clouds stuck together, the wind turned sharp and the temperature plummeted. We had barely worn enough clothes. I love these hands and the fonts on this stone. Also, this is a classic Chet Baker photobomb. Does he see dead people? 

 The font and the image on this monument get me.  GATES AJAR GONE HOME. They remind me of my new friend Bobby Rosenstock's amazing work at Just A Jar Design Press here in Marietta.

We fled from the biting wind and gloomy skies of the German cemetery, turning onto a very strange road, knowing not where we'd end up. As I drove, the terrain began to look familiar. "I think I know where I am!" I said.  Sugar Run...the name was so familiar, I'd seen it before, so I knew it would come out on a road I drive. Sure enough, we came out at a bizarre backwater of trailers, shanties and outbuildings where, as far as I can tell, large numbers of junked cars are generated to be spread for miles through the surrounding countryside. Geesh! We broke out onto some familiar rolling hills and the sun did, too. We had trees to visit in the last light of day. 

I have long since fallen in love with this row of white ashes, only to find them losing their bark this winter. Emerald ash borers are devastating our forest. Hey why not? Everybody else is. So, knowing these ashes are doomed, I take their portraits at every turn, because they will probably be gone a year from now. I call them the Samba Dancers. I particularly love the one who leans way out over the road, shaking her thing. All good things must pass, I'm told.

Just up the hill from them is my wee sassafras, the one who reaches and reaches without finding anything to stop her questing twig-fingers.

That crazy branch starting at the middle of the right side of the trunk and meandering its way into the sky makes me smile every time I see it. The other branches lean away from it as if they know it's crazy, and maybe a bit dangerous. It seems not to care that it could soon spoil the proportions and outlines of its mother tree. That branch is going for it.

The sun peeked out from behind its cloud-curtain and slammed golden light into the scene, throwing some branches into relief. I realized, looking at them from another angle, that the two branches on the lower right were going a bit wacky, too. That whole tree has got it going on. That sassafras is feeling itself.

Stepping closer, I looked over the hill and found a new scene beyond the little tree. 

I'm going to walk back there someday, see where it goes. 

How lucky can you get, to be able to seek out such landscapes whenever you please?

Just down the road is my Cold Mountain sassafras.  The scene looks like something from Antietam to me. A place where the rifle balls flew so thick and fast that what few trees remained standing had their branches blown off. It's timeless.

I love it in every light. Big clouds coming up behind, well, that's fine, too. 

Shila and I shot cloudscapes all the way home. There's another Civil War scene on our road, but this time the big oak belongs to us. That's a good feeling, to know that nobody's going to cut that tree but you, and you're never, ever going to lay a blade on it. This oak has some interesting branching, too, some lower limbs that are a bit out of proportion to the rest. I think that's what makes it beautiful.

Back home by the mailbox, the best was yet to come. Creamy sunset clouds and more white plastic. Plastic never looked so good, as Hodge has observed.

The light was bouncing from the clouds to the puddle to the plastic and back, and the hayrolls were floating somewhere in the middle of it all.

Another successful photo-expotition had come to its conclusion, by far the best three hours of that February Sunday.


Lovely three hour virtual road trip. Thanks for the post, Julie!
And Chet behind that gravestone--that look in his eye--he's got to be picking up something. Love it!

Certainly a better way to spend the day instead of cleaning! And nice tidbit for the plastic wrapped silage---I had seen that before, too, and didn't know what it was.

I agree that little road looks like the infamous sunken road from the battle of Antietam. We visited there with the kids when they were 9 and 7, driving through much farmland before arriving. My son, the city boy, hadn't seen a McDonalds or a Taco Bell for miles, and exclaimed from the back seat, "Where do these people eat?!?"

An indictment of my (lack of) cooking skills, but still hilarious.

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