Tag Archives: inspiration

Dusk at Pleasant View

Old Order Mennonite church, sunset in the Shenandoah Valley

Dusk at Pleasant View.

Photography helps keep my mind sharp. It motivates me to see the beauty that is all around me, to photograph scenes that I couldn’t even imagine existed.

With a few wispy clouds in the evening sky, my intended mission might be to capture a lovely sunset, only to be disappointed as the sun sinks below the horizon with unremarkable results. Nevertheless, I stick to the objective, looking for opportunities for creative shots as I traverse the countryside.

I arrived at the Pleasant View Old Order Mennonite churchyard shortly after sunset. Baren deciduous trees and a few evergreens populated the property, planted in part to shade the horses during the Sunday morning worship service. This was a weekday. I had the place to myself.

I could see the Allegheny Mountains to the west outlined by the evening’s golden light. When I came to this particular spot, I was transfixed. The trees seemed to guide my focus through the opening in their canopy far above and beyond the lovely skyline. There was no irony here whatsoever. The modest, horse-and-buggy driving Old Order Mennonites were spot on to declare this vista a pleasant view. For me, being in this moment was a spiritual experience, one of those spontaneous happenings in life that catches you by surprise and stirs your soul.

“Dusk at Pleasant View” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

When glory bursts through

sunrise, Lakeside OH

Glorious moment.

By Bruce Stambaugh

From our rented efficiency apartment in our favorite Ohio retreat, Lakeside Chautauqua, the day seemed gloomy, even overcast. Then I stepped outside into the predawn elements.

High, wispy cirrus clouds tickled the waning half moon. The previous evening’s rainstorms birthed refreshing morning coolness. At first, the stillness surprised me. It shouldn’t have.

The sleepy town was even sleepier on this Sunday morning. On the way to the lakefront, I broke through the waif of freshly made doughnuts at The Patio, the village’s popular eatery, without temptation.

When I reached the dock, I was stunned. Not a soul could be seen or heard. The day’s early morning dim light glowed along with the Victorian lampposts. Dimpled rivulets, like a sea of golf balls, pockmarked the calm Lake Erie.

Typically this alluring pier is packed with folks, even at sunrise. Walkers, joggers, fisherman share the space. Not today. I had the place to myself. I was both thrilled and awed in the silent twilight.

A pinkish halo hovered over Kelley’s Island five miles across the water. However, a peek to the east dampened my hopes for a sterling sunrise. Still I hoped.

I retreated to the pier’s entrance, mentally adjusting for a morning stroll around the resort town’s parameters. I glanced east again and found paradise. The sun’s bright beauty overrode the clouded horizon.

All glory was bursting through. I chose to exercise my senses rather than my legs. The Sunday morning service was about to begin, and I wanted to participate.

I walked along the rocky reinforced shore toward the call to worship. Using my eyes, ears, heart, soul, and camera, I recorded as much of the sacred ceremony as I could.

Baltimore Orioles picked up the chorus with the robins and purple martins. A lone common nighthawk buzzed overhead, skimming insects attempting to attack the unfolding beauty.

Fish played, jumped, and fed in the shallows near shore, rippling the calm waters that reflected the brightening sky. First pink and red, then orange and yellow added to the heavenly pallet.

Yellow, purple, and white irises dotted with last night’s raindrops joined the congregation. Stone upon stone sculptures added to the outdoor ambiance.

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Surrounded by reflected brilliance, a family of Canada geese glided through the still waters without their usual commotion. Unaware of my presence, a pair of young raccoons cooed as they foraged in the oversized rocks for anything edible.

Lakeside daisies, held harmless by earlier cooler days, stood at attention during the offertory. As if rehearsed, the geese honked while the Nighthawk buzzed, forming an inexplicable choir. The sun just smiled its approval.

The shoreline trees expressed their worshipful appreciation, too. The willows gracefully bowed as the geese floated by, while the oaks and ash remained tall, strong and attentive.

Soon other humans were drawn to the splendor. A visiting woman ran past me and asked if lived here. I wish. Even if I did, I still couldn’t begin to own the natural grandeur.

Protect it, preserve it, embrace it, praise it. Yes. Claim it as my own. Never.

This may sound funny, but it’s true. Without a sound, the sky spoke reassuring words, words that calmed and healed and inspired.

The sermon’s message was clear. No earthly power or politician or calamity or chaos could overcome this evolving creation of the Creator.

In that, I was most confident and filled to overflowing. At the benediction, the sun wholly overtook the darkness, and indeed, it was good.

sunset, Lakeside OH

Perfect ending.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under birding, birds, human interest, Lakeside Ohio, nature photography, Ohio, photography, rural life, weather, writing

Inspired at the produce auction

Colorful lineup by Bruce Stambaugh

The lineup of produce waiting to be auctioned was colorful in more than one way.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For inspiration this time of year, I love to frequent the local produce auction located just two miles north of my home. It’s a carnival, traffic jam, town hall meeting, commerce hub and art museum all rolled into one.

