North Carolina in the winter is breathtaking. I haven’t spent a full winter there in over ten years, since Anna and I graduated from Wake Forest. The little time I do spend there is with family over the holidays, and the less than frequent trip back to our Alma Mater. So often now, I find myself looking down, whether it be watching the footfalls of Kemper and Nora, or searching out the low-lying objects that I neglected for so many years as I grew taller and less aware of the beauty that only years before had been at eye level. As a child, though, I often looked towards the sky. It was a predilection of mine, and was lost through high school, college, law school, and then my post-graduate work. As a litigator, I have been trained to look ahead and anticipate the roadblocks before me, and I have, along the way, lost the penchant for gazing into the clouds above the treetops. Photography, though in many ways a mature art, has brought me back to my childhood wonder of nature, and as we hiked through Panthertown Valley over the New Year, I caught myself looking upwards once again.
This photograph, though a simple composition, captures some of the innocent wonder. The clouds of the late morning were beginning to roll in, heavy with precipitation, and we laconically raced to avoid the rain that settled in as we reached the trailhead. The fingers of the maples and sweet gums and oaks looked like arteries against the pale sky, and in many ways this is a fitting simile. Nature is a lifeblood–one that I am reconnecting with after years of the wonder of it lied fallow. Even though I am at my desk from the darkness of the morning through to the early darkness of the winter evenings, I catch myself looking often to the sky, especially as the sun rises and sets. Jacksonville, to its credit, is beautiful at these times of day. The rich colors wrought by the low sun are no match to a North Carolina dawn, but then I am biased and nostalgic for the old days, when I could skip my morning lectures and find myself in an hour at the base of Pilot Mountain as the leaves were beginning to redden at the first breath of winter. Until we return, I will always long for those days, simpler by measure and winsome. For now, I will console myself with the memories and the short trips when I will fill my camera with shots such as this of the mountain skies on a chilled winter day.
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