The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Tag: nature

In the Gingko Grove at Blandy Experimental Farm

1447172893482Thousands of leaves, all the color of the sun as it slips behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. Blue sky shone through bare branches. The breeze has gathered leaves into drifts, swept together like the tips of hair at a barbershop. I was standing in the Gingko Grove at Blandy when that atrocious simile came to me. The inadequacy, whimsicality, borderline absurdity of the phrase bothered me, so I stood, my attention fixed on the yellow fallen leaves, waiting for some clever aphorism to happen upon me, until I realized that perhaps this was not meant to be described. I was doing just fine, reflecting on this golden panorama, experienced wordlessly, in appreciation of the almost-silence, day after day as the ground is littered with leaves.

Everything was motionless. Wading through leaves slick with rain, I had the feeling that I was late. Fallen leaves are still slick with yesterday’s rain. The ground was slippery,  like trudging through snow and stepping on a patch of ice. It was easier to remain still. The air was sodden with the heavy sticky scent of gingko. My breaths were weighed down and my attention drawn the movement of air through me. Perhaps that is why Chinese monks in adorned their temples with the ancient trees: a way to foster mindfulness during meditation.

Some of these gingko trees have shed and regrown their leaves eighty times or more, ever since Dr. Orlando E. White, the first director of Blandy, planted a sapling in Boyce soil in 1929. Soon thereafter, students helped to plant nearly six-hundred more trees, thus seeding what would grow into the grove in which I stood.

The tree has a history far outdating Blandy, civilization, and humanity. Gingko is the “living fossil,” and records trace its existence back 270 million years. Gingko canopies shaded the Jurassic era forests, casting shadows onto the creatures whose bones we admire in disbelief and wonder at museums. The tree’s history is contained in the shape of its leaf: a tadpole, a flame. It is unchanging, atavistic, and essenti1447172775463al. Maybe it is this agelessness, this permanence, that lends credence to those who attest to the memory-enhancing benefits of the leaf. Perhaps it is a placebo, although there is something poetic about the ancient tree’s ties to memory, a  remembrance of time that far precedes us.

Without realizing it, yellow shadows have darkened as the sun sets between peaks. Golden, with beams that radiate like veins, it casts a shadow over the thousands of small setting suns that have fallen to the ground.



On a Path to the Arts

Traveling the Piedmont north of I-66 from The Plains to Middleburg and out to Millwood, you will find the beautiful historic villages have preserved their charm and the glorious rolling countryside that lays between them.  This is horse country, hunt country, wine country, or some say, a culinary wonderland. What about art? Oh yes, there is art!

This region is home to a variety artists – authors, musicians, visual artists and performers. The Red Fox Gallery, The Sporting Gallery and The Byrne Gallery have been the visual art anchors in Middleburg for many years. Of course the Museum at the National Sporting Library is world-class.  Recent additions include the Middleburg Arts Project Gallery and the Artists in Middleburg Gallery.

In the Plains you’ll find artists Tom and Lina Neal’s Live An Artful Life Gallery, along with the Zig-Zag Gallery and Youngblood Art Studio. Millwood is “art” famous for its Art at the Mill each spring and for several years now has enjoyed contemporary art at the Duvall Design Gallery next to the historic Locke Store. So much art in these small towns.

Middleburg showcases several events in February. The Middleburg Arts Project Gallery will host “Beginnings” from February 6th thru March 15th, which features local emerging artists. The Middleburg Arts Council is sponsoring “On Main Street” at The Byrne Gallery from February 7th thru March 1st with artworks regarding America’s cultural icon, Main Street. The most popular one night art event of the month will be the Art of the Piedmont Art Auction & Reception, a benefit for Middleburg Montessori School. It is a wonderful art and social event to be held on Friday, February 20th from 5:30  to 8:30 pm at the Middleburg Community Center located at 300 W. Washington St. in Middleburg. A tremendous showing for the shortest month of the year.

This Piedmont region arts community is working hard to bring you local, regional and world-wide art for your destination experience. You can find all the art events on Come enjoy the arts with us!

Peter Wood is a local metal sculptor, founder of the Middleburg Arts Project and Chair of the Middleburg Arts Council. More about his art: Learn about the art events in the region at

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