NATUREGRAM: January Stroll Under an Azure Sky

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CLICK VIDEO TO VIEW | “WestVirginiaVille NatureGram: “A January Stroll.” | A Low-Fi Media Production of



By Douglas John Imbrogno | jan14.2021 |


There is not much to be seen in the NatureGram video above other than dry, cold things. This time of year, the West Virginia marshland that hugs the side of the Ohio River in western Cabell County is mostly absent of High Summer’s near lime-green hues. Yet there’s no absence of color and interest.

That Way. | Marshland, Cabell County WV | jan13.2021 | photo


It’s a different palette, to be sure—acorn browns and corn-husk yellows. Camo-greens and muted blues. Yet the sky is hardly muted on an early-January afternoon. If anything it’s more azure. It’s yet more cerulean as witnessed by a tiny figure passing far below, puffing out one-two-three cloud breaths as he transects the marsh.

Pussy Willow Way. | Marshland, Cabell County WV | jan13.2021 | photo


Maybe the bracing air, absent of haze, wipes clear the window of the sky. And eye. So, one sees sky-blue in its most vivid character. “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite,” wrote William Blake in his 18th Century poem, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” And so the odd, domino connections of language surface Jim Morrison of The Doors. He named his epochal band after Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception,” whose title Huxley drew from Blake, as he tried to describe the mind-torquing experience of mescalin. Huxley wrote:

I went in search of, not of myself and not for any god and nor for the east Asian Buddha, but rather, searched for the ultimate being, the being of which all the songs sing, the final output in the great algorithm of the human computer, the one who could free mankind from the chains that weighed down its soul.”

Passing shadow. | Marshland, Cabell County WV | jan13.2021 | photo


I tried mescalin once. While a cub reporter in the early ’80s, in the city 5 miles from the marsh where I’ve spent my day. It proved a pleasant, mildly phantasmagoric experience, downing the tablet a next-door neighbor gifted me one weekend. He was a good neighbor, who went on to become a liberal lobbyist of note in the state Legislature. We’re friends still—35-odd-years past that long evening. And they have been odd.

Crossover. | Marshland, Cabell County WV | jan13.2021 | photo


That night was very odd. A mind emblazoned like the Book of Kells. I most recall listening, rapt, to music on the public radio. A solitary guitar playing in a Mexican chapel. Instead of just hearing the dulcet strings, I saw them, synesthesia-like. A “concomitant sensation,” Merriam-Webster defines the word. The notes were the hue of Golden Hour sunlight. The wood of the guitar the mahogany of an old pew in the church beside the school where I went to third grade in Columbus, Ohio. Called ‘Holy Spirit.’ It’s still there, that church. As for the holy spirit, I suspect he-she-it comes and goes. Depending on your circumstances. When holy, the spirit is a concomitant sensation.

Groundburst. | Marshland, Cabell County WV | jan13.2021 | photo


Me, I’m mescalin-free, plus free of all illicit — and now licit — drugs, for 7 years now. Or is it 8? Come July 4 of this new-sprung year. Independence Day. I chose it for the obvious symbolism. I can’t recall the exact day of that year I, at last, unshackled from my drug of choice. This was after I let it blow up my life a 3rd time in dramatic fashion. A 3rd dramatic way. A memoir for another day. Except to say, were I still dependent on inhaling my awareness into yesterday’s sky to truly grok it, I’d be exhausted today. From mashing pedal to the metal, racing my awareness 80 mph through a winter-desiccated marshland. To see more of mind than marsh. I’m glad to be free. I should add that my mescalin-equipped neighbor turned out, 35-odd-years later, to be my 12-Step sponsor. Helping point the way out of addiction’s swamp.

Four. | Marshland, Cabell County WV | jan13.2021 | photo


I much prefer than mental swamps these frosty, dessicated marshlands. My heart thrills to stroll beneath a sky populated by shifting shapes only a master could hope to capture, since they are not shapes, but evolving permutations of light. And the marsh is not really desiccated—’dried up, shriveled,’ says Merriam (or was it Webster?). Winter’s blasts have shriveled much. But the word also signifies “preserved by drying.” If you stop your footfalls and just listen into the marsh, you’ll hear it. Water trickling. The stream that tumbles enthusiastically beneath the wood-red bridge in High Summer now pours sibilantly. But it pours and flows. It moves. Water is the bloodstream of this vast marsh and woodland. Come Spring, it will have shown that, like the million seeds, buried out of sight from the prying eyes of a tourist on the plank walkway through the marshlands, this place was far from dozing. It was getting ready.

Image from video. | photo


VIDEO: When Snow Day is Christmas Day & the Day After: dec27.2020: It’s rare for Huntington, W.Va. to get snow on Christmas, much less the perfect snow for sledding. The Christmas Eve snowstorm at the end of the long, hard year of 2020 will likely remain for a long while in people’s memories, as Christmas unfolded with snow, sunshine and the holiday all wrapped into one day.

VIDEO: The debut of “Animals in Appalachia” with “Deer Me”: dec22.2020: In the start of a new short video series, “Animals in Appalachia” by, a mother deer puts her foot down as she momentarily loses track of her two fawns.

PHOTO|ESSAY: 10 ways of coping with a dreary West Virginia winter’s day: dec17.2020: On a winter day of all-day rain and bone-chilling cold, I give up trying to Figure It All Out. Instead, I sift through my photos, crop and lightly filter them. Maybe I can find order and meaning there. Or an aesthetic distraction, which may be just as good.

NATUREGRAM | 10 Variations on a West Virginia Ginkgo: nov20.2020| It is an auspicious place, this former plantation and home to more than 50 slaves before West Virginia ever came to be. But on this Autumn Appalachian day, the ginkgo biloba trees recall a more illuminated present.

READINGS | A Stroll Deep into a West Virginia Marsh: july10.2020: If it’s true we are mother, father, sister, brother, related all to all, maybe that’s one way to comprehend and befriend the ten thousand things. The hundreds of voices, cries, and songs rising from this manifold marsh.

NATUREGRAM 1 | Sheltering-in-Nature during a Pandemic: jun26.2020: Could you use some Canadian geese, chuckling water and scenes of nature not trying to sell you something? Here is a WestVirginiaVille Public Service Mental Health Pandemic Video.

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