Friday, June 21, 2019

Rainy Days and Thursdays...

Rainy Days and Thursdays…

By John W. Vander Velden


It’s raining and it’s Thursday and I am at the keyboard…again. I really shouldn’t. My to do list stretches from here to, well I don’t know where but outa’ sight anyway. But rainy days do that to us don’t they. They give us the feeling that we should be doing something but the weather gets in the way, and so we head off on a tangent, taking time we should not use on endeavors unplanned. 

Writing has become an important task in my life. I suppose that years ago it was unimaginable that I would spend the thousands of hours tapping away letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into stories. But even now as I plan to change the oil in the trusty PT I find myself putting this rambling together. 

 Rainy days set my mind ta thinkin’. We’ve had a powerful lot of rainy days this year. I guess I’m still not completely thunk out. But the fact is, and I know it better than anyone else, I’m way past the middle of my years. And though I have so much I hope to accomplish, I really shouldn’t be typing right now but doing some of it. I understand that I likely won’t do all the things I hope to do. Sometimes that bothers me, it bothers me a lot. Sorry Mrs. Lambert. She told us that the only use for “a lot” was a plot of ground needed to build a house. But that being neither here or there. I understand that the time God will allot me to do the things I want to do is not infinite. And even if it were I’d probably just think up an infinite number of things to add to my list. 

Maybe I should make a list based on priorities. To get done, my “bucket list” first. Sounds efficient. But others keep throwing sticks in my spokes, adding obligations and such. Then are the unexpected things, repairs, emergencies, and of course heath issues that pop up like the head of a “whack a mole” demanding immediate action. Fix a gutter, wham, get the tire fixed, wham, repair a door, wham, go to a meeting, wham, wham, wham, and my to dos end up being not quite done or worse, not even started. 

Shut the machine down John, you have oil to change. 

But it’s raining. 

So?…The garage is dry. 

But it’s still raining. 

You need to get the oil changed and then work on the revisions. 

Yeah OK...but it is a rainy day...hmmmm. 

There are things to do and I best be at it, so I’m shutting down the old Gateway and going out into the rain on this Thursday morning…


