April 9-11, 2010
When I began my journey to Florida one month ago, I drove for several days through pouring rain, pea-soup thick fog, and a monochromatic landscape of gray and brown. For the past two days on my drive home to the mountains of upstate New York, it has been sunny and seventy degrees with light spring breezes carrying only a hint of the winter past on its breath. Driving through Georgia and the Carolinas, I found delight in the palette of bright, new green leaves on trees juxtaposed to the evergreens with their darker viridian hues.
It is Sunday, April 11th, and I was up before dawn, had my cup of Assam tea, and walked outside pushing the motel’s luggage cart towards my car. While I was lifting suitcases, camera bags, equipment et al off of the cart and into my car, a middle-aged woman in a motorized chair appeared from nowhere in particular. She held a small white poodle in her lap and we said ‘good morning’ to one another. Her dog jumped from the beige blanket folded on her lap onto the grass and took care of business. Then he leaped back into her lap and settled in for a pat on the head and a hug. She drove her chair towards an area of the parking lot where there was an unhindered view of the rising sun.
I felt sad, maybe pity. I am not certain what the feeling really was, other than that I was bending, lifting, able to move and stretch my legs and arms and she could not. I was soon to learn though that my feeling towards her was misplaced. I turned to find her watching me and she said, “Hard work for so early in the morning. Are you traveling alone?” I replied, “Yes, I am.” She looked at me with penetrating, deep brown eyes, smiled and said, “Well, dear, may God’s angels watch over you and bring you safety and comfort today.” I was somewhat surprised by this unexpected blessing from someone I did not know. There was a genuine sweetness to her being, yet for a reason not wholly apparent to me, I held back in asking if I could take a picture of her and her dog. Tears brimmed in my eyes though when I thought of her blessing for I presumed, in my arrogance, to be the healthy, whole person. Humility is oft times a hard lesson.
I believe I had an opportunity to photograph an angel today and missed it.
I proceeded with the seven-hour drive ahead of me, which took me through the stunningly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. However, while admiring the views I narrowly escaped being the centerpiece of a potential ten-car pile up. The highway was two-lanes with hairpin curves. There were many large trucks passing one another. One of the trucks, while pulling out of his right lane, did not see a small car passing him on his left. When the truck’s driver heard the car’s horn, he slammed on his brakes causing all the cars behind him to swerve and brake. The car in front of me maneuvered to his left allowing me to brake and slide forward. The car behind me as well as one in the right lane next to me came within inches of colliding with my car. Thankfully, no one was hurt but we were all shaken up.
However, the trials of the day did not end there. When I checked into my motel room, I noticed a very acrid smell and mentioned this to the young woman at the front desk who had a pretty white flower in her dark brown hair. She said in a sweet, soft southern accent, “Oh, the farmers were spraying chemicals today and that must be what you’re smelling because the winds are blowing those fumes in our direction.” Why I calmly accepted this as a suitable explanation I do not know except for my extreme hunger. So, I asked where I could eat dinner and was told that the Corner Diner was the only place within many miles. It was within walking distance from the motel so I started out for dinner. As I entered the Diner, I knew from the loud music, filthy floor, and smell of grease that I was in trouble. I ordered a grilled chicken salad, which consisted of fried chicken, iceberg lettuce, a plastic pouch of Russian dressing sitting on the edge of the plate, and two packets of saltines tossed onto the sticky table.
I did not complain or panic for what purpose would be served? This was the best they could offer. I had fortuitously brought with me packets of organic instant oatmeal, a small bowl, and a spoon. There was a microwave oven in my room so I had a plan! However, when I returned, I could not stand the smell in my room. With my eyes tearing and my heart pounding, I knew I was having a physical reaction to whatever was causing the noxious odor. I asked the young woman with the white flower in her hair if I could see the manager who, when she walked into my room, immediately informed me that the smell was the glue used for the newly installed wall paper and not the chemicals sprayed on the farm crops earlier in the day. I was moved into a room with old wallpaper and no odor. My new room though faced the highway and its endlessly noisy trucks. I refused to let my spirits be dampened. I ate my oatmeal, watched a disaster movie on the SyFy channel in which Chicago was fairly well obliterated by an improbable convergence of storms over Lake Michigan, and put my earplugs in before I went to sleep. Despite the fact that I had not supped well, I avoided a car accident, evaded potential food poisoning, cleared my lungs of toxic fumes, and was, after all, alive.
My angel at sunrise worked overtime today.
Prior to the day’s challenging series of events, there were a few moments when I was able take a picture along one of the mountain’s curves. These recently emerged purple tree-bushes were abundant for at least 200 miles.
And, burgeoning color flirtatiously popped out every now and then along the roadside.
At a rest stop, there were two standing trees throwing shade from an extravaganza of white flowered-covered limbs. These voluptuous, flowering tree limbs spread from strong, black trunks. Of course, I photographed them in black and white.