Day tripper

26 January, 2012    Day tripper
I’d love to, but I don’t spend every free instant at the river. Or with my dogs. This week I had an unexpected opportunity to take a trip to the mountains – specifically Harrisonburg, VA, in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains – and spend a little time with my parents. I would have liked to stay longer, but I did have a nice lunch with my Mom and got to spend some time with Dad also. Next time I see them I’ll get to spend a little more time. It was a stunning day for a drive, a nice break in what’s been an otherwise gray January. A lot of the time on the road it was 60º and the sunroof was wide open.

It hasn’t been too long since my last post but I’ve taken a few pictures I enjoy. I got a couple of fun ones on that trip. I stopped in a rest area on Interstate 81 on the way back and this excellent looking 18-wheeler was parked in there:

Is it just me? I think this picture is so much fun.

A friend of mine once showed me a photography tip. When you’re taking a picture, look and see what’s behind you. I was sitting on a guard rail in the rest area photographing that truck. When I turned around I saw these thistles; it’s a nice contrast:

Not like a Big Red 18-wheeler

Wednesday my buddy and I went down to the train tracks. We were running a little late and we didn’t get to see the front of the train. But there was a big coal train parked there; I like the way the sun is gleaming off this wheel:


The detail on the cars was stark in the sun. Some of the cars were old and rusty but this one was brand new; look how clean it is:

Fresh off the assembly line

And how could I ever put up a post without a river trip. I could, but the dogs and I got down there a few minutes before sunrise and enjoyed the early morning today. I took this picture a few minutes after we arrived, probably fifteen minutes before the sun actually came over the horizon:

Every dawn is enchanting

We hiked down a little bit to where a small island breaks off from the main bank and a little canal flows behind it. I posted a picture similar to this one on my fb page; perhaps you saw it. A friend commented on the image, and I noted that, at that hour on a weekday at this time of year, it’s like having your own private place. It’s a treasure:

Public parks become private in January before dawn

We had to hike for a while to actually see the sun come over the horizon. This is through a tangle of branches, reflecting off the water, it’s a nice picture:

Sunrise in the sky and in the water

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If this is your first time following this blog, I’m experimenting with an unconnected (or only partly connected) section after each post. This is the third in the “series.” The first is at the end of the post “A lot of life,” 13 January, 2012. They’re on the end of each post now. I plan to keep it up for a while. We’ll see how it goes. Please let me know if you have any feedback. Email, comment on here, etc. Have a great day,

Client 2 – the early years
My time with Client 2 spanned nearly fifteen years, most of both of our adult  lives. It’s been a couple of years since he moved to NC, but his influence on me was and continues to be tremendous. I met him and his grandmother and his mother right at the beginning (of when I started this work), back in the mid-nineties. He could make a lot of noises and gestures though I didn’t know what any of them meant. If you didn’t know him, you would have no idea. His mother was wearing a black sweatshirt with a quote from Emerson. I will never forget. White arial sans-serif all caps: “IT IS A PLEASURE TO BE UNDERSTOOD.” It’s odd how stuff like that can pop up out of nowhere and guide your path. We learned to understand one another very well as the years went by. It certainly was a pleasure for me, and I hope it was for him too. The pleasure of learning to understand and to be understood was perhaps his greatest lesson to me and his greatest gift. Just this morning – nearly two decades after that early experience with understanding – I spent time with a friend who survived a severe brain injury. He whispers a lot and we are diligent as we learn to understand one another. It’s as much a pleasure now as it was then. I hope he too is getting something out of it.

Client 2 and I learned to understand one another in many ways. He has always been very patient with me, which perhaps was his first and most graceful lesson. He would try to tell me and I wouldn’t understand, try to tell me and I wouldn’t understand, try to tell me and I wouldn’t understand, I know it drove him crazy. It would have driven me crazy if we had traded places. I may not be as enlightened as he is. But he’d keep working at it until I figured it out, and next time I’d pick it up a little quicker. More often than not, anyway. Of course he was fifteen years old when I met him; he’d had a lot of practice. I was a relative newcomer to this patience game. But we’d be at Fuddrucker’s or at the Food Court or Kabuto’s or Hooters – he loved them all – or the park or for pizza – wherever we went. And I’d see the way people would react to him. To his smile, to his charm, to his laughter and enthusiasm. To his obvious and unmistakable in-the-moment-ness. Teaching about communication and understanding and patience are fantastic, but that in-the-moment-ness, that now-is-what-matters, that’s a lesson that only comes from the most enlightened ones. He is the one who helped me learn that “this is why it’s called ‘The Present’” and that “our presence is our present.” He taught me well; I’ve forgotten a lot of other things, but not that.

