Category Archives: Spiritual Sunday

Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places

Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places

Deep Peace in the Smokies
Deep Peace in the Smokies © William Britten use with permission only

These are stressful times. So much strife in the world, polarized beliefs, and intolerance. Some days it’s too much for a sensitive person, and I have to turn off the news and turn off my thoughts. I use nature, and the grand expanse of Smoky Mountains at my doorstep, to recalibrate and rebalance. I feel lucky to live in such a spiritual place.

My Smoky Mountains photos reflect this search for deep peace and reassurance in nature. The image above especially captures the dark and moody woods juxtaposed with the bright and hopeful morning sunlight. It’s a place to sit by the never-ending cascade and contemplate the cycles of life. The sunlight changes by the minute and yet is forever the same. The rocks sit in the stream for eons, and yet they too are following a cycle of upheaval and settling.

The next time you visit the Smokies, try pulling off the road to sit by the deep woods cascades of the Roaring Fork or the awesome views of Cades Cove. And please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery on the historic Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Road in Gatlinburg. In my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos you may find a special memory to remember the peace of the mountains.

Look Up!

Look Up!

In the Treetops
In the Treetops © William Britten use with permission only

It’s a Spiritual Sunday again. Time to ponder whatever comes to mind. Like walking in the Smokies with your head pointed upwards. Watch the squirrels jump from treetop to treetop. Appreciate the soft sunlight filtering down through the canopy. Maybe spot a woodpecker at work.

These two Smoky Mtns photos illustrate a simple philosophy: look up!  Studies show that a positive outlook and reaction to life’s unexpected detours are a key to happiness and longevity. It’s not always easy, and it takes some faith to know that the even the dark areas in your life’s picture add to the overall beauty.  Just as in these pictures, it’s the contrasts between light and dark that give the scene some “pop.”

The treetops pictured above are some of the big trees along the trail above Laurel Falls. The photo below is a stand of Poplars along the Roaring Fork. They probably took over the cleared forest after the logging operations of the 1920s, or after the homesteaders moved out. They’re all competing for a small piece of the sunshine pie. No time to relax and stretch your limbs. No time to be an individual. You need to grow fast and straight to establish yourself, just like those around you.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtns Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m located in Morning Mist Village, along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd.

Smoky Mtns Photos: Tall Trees
Smoky Mtns Photos: Tall Trees © William Britten use with permission only
Spiritual Sunday: Special Gifts

Spiritual Sunday: Special Gifts

Morning Majesty
Morning Majesty © William Britten use with permission only

I’ve been working on a small project, and I’m ready to share it. The basic idea is to use Smoky Mountains photos as the context for a short philosophical statement. The statements are about the capacity of nature to lift the spirit. These photos and words can be sent to a loved one or friend as a little “happy.” Something like a notecard … a small “Spiritual Gift.”

I’ve created three of these pages so far. First I’ll share links to the pages … if you care to read them … and then I’ll let you know how to share them with someone.  Here are the pages:

    Morning Majesty – features a sunrise over the endless Smoky Mountains … the timeless beauty of another morning.

    Dogwood Homestead – features the photo below and some thoughts on the idyllic tranquility of another era.

   Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places – features the photo at the bottom of this page, with thoughts about how time in the mountains can serve as an antidote to a stressful world.

Smoky Mountains photos: Dogwood Home
Smoky Mountains photos: Dogwood Home © William Britten use with permission only

There are a couple of ways to share these “Spiritual Gift” pages. First, you can click on one of the links above and then click on the “Share” button on the top of the page. From there you can email to someone, post it to facebook or twitter, or other possibilities.

The second way, is only for facebook users, but it’s pretty cool.  Click on this link below, and follow the instructions to send one of the gifts to a facebook friend.

     Spiritual Gifts on facebook  

If you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. My Smoky Mountains photos are on display as framed or matted prints, as well as magnets, mugs, and notecards.

Finding Deep Peace in Nature
Finding Deep Peace in Nature © William Britten use with permission only
Always Something New

Always Something New

On the road up to Newfound Gap
On the road up to Newfound Gap © William Britten use with permission only

It’s Spiritual Sunday again, with a couple of Smoky Mountains photos to talk about how there is always something new.

Earlier this week I took three hikers up to Newfound Gap early in the morning to start their Appalachian Trail adventure. It was wet and misty, and we all hoped they wouldn’t be facing rain for their first day of hiking. I’ve driven up this road so many times, and after completing the trail shuttle I was tempted to just head straight home.  Put it on autopilot … seen these mountains hundreds of times, and it’s just a cloudy day, after all. And, there was a cup of coffee calling to me, and about time to open up the Gallery for the day.