(455 Words) 6-13-2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

To the OBX Part 3

To the OBX      Part 3

By John W. Vander Velden

It had been a rainy overnight our stay in West Virginia.
The heavy rains spilled down the mountains all
along the route. But there were a few grander waterfalls.
The day broke cool and gray the next morning as we loaded up Pearl, our Jeep  and left the OBX behind. We could have spent more time there. Perhaps next time we will take the ferry to Ocracoke Island, but we enjoyed our few days and had yet another adventure to see on this trip. We left the OBX by a different route than our arrival. Going across Roanoke and driving west across nearly four hundred miles of North Carolina before twisting north in to West Virginia. We allowed Google to be our guide and abandoned the Interstate near Beckley and drove nearly twenty miles of mountain highway on a misty evening. Turns on the narrow way with sheer rock cliffs on one side and almost NOTHING on the other. Low shoulder took a new meaning that evening. At one point the road narrowed to one lane because the other had washed away. Falling rocks took a different significance when you drive beneath stony overhangs. And the smell of coal hung in the air everywhere.
The clouds hung low upon the mountains giving them a surreal appearance.
We took a few minutes to stop at Kanawha River Falls.
Jackie was concerned that our little computer friend was leading us far astray as we pushed on mile after mile, through small mountain towns, past coal processing plants, through wood and along river, along overhanging rock walls, and on cliff edges. At last the sight of a Dollar General and a BP station reminded us that we had not abandoned civilization entirely. Highway 3 came at last to a four lane and our confidence in “Alexa” grew.
You drive along back highways and come across some interesting things.
We stumbled upon yet another waterfall.
This one was marked so we could know it was Cathedral Falls.
Though it was a misty day, several people stopped to see this wonderful sight.
The hotel in Chapmanville, WV was very nice, and the jump off place for our last outing of this trip. In 2008 we had come to West Virginia and we used that trip to see Glade Creek Grist Mill. It was there I hoped to return. Much to Jackie’s chagrin the route from the hotel to Babcock State Park demanded forty miles of the same kind of road that we had traveled the night before. Twenty on the same Highway 3 we had white knuckled before. But daylight helped immensely and the three hours the journey took were not unpleasant. The night’s rain had caused hundreds of small waterfalls, rivulets spilling down the rock face at the roads edge, but also fed two large water falls we stopped to photograph. We stumbled upon them in passing and went till we found a place to turnaround to return.  The first one unnamed, or in the least its name was not posted,
the larger, Cathedral Falls, had a substantial parking area and drew several people.
Onward we reached Babcock State Park and drove directly to the mill. I am told it is the most photographed mill in North America. Seeing it again I could understand why. We spent a few hours wandering the grounds and braving the rain while I shot my photos. Leaving for we had “many miles to go before we had our sleep” we made a quick stop at a bridge nearby. The New River Gorge Bridge is an engineering wonder. Our last hotel was too far for us to spend a proper amount of time there. On our last visit we had a lengthy visit even driving down the gorge across the rickety wood bridge and under the great steel structure 800 feet overhead. But on this quick stop it was rush down hundreds of steps to the viewing platform take some picts and back up to the parking lot to hurry off.
The reason we drove more than two hours on back country highways.
Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park, WV.
Our second visit to what is described as the most photographed mill in the US.
All that remained was the drive home. The sun was setting when we reached the last hotel on this trip. I worked on photos and Jackie watched “When Calls the Heart” we don’t get the Hallmark Channel at home. The next day would take us home safe and sound, not really rested, that wasn’t the point, but our head filled with the
Yes, I was there!
memories of another adventure, as we surveyed lawns in desperate need of shortening. Where will we go next? You know we haven’t decided...yet.



Though we had miles to go and the day was becoming quickly spent, we made an unplanned stop.
Here I walked the pathway to the many steps that led down to the viewing platform.
I counted 156 steps...not so many, but hurrying they were sufficient to set my heart a racing.

The New River Gorge Bridge is an Engineering marvel.
The four lane roadway is more than 800 feet above the river.
But the bridge is not the only wonder you will see from that platform.
Turning you can look down the gorge itself.
Even on a misty afternoon the view is amazing.
(This picture does not do it justice)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Off to the OBX part 2

Off to the OBX     Part 2

By John W. Vander Velden

The grand lighthouse in its new location.
The lighthouse has been moved nearly a quarter mile from its original place to protect it from the surf.
Our first day in the OBX broke clear and so we headed south to see what we had  prepared for months to see. For we had been practicing. We ran up the stairs in our home again and again. It has only ten steps but, if you run them twenty times you have reached a sizable number. For we intended to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Eleven years ago we walked the grounds of the park, too early in the season to be allowed to climb. Jackie and I would remedy that situation. We had after all climbed many lighthouses, and now we prepared to climb the tallest masonry lighthouse in North America.
There are 257 steps we were told, but like I said we came prepared. The view was spectacular! But more we had accomplished a goal we had set for ourselves. But Hatteras was just the first, a few hours later we stood on the catwalk at the top of Bodie (pronounced Body) Lighthouse. The wind had picked up a bit, but together we enjoyed the view across the marshes of Bodie Island and the Atlantic in the distance and the shining waters of the bay beyond the other side of the island.
Bodie Island Lighhouse
Up the stairs we go.
Later we walked out on that pier.
The next day sent us north through Duck, an interesting name for a town don’t you think, which had grown substantially in our absence, up to Currituck Beach and its lighthouse. We were told to prepare, for the winds at the catwalk were over thirty-five miles-per-hour. The blustery breeze added to the thrill of standing more than one hundred fifty feet up on a sunny morning. What a gem.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse



Most people have heard of the wild horses of Currituck. Abandoned by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, they are truly wild creatures, to be given a proper berth. But we shared the back of a pickup truck with another family while our guide, Gattor, told us all about the horses and countryside. In the sixteenth century the Spanish cast their horses overboard to lighten their ship that had run aground. The mustangs capable swimmers it seems. Now the wild horses of the OBX are the last descendants of those Spanish Mustangs. They are not the cute ponies they appear but wild beasts that roam over thousands of acres of dune land.  We saw more than thirty of the magnificent animals on the shore. The wind, the sand, and the horses,

made another adventure we will never forget.