I like to arrive midmorning just as the auction is about to begin. When it’s peak harvest time, the place is abuzz. Men, women and children seem to have caught the same exciting spirit.

Produce trucks by Bruce Stambaugh

Trucks of all sizes back up to the loading docks to both deliver for the auction and to load produce purchased.


Vehicles of all sorts line up to empty and to load the produce and associated items. Box trucks, pickup trucks, and pickups with flatbed trailers, tractor-trailer trucks, tractors with loaded wagons, horse drawn wagons, vans, cars, carts and bicycles all congregate at the Farmers Produce Auction west of Mt. Hope, Ohio.

Their drivers are there for one of two reasons. They arrive to sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers or to buy them. A few of us, of course, show up to simply admire the proceeding. The exuberant energy and shining beauty are both contagious.

Lining up by Bruce Stambaugh

The drive through auction creates an unusual traffic jam.


Amish men and teenagers steady their team of horses, standing patiently in line under the strengthening sun. Most have traveled miles with their cargos of colorful produce, neatly packaged and ready for the sale.

The assortment of trucks carries interesting payloads, too. The season’s last sweet corn and melon, huge boxes of the season’s first pumpkins, bright red and yellow peppers, and flat after flat of budding burgundy, gold and crimson mums are just some of the offerings.

Produce auctioning by Bruce Stambaugh

Buyers and sellers alike gathered around the auctioneer as bids were taken.


The syncopated rhythm of the auctioneer echoes from the open-sided building, announcing the sale’s start. Buyers quickly abandon the food stand and squeeze in to catch any bargain they can. The pace is quick, and if you snooze you lose. People pay attention.

The buyers themselves are a joy to watch. Young and old, male and female, they represent their own produce stand, local restaurants or a supermarket chain. This is their livelihood. They are daily regulars, and the astute auctioneer knows them well. A wink, a nod, a twitch and particular hand gestures signal bids and it’s on to the next lot.

Two auctions by Bruce Stambaugh

So much produce arrives each day that two auctions, one inside, one outside, are held at the same time.


Soon the drive through auction simultaneously begins outside. Double rows of boxed and packaged produce or flats of hundreds of flowers are sold straight from the wagon or truck on which they arrived. They pass by the canvas-covered auctioneer’s stand two-by-two until the last one is through.

Sellers know they have to be on time. Despite the disjointed configuration of vehicles, the sale runs efficiently, making buyers and producers both happy. To be first in line, one driver arrived at 6:15 a.m. for the 10:15 a.m. sale. That’s the dedication of effective and productive commerce in action.

Sold produce by Bruce Stambaugh

Amish teens help move the sold produce to staging areas until the buyers claim their purchases.

Hand-printed tags on the purchased commodities tell the tale. The number in black indicates the producer. The red number is the buyer. As soon as the lot is sold, young men and boys transport the goods with tow motors to designated stations where the merchandise is parked until claimed. Once the buyer is all in, the purchased containers are loaded into his or her vehicle.

By lunchtime, teamsters mull their successes on the slow, rattling ride home. Truck drivers secure their load, and head to their predetermined destinations where the fresh goodies will be sorted, washed and prepared for consumption.

The fascinating organization, the polished production, the gregarious people and the artsy produce combine to create one rousing show. What an inspiring performance to start the fall.

Loads of produce by Bruce Stambaugh

Growers are taught how to package their produce to ensure both quality and higher prices.

Rows of produce by Bruce Stambaugh

The produce is neatly lined up in rows as it arrives to be sold at the auction.

Double rows by Bruce Stambaugh

The outside auction is done by selling the produce in double rows that slowly pass by the auctioneer’s stand.

Decorative produce by Bruce Stambaugh

Seasonal decorative produce like these gourds and pumpkins add to the auction’s peak season success.

Amish worker by Bruce Stambaugh

Besides the Amish farmers, the auction employs several Amish men and women to help with the sale.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Walking by myself, but never alone

Countryside by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Even though I am usually alone, I always have plenty of company on my regular morning walk on the township road near our home.

I walk for the exercise of course, but the benefits far exceed staying physically fit. On these hot and humid summer days, I like to get an early start if my schedule permits.

If I can survive the tricky first tenth of a mile on our busy county highway to get to the road less traveled, I can relish the rest of the walk. Common sense tells me to stay alert for oncoming traffic and dodge the fleet of various vehicles by stepping to the side.

Sunny walk by Bruce Stambaugh

Once I’ve completed the macadam gauntlet to the safety of the township road, I turn east into the morning sun. After a few steps uphill, the road unfolds before me, rolling gradually down into a low, sweeping valley formed by the Wisconsin Glacier 10,000 years ago. Farm fences on both sides squeeze against the chip and seal roadway, making it seem even narrower than it already is.

Eastern Kingbird by Bruce Stambaugh

This Eastern Kingbird and it’s mate often greet me as I walk along the township road.

