032705fog.jpg
032705fog2.jpgCouldn’t sleep, so took a walk on a foggy night. Peaceful. Cool (about 40 degrees). The fog diffused a farm’s night light) and the night brought a feeling of quiet and calm.

Nighttime walks are usually better for reflection than photography: a good time to ponder just what the hell I have gotten myself into by moving back to the country after so long in the city and on the road.

Fred First brought Jonathan Kingston, a young photographer, by the studio the other day, a talented man full of vigor and wanderlust. Fresh off a year teaching in India, his portfolio shows an envious depth and eye for composition. He’s hoping to free-lance a piece about Floyd County for a national publication I did some contract work for back in the dark ages. Then he’s off to Hawaii to work on another project.

His visit made me think about that day 40 years ago when I packed everything I owned into my ’57 Ford and headed off to start a job with The Roanoke Times and the beginning of four decades of chronicling the good, the bad and the ugly of the world around us. I left Roanoke in 1969 for points west and didn’t come back East until Amy and I relocated to Washington DC in 1981. I took a sabbatical from journalism to work in the sordid world of politics for a while but my heart wasn’t in it and I returned to doing what I loved — telling stories with words and pictures about people, places and events.

In Rome this Easter weekend, Catholics reprise Christ’s walk to the Stations of the Cross. I remember walking the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1985 and finding the real Stations of the Cross hidden behind gift shops and tourist bazaars. Reality all too often shatters the myth.

If I were still working in mainstream journalism, I probably would be spending this Easter weekend standing outside a hospice in Florida as part of the media circus surrounding the Terry Schiavo tragedy. My former profession no longer separates myth from reality. It alters reality and raises an unreal vision of it to mythical proportions. When I see such things I’m glad to no longer be part of the show.

My hip and knees ache from the cold and wet. The calcium around the pin in my ankle sends sharp pains shooting up my leg as I traverse the long hill back up to the house. Each step reminds me that so many years of doing what I loved came at a price and the bill has come due.

But I pay that bill gladly because I wouldn’t change a bit of it if I could. Nor do I regret our decision to chuck it all and return home. My time in the trenches has passed. Time for youngsters like Jonathan Kingston to roam the world and tell the stories.

Our world is now the mountains of Southwestern Virginia – it’s all the world we need and there will be new stories to tell and photographs to take in this world.

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