Favoritism

When I was growing up, I often accused my mother of favoritism–feeling as if she was more devoted to one of my two sisters or other brother than me. Yet today, I can’t recollect a certain situation that gave me the chutzpah to suggest to her that one sibling got preferential treatment over another.

Of course, whenever I raised the indictment, my mother always answered the same way, “How could you say that? I love all my children the same.”

I don’t know. Maybe what she said was true for her. But I was always suspicious of her definition of equality. None of us was the same in our looks, our likes, our talents and abilities. Each of us had something that made us special. So I was never really certain how our individuality and distinctiveness measured against Mom’s distribution of love. To me, she adopted “separate but equal” as a legal family doctrine in order to avoid conflict, but conflict always had a way of showing up.

Later, as a parent, I wrestled with whether one son was better than another. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t love them equally–I loved them differently.

Many years and careers later, when I was in a classroom setting teaching emotionally and learning disabled students, the notion of picking a favorite became a source of reflection. Of course, I was more inclined to curry favor upon students who were better prepared, less of a discipline problem, and willing to try. These were my “go-to” kids who were eager to respond to open academic questions whether they knew the answer or not, and it was hard not to treat them differently.

And so, it’s much the same with determining which is a favorite of the tens of thousands of photographs I’ve snapped since becoming a “serious” photographer. After scanning through archives of images that still thrill me, I’ve decided that I cannot pick one over another, since each “favorite” has a different integrity, or power, or message.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that my favorite photograph is the one I’ve taken last, because it’s in that moment that I’ve given it the most attention, and therefore overshadowing all the other images that have preceded it.

Currently, as I travel south with Leah to meet my new destiny in St. Augustine, I am following a ribbon of asphalt that curls through the ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Virginia and North Carolina. And while I’m certain that it’s picturesque, given the large number of overlooks that the 1930’s Conservation Corps has carved out on both sides of the Parkway, the ongoing fog and rain clouds have obscured all sitelines, making this a dissapointing journey.

However, a short break in the weather while passing milepost 176 of Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, Virginia gave us a chance to stretch our legs and take a self-guided tour of the mill by the water…

mill in the mill of the mill

built by E.B. Mabry in 1903. Originally, a blacksmith and wheelwright operation,

wheels

drive pulleys

Mabry later added a sawmill,

sawmill1

and seeing the need, added a gristmill as an additional service.

millstones and fences

From all the rain, the scene was eerily green…

aquaduct

water delivery channels

shed and wagon

and serene.

farmhouse with hemlock

And for one precious moment, it became my favorite place to photograph…

The Mill

until the next assignment!

 

Moon Over Muddy Mountain

Now that Leah and I are nine months into Streaming thru America, a familiar question often arises from family, friends, and fellow bloggers: “What’s your favorite place, so far?” It still remains the most difficult question to answer. Here’s why:

We’ve covered over 32,000 miles to 104 distinct destinations–with amazing views of beaches, mountains, prairies, canyons, and deserts. We’ve toured cities and suburbs, villages and vicinities, parks and plantations, graveyards and ghost towns.

Thus far, we’ve crossed the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back; we’ve traveled as far north as Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada to the southern edge of Florida within the Everglades; We’ve ascended Trail Ridge Road to the Rocky Mountain tundra at 12,183 feet to the salt flats of Death Valley’s Badwater Road at 282 feet below sea level.

Having slogged through Los Angeles and Miami traffic, we’ve also driven hours through remote regions without a soul in sight. We’ve cursed the crowds at Yellowstone and Zion, and celebrated the isolation of Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks. We’ve witnessed numerous national monuments, and bore witness to monumental tragedy in Las Vegas.

While we’ve camped at some of the fanciest and most expensive RV parks in the country, we’ve also boondocked at Walmart parking lots, always meeting new people from around the world, yet reminiscing with old neighbors we discovered at a scenic overlook in North Dakota.

Despite having written over 80,000 words and shared over 2,500 photographs of our adventures this year, I feel compelled to answer that one nagging question, but forgive me if I pause for a moment longer to filter all the information collected to date…

The one location that stands out over all the others is Valley of Fire State Park–16-miles outside of Overton, Nevada–as much for the solace and cleansing it brought us after the Las Vegas massacre, as for it’s raw and natural beauty.

And from this experience, I’ve reluctantly selected one photograph that captured my imagination and exemplified my feelings–two days after the world grappled with senseless inhumanity.

sheep and moon (4)

May 2018 bring us closer together as we work to build bridges between communities, and discover a path to peace and tolerance.