words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

North Carolina

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mountains

Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

Grandfather Mountain is a mountain, a non-profit attraction, and a North Carolina state park near Linville, North Carolina. At 5,946 feet (1,818 m), it is the highest peak on the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the major chains of the Appalachian Mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the south side of the mountain. It is located at the meeting point of Avery, Caldwell (highest point), and Watauga (highest point) Counties.

Until 2008, Grandfather Mountain was privately owned and operated as a nature preserve and tourist attraction. It was and still is best known for its mile-high swinging bridge, the highest in America, built in 1952 by Hugh Morton. The bridge links two of the mountain’s rocky peaks, and is known as the “swinging” bridge due to its tendency to sway in high winds. Morton inherited the mountain from his grandfather and developed the tourist attractions. He died on June 1, 2006 at the age of 85. After Morton’s death, he donated all of his photographs, including many of Grandfather Mountain, Mildred the Bear, and many other aspects of life on the Mountain to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This Photograph was taken during an earlier visit to the mountains of North Carrolina.

Art for Summer Vacations

Art for Vacations / to journey without moving

Art for Summer Vacations

It is that time of the year when we vacation or if we have
the opportunity we “Get Out and See”.  Summer
is here, and the temperature is rising. We search for that place to cool our
days and excite our senses. If we are lucky we travel to far off places and
discover ourselves anew while basking in the view of a beautiful sunrise or
sunset. We spend our afternoons lazily browsing small vintage shops, historical
sites, museums, gardens of beauty and restaurants of epicurean delights. I have
not travelled much abroad, but I am grateful to have visited both The
Netherlands and France during my 1990 group art exhibition in Deventer Holland.
These locales are wonderful places indeed, and I will never forget the
hospitality and kindness that I received throughout my journey. It is the
people that make a journey abroad so special.

Here in the states, I often carve out a weekend adventure
here or there. I enjoy outdoor activities that test my physical being, and challenge
my sense of adventure. I also like to seek out places that provide emotional
recovery through meditative contemplation and recollection.  This is vital for restoration.

I feel a great vacation should always provide moments of excitement and serenity….

What do you think? Where are some of your favorite places to
vacation? What do you seek out most when planning a vacation? Is it to find
adventure or is it to just relax? Do you prefer travels abroad or weekends
close to home? Please share your thoughts.

The art work that I have included in this post, are expressions
of the theme I call “Art for Summer Vacations”. The first piece “Vacation / a
journey without moving” is a collage of photographs I took as I travelled to the
city of Amsterdam, the town of Deventer (both in The Netherlands), the shores
of Cape Cod and Nantucket, and the mountains of North Carolina. The second
image entitled “Summer and its Warm Embrace” is a journey through mountains,
lakes and trails in  NC, SC and TN during
personal hikes and an artist residency provided by the South Carolina State

Summer and its Warm Embrace

Weekly Photo Challenge: Water

Grandfather Mountain @ 6,200 feet

This a photograph taken during a hike across the Mile High Bridge at Grandfather Mountain. The elevation above sea level is just over 6,200 feet. What a great place to hike and explore. Just getting to GrandFather Mountain is a beautiful journey as you travel along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.  I found it exciting during my hike, from the base of the mountain to the bridge, and then crossing the gorge below. It was amazing to find puddles of water on the mountain top.

The Conscious Light that Illuminates the Darkness of the Mind

Sunrise and the pier 2009

Sunrise and the pier 2009

Waking up early during the summer of 2009, there was a
pervading need to see the sunrise. It was still dark, as the consciousness in
waking slowly came into being. In anticipation of a beautiful moment in time, I
found myself rushing to meet the light. Standing upon the pier, I witnessed the
beginning of a new day.

The mind has an opportunity to wake to a new consciousness
as well. Every day the mind finds itself surrounded in thinking and perpetual
thought. As I stood on the edge of the pier, watching the darkness fade away, I
was reminded of the beauty that is the Light that takes away all darkness. In
that moment, my mind felt the Light of Awareness as it responded to the ever
approaching rays of sunshine.

I stood quietly in a meditative state.

Sunrise and meditation 2009

Sunrise and meditation 2009

Ever increasing awareness is obtained as the illumination in
the power of light over shadows the darkness of the mind.