I fondly anticipate these next moments. It’s the same road, but never the same walk. My audience waits, and every crowd is different. It’s not the Olympics by any means. In fact, it more closely resembles a circus.

I especially enjoy the high wire acts. The Eastern Bluebirds, including the juveniles still testing their wings, play their own version of leapfrog with me from the roadside power lines. Greeting me with melodious songs, the furtive birds wait until I nearly reach them before they flutter a few yards down the lines and land again.

I walk some more. They fly some more. The pattern is repeated a quarter-mile until the power lines run out. At that point, the beautiful birds make an arch over the hayfield and light upon the wires behind me to await my return trip.

Heifers by Bruce Stambaugh

Once the road flattens out, a congregation of Holstein heifers crowded head to tail beneath a black walnut tree suspiciously eye me. As I stroll, their heads turn as one, ears twitching, tails swatting pesky flies. Sensing a potentially easier prey, a few of the flies follow me.

Thankfully, a flashy yellow ball cap saved my baldhead. Still, I flail away at the persistent insects. I’m glad no other humans are around to witness my comical machinations. By the time I reach the valley’s shallow brook, the flies relent.

Jonas Yoder farm by Bruce Stambaugh

I usually turn around and head back home at the Jonas Yoder farm a mile east of my home.

Continuing east past the newly built Amish schoolhouse, the Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Purple Martins all start chattering to me at once, circling overhead as if they were asking me to follow.

Buggy by Bruce Stambaugh

At Jonas Yoder’s farm, I break the law. A U-turn begins my return trip. I usually walk down the center of the road until I hear a vehicle or buggy. On average, only one or the other passes me on the township road.

Song Sparrow by Bruce Stambaugh

One of several Song Sparrows that I see on my walk.

The American Robins and Song Sparrows are all used to me by now, and keep on singing in place. A young flicker, still with no brilliant red on the back of its head, flits from fence post to tree to utility pole. Poison ivy vines, leaves shiny as Christmas holly, have nearly over grown every locust post. A Green Heron escorts me back up the incline until it settles atop the tallest tree in a dense woodlot.

Down the arduous homestretch again, my next-door neighbor’s dogs unceremoniously announce my arrival. I hit the trifecta. I feel welcomed, renewed and refreshed.

Purple Martins by Bruce Stambaugh

Young Purple Martins wait patiently on a dead tree limb while being fed.

Poison ivy by Bruce Stambaugh

Poison ivy vines have over run many of the locust fence posts along the roadway.

Female Mallard by Bruce Stambaugh

This female Mallard, and sometimes its male mate, is often swimming in a pool of the small stream when I walk by.

Amish school by Bruce Stambaugh

An Amish school is being built in the pasture of Jonas Yoder’s farm.


This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Filed under Amish, birding, column, Ohio, photography, Uncategorized, writing

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award bestowed and humbly accepted

By Bruce Stambaugh

One of the primary reasons I write is to inspire others. I enjoy writing about the everyday experiences of life, weather, history, human interaction, nature, and genuine kindness. I also enjoy illustrating my blog posts with appropriate pictures that I have taken, and am glad when comments are made about those as well.
Very Inspiring Blogger Award
When Sandra Madeira nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I was greatly honored. Thank you, Sandra. Nearly a year ago, Sandra embarked on a mission of her own, posting a daily writing tip. I have been following her writings from the other side of the big pond in London all year. Other than the crazy English spellings, like colour, realise and practise, I have found her offerings insightful, and inspiring, especially since she works fulltime and has a family to care for. She definitely deserved the award.

In addition to thanking the giver of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I also have to tell you seven random facts about me. This must be the bureaucratic part of the award. In no particular order, they are:

1. I always wanted to play third base for the Cleveland Indians.
2. Failing at that, the best I could do is buy tickets on the third base side of Progressive Field.
3. I do the severe weather spotting for the National Weather Service for where I live, which is in the middle of the world’s largest Amish population in Holmes County, Ohio.
4. Our house is built on an Amish farm.
5. I’m Mennonite, not Amish. They’re the ones with the beards. Oh, wait. I have a beard. Never mind.
6. I was a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for 27 years in our rural county.
7. When I was young, I had long, blonde, curly hair. Look at me now.

The other element in accepting this fine award is that I get to nominate seven other bloggers for the same award. Again, in no particular order, they are:

Claire inspires through her amazing urban photography, spontaneous, real and truly inspiring.

Check out her blog, and you’ll see just how inspiring Carley Evans is.

I’ll put the disclaimer right up front. Mic Miller is a friend of mine. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find his insightful comments and photography very inspiring.

Inspiring pretty well states the purpose of Karen Chandler’s blog.

Kerry Leibowtiz’s photographs will take your breath away.

If Matt Posky’s commentary and drawings don’t inspire you, they’ll at least make you think.

Babak is a student studying in Amsterdam. Given his interests shared on his posts, you’ll find inspiration in many forms. To make that point, he was recently Freshly Pressed by WordPress.com, and that certainly is a good thing.

Check them all out, and thanks, again, to Sandra for thinking of me.

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