Somewhere between Snowshoe Mountain and Cass Railroad in the West Virginia mountains is a two lane paved road you’ll miss unless you know what you’re looking for. “Back Mountain Road” winds for miles along the side of the ridge, looking down on red barns and gold hayricks.
I drove it one August day looking for art. Nobody seemed to believe that a 25 year old man would take 2 weeks to be alone in the country but I was in heaven.
I sat for a day, a beginning watercolorist, trying to find the color of shadows on the abandoned white church. When I look at those paintings now I barely see any color at all. I was so timid, needing a teacher who would slap my hand and make me sin boldly.
I found the split-rail fence which seemed to belongto no-one, and it was overgrown with orange day-lilies. Cameras used film then, and I felt extravagent spending a dozen snaps of Kodachrome on the flowers, but I was bohemian. I was in my 20’s and innocently trying to be an artist. Like everyone young I didn’t realize how I had so much life ahead of me. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have wasted all the film on one stamen.
I got so discouraged with painting I trailed a heron back into the wilderness as if it were a shaman redeeming me from maps. I wanted only to stand close, on one leg, motionless, unblinking, and know the dart of the minnow the way the bird knew it. It watched me with one eye and parsed minnows with the other, never letting me close, and did not miss a meal on behalf of my silly vision quest.