Friday, October 21, 2016

The Backstory

Cascades flow nearby, its steady rhythm lulling me into a trance. The smell of the woods is delicious. The rock I sit on is multicolored with splashes of white and strips of green lichens growing along crevasses. It has a life of its own. I notice more detail the longer I sit here. Things that existed all along, but were somehow lost in the busy scene in front of me. After a time I notice something struggling.
A large tulip leaf lies plastered over a rock, drenched by the sporadic shower as whitecaps flow on either side of the rock. The colorful leaf is hanging on for dear life. It looks like four legs are draped out trying to hold on with not help in sight. This is the life of a loner.

He will see things that can only be imagined by most, and he may die in a spectacular way or with remarkable circumstances. Flying solo, he has no backup when the day goes awry. Swept off a rock, clinging for life. Yet still we all die someday. If only the loner’s story could be told.
Beauty emanates as he grips the rock, practically wrapped around it, perhaps in his finest hour based on the richness of his color. But I don’t feel compelled to help him. This is the final page of his story and he must write it. He could be an artist; someone who hopefully has published his story along the way to help us to understand how he got here. The backstory is always tucked away conveniently in the shadows.
The leaf has gone through its years of attachment to its mother, clinging on for survival. As youths we hear the loud directives, often times the only way they know to speak. Often for our own survival. Family, teachers, friends all had their say. Friends chose to stay among those of like interests, and some took cover to mature and present their gifts later, at their appropriate time. We must cut loose to finish our course.

A solitary yellow butterfly darts in and out of shadows, preferring sunlight. In the shade hides unsightly things and those who choose to be hid. I watch the butterfly dance about but not really wanting its place in the sun. I prefer to be the yellow or red leaf, floating lazily downstream, enjoying those final days or hours to the fullest. Seeing what others don’t see that dance about in the spotlight, among crowds, wanting to be noticed. Along the way the leaves fit into their own groove. They morph into what seems the fittest. 

Passerby’s stop and look upon the fall scene and smile, reflecting on their own lives as times past and memories wash over them as the beauty unfolds. The leaf is part of the bigger picture, part of a complete scene. Like an actor, one of dozens, with a bit part.

I am following a leaf now; it survived a small set of rapids and is floating again, further downstream. Some get collected in bunches around rocks and limbs shortly after leaving their tether. Others make it through the crowds on to new adventures, in their golden hour. A portion sinks to the bottom after being set free and turns quietly into the foundation for their successors. Why is that? Shouldn’t we all enjoy the glory of our golden hour?

Deep pools of black water pull in what’s dancing overhead, its reflections capturing them peering in. The butterflies and their friends. Their beauty is diffracted by the pools of darkness, but the result is stunning. Black water deflects light, but dark normally absorbs. During nighttime it pulls in all illumination and blankets its hidden secrets in a cloak of protectiveness. During daytime it does the opposite. The creek is a place of renewal and follows the course of life.

I see a city in the dark water’s reflection. Our worlds merge here. Ripples of life run out from the center and touch everything in their path. I see myself in a small corner of the city, then spreading out as though a pebble was dropped in, sending my introspections to all four corners.

A lower tone of light just settled on me. A reminder that the twilight hour is approaching again. The leaf won’t be there tomorrow after the overnight storms change the landscape. Its time is now.
Another gentle shower of yellow leaves is falling into the creek, beginning their final journey after spending a lifetime connected to a branch for nourishment and survival.

A couple is watching the scene from the old stone arched bridge. 
Will they be inspired, take photos, tell others, and encourage a love for nature in their kids? That’s quite a legacy for a single leave floating along, painting the landscape with its unique art, and dissolving into the bigger picture. Maybe someone is watching me that way from a distance, from a bridge or otherwise.

Prelude to “The Backstory”
Craig Elliott 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Treasures of the Sea

     Watching the ocean roll into shore and back out teaches us about patience. Its steady drone can become monotonous after a time, after the intoxicating spell begins to wane. It becomes steady repetition, which still relaxes me after the day in, day out routine of the unexpected.

     This recurrence of the waves smooths jagged pieces of shell and rounds off driftwood, or smooths rocks. It all takes time. One wave at a time. They work at night while we sleep, and when no one is watching. I look back at writing I have completed and understand the concept of steady progress, not binge writing. A storm batters and destroys, but the everyday steadiness of the tides turns rough treasures of the sea into polished works of art, in its due time.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hampton Springs Hotel Site Perry, Fla

On the first leg of a Florida trip that started in Georgia we stayed a night at my Uncle and Aunt's house in Perry, Florida. He told me about the Hampton Springs site, and since I like photographing historical sites and ruins we drove over for a quick visit before we headed further south.

