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Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
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Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
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Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
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As part of the system
Defecting from the rear guard
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
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The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
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Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
You're on this page
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Insight
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
05/23/16

No one goes to West Virginia, at least no one I know. That seemed like a good enough reason to go, especially since many of the folks who had never gone warned me of the inbred hicks, boneheaded rednecks, illiterate coal miners, and rampant squalor.

What they failed to mention were the warm-hearted, plain-talking, common-sense, mountain folk rich in history and family bonds who showed me hospitality and kindness at every turn in the road. For all our fast-lane progress speaking down to their simplicity, these unpretentious West Virginians decided not to cover their Blue Ridge Mountains with strip malls. This was not the result of poverty but a rich understanding of their wild places and how to make it part of their everyday lives.

Teenagers in camo jackets here instead of designer jeans, well scuffed hiking boots instead of gangsta high tops, hiking sticks instead of selfie sticks. I felt a natural man among them.

Along the country roads John Denver sang of, hillbillies tilted chairs back on their porches, a ready smile hidden under their beards. A stranger sitting down to a game of checkers was as natural as in SoCal to ask for a WiFi password.

Sometimes the road shows me more than just a stunning waterfall. Sometimes it teaches me the difference between urgent deadlines and communing with what is truly vital, what is noble inside us, suffocating under layers of polyester.

Our tales of their primitive, one-tooth society probably started for the same reason that pioneers referred to Indians as savages. People in a hurry to master the world around them make assumptions about those who don't share their agenda. They assume these West Virginians need domination, or at least motivation, or at least food stamps.

I'm looking forward to New York's skyscrapers, but West Virginia is where I discovered the significance of what remains hidden unless we search it out, as opposed to what is promoted and marketed.

Or perhaps best said by Marcel Proust, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

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Wisdom of a hillbilly

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Beckley Coal Mine from a hundred years ago

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King coal dethroned

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Monongahela National Forest

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Cleanup crew
For more pictures of West Virginia, click here.

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