We closed out the day walking the beach, watching the sea birds, a chain of pelicans flying single file out of the north passing us by and going on and out of sight far to the south. A hawk like bird, a kite I believe, hovered overhead for some moments. Those winged creatures mixed with a few gulls gave life to world we walked, a world of wind and waves, as the tide came in yet again following its age old cycle of rising and falling twice each day. It brought the perfect close to what was so near a perfect day.



Friday, May 17, 2019

Off to the OBX Part 1

Off to the OBX    Part 1

By John W. Vander Velden


If you don’t know what OBX means take heart, we were there for nearly two days before we made the connection. The locals use those three letters to identify their area...The Outer Banks.
View from the parking lot
It had been eleven years since our last visit and there were things the same, like the weather and the ocean, and things different, like thousands of new rental properties. And I expected as much when we chose OBX as our first escape location for the year. Made the adventure a road trip. I would not recommend a straight through drive and we took our time, sorta’, spreading the drive over three days.  Three days? Well yeah, we made a stop and took half a day visiting the Ark Encounter, which in truth added a day to the trip. The Ark itself was impressive and we wandered about the exhibits which were well done. The work they went through to create the lifelike animals on display is amazing.

Four hours plus driving east took us to Charleston, West Virginia, which seemed to make the OBX reachable the next day. Driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains and across the Shenandoah Valley was beautiful, though the I-64 snakes tightly with several seep grades both up and down.

We spent more than a half hour moving less than a quarter mile while we were in Norfolk, Virginia. So close and yet surrounded by an ocean of near stationary cars carrying countless passengers all hoping to reach their own destinations, but wedged together on lanes meant to be traveled, but for that time virtually a parking lot.
The sun had long set when we checked in, but one of the reasons we had come was the Atlantic, and to the beach we went, dark or not.
Our Home at the OBX

The ocean was almost dead calm, maybe six inch swells. Yet there, in the dark with the sky reflecting off the water I felt it. There is something about the sea shore. Something that reaches deep within me, rumbles places that are unreachable by sights and sounds. Something primal. Something emotional. But most of all something spiritual.  A power I could never describe. Something real, but intangible. It made the long stressful drive worth the effort and more.
The sun comes up early in May, but its rising found me walking the nearly
deserted beach, bare feet on the cool sand and splashed by cold water of the rising tide. I beat the sun three mornings in a row watching the coloring sky for the moment the sun’s sphere escaped the water. I live for those brief times when the day begins so clearly, when I find myself where the horizon is distant and clear. That I had the beach very nearly for my own an added bonus. It is too seldom that I find myself where wind water and sky intersect in such a way, and even now look forward to the next opportunity.

(490 Words) 5-15-2019


Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Thousand Shades of Green

A Thousand Shades of Green               


By John W. Vander Velden


I view the landscape as I walk in the clear morning, the rising sun low beside me.  The grass and weeds marking the road’s edge, a border to the wide hayfield of tall grass and thick alfalfa, glistening with dew’s uncountable jewels.  In the distance, trees stand, a wood of ash, beech and maple, damp fresh leaves of innumerable tints contrast the snowy trunks of the yet bare sycamores.  It is spring, the world fresh and alive…awaken from winter’s sleep.  Beneath the pure blue sky…foliage moved by the gentle touch of the morning breeze are a thousand shades of green…the colors of the world that surrounds…Can there be a better description for the colors of spring? 


