Blue Ridge Sunset

No, I’m not back on the East Coast yet, though if I were I’d be in Lexington with David Toczko at the Rolex Three Day. It was a highlight of my year in 2012. This particular picture was a backdrop for another type of highlight in 2010, the sort that comes ones way just as they’re falling over the edge of a cliff. The good with the bad you know. It was taken in North Carolina. And like the song says, for a while falling can feel like flying.  It looks much more appealing to me today than it did in the days shortly after it was taken. Still….

I’m throwing it up because for the last couple of years I’ve been shooting craggy western peaks and the sunsets that seem to crash over them on their way to Australia and beyond. The eastern mountains that I grew up with have a more soothing effect. The peaks older and smoother and  covered with evergreens dotted with patches of deciduous trees here and there: Just enough to ensure a colorful display each autumn. The ridges interlock with one another creating corridors that zig and zag and invite you to explore further. They draw you in. This particular sunset was especially hypnotic and on the day it was taken was all but intoxicating. The results were so predictable – to everyone but me.

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I miss these vistas. They can be replicated to a degree by the mountains that surround the northern boundaries for the Los Angeles Basin, the Santa Monica hills to the northwest and the San Gabriels immediately to the north and east. Given just the right amount of haze they take on that blue aura so familiar too habitués of the eastern mid-Atlantic. But sage brush and juniper give the illusion away. They have their own appeal of course and I’d be the first to tell you that it is no less compelling an environment than the one with which I am most familiar. Just not the same.

When you stand on the Blue Ridge and look west you’re gazing at the long-held promise of America. Everything you see for as far as you can see constitutes the portfolio of freedom that has stood at the core of our existence since before we were a nation. What you see is the tangible vision that fueled our drive to explore and discover and claim and capture and hold dear. It was not always a clear vision. Not at all. Our saving grace has been that it prevailed.

When I stand on the mountaintops here in California and look west I see the periphery of the largest ocean on earth. For decades it provided a boundary that protected our endeavors and a sea upon which we could pursue more diversified interests than were available to us otherwise. But to my mind it never ever drove us to achieve the way that Blue Ridge promise did. The ocean has always been something we could take or leave – at least so far as our national identity is concerned. In fact that is not true; in feeling it is spot on.

I wound up where I am now for many of the same reasons that our ancestors did. I am working on gaining a greater understanding of the tagline Mr. Thurber provided for this blog. I’m grateful for the trails my predecessors blazed. They certainly made it easier for me to get here. But it’s left to me to figure out why. And to take in any sunset anywhere for what it’s really worth: the promise, though not the guarantee, of a new day to come.

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4 responses to “Blue Ridge Sunset

  1. Enjoyed this thoroughly, used to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway with my Dad some years back. It truly displayed some of the most spectacular landscapes I’ve ever seen. Also, want to mention that I enjoy your writing style. Formal, yet accessible………nice!

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    • I began visiting the Skyline Drive section of this road with my family when I was a child and reciprocated with my children – and tens of friends – later on. We always considered this ‘our’ park and it remains the one National Park in which I have spent the most time. In many ways it was my introduction to the west and I suppose it affected me in much the same way it did those of our forebears who also first viewed it from that perspective. It was a comfort to embrace and an invitation to continue further. I’ve done both. Thank you for the feedback. Hope you’ve put all that dengue behind you!

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  2. Hello! This post could not be written any better!

    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page
    to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Thanks for dropping in and for the feedback! I gather you’ve yet to see the Blue Ridge. Hope that changes at some point in future. It’s not as imposing as the Eastern Sierra but once it gets you it refuses to let go.

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