Image for the Asking: Liquid Gold

Image for the Asking: Liquid Gold

Photo of Don McGowan

Story and image by Don McGowan 

Perhaps the reason I am so attracted to the music of a flute is that the notes of this instrument remind me of tumbling water. And one of the primary reasons I am so intensely drawn to these old mountains of the blue mists is because of my love of water. Who knows, maybe there actually is some kernel of truth to the notion that planets and other heavenly bodies hold influence on our being.

I was born under one of the water signs—Cancer—and being around water and in water seems almost as natural to me as breathing. The 900 miles of Smokies streams have listened to my whistling, heard the tread of my hiking boots, given me peace when I was weary, and shown me more beauty than I could ever describe.

Photo by Don McGowan

From the wide-angle landscape of a Little River run of rapids to the abstract curling at the edge of a Middle Prong pool, put my eyes on Smokies water, and I am mesmerized. There are folks who have road maps always in their minds, and their capacity to describe the land as it rolls before them in an open road is lyrical. My comparable affinity is for watersheds. The maps in my mind are mostly involved with the flow of water. 

In the pre-gloaming light of an October afternoon, the sun’s rays are perpendicular to the flow of Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River as it prepares to exit the park from Greenbrier. The water pools as it slows to brook the rapid of Roaring Fork Sandstone lying in its path. On a fairly blue-sky sort of day, the reflections on the water are gold and blue where this conjunction occurs, and the curl forms a perfect transition from one to the other.

“A real narrative is a web of alternating possibilities. The imagination is capable of kindness that the mind often lacks because it works naturally from the world of Between; it does not engage things in a cold, clear-cut way but always searches for the hidden worlds that wait at the edge of things.”

    ~John O’Donohue

    Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace


Don McGowan owns and operates EarthSong Photography. For five years he was the staff photographer for Friends of the Smokies. He offers workshops and photography instruction in beautiful locations around the country, including the Smokies.

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