Beauty all around

Longwood Gardens
Beauty all around.

This young woman posed at different locations in Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. As I walked around the lovely gardens of the sprawling estate with my wife and dear friends, we kept running into this couple. Given the setting of the flowers, greenery, and the curving walk leading right to the impromptu photo shoot, I had to take this shot.

“Beauty all around” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Inspired by water from a rock

Rock Spring Cabin, Shenandoah NP
The view from the cabin.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Life is a mystery.

I hiked the short trail with one thing in mind. I wanted to find the old cabin and take a photo of its chimney if it indeed had one. As so often happens in life, discovering what I was looking became secondary in this trek.

I took my time on the trail, soaking in all the glorious sights and sounds that I encountered along the way. There was a lot to absorb.

Rock Spring Cabin was a short distance away from a crude hut built for hikers along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. From the cabin’s covered front porch, the Page Valley played out in the patchwork patterns of fields far below.

The cabin at Rock Spring.
The primitive log cabin did indeed have a stone chimney. I snapped my picture and headed for the spring of Rock Spring Cabin nearby.

When I arrived, I was stunned at what I saw. I stood there in both amazement and disbelief. There, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, cold, clean, crystal clear water gurgled from beneath giant boulders as old as time. Human interaction, of course, had to plumb it with a PVC pipe.

Instantly, my mind flashed back to my childhood. I thought of the Old Testament Bible story of Moses striking a rock and water gushing forth for the assembly of disgruntled, thirsty Jews wandering in the desert. That ancient story always struck me as a blend of awe, mystery, and miracle.

I contemplated the moment. I couldn’t help but wonder why here at this spot, more than 3,000 feet above sea level did water run from rocks? The earth does fantastic, mysterious things. Explanations are not always required.

Still, I reckoned the answer to my rhetorical question. Clearly, the rock strata folded long before human history began and forged a channel for the water table below.

Yet, there was something mystical about the rock spring, its waters trickling down the steep slope far into the valley below. I mentally traced its path from small stream to a creek that formed a tributary to the Shenandoah River. Farther north, it met the broad Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and then flowed east through rapids and placid waters alike, passing the nation’s hectic capital into the Chesapeake Bay and on into the Atlantic Ocean.

Noisy ravens awakened me from my lively daydreaming. Apparently, they viewed me as an intruder. Not wanting that title, I returned to the main trail, warblers, and thrushes flitting and singing in the leafy canopy high overhead.

I walked a short distance down the trail, and the raven followed me, swooped low, and continued its nasal banter. It was only then that I realized that I was not the target of its raucous concern.

A motion drew my eyes downward. Not 30 feet away a young black bear grazed along the forest floor. My head instinctively swiveled in search of the mother bear. I saw only trees, plants, and rocks.

black bear cub, Shenandoah NP
Young black bear.

I gingerly stepped a few feet down the trail where I could get a better view of the cub, likely in its second season given its size. One click of the camera shutter and the bear spied me and bounded down the hill towards the spring. Overflowing with wonder and joy, I headed in the opposite direction for the parking lot.

I went searching for a cabin and found so much more. An emerald forest. Water from a rock. Agitated ravens. A frightened bear cub.

Life is a mystery waiting to be solved.

Appalachian Trail, Rock Spring Trail
The emerald way to Rock Spring Cabin.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Telling tales tall and true

Dick Stambaugh, native Americans, artifacts
Dad gave his last public presentation on Native Americans 10 years ago at age 88.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late father wore a lot of hats in his long life. Husband, father, son, brother, uncle, engineer, sailor, hunter, fisherman, volunteer, traveler, archeologist, writer, photographer, teacher, leader, joiner, and planner. In short, Dad’s life was both full and fulfilling.

From these varied life experiences, Dad gained his most formidable reputation, that of a storyteller. No matter the situation, Dad loved to relive the past by telling one tale after the other. He could regale yarns with the best of them, embellishing the story when the facts needed a little flavoring. Perhaps that was one of the reasons people liked him so much.

Dad used his many interests and experiences to inform and entertain people of all ages and situations. He gave many presentations to school children and senior citizens alike about Native Americans who had lived in the Ohio region. Dad used arrowheads and other artifacts that he had found on nearby farms to make the talk as meaningful as possible for his audiences.

People often remarked to me that Dad was a great storyteller. With no disrespect, I’d reply by saying, “Yes, he was, and some of those stories were actually true.”

What Dad didn’t realize was that his adventurous life created a book of charming chapters all their own. Each one of my siblings likely has their personal favorite stories they could share.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 1942.
Dad loved to hunt, as much for the camaraderie with his fellow hunters as for bringing home game. That was especially true during deer season. Once when he actually shot a deer, he had a remarkable story to accompany the carcass.

Hunting in the hilly, steep terrain of southeast Ohio, Dad was tracking a nice buck through deep snow. With the buck quickly outdistancing Dad by going up the opposite hill across a ravine, Dad took a desperate shot just as the deer jumped a wire fence.

