Last Wednesday was, to put it mildly, a very slow day at work. And since I'm the highest paid driver in the P&Z Carolina franchise, I was the one who got off four hours early to save labor cost (I volunteered, but I knew I'd have to make up for the lost wages somehow - money, shall I say, is rather tight).
I was free, mostly broke, but it was only 3 PM and I didn't want to languish at home, so I decided to explore on the tightest of budgets. I had plenty of gas in the tank, partly sunny skies above and mild temperatures, and just enough cash for an amazing lunch at the local sub shop in Waynesville before I embarked on my unexpected journey - a Cheerwine pulled pork barbecue sandwich, which might have been the tastiest sandwich I've ever consumed. If you're a native North Carolinian (or a transplanted one like myself), you know that Cheerwine soda is "the elixir of the Carolinas" - cherry soda at its finest. Add that sweet cherry flavor to tangy barbecue sauce on a pulled pork sandwich, and you're in barbecue heaven. And it was very reasonably priced as well, meaning I could afford it, but I digress.....
Many times before I set off on a trip I'll ask God where I should go, and without fail He always responds in my thoughts. This time around I felt Him guiding me all the way north of Asheville, to one of my favorite spots, Craggy Pinnacle. I thought, "Great! I haven't been there since last fall, and with the skies there should be some nice drama late afternoon."
By the time I arrived at Craggy Pinnacle the entire area was engulfed in fog. "Pea soup" fog. "Can't see diddly squat" fog. "Drive-twenty-miles-per-hour-and-hope-passing-cars-are-in-their-lane" fog - you get the idea.
And God led me here? Was there a lapse in communication?
*tap tap* Hello, is this thing on???
I nearly turned around and headed back home in defeat. I drove a little past Craggy Pinnacle in hopes the fog would break, but no cigar. I decided (since I was already there) to pull into the Craggy Pinnacle Trail parking lot and give the short trail a go anyway. There was certainly not going to be any distractions or crowds to filter through - I had the foggy place all to myself. I thought maybe God would reveal something to me, or maybe the fog would break.
Then a thought popped into my head as I began walking the trail - "I want to bless you." My initial reaction of course was to say, "Is this You Lord, and if so, can I have what you're drinking?"
I did bring my backpack full of gear along, and I decided to pull out my camera for a couple of shots, one at the beginning of the trail:
And another further up, as the hike began its ascent to the top of the mountain:
This one was much tougher to capture not just because of the low light and wind, but the technical limitations of my camera as well - a Nikon D2Xs, a big, bulky professional model to be sure, but a ten year old model, with a sensor that was the very first of its kind in a Nikon; meaning, I couldn't go past a certain aperture, shutter speed, or ISO speed without compromising image quality. Today's more advanced camera sensors would have aced the shot with no problems, but not this one. Having said all that, in optimal conditions (which fortunately, is most of the time) my camera performs as well as, if not better than, many of the new models - just not in difficult light. I only took three images total in my time there. I didn't think much of the images after I shot them, either. I came to see glorious skies and heavenly light rays. I kept looking, hoping to see a break in the clouds, but nothing materialized. All I saw was a whole lot of nothing. I drove back home, stopping at Waterrock Knob where some really dramatic skies happened right at sunset, but not on the level I'd envisioned or hoped. I came home, edited the one image of the Rhododendron "tunnel," and even toyed with a black and white version (me being "artsy" as usual):
Then......I left it alone. Until Sunday night. I almost posted another image Sunday night on my photography page - a safer image, one I knew would go down fairly well with my fans, but I decided to go ahead and post the "tunnel" shot anyway. I honestly didn't think it would go over well. Instead, the response was swift and mind-blowing, at least to me - it went "viral" quite quickly ("viral" of course being a relative term); not just on my page, but on the other pages I post as well, like 500px, where the image got my highest rating ever (or "pulse," as they call it) - a 96. On top of all the love, I made it available as a print on my Fine Art America page, and I sold three prints of that image alone in only a few hours, not to mention the fact that I sold a couple more prints of other images, all within a twelve hour period - completely unheard of for me. And there my friends, was the "blessing." It was indeed God and not my overworked imagination telling me not just to go somewhere that seemed like the wrong place when I arrived, but keeping His word in blessing me as well. The money I made off the five prints more than made up for the four hours of work I missed last Wednesday. One lesson I am learning more and more is that when God leads us to places that seem unlikely, we should let go and trust His leading anyway. We know He will never guide us into darkness, but into places where He can be glorified. My abilities come from Him. These photos are His. He provided the canvas for me to shoot these photos, even if I wasn't completely enamored of my results at first. The blessings I received (and hopefully, the blessings those who saw or purchased my photo received) came from Him. The glory really belongs to Him, as He is the provider of all that is good and whole and uplifting. It's an old saying, but it's forever true - where God guides, He provides......
(Update, February 1, 2016: The rhododendron tunnel image, now called "Into The Mystic" - partly because I love Van Morrison's music, but the title just....fits the scene - will be featured in the "Vistas" section of WNC Magazine as a big 12" x 18" spread. And the blessings continue.....)