But, suddenly the steering wheel is turning, and the car and I are stopped in a couple of pull-offs on the way back down. The camera springs to life, and here we go again … looking, with attention. The picture above is taken from Morton Overlook, just below Newfound Gap. Following the valley in the center of the photo from bottom to top is the route back down to Gatlinburg. We’ll end up going down right beneath the two bumps on the horizon, known as the Chimneys. I’ve taken quite a few shots from Morton Overlook, and there’s always something new. The picture below is from the overlook just above Morton, looking more to the west. Such a nice glow on the morning mist, and that spruce tree has seen it all.

So there it is … always something new. Maybe I can remember that when life seems too normal, and I slip out of the moment, not paying full attention.

If you’re in Gatlinburg, come on out to Morning Mist Village along the historic Arts and Crafts loop on Glades Rd. My complete display of Smoky Mountains photos is on display at the William Britten Gallery, along with some nifty magnets, mugs, and notecards. Maybe a special something to take home.

Morning glow and Morning Mist
Morning glow and Morning Mist © William Britten use with permission only
Deep Woods

Deep Woods

Deep Woods in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Deep Woods in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

It’s another Spiritual Sunday. Today we are in the Deep Woods.

Something about being among Big Trees speaks to a person’s soul. If you’ve ever stood in a grove of California Redwoods, you know the feeling. They’ve lived for so long, and withstood so many of nature’s hardships. They tower above their peers, leaving you to gaze at the massive trunk, or crane your neck to look up into their canopy. If you hike the same Smoky Mountains trails again and again, some of these giants become like friends. To stand in a forest of old-growth big trees is to be within Nature’s cathedral.

Smoky Mountains photos: Big Trees
Smoky Mountains photos: Big Trees © William Britten use with permission only

Where to find Big Trees in the Smoky Mountains? Since much of the Smokies was cut for timber before the Park was formed, there are only a few large groves left. One accessible spot, where both of the pictures above were taken, is above Laurel Falls. Most folks take the popular hike to the falls and then turn around. But if you continue on for another half mile or so, there is a nice grove of old growth trees.  Another one can be found along the Ramsay Cascades Trail in the Greenbier section of the Smoky Mountains. And of course, a great experience with Deep Woods can be found outside the National Park, in the Joyce Kilmer National Forest near Robbinsville, NC.

Smoky Mountains photos: Deep Dark Woods
Smoky Mountains photos: Deep Dark Woods © William Britten use with permission only

If you are on vacation or traveling through the Gatlinburg area, please stop in for a visit to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m located in Morning Mist Village along Glades Rd. in the historic Arts and Crafts district.

Spring Snowcap

Spring Snowcap

Smoky Mountains Spring Snowcap
Smoky Mountains Spring Snowcap © William Britten use with permission only

Last week we had a Spiritual Sunday with dramatic light out in Cades Cove. This week’s Spiritual Sunday features the dramatic conditions that came with an early spring cold-snap and snow in the high elevations. There were wonderful opportunities for Smoky Mountains photos from many of the overlooks around the Smokies. The photo above was taken from the overlook on the Gatlinburg by-pass, looking towards Mt. LeConte. The valley in the center of the picture is where the Roaring Fork Motor Trail heads up out of Gatlinburg on its 6-mile loop. The drama of the snow and clouds contrasts with the idyllic split-rail fence and the peaceful spring day in the lower part of the photo.

The photo below was taken from the Foothills Parkway near Cosby. The view is of Mt. Cammerer. I love the way the sunlight, clouds and wind created a rapidly changing landscape of shadows moving across the landscape. Also notice how the green leaves on the trees are creeping up the valleys of the mountains, but along the ridges spring has not arrived yet.

Smoky Mountains Photos: snow on Mt. Cammerer
Smoky Mountains Photos: snow on Mt. Cammerer © William Britten use with permission only

Finally, the photo below was taken from a vantage point just east of Gatlinburg, looking more directly at the face of Mt. LeConte than in the photo at the top of the page. This was the last rays of sunlight for the day raking across the trees and the snowcap on the mountain.

All of the photos on this page can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on any of them.

As always, if you travel to the Smokies please stop in and say hello at the William Britten Gallery along the Historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. My complete selection of Smoky Mountains photos is on display, as well as mugs, notecards and magnets. There just might be a special memory for you to take home with you.

