PHOTO-ESSAY: Five WV Variations on the Art of Thankfulness

Words & Photographs by Douglas John Imbrogno


Kids aren’t good at giving thanks. They need to be reminded, badgered, guilted even into writing thank-you cards. But what is a thank-you but attention, well-paid — or appreciation for some benefit. These boys (above) give thanks with their attention. One minute they’re focused on goofing among themselves; the next, their eyes rocket upward. They embody thankful attention for what the man with the slingshot plane has just given them. A diversion. He points their faces straight upward to the ether, where they’d not expected to peer. Who knows what’s up there? Then there is the littlest boy: His attention sticks with what’s at hand. He’s good. | Capon Springs Resort golf course, Hampshire County WV | 2018.


Saint Francis of Assisi could use a little water for the birds, both the plastic ones visiting his bowl and real robins and wrens which flock to him in a corner of my front yard. Francis is a patron saint of thankfulness. He found thanks in an immediate way, according to Christian legend, in a sensory encounter with beasts of the woods, fields, and sky. How liberating not to have to buy happiness in a market stall! Or achieve thanks invested as a wealthy bishop, lording it over a holy fiefdom. How could he not give thanks when first a sparrow, then a hawk, then a rabbit and a sheep came to congregate about him? What’s the point of the legend of this man of Assisi? Is it that there’s enough reason to give thanks right outside our front door? | Cabell County WV | 2018


As a young-ish reporter at the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia’s capital, I was the one who broke the story — it was big news for us cappuccino sympathizers — that the first Starbucks was coming to the state. My story noted, if I recall correctly, Ethiopia had a Starbucks outlet before the Mountain State. You kids these days, you don’t know how hard it was to get a decent cup of espresso back in the day, if you could get it at all. Nowadays — at least before the ‘Rona put the kibosh on eating out and caffeinating in — when I am in Charleston, Mea Cuppa’s West Side digs (seen from the outside in the photo) are my adjunct office. I give thanks for such a tasteful outpost every time I dash into the city. PS: Support a Coronaviru-slammed business. Mail-order coffee beans, a care package to someone you love, and make a donation to keep coffee culture alive in Charleston on Mea Cuppa’s website. | Charleston WV photograph | 2019


Here’s a rare photo of Jerry Garcia at Hoeft Marsh in Cabell County WV. Either that or it is a sighting of one of Big Foot’s younger brothers, seeking his long-missing brother. Or— and this seems more likely — it’s my elder brother, David, on a visit from Ohio a few years ago. Hoeft Marsh is where I go to shelter-in-nature. It’s a sanctuary of Nature’s plenitude, even if mowed and maintained by human stewards. The place routinely moves me to try photo-poetry (“A Stroll Deep into a West Virginia Marsh“). Be thankful for our semi-wild and wild places. Preserve them. Expand them. One day, wireless access will arrive across West Virginia’s vast wireless deserts (perhaps via Google’s Project Loon scheme to use balloons and blimps to bring wireless to Africa’s own outback). When that happens, the state’s population outflow may reverse. What should not reverse, but grow, is what we long-haul West Virginians are so thankful for. There’s a reason the state motto remains: “Wild & Wonderful.” | Cabell County WV | 2018


Yes, this is a horse stepping onto a friend’s porch. Way the heck out in the West Virginia outback. A gentle, sweet creature who likely assumed that, well, the humans are on the porch. Why not me? Perhaps you’re an out-of-state outlier. Maybe you have never gone deep into what a writer friend once described as being “At Home in the Heart of Appalachia” and all your images of West Virginia are of gap-toothed losers. My horsey friend would beg to differ with you. We had to shoo him off the porch and distract him with a bunch of crunchy carrots. But good-hearted horses headed to the porch are one of the things I give thanks for when blessed with visiting the heart of the heart of the country. | Way-out in West Virginia | 2018

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