Do you find moments in nature that like a sunrise brings a
greater sense of awareness? Does it provide a greater feeling of peace with
oneself and of knowing who you really are? Many of the great gurus of our time
have taught how important it is to find the path to greater self awareness and

“Through the mind and intellect, consciousness is divided
into I and other.  I am on one side, and
the world is on the other. Light is on this side and the other side is dark”.

The Direct Experience of Truth

From the Discourses of Swami Parmanandji Maharaj

Final meditation 2009

Final meditation 2009

Go Out and See

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is so much beauty that surrounds us. It is a beauty
that can bring us joy when we take the time to “Go Out and See”.  This past week, I had the pleasure of being
part of a beautiful day and a challenging bike ride. It provided an opportunity
to see the lovely landscape of farms, rivers and mountains that form parts of
western Haywood County, North Carolina.
It is that time of year when the leaves are coming back as the green
foliage slowly progresses up the mountainside. Winter is being left behind and the
memory of the cold distant mountain is replaced by soft layers of life and
biological growth.

Our journey begins at the town of Crabtree, where we head
west on Riverside Road. Here we bike for several miles next to the Pigeon River
until we reach the town of Riverside. It is here that we start our first
serious mountain ascent. It is approximately 1.5 miles of winding switchback
climbs. Our fast and perilous descent takes us to the town of Panther Creek,
where we begin the long sweeping terrain of hills and straights. Halfway
through our journey we merge onto Fines Creek Rd. In the town of Fines Creek is
the only gas station in more than 15 miles in any direction. We fuel up on
nuts, fluids and protein, and encourage each other for the mammoth climb to come.
One man, who is fueling his tractor,
asks us are we going up the mountain, in which we reply…yep that’s the plan. He
smiles and laughs and says “good luck”. He obviously knows something about the
mountain we don’t. But we know it is a 1.5 mile climb with a 5% gradient. It is
straight up with one or two slight curves. It is intimidating. We start the
climb and there are times when I look up and all I can see is the road horizon
in the sky. There are times when I want to stop, my will in question, my legs
in pain, but realize how difficult it would be to start uphill without momentum.
The descent at speeds nearing 40 mph is
a test of skill and nerve to say the least, but liberating. For nearly 2 miles,
one can only hold on aerodynamically and hope that no unforeseen problems
arise. Finally, after 18 miles, our return to Crabtree is a quick flowing pace
that allows for some reprieve and scenic viewing.

After the bike ride, the best part of the day is the drive
afterwards. We retrace our journey via the car and take photographs. Eighteen of
two hundred have been digitally retouched and included in the slideshow.

So what do we gain when we “Go Out and See”? For me, there
is the liberating feeling of joy that can stay with you a lifetime.  There is also the possibility of discovering things
once unknown in my surroundings and in my soul.

What motivates you to take time out of your busy schedule to
“Get Out and See”? What would you like to discover in nature or local history? What
would it mean, and how would it enrich your life?

Take a moment and think about the last time you made the
extra effort to get out and discover. Let me know what you found.

Race Day April 3rd 2011

Mountain biking race day at Tsali Recreational Park

Mountain biking race day at Tsali Recreational Park, North Carolina

It is Race Day

Take what life gives us

Let us meet under the great pavilion

Where the sounds of aspirations

Are heard in the ballet of bikes

It is race day

Clutching our forged carbon loves

Sinewy muscles tense with sweat

We dream the dance

The dance of the mountain

It is race day

There is life in every breath

Let us meet silently at the starting gate

The noise of wind and sky to shatter our thoughts

While colors merge

A kaleidoscope forms

A kinetic fleeing pursuing blur

Rotating wheels and quick descents

Gorges rivers trees and falls

Pick yourself back up

Your pain body calls

And look up into the crying sky

To a transformative end

Finding yourself deep inside

It is race day

Transcending our weekday life

We are here to meet in joyous celebration

The sound of Kopeland

The sound of music

Victory for one

Pleasure for all

While arms and smiles embrace

Here at Tsali North Carolina

Its sure to be

A great race

A Mysterious Thing … The Photograph of a Place in Time

Biking around Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Biking around Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley, North Carolina

It was a golden morning and a beautiful start to the day. It was a Monday and there was a
chill in the air as the cold wind made its way down the mountain and across the
lake. I’ve always been mesmerized by beautiful seascapes and landscapes—where
water, mountain and sky meet. Drawn to their spiritual vastness, I sometimes
find (if it’s a good day) revelation and beauty, hidden…deep inside the
soul.  When transfixed by such a mysterious place—we question its magnitude.
In-turn, we can at times find our very own inadequacies.  We come to know our fears and our doubts. Usually
if I attempt to elevate myself, with pride—by thinking:  I can do this…or I can do that—whatever the
thoughts may be, I then know I am no longer centered.

