. A pox on big-shot TV ads. My name-brand cell phone whimpers "out of network" on the mountain backroads where I hang. Inconvenient? It severs my daily contact with the Housewatch Crew. Plan B then depends on battered and disrespected pay phones that still manage to survive here and there. They usually accept my phone card - and all's well for that day. Not this year, however. Each pay phone call now imposes a 95 minute surcharge punctuated by a huge flushing sound. From the start of this year's trip (unbeknownst to me) there were only three precious calls left on the card. I'm a worrier. Hearing on the first call that 95 minutes had vanished shocked my nervous system, tripped the 'Check Engine' light and registered on the local seismograph. Anxious preoccupation over losing contact with the Home Crew shut down my capacity to appreciate. Angst and tunnel vision began to consume the trip. On Day 8, with one call left, I stopped by the pay phone in Headwaters, Virginia. With cautious keystrokes I found a recorded menu that passed me to another menu, then to another with a teaser 'to buy more minutes, press seven'. Somehow, cards and codes succeeded bloating the deflated balance with enough minutes for "out of network" surcharges till closure. The Refresh Button had been pressed. The dark cloud lifted. There were no Housewatch messages that day; all's o.k. Floating away from Headwaters I turned north on Cowpasture Road and, two miles later, eased to the shoulder for this shot. The field note reads, "Hooo-aahh! How beautiful the countryside…."
. It's about 10 spirit-lifting miles from Sugar Grove to Flat Ridge over the mountain between the Holston and New River Headwaters. Over the mountain between the Raccoon Branch and Jerry Creek headwaters to bring the scale down to truck level, to belly level stoked with pork tenderloin, scrambled eggs and Peggy's sweet honey. It's 10:30 am. A late start for me, but it's been raining for four days and all this morning. No need to chase morning light. No need to read maps, no need to look for stops and shots. I know them by heart. I've traveled this road many times over, a natural North-South track, quiet, local, forested with lots of old values. It's 10:45 am. The Old Pasture Gate. I've leaned on it and talked to it. I've marveled at it's endurance and the lovely fields beyond. With film and computer chip. Spring and Fall. Hot sun and, today, foggy rain. It's beyond me to explain my love for this old gate. But, no need.
. County Road 601 Grayson County, Virginia Wednesday 27 May 2009
. The once familiar one-stop country General Merchandise ceased operations three or more decades ago. That means kerosene, livestock feed, work sox, hardware, dry beans by the scoop, groceries, popsicles and bubble gum, bolt cloth, fresh gossip, mail and credit must be found elsewhere. Yet the old store buildings continue to survive long after the cash drawers closed for the last time. After all, grand parents and families built these stores and kept them open for long hours each day providing fundamental necessities valued by all. As these silent icons slowly weather and strain under the weight of honeysuckle and tree limbs there seems to be a shared nostalgia, an unspoken reluctance to interfere in any way that might hasten the final dismantling of these precious artifacts.
09:30 am. "…flocks of blackbirds dash and flow. Sweeping, then skimming the ground. In a blink settling to rest. In a blink rising, fading and surging. Disappearing, reappearing. A cloud, an imperturbable wind. Remarkable wisps in an uncertain overcast. So wonderful. Stop at Old Church. I cry…"