Physics has always been of interest to me. That may be because I know how many things work, and physics gives the understanding of how everything in nature works. I can repair most anything, from cars, to computers, to plumbing, to electrical systems, and even air conditioners… my wife is quite happy about that. Likely more because of a touch of ADD than straight out insanity, I’ve never had a fear of trying new things… a sense of wonder has always drawn me further into many things that others have dreaded to tread… “dread”, “tread”, it’s a gift, I don’t talk about it much.
Have you ever truly watched young children at play? They dwell in wonder! Yet, as they grow older, that sense of wonder tapers, sometimes to the point that it disappears altogether to a jaded disposition of adulthood. Someone once humorously quipped that life consists of four stages. In the first stage, we believe in Santa Claus. At the second stage, we no longer believe in Santa Claus. The third stage is when we find out that we are Santa Claus. The fourth and final stage has arrived when we look like Santa Claus. Some years ago, I was in a church choir in Cedar Grove, North Carolina, and sat next to a local farmer who not only was a professional Santa Claus, but was also the spitting image of the classic Coca-Cola Santa Claus… so I am still in that first stage in life! Occasionally, “Santa” would fall asleep during the sermon and start to snore, understandably so at that particular church. I always woke him gently, so as not to be on the “naughty list”.
Have you wondered about wonder? Wonder is that place of the mind that charms the emotions while never conceding reason. It is a grasp on reality that does not need constant highs to be preserved, nor is it weakened by the low points of life’s struggle. It sees in the ordinary the extraordinary, and it finds in the extraordinary the reaffirmations for what it already knows. Wonder interprets life through the eyes of eternity while enjoying the moment, but never lets the momentary vision exhaust the eternal. Wonder makes life’s enchantment real and knows when and where enchantment must lie. Wonder knows how to read the shadows because it knows the nature of light. Wonder knows that while you cannot look at the light you cannot look at anything else without it. It is not exhausted by childhood but finds its key there. It is a journey like a walk through the woods, over the usual obstacles, and around the common distractions while the voice of direction leads, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21 KJV). Wonder cannot help but sing… even nature recognizes that.
Here, from an image taken in 2015, some favorite familiar objects stand out in wonderful ways… the extraordinary in the ordinary, yet to me, it’s never ordinary. That’s a bit of Second Falls there as seen directly from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 418.5… it's a good bet I'll make a stop here every fall and frame a shot with these three brilliant maples in the foreground. Just beyond the falls is Graveyard Fields, where the first of autumn colors are most prevalent in early October. I know how this works, too… the sun no longer beats down on this landscape as it did throughout summer and the nights become longer and much cooler. Eventually, the ground temperatures drop, triggering the autumnal effects on the leaves of a myriad of flora. The color that first appears at Graveyard Fields (elevation 5120 feet, or 1560 meters) drops in elevation about 100 feet per day. Knowing, however, only deepens my sense of wonder at this beautiful wall of fall (as I said, it’s a gift).
Fall colors have been slow in coming this year with warmer nights in the mountains. Hurricane Michael is bearing down to this region from the gulf as well, so many here are hoping the leaves won’t soon be gone with the wind. By the way, this year has seen Hurricanes with my mother’s name, Florence, my wife’s name, Joyce, and now one with my name. What’s up with that? I wonder.