This is one of my favorite Christmas morning shots. It’s also very personal and sentimental. After 37 years in the same house, December 25, 2016 was our last Christmas here before we moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to be near the grandkids.
This photo shows our granddog, a Sproodle (English Springer Spaniel/Poodle mix), watching a horse-drawn Amish buggy trotting by the house. It was a familiar scene for us all those years. The clop, clop, clop of the horses’ hooves on the payment of the busy road on which we lived soothed our souls. We miss that a lot.
I suppose, in part, that is why I chose this peaceful Christmas morning photo to share. I took it in the calm of the blessed morning before the grandkids awoke one last time at our Holmes Co., Ohio, home.
“Christmas Morning in Amish Country” is my Photo of the Week.
This beautiful male pileated woodpecker was only concerned about one thing: breakfast. The early morning sun, low in the southeastern horizon, brightly highlighted North America’s biggest woodpecker just before the winter solstice of 2014. The angle allowed the bird’s shadow and that of the peanut butter suet feeder to be cast on the trunk of the old sugar maple in our backyard near Mt. Hope, Ohio. The pileated woodpeckers came to our feeders year-round, even bringing their young to our home in Ohio’s Amish country. Those birds would be in the top 10 things that I miss since we moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley two and a half years ago.
The fall election is over. Daylight Savings Time has come and gone, and so have most of this fall’s colorful leaves. It must be November.
We can thank the pelting rains and wicked winds of a raucous cold front for dislodging most of the leaves. We can thank Congress for the time change.
I never adjust well to this convoluted toying of time. I wake up early and am ready for bed before dark that Sunday afternoon.
When we lived in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, I always chuckled at the various reactions to this contrived notion of messing with clocks to supposedly save energy. The Amish had that down to a science.
Some Amish complied with the change to stay connected with the rest of society. Others compromised and moved the time back a half an hour. Some never changed time in the first place.
I miss that kind of contrariness. I haven’t checked with local buggy-driving Old Order Mennonite farmers here in Virginia to know if they mess with time in the same manner.
With the time changed and the leaves disappearing, our attention turns to Thanksgiving preparations. At least it should if we aren’t too distracted by all the Christmas gift-giving commercials already on television.
It can be for that very reason alone that I become contemplative in November. I think it’s the colder weather though. I do appreciate the cleaner, clearer air. Thanks to a couple of killing frosts, I can breathe again.
Then, too, the early darkness readies me for bed way before bedtime. These are the days of the earliest sunsets of the year until we get to the winter solstice.
I do appreciate the clear evening skies, too. I love to watch the moon creep across the darkened sky surrounded by sparkling jewels and winking planets.
The month of November ushers in the dormant season. By month’s end, the deciduous trees will be bare. We’ll see things in the landscape we had totally forgotten about, like houses we didn’t remember were there.
The longer evenings give me time to reflect on the activities of the day. I do miss my fireplace, though. There is truly nothing like warming your backside sitting on the hearth in front of a roaring, crackling fire.
I used those evenings to think and reflect on our past, present, and future. With that, we recognize November’s other holiday, Veterans Day.
November is like recess at school. It’s the needed break between all of the action of October and December.
Soon Black Friday advertisements will blitz our mailboxes, newspapers, TV commercials, and annoying social media ads. Thanksgiving will be no more than a prelude to that glorious commercial day. Too bad there’s not an app to eliminate that.
As you might have surmised by now, I’m well into my contemplative shtick. I have a brain. I try to use it every now and then. November’s dark days seem like a good time to do that.
Come to think of it, whatever happened to Indian summer? With nine of the last 10 years the warmest on record globally, maybe the weather gods decided we don’t need it anymore. It’s just a thought.
Everything seems to slow down in November. From my point of view, that’s one of the eleventh month’s purposes. Let’s all take a little time to sit back, relax, talk with your spouse, listen to your children, play with your grandchildren, and be kind to one another.
The previous day I had met with my orthopedic surgeon seven weeks after my knee replacement surgery. His last comment to me succinctly and professionally summed up his analysis of my progress. “I’ll see you next September,” he said with a broad grin.
I had driven myself the 35 miles south to the doctor’s appointment. Previously, my lovely wife had served as my chauffeur.
I still had a few physical therapy sessions to complete, and the doctor wanted me to return to the gym for some specialized exercises to strengthen my legs. Other than that, I had no restrictions, and I intended to make the most of it.
After an hour session with the physical therapists the next day, I decided to head to Shenandoah National Park. I had seen some beautiful photos of gorgeous fall foliage in the park, and I wanted to experience it myself.
Such an excursion would get me out and about so I could shoot some photographs of my own. My limited mobility had kept me close to home. On this beautiful, bright day, I felt free.
So after lunch, I headed to the park. My initial intentions were to do double-duty. A friend had a short film previewing in Charlottesville not far from the national park’s southern boundary. I figured I could do the Skyline Drive, take a few photos, and make the mid-afternoon screening.
I drove half an hour to the park entrance, where I joined a long line of vehicles. I wasn’t the only one who wanted to enjoy this gorgeous day.
At one of my stops at an overlook on the famous scenic Skyline Drive, reality hit. Altogether, the physical therapy, the driving, the numerous frequent stops had taken their toll. I was exhausted.
I altered my plans. I wouldn’t make it to Charlottesville. In fact, driving to the park’s southern entrance was also out.
I continued driving, stopping, and photographing the incredible scenery. The old, folded mountains, dotted with nature’s emerging color-scape, and the clarity of the day had emotionally thrilled me despite my tiredness.
At one turnout, I found complete contentment despite my fatigue. I had observed several monarch butterflies floating on the day’s easy breeze. They looked for any sign of sweet nourishment on their long journey south. A lone monarch flitted around in front of me until it rested on a single fading flower.
The view across the storied Shenandoah Valley was pristine. The atmosphere was so clear that I could easily see from my spot on the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Allegheny Mountains 40 miles to the west. Their summit ridge separates Virginia from West Virginia.
In between lay the iconic valley itself. I spotted Mole Hill, a local landmark. Mole Hill is a long-extinct volcanic dome now capped with a deciduous forest that still showed mostly hunter green.
Earth toned farm fields fanned out from Mole Hill. The afternoon sun highlighted bright white houses and bank barns of Old Order Mennonite farms. From so far away, they appeared as miniatures. With that satisfying scene etched in my mind, it was time to head home.
By realistically reevaluating my situation, I was able to take my time, expend my energy to the max, and enjoy the colorful landscapes. I had passed my first test of independence.
Of course, I exacted a price for exercising my freedom. Fatigue and the day’s pleasantries helped me sleep well that night.
The morning sun cast an illuminating light on the colorful deciduous trees west of Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the heart of the pastoral Shenandoah Valley. Cloud shadows played across the Allegheny Mountains that divide Virginia from West Virginia and served as a quiet backdrop for the colorful foreground. Also, note the rolling fence in the front of the scene mirrors the undulating mountains in the background.
I sincerely doubt that this is what Jimmie Hendrix had in mind with his song “Purple Haze.” But if there ever was a photo of purple haze, this surly has to be it.
It was a chilly morning several years ago in Ohio’s Amish country about this time in October. The mist coming off of the farm pond caught the twilight’s first light. I also doubt that the residents of this Amish farmhouse ever heard of Jimmie Hendrix. But they do know what purple haze is.