It is a golden morning and a beautiful start to the day. It is early April 2011 and spring is
on its way. There is anticipation and a longing for the discovery of beauty and
the Self in recollection. I am still mesmerized by beautiful seascapes and
landscapes—where water, mountain and sky meet. There is a planetary energy, a
Consciousness that lifts my Spirit. Transfixed I find it is a mysterious thing—the
photograph of a place in time. I remember the beauty of the moment and my
present fears and doubts are washed away. I will elevate myself today, with joy—by
thinking: I can do this…and I can do that—whatever the dreams may be.
It is April and it is spring and all the growth of my soul and Spirit is before me.

If you have a photograph of a place in time that transcends your life experience, embrace it and share it with others.


Biking to a Place Inside and Out / 07

In addition to challenging biking opportunities there are hundreds of trail to hike as well

One of the best places to road bike is along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The BRP stretches for hundreds of miles (approximately 470) through North Carolina and Virginia.  It is one of the most beautiful scenic rides in the country. The parkway follows the Appalachian Mountain chain. From Shenandoah National Park the parkway follows the Blue Ridge, eastern rampart of the Appalachians. It then skirts the southern end of the massive Black Mountains, named for the dark green spruce and fir that cover them. Then it weaves through the Craggies, the Pisgahs, the Balsams to end up in the Great Smokies.  I had the pleasure of staying at the famous Pisgah Inn located on the southern end of the parkway, at Mount Pisgah about 30 miles from Asheville, NC. You can marvel at the forest-clad mountain peaks, mist filled coves, and the slopes of fragrant balsams, rhododendrons, mountain laurel and flame azalea. It was a great week of biking, hiking (Graveyard fields to the Upper Falls), art galleries (Blue Spiral and galleries in the River Arts District), independent films (La Vie En Rose, the story of French singer Edith Piaf) and fine dining (organic, Thai and Indian). But I must say that for a spectacular view, and good food, the restaurant at the Pisgah Inn with its panoramic view overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains is unsurpassed. And finally, a perfect end to an evening is sitting on your private back porch watching the sun set beyond the mountains.

Stopping to take in the view from another vantage point along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Biking to a Place Inside and Out / 06

Sometimes on the bike the reality of life and the beautiful dream become one

I am very fortunate that were I live, I can immediately access miles of rural back roads to immerse myself on my road bike. I spoke earlier about the sense of transformation that is achieved while biking. Here on these winding roads and gently sloping hills, I pass by farm lands, historic areas, woods and beautiful estates.  What enhances a great ride is the right music. There is a distinct difference in the selection of music for road and mountain.  On the road there is a need to be able to hear your surroundings for safety measures. Hence, my selection is always, soft, slow dancing ambient. My favorite band for a ride is the neo-classical ambient band from Austin Texas, Stars of the Lid. In fact, this has been the most prolific band for me in the past two years. This is aural mastery of the highest order. In contrast, when mountain biking, there really is no need to be conscious of your surroundings.  Now your music can flow anyway you like. For the mountain, I prefer long flowing electronic sounds from bands like AES Dana, Bombay Dub Orchestra and Near the Parenthesis, or French Pop artists like Etienne Daho, France Gall, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Alizee to name a few. It is here on the mountain when you need that extra aural drive to push your rhythm to its fullest—to make that climb.

Music plays a significant part in creating the aural soundscape in which to find transformation in physical movement

Biking to a Place Inside and Out / 05

Biking @ 5000 ft on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Pisgah Inn to Water Rock Knob

And to achieve a great ride you’ve got to know and trust your bike. I ride a Trek 4300 on the mountain and a Giant OCR on the road. Both bikes have served me well and have maintained their riding integrity in spite of the miles and punishment I have put them through.

When climbing the mountains of life we come face to face with many obstacles