We got on the Blue Ridge Parkway
at the Folk Art Center outside Asheville, North Carolina.
We weren’t too far along when we slowed down
and came to a complete stop
seeing two black bears in the road ahead of us—
a mama bear and her cub. In no hurry
the mama jumped over the guard rail
into the grass next to the tree line to amble past us,
but the cub hopped right up on to the guard rail
and walked along it—so much like a child
balancing on walls and curbs
on the walk back home from the playground.
The awe was unexpected.
But my camera was in the back of the car.
Even worse, I had contemplated getting it out
when we stopped at the Folk Art Center—
had even opened the trunk, but, looking at everything back there,
deemed it too much trouble to dig it out.
Thereafter, I kept my camera in my lap!
I wanted a picture of the sunset over the mountains,
and I had my camera out, and we pulled into an overlook,
but not only were the colors not vivid,
the color there was, was spread out too much—
too big for a picture.
Back in the car at dusk, we passed a brown owl
just sitting there in the road
whose head swiveled around as we passed it.
Gone by too quick for a picture.
We spent the night in Little Switzerland
looking out from Grassy Mountain over Turkey Cove down to Lake James—
wondering which of the peaks around us we had looked up to
from the boat when we were tubing and skiing on Lake James.
I tried to take a picture from our balcony of an almost full orange moon,
but couldn’t get the color right,
and without context, it was just a blob of light on black—
symbolism aside, a lousy picture!
Set my alarm hoping for a sunrise over Flat Rock to the north-east,
but awaked before dawn to the sound of rain.
Got up and went out on the balcony with my camera anyway—
sat there in the collecting light
to see, in spite of the clouds, the valley rim around me—
to see Flat Rock in the distance,
and to reclaim hope of a dramatic sunrise picture.
But the clouds that were behind the valley rim
were nonetheless still in front of the sun,
and there was no picture like the one I had imagined to be had.
Later I wanted to capture those rolling blue ridges,
but the mist in the valleys dissipated before we could pull over,
and too many clouds in monochrome gray made the sky uninteresting.
Several times I looked out to one side or the other to see an idyllic composition
of barn, silo, farm house, pastures, and rolling hills,
but by then we were always well past the scene even at 45 mph.
That evening I wondered again about the possibility
of a good mountain sunset picture. As sunset approached
there were enough clouds for interest,
but enough of a break in them for the sun to paint the sky,
but then it clouded over and started to rain—again.
We got off the parkway to make our way over to Mt. Airy for the night,
and as we drove away from the parkway
the clouds parted and the sun emerged,
and there was good color on the horizon and on the clouds,
but we were amidst telephone wires, electric lines and concrete.
It was not meant to be.
The images that created a desire for a picture of them remain in my head.
I sometimes worry that my hope of a dramatic picture
takes away from my appreciation of what is there.
But it’s like sending one of the girls to school on picture day.
You dress them up—do their hair—
hoping it all stays together—at least until picture time—
so those to whom you later show the picture
will see the awe and the wonder
you always do …
even waking up early
to sit alone with a camera on a balcony on Grassy Mountain
looking over at Flat Rock
through a dimmed sunrise
in the drizzling clouds.