I could write a book just about him. I hope you’re all fortunate to spend time with someone like him some day. You will be a better person. Even though I’m sure you’re already excellent.

I’ll write more about him next time. I was going to move on to another person I’ve spent time with, but I’m going to revisit this guy. He’s too much fun for just one post.

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About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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14 Responses to Day tripper

  1. Andrew M. says:

    HEY JAY! Great posting, and great pics! What camera do you use, or is it the camera on the iPhone??

  2. Kathy says:

    Hello Jay, Your posts are so enjoyable and make life a little better by reading them. Pictures are marvelous……… the thistles, maybe more than the truck. They are so simple and filled with beauty!

    Doing a great job, I think, on the life learning experiences from clients! Mr. C taught me everything I know and I don’t know anything else.

    • Hi Kathy – great to hear from you! I’m glad you enjoy my blog. I’m glad you like the thistles too – those two together (the thistles and the truck) were sort of something for everyone.

      I’m sure I don’t need to tell you of all people what great teachers I have and what a pleasure it is to learn from them. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t have this blog if it wasn’t for Grace and I wouldn’t know Grace if not for you and Mr. C, funny how that works.

      Have a great day and I’ll talk with you soon,


  3. Clare M says:

    Hey Jay! 🙂 Fabulous pictures as usual!!! Nice of you and GM & GF to get together!

    Seeya for the maple festival!


  4. Hi Clare! Great to hear from you, as always. I’m glad you enjoy the pictures; they’re a ton of fun to take. It was great to see GM and GF at midweek too; that was an unexpected pleasure. Great day for a drive too! I hope the weather’s that nice when we go to the Maple Festival!

    Have a great day and I’ll talk with you soon,


  5. evelyn says:

    This a quite a stunning parcel of photos. I can’t pick a favorite – the truck is a rock star, thistles look like happy people, both train photos are great, and the river … always happy to see a photo when I’ve missed the live show. Thanks for sharing, both in word and in deed, what you have learned over the years through your wonderful work. I also hope the weather’s nice for the Maple Festival!

  6. I’m glad you like the parcel of photos! It was a fun parcel of places to be and of things to see. I liked all the pictures but if I had to pick one, I’ll always take the river. I think that middle picture is the most peaceful. The bottom one is kind of hot (looking) and the top one maybe a little too flannel, for lack of a more precise adjective. But that middle one is at once (in my opinion) mysterious and comforting; that’s a difficult combination to pull off. Fun day! And I too am looking forward to the Maple Festival. It’s fun in all weather. Have a great day,


  7. Betsy Slade says:

    Hey Jay,
    Your blogs are always fun with spectacular photos–but the ID of plants?–not always accurate. That is Teasel, not thistle, Dipsacus fullonum, an alien plant, prickle heads once used in preparing wool for spinning. A stunning photo, no matter the name.

    • Hey Betsy!
      And thanks for the plant ID. Between Lynda, Kim and Katie I have great fauna-ID people but I’ve been looking for a great flora-ID person – perfect! Although as you noted it’s an alien plant, I did read this: “The seeds are an important winter food resource for some birds, notably the European Goldfinch. Teasels are often grown in gardens and encouraged on some nature reserves to attract them.” That photo did come out well, though. Luckily! Thanks again for the plant ID and have a great day,


  8. Barbara Mann says:

    Wonderful photos from your wonderful day!

    Really love your words/thoughts about Client 2. So often our clients teach us as much as we “teach” them…..or more.

    Hope your week finds you with lots of opportunities for laughter and joy!


  9. Hi Barbara – great to hear from you – it’s been a while! I’m glad you enjoyed what I expressed about Client 2. I’ve been very fortunate in that department. I hope your week finds you too with lots of opportunities for laughter and joy!

    Have a great day,


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