Doc loved the Blue Ridge Parkway. It sang him a siren song of beauty, majesty, sound engineering and good governance. In honor or Rev. Reheis’ August pilgrimage the length and breadth of the ‘Parkway, here are three shots on film of S curves near Big Spy Mountain in Nelson County, Virginia near mile post 26, taken last century.
Stone Mountain Park was Roy’s refuge, relief, workout facility and subject for much of the final 30 years of his life. It was a woodland buffer from the grind of urban life, all the fine particulate matter in the air and the bureaucrats downtown. Those of us who knew him would give anything for another of those walks together through Stone Mountain Park on a breezy day. Post full-time retirement he walked there every day that he could, taking pictures in all seasons and all weather. His second blog Stone Mountain Meanderings is worth your time if you didn’t catch it first time around. This photograph of Stone Mountain Lake at the beginning of 2009 evokes Monet and his water lilies in its painterliness. They were both old men with beards who were familiar with their subject matter, and the brief moments in an average day when nature and weather combine to focus the eye, the hand on the canvas, the camera’s lens.
Two years on it still hardly seems real Doc, that all that would be left are the logbooks and maps, photos and blog posts and memories and laughs and the many, many remembered miles we spent strutting and fretting our way across the back roads and creeks and country churchyards. A headstone in your hometown and a righteous sendoff by your friends were good, but not enough. I still grieve a little every day recalling afternoons whiled away at Ground Zero, digging deep into South African resistance music or the oeuvre of Slim Harpo, tossing off jeers and asides at the ballgame on the TV down the hall. “That’s the Cavs,” your disgusted mutter standing in for every let down anyone ever took in the gut, as time expired. So there’s this photo, from your 2006 Blue Ridge trip, an image of American Pastoral that makes me smile at the thought.
Country Churches were one of Doc’s very favorite subjects. He made sure to visit them(and re-visit favorites) throughout his ramblings. If there was not a national forest handy, lunch at the tailgate would nearly always be in a country churchyard. His church aesthetic for the best photographs were exacting, and very nearly impossible to reach in the time and place he shot most of his photos. This shot, about as Currier and Ives as you can get in 2006, fell short by the length of the two utility wires crossing the picture, a technological affront to the identity of the country church as a simpler, earlier place in his mind’s eye.
Sun was setting, the end of a long day touring back roads in South Georgia, headed for our overnight lodgings in Cordele. Doc was compelled to stop and shoot by hand this picture of a pile of railroad ties.
In 2005 on his annual Blue Ridge sojourn, Roy logged an amazing amount of things, including Dames Rocket(Hesperis matronalis) on Day 5 of his trip, in Smyth County Virginia on County Road 660 East. It was one of his favorite wildflowers, easily accessible, not exotic, reliably found along many of his favorite country roads.
By 2007, Roy’s vacation road logs had become a model of organization and a data mine into the ecological and aesthetic ebb and thrum of the backwoods he traveled. On May 25, 2007, Day 5 of his annual Blue Ridge ramble, he logged the following botanical observations: cinnamon fern, yellow daylily, fire pink, butterwort, black snakeroot. Wildlife sightings that day were limited to a single box turtle. He took this pic of the North Fork, Cherry River around 5:21pm that afternoon.
Pray tell: Where along the Mighty Chattahoochee River is this bridge, snapped by Roy Burke in 1984. My money’s on Franklin, Georgia. Or Proctor Creek. Key data points in his storied water scientist career. Anyone else rank that?
As I hit the road for a three day tour of colleges with my daughter, I can only hope that she applies herself as diligently to her studies. This pic is one he saved to digital from his graduation day from the University of Virginia. There would be more degrees to come.