Dad saw the deer go down and schlepped to the spot as best he could in the wintery conditions. Dad was shocked by what he found when he climbed over the fence. Lying in the snow was a dead deer all right, only it was a doe. Dad happily retold that story every chance he could, with the snow getting deeper with each recap.

Another time Dad returned from hunting and showed us the game he had shot. He went out to feed Boots, our springer spaniel, but couldn’t find her. Thinking she had run off, we all looked and looked in vain. A week later Dad opened the car trunk, and there was Boots, faithfully and quietly waiting for her master to finally let her out. She had been in the trunk all that time without food or water.

On another hunting expedition in glacial kame and kettle topography, Boots ran a rabbit into the thicket of the marshy bottomland. The hunting party plunged into the briers and brambles in hot pursuit while Dad ordered me, just 10 or so at the time, to stay on the more open hillside. Soon I heard a shot, quickly followed by a yelp and then a shout from my father, “You shot my dog!”

Fortunately, Boots only had a few buckshot pellets in one paw and limped on. The poor rabbit, likely scared out of its fur, had actually jumped into the crook of a small tree a few feet from the ground. I don’t remember the fate of either the rabbit or the tree.

Dick Stambaugh was a fantastic storyteller. He also wrote some incredible, memorable tales through the exciting, engaging life he lived.

thecottagebybrucestambaugh
The cottage my parents built and where Dad loved to hunt and fish.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Mountain Laurel with a view

mountain laurel, Grayson Highlands SP VA, Whitetop VA, SW VA
Mountain Laurel with a view.

Traveling with friends, we wanted to reach the overlook at Grayson Highlands State Park near Whitetop, VA, before a front moved through bringing heavy rains. We just made it.

We were pleasantly surprised to see not only a marvelous view but that the Mountain Laurel bushes were blooming. No other clumps of them were in blossom as we drove up the mountain. These beauties just made the view all the more impressive.

The mountain range far in the distance is the Blue Ridge.

“Mountain Laurel with a view” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Let the summer reading commence

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s June and time to start making a dent in the summer reading lists. I’ve been reminded of that fact multiple times lately. Maybe you have been, too.

Scholarly newsletters featuring summer reading lists have recently inundated my email inbox. Friends on social media are both asking for reading suggestions and offering their own.

For full disclosure purposes, I am not the reader in the family. That honor goes to my wife, who reads and reads and reads. She has her reading habits down pat.

Me? I’m a laissez-faire reader, meaning I read as the literary spirit moves me. That also means that I don’t have a summer reading list.

What I peruse depends on my mood, mode, and purpose for reading. If I’m reading for pleasure, you can find me on the back porch, lounging in a rocker, beverage by my side, book or magazine in my hand. I’m not a romance novel kind of person.

Learning new words is also an essential part of why I read. I want to learn about the subject matter, but I also desire to expand my vocabulary. Every now and then I’ll insert a few of those new words into my writings. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Growing up, I don’t remember having many books in our home. I don’t know why. With five active children in a small brick bungalow, perhaps we just didn’t have space.

We did frequent the local libraries though. My siblings and I would hop on a bus. It cost us a quarter each way, a significant investment in learning 60 years ago.

I especially loved the library located in an old refurbished mansion in Canton, Ohio’s center city. The combined smell of the books and a faint odor of a home once loved drew me in.

I’d scamper the spiral stairs of the ancient home with its coal smoke-blackened stone exterior. I couldn’t get enough of the thick, frosted glass floors of the mezzanine. The books became secondary to this young mind.

I wasn’t a great reader in school, as in elementary, junior high, high school, and college. Reading to me was like swimming, and I can’t swim. I think that fear of reading aloud manifested from having to orally read in front of 35 other terrified second graders. I heard the giggles when I stumbled over big words like “truck” and “peanut.”

Phonics was foreign back then. Sight-reading was the preferred method, and for me sometimes tricky. It’s probably the reason I read so slowly.

I loved to be read to, however. When I became a teacher, I made sure I incorporated reading aloud Mark Twain, Betsy Byers, William H. Armstrong, Madeline L’Engle, and others to the students after their noon recesses.

Times have changed. Access to reading is literally at your fingertips in today’s electronic world. I mention to my wife a book that I’d like to read, and a few minutes later she has it downloaded on her iPad from the library.

Since I’m a news nut, I prefer online reading based on stories gleaned from those multiple daily email newsletters. One click and I’m reading some marvelous stuff.

Still, there is just something about holding a book or magazine or newspaper that seems more appealing than the screen-time perusing. Maybe it’s just the physical satisfaction of turning a page in anticipation of what is ahead.

Either way, reading is reading regardless of your preferred style. It’s June already, time to get serious about reading, summer lists not required.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Spring sunset

sunset, Shenandoah Valley
Spring Sunset.

One thing about photographing sunsets is certain. You have to be at the right place at the right time to capture the beauty.

As I was driving desperately trying to find the perfect spot to capture the quickly fading sunset, the colors suddenly brightened. I pulled in the nearest farm lane, pointed my camera and clicked away. Once was enough, as this shot shows. Seconds later, the western sky went gray over the Allegheny Mountains that create the border between Virginia and West Virginia.

“Spring Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018