Snowcap on Mt. LeConte
Snowcap on Mt. LeConte © William Britten use with permission only
Spiritual Sunday: Cades Cove Meditation

Spiritual Sunday: Cades Cove Meditation

Spiritual Light in Cades Cove
Spiritual Light in Cades Cove © William Britten use with permission only

It’s a Spiritual Sunday in late April, and today we’re just out for a walk and stopping for a meditation on the beauty of a spring day in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains. Most people who come to the Smokies pay a visit to Cades Cove, and for good reason … it may be one of the most majestic and spiritual places on earth. I’ve probably written more blog posts about Cades Cove than any other area of the Smoky Mountains.

My strategy is to go early. I’m parked at the gate before sunrise when the Park Ranger drives up to open the loop road for the day. Then, rather than drive the 11 mile loop, I pick a spot, park the car and take a walk. There are many places to do this, and getting out of the congested traffic gives you the opportunity for photos that aren’t the standard scenes that everyone else gets. But best of all, it gets you connected to the spiritual side of the Smoky Mountains, off in a field with just you and the mountains, and maybe a deer or two.

On this morning the weather was looking dramatic, with shafts of sunlight scanning the central meadows. I decided to park along Hyatt Lane, one of the gravel lanes that cuts across the paved loop road. The early spring grass is still short and easy to walk through, so it’s off into the fields we go, just wandering out to the point where it feels like nothing but you and nature and the mountains all around.

Walking near Hyatt Lane
Walking near Hyatt Lane © William Britten use with permission only

As always please stop in and say hello at the William Britten Gallery along the Historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. My complete selection of  photos of the Smoky Mountains, as well as mugs, notecards and magnets are all on display most days throughout the year.

Spiritual Light on Dogwoods
Spiritual Light on Dogwoods © William Britten use with permission only
Spiritual Sunday: Sunrise Solitude

Spiritual Sunday: Sunrise Solitude

Sunrise solitude
Sunrise solitude © William Britten use with permission only

This is one of those special times. The Rosy Fingers of Dawn seeping into the sky above the Smoky Mountains.  The cabins coming to life, greeting the day with their own lights. You can just stand here for a while and watch the moments unfold, with the light changing by the second until finally a blast of sun’s rays shoots over the mountain tops. These moments are nearly indescribable in their awesome simplicity.

There’s nothing finer than to be out with my camera, hoping to capture a bit of the Smokies’ spiritual grandeur.  Stop in for a visit at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. My complete display of Smoky Mountains photos might offer a Smokies Moment for you to take home with you.

Featured Photo: Spiritual Light

Featured Photo: Spiritual Light

Smoky Mountains Sunset
Spiritual Light © William Britten - use with permission only

Spiritual Light is one of my Smoky Mountains photos taken from the Morton Overlook near Newfound Gap. The dramatic rays of sunset filtering through the trees lasted only a moment or two, so I had to be quick with the camera!

The vantage point from Morton Overlook is good for sunset photos during the summer months, but after late August the sun does not set in the valley looking down towards Gatlinburg. In late summer and fall it’s better to move on out to Clingmans Dome for sunsets.

Spiritual Light is available in all sizes up to 11×17, framed and unframed. Details of sizes and pricing can be found on the How to Buy page.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Road in Gatlinburg, TN.

Spiritual Sunday: Mountain Meditation

Spiritual Sunday: Mountain Meditation

Morning Meditation © William Britten use with permission only

Smoky Mountains meditation on a Spiritual Sunday.

My wife Sarah likes to meditate. She can be miles away while sitting quietly in our little cabin. Getting away without going away.  Getting away to get in touch. Paradoxically removing oneself from everything in order to be totally present.

I’ve tried meditating over the years, but have never been able to establish a habit or practice. For me the time I am totally present, “in the zone,” is when capturing images with my camera.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Road in Gatlinburg, TN.

A Wedding in the Cove

A Wedding in the Cove

Robert and Julia
Robert and Julia

I don’t normally do weddings, or even portraits. But a few weeks ago Julia contacted me, saying that her fiance Robert was returning from duty in Afghanistan and they would be married in Cades Cove.  She liked my Smoky Mountain landscapes and asked if I could take some photos like the ones on my web site, with them in the picture. How could I refuse? I was honored to be a small part of their wedding day and the start of their life together.

What Julia didn’t realize was that she and Robert would end up in my blog, like everyone else who I meet in the Smokies!

Starting a Journey
Starting a Journey

The wedding took place this past week, and Cades Cove responded with glorious, golden summer evening light. We all enjoyed spending some time together, and I hope the pictures were just what she wanted.

Congratulations and all the best wishes, Robert and Julia!

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace

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