The hotel was built in 1908 and destroyed by fire in 1954. Its sulfur springs and baths became known for their healing powers and the facility had a covered pool, golf course, tennis courts, stables, casino, and railroad depot. They had a bottling plant and shipped the healing water nationwide. 

Looks like all the bath needs is cleaning out and a little TLC......

 Beginning of a hiking trail. Need to return when I have time to walk the trail
 Looking off the bridge. 
 Water still flows
 Check out the diving platform to the left, up in the tree with steps nailed in-

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sounds of the Forest

     Silence dominates the hills and valley today, despite the winter month and its lack of sound absorbing leaves on the hardwoods. The woods breathe gently as the wind chilled the 37 degree F air. I walk along the well trodden trail and spend nearly as much time off-trail exploring. An old barn door groans and opens with a painful shriek, and I scan the trees looking for the culprit. I stop and acknowledge the forest, and listened for yet another tree limb straining in the wind, fighting to stay put on such a quiet, uneventful day. My body feels that way at times and I can't help but smile. So much goes on in secret here, out of the public eye.
      I scan the ground and notice all the limbs, rotting leaves, and fallen trees. Each had its unique life story. The limbs may have held a robin's nest and helped in the nurturing of a mother's young. Perhaps for generations. The leaf was nourishment for a small creature of the forest, and housed a butterfly that needed a place of rest along its journey. The tree, once standing tall and majestic, has seen many events without having to take a single step or fly into the clouds. And the end of life, that final breath before crashing down. That would have been quite a sight.
     A gentleman roams the trails with his dog. A look of happiness on their faces, and a genuine smile that I could sense in his voice. They are the only others I saw today, unless you count the chipmunk, deer, and geese. 
     Spending time surrounded by nature, far enough away that road noise is non soothes the mind and spirit. I forget at times where I belong; nature holds a calling for me that helps forget the strains of life. I'm glad nature is still willing to share its time, considering how we've treated it.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Sunday morning in the Tennessee Mountains, and the sky is blue and full of freshness. I sit on the back porch sipping coffee, and I look beyond the porch railing and spot a cardinal, its red colors standing out like a lit ornament. He’s set against an opaque backdrop that is easily discernible through the thick debris, without the foliage of summer. Nothing to capture it with but words; my camera is inside.

 Some things are best captured with prose, without the leading and distractions of imagery. A picture can lead its audience in a direction that misses the point entirely. Sometimes the point is one a lonely soul needs. 

He drops out of site for a moment, probably getting me used to him being away. “I am still here,” he says, “watching over you.” I can hear his sweet song.  Not a warning call, but a calming tune that will comfort me the remainder of the day.

I am reminded that my birthday passed by a few days back. No recovering my lost day in the woods. My back issues are not yet healed. I look forward to a yearly hike on my birthday, in the stillness and quiet of the forest. Another is on the way, still in the distance, barely a seedling at this point. With hours of preparation in between. His message is to prepare now for what awaits later; don’t miss an opportunity. 

My cardinal is such a beauty. Earlier this morning I heard his call of warnings when I stepped outside. Didn’t see any visible signs but words can do the job. Why warnings before the calm? Now he basks in peace and beauty.

He steps away for a moment, and now an unexpected breeze flows, out of character with the still morning. It rattles leaves and stirs the air.

The cardinal made me think of a friend’s mom. The friend’s comment a week back, that a visit from a red cardinal signifies a visit from a loved one from heaven. Her wonderful mother passed away recently, after a life full of treasures placed upon those she knew. She couldn’t linger forever in person, and it would not have been fair of her to do so. We must step up and make our own memorial.

Some people leave their indelible touch on us, with a reminder of them everywhere we look. A lift of the spirit, of our faith. Memories. Talking about them is time well spent, for it renews lessons that are worth reliving. It helps to unlock their secrets that were in front of us all along.

A tree is now fallen on a steeply pitched hill below the deck I stand on; I visualize a family of squirrels darting in and out, it being the shelter when raising their young. Now it’s nourishment for the ground it fed, yet it serves as a reminder when I look at the rotting tree, now in pieces on the ground, and host to a nice array of greens, reds, and yellows that cling to its shell. I envision the images I captured of this tree with my camera almost ten years back. The next generation won’t see this tree as more than what once was; something of the past with nothing left to offer. This puts such a burden on me to leave an indelible mark for others to visualize what I see.

Where do these thoughts of goodness that flow through me come from? How many generations back of planting good seed? 

A reminder was sent to me today by a messenger. Unknowing to the cardinal? I don’t think so. He knows how to look at me, what to say and how to Say it, and to remind me of what is good. Perhaps it comes as instinct, for animals do as they are programmed, unlike many people. Their purpose is set, and while they are free to enjoy many things while on the earth, they don’t take more than they give.

I long to walk in the woods on my birthday.