(121 Words)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Sometimes The World Seems Hard

Sometimes The World Seems Hard                

By John W. Vander Velden

Sometime the world seems hard. Sometimes it is.
Few get through life unmarked. Most of us get some cuts along the way. Those cuts leave scars that remind us that life isn’t always painless. And though nearly everyone has those ragged patches where flesh has bound to flesh we are also cut by invisible blades. Blades of heartless comments, or cruel remarks. Blades of failure. Blades of unfairness. Blades of loss. Those blades leave scars as well, only those marks can not be seen with the eye.
Rarely do we speak of the marks we carry. We do not consider them medals of valor in the battlefield called life. Most often we believe them to be failings or weaknesses, private matters that are no ones business but our own. Yet we might understand others better if we shared those scars. For locked away within us all, are the same kind of wounds others have felt.
Look inside and see your own scars. Look inside and open yourself up to another’s wounds.
In a world that has so much hate and anger, finger pointing, and the, it’s us against them attitudes. In a time when it seems only the loudest shouts are heard, while the cry of a child doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. In a society that is certain that each of us is abused by everyone different than we are. In an age that asks why should we help others because nobody has helped us? Have we become so internal, dwelling so intently upon the differences that divide that we are unable to see the vast magnitude of what we all have in common?
Sometimes the world seems hard, and sometimes it is. But it’s not just hard for you. It’s not just hard for me. And it is true that it might be less hard on some, but it is also true it is a great deal harder on some others. Few get through life unmarked, but it is up to each of us to see the scars, and care…To hear the crying child and to act. To help a wrinkled and bent man through the door.  To share our time with the lonely. To see those the world wishes to hide away and offer a bit of the respect they too deserve. But most of all to forgive!
Sometimes the world is hard, but it’s not you job to make it harder. Few leave this life unmarked…don’t be the invisible blade that slices at the heart and soul of another...

(430 Words) 3-20-2019

Saturday, April 6, 2019

What Makes A Writer?

What makes a writer?

By John W. Vander Velden 

I guess I can’t honestly answer that question. I have no way of knowing what drives others to write. But I can speak for myself. What makes John W. Vander Velden a writer? If you have gone to my bio page you will have read the first clue. John is a lifelong storyteller. And I am. I do not know what drove me to create stories, but my imagination has been a powerful force within my mind as long as I can remember. I wrote a series of Blog posts on storytelling and how it has changed even during my lifetime. I may post a few here on some later date. But this is not some ramblings about the changes in storytelling; it is a bit of rambling about me as an author.
Imagination creates scenarios, but storytelling is shaping those rough concepts into something logical enough that others can share that world with you.
Storytelling does not a writer make…on its own. But it helps.
I had difficulty in the mechanics of my language…English.  It was that difficulty that stood in the way of putting my stories down on paper. Memories of high school pages drenched in red ink stood as a wall between me and the page. Those images drove a feeling of inadequacy that held me hostage. But, to my good fortune and perhaps yours as well, things happen in life that changed my perspective. The first was reading a series of books and feeling the story, though long, was incomplete. I began writing a sequel in the late seventies. Each day I wrote page after page in long hand. I filled several spirals with my absolutely awful handwriting. The result more than 1300 pages of mostly drivel. But I learned I could tell a story.
Then a story came to me in the late eighties, “The Second Life of Joshua Smith”. I have not penned a single word from that tale. But it built much like a serial, day after day, the story of a man that much like Job lost everything and the life he build following that disaster. Even as I worked at my regular job, if I happened upon a dull moment, a scene would play out in my mind. It was fortunate at those time I worked alone, for it would have been difficult to explain the tears. That was a new experience, to be emotionally moved by my own story.
Those things and the access to a word processor gave me the courage… to write. It occurred to me that I might not know all the mechanics, but I could hire someone to repair my mistakes. And red ink or not, NO ONE could tell my stories better than me. And so in 1999 or 2000 I began writing my stories and I haven’t stopped yet.

(475 Words)  3-15-2019