Thomas, WV

It’s the little surprises along the way that often make road trips truly memorable.

Such was the case with a recent trip to Elakala Falls. As we drove through field and mountain, Deep Creek Lake fading in the distance behind us, we happened upon a small town called Thomas.  The rural countryside suddenly opened up to reveal a charming small town: brick storefronts on our left faced a river-fronted forest to the right.  

One of many beautiful buildings

One of many beautiful buildings

We stopped in on the way home from the falls, with only a limited time before the shops began to close.  First on the list was Thomasyard, a unique florist & gift shop with a great variety of pottery and knick-knacks.  From there, we passed a few antique stores and art galleries that had already closed for the day, but included enough enticing objects in their window display to ensure an affirmative decision to return.

Flowers, mugs, and more!

Flowers, mugs, and more!

Next was TipTop, a beautiful coffeehouse and bar.  They had interesting art and edibles for sale, as well as a great selection of beverages and desserts.  Certainly a watering hole worth another visit!  Unfortunately, we had to run, so it was back into the car for us.  As we drove away, it was clear we only had scratched the surface - many more storefronts beckoned!

Some of the items available in Tip Top

Some of the items available in Tip Top

There is much to see in this small town.  Just under an hour from Deep Creek Lake, and only ten minutes from Blackwater Falls, it’s an unquestionably good choice to add Thomas to your adventure itinerary.

Have a seat on this delightful bench!

Have a seat on this delightful bench!

Elakala Falls

Not far from Blackwater Falls, a famous West Virginia destination, hides a series of cascades along Shay’s Run.  These are the Elakala Falls, nestled amongst pine trees and dense mountain laurel.

web-elakala-8996.jpg

The falls are easily accessed from Blackwater Lodge; the trailhead is at the edge of the parking lot, on the west side of the Lodge.  From there, it is a short walk to the first cascade.  Take the bridge over the falls and follow the well-worn, but unofficial, trail to the base of the falls.
Experienced hikers can continue along a bushwhacked path to more cascades further down the canyon, each with its own unique ambiance: the second cascade is tranquil, while the third is a much grander experience, as the 40-foot cascade offers impressive views of the Blackwater Canyon.

The first of the cascades at Elakala Falls.

The first of the cascades at Elakala Falls.

Be wary of slippery conditions, whether on muddy ground or mossy rocks.  The terrain is rough and not without dangers.  Nevertheless, it’s an exciting adventure, with stunning views of beautiful waterfalls.

The second cascade.

The second cascade.

Typewriter Poetry

Especially in the non-stop world of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, it seems like everyone is always rushing around.  There's little time for connection, rest, or play, as we pass by hundreds if not thousands of other lives each day.  Lives which tell glorious and difficult stories, all unfolding all at once.

Through a curious series of events, I've joined my good friend Mark in the art of on-the-spot typewritten poetry.  What a surprise it has continually been to connect with strangers, hear a bit about their story or their sense of humor, and then to write them a poem celebrating, as best I can, whatever it is that's on their minds.

SM-MTTYPE-7901.jpg

There's something strangely beautiful and wonderfully human about connecting with another over a typewritten poem.  To get a glimpse of their story - perhaps their marriage, their cat, their uncertainty, their hobbies, their dreams - and then capture it in a poetic from is a humbling and joyful experience; sometimes hilarious, sometimes healing.

Even when writing poems about a topic of which I know very little, such as baseball or eastern mysticism, there's an interesting challenge in discovering common ground, in connecting with and honoring someone with a very different background or belief or worldview.  What happens when we ask questions that lead us to affirm the human longings about which we all can sing?  Perhaps differences and disagreements can be set aside for a minute, for all of us need the gifts of encouragement and kindness.

Slow down and see the stories being written all around you.  Search out the goodness and the glory amidst the struggles and the triumphs.

Right and Wrong in a Different Lens

Can I choose connection over "being right?"

Can I choose connection over "being right?"

Much of our lives are concerned with right and wrong.  Should I take this job? Should I eat this dessert? Should I go to that event this weekend? Is this the right gift to buy? Is this the right thing? Do I really have to listen to this person? Is this the right school to attend? Do I really have to apologize?

Often I ask these questions and either tie myself up in knots or even choose something that certainly does not feel like the right choice when all is said and done.

What if there are different questions we can be asking when faced with decisions and problems?

What if we were asking questions such as:
- Does this choice lead me closer to or further from God and others?
- Will this decision lead me towards community or isolation?

It is often easiest for us to hide or run or attack or isolate ourselves and say it's "right," rather than doing the work of living with honesty and vulnerability.  Yet how often, when we risk being known and seen, when we move towards others, do we find a surprising joy? More often, I'd think, than what our fearful hearts tell us to expect: shame, silence, or a sense of loneliness.

What if we find the "right" in seeking to open our hearts?  In choosing to live so that our hearts soften and grow? What if what we call self-preservation is just isolation, a hardening and shrinking of our hearts?

What if we must lose our lives to save them, and it's our self-preservation that is killing us?

web-galway-7598.jpg