“Sorry to write such a long letter… “

23 September, 2018            “Sorry to write such a long letter… “

“…I didn’t have time to write a short one.” – Oscar Wilde (I thought). But one web site I read said that quote “…has been attributed, variously, to Pliny the Younger, Mark Twain, T.S.Eliot, Cicero, Voltaire and Proust.” Who knows. I like the idea. Read on. Please! 

Evelyn’s father John, Monmouth Co. NJ, ~1985 or 1990 

The man in that picture is Evelyn’s father John, who I never met. He died around ten years before I knew Evelyn. Ev guesses this photograph was taken about 1985 or 1990 but she’s not certain. He was outdoorsy and a reader and I have a book of his called “John of the Mountains: the unpublished journals of John Muir“, 1938. I picked it up the other day and it has a bookmark with an old fraying string and a photograph of a soulful looking Dalmatian sitting on a black and white checkerboard tiled floor.

I just – while I was putting this blog post together – stumbled across this sentence in an article called John Muir, Nature’s Witness: “The founder of the Sierra Club [John Muir] worshiped the outdoor world.” Worshipped. That’s a strong word.

The bookmark is on page sixteen, and it’s on Chapter 1, in a section called “At Smoky Jack’s Sheep Camp” [December, 1868]. The January 18 journal entry ends on that page, followed by January 19 in its entirety, and the beginning of January 20. I reproduced them here, without permission:

January 18 […] “…Another glorious day, full of light and joy and life. A purple evening.

January 19 Clouds in transparent flakes. Warm, balmy life in every sunbeam. Perfect harmony in all things here.

January 20 Purple morning and evening. The evening lark song is ‘Queedli boodle.” […]

When I read the January 19 entry, all three sentences, all sixteen words, I thought “I use way more words than I should.” I pay attention to using fewer words but it gets away from me sometimes. Possibly this demonstrates the truth of that.

So anyway, here’s one of Ev’s roses. The gardenias are spectacular, but this is difficult to improve. I took this picture Friday afternoon, next to our garage:

Words will degrade this image: 

In addition to using too many words, I use too many pictures of hawks. But Friday I got a “double” Red-tail, two perched at the same time on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church:

Red-tail pair at Discovery United Methodist Church

It occurred to me that this is the only time of year (up until early Spring) when I photograph two at once. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect when there are eggs or young on the nest, one adult stays there. Adult Red-tails don’t have predators in Virginia – they’re at the top of the food chain. But all manner of opportunists (especially raccoons, and I’ll bet snakes) prey on the eggs and young. Whatever reason, it’s always fun to get a “double” Red-tail.

I had two big flying milestones this week, but only one was really photographable. Because Tuesday I did my first night flight! We took off around 8:30 PM and flew to Charlottesville (KCHO) and I landed in the dark! KCHO is a much bigger and brighter airport than Hanover (KOFP) but it’s still night when you land. A lot of night flying (mainly the landing) is like learning to fly all over again. But it’s fascinating. I love every minute.

I was supposed to fly in the afternoon and I went to the airport. But you can see in this picture the clouds were beginning to stack up. The weather was turning ugly so I went home. And came back after it cleared up and went night flying! Here’s the plane I flew in the afternoon before the storm:

The calm plane before the storm

Here’s the moon that evening at 7:30, an hour before takeoff:

Moon in early evening (7:30) 

And again at 11:30, after I got home from the airport:

Same day around 4 hours later (11:30) 

Wednesday I got a couple pictures of Ev’s gardenias and nasturtiums. Here’s a gardenia inside – with keys, “for scale”:

Ev’s gardenia magic, with car keys for scale: 
Ev’s prize winning (IMO) nasturtiums in Dad’s (my Dad’s) favorite color: 

And Thursday I got to fly again! Only this time to Luray Caverns Airport (KLUA)! I took way, way, way too many pictures – it was so incredible. I’m looking over our path, it took us over Ruckersville, Stanardsville, Elkton, Shenandoah, Stanley, Luray, all the little towns that surrounded our cabin when we were growing up. We were right between Shenandoah and Stanley. I took this picture when we were flying back. I’m not sure what our altitude was right there – probably around 5,000 feet. Our property is close to the center of this image, but I can’t say precisely. That muddy brown river is the flooded South Fork of the Shenandoah. You can barely make out the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks in the lower right. I’ll get better pictures next time I fly up there:

Flying – me flying – a Cessna 172 over our property in the Shenandoah Valley, with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the foreground: 

Here’s the wind sock at the Luray Caverns airport, with the mountains in the background:

Windsock at Luray Caverns Airport, Luray, VA

When we landed the airport operator came on the radio and said “do you guys need any gas? Or do you want to borrow a car so you can visit the Caverns?” We were running late so we thanked him and declined, then taxied back to the runway and flew home.

It was disorienting. When I was young, going up there was a big deal, lots of preparation and excitement, etc. We had to do a lot to get ready, and as much or more to come home. Thursday I ate lunch at my dining room table, went to the airport, flew to Page County and landed. Took off and flew home. And had dinner at my dining room table. Even as I type it now a few days later it’s hard to wrap my head around it.

I ate another pawpaw at Pony Pasture this morning while the dogs and I were hiking. Every week I think I’ve had the last one. They are a treasure.

This week has also been a treasure – I hope yours has too. Until next week (I hope!),


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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1 Response to “Sorry to write such a long letter… “

  1. weldon.bradshaw@gmail.com says:

    Jay… Good stuff. Thanks…Weldon


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