A New Year on The New River - Season Six Continues Alone

A New Year on The New River - Season Six Continues Alone

Published by: David Cate
March 21, 2024
New Years Eve 2024 - Draper Valley, Virginia - Midnight

New Year's Eve 2023/2024 was like no other. My nose was running, and my hands were freezing. Standing on the banks of the New River, the Winter night was interrupted by the crackle of a roaring fire. Beyond the darkness, the cold, icy silence made the night unforgettably alone. This year, that's the way I wanted it to be.

Several months ago, I published my thoughts on turning sixty. Titled "Season Six," this ramble was a mashup of several reactions to losing my job and the slow evaporation of my marriage—beautiful disasters, each in its own way.

For some reason, I thought the words would come freely. They didn't.

It's taken over a year to publish this next Chapter, "The River." Some things happen quickly, and I've learned that life has its own choreography. Truth is, it's taken this long to smooth out the emotions and deep wounds from another of my challenging and beautiful moments.

It's not that I didn't write this sooner. In fact - I would suspect that I've written this story a hundred times on screen and a thousand times in my idle thoughts. Thank you, Maximilian Ambergis, for inventing the delete button. It took a while, but my escape to the place near Barren Springs, VA, was the perfect refuge to help smooth out the stones.

Earlier in the day, I had just logged the last 1,580 miles riding the New River Trail near Draper, VA. Biking has always been a personal therapy that has improved my mental state and health. The long rides help calm a nomadic spirit adrift in the wilderness.

This was the valley I ran to when the divorce was imminent. A friend had suggested Florida as the destination to gather my thoughts. As much as that appealed to me, the memories will stay there for now. I chose to let this River be my personal refuge instead.

My friend suggested meditating on the five things I wanted to do with my life moving forward. He understood that things were changing. That was good advice, and I'm still working on that resolution.

I first started coming here in August 2022. The blue cabin at the top of the ridge was my first destination. It has enough room for one with basic accommodations. Outside, a large deck allows guests to anticipate the Eastern sky.

Overall, I made seven trips to the Draper Valley in 2023. As my life turned, this was the place to heal from deep wounds. Divorce and grief have many thresholds. Just when my thoughts were overtaking me, I ran to this valley. Here, the wind would catch my sails and help me move forward.

It was here that I could finally appreciate my freedom, too. Nature once again helped me realize I had let go of two of the most important and consuming pressures one could have—my job and marriage. I struggled to hold on to both over the past several years. Like most, my comfort addiction kept me from turning away from either.

It took me a while to free myself from the worrisome decline of my newspaper career and marriage. Trying to resuscitate those efforts over the years was overwhelming. In the end, the newspaper couldn't pay me, and my ex had more courage.

The best thing I did last year was to purchase my first commercial property. The timing was perfect, too. I knew immediately this would be the site for my new media studio at Volume Labs.

After several months of renovation, I began refocusing on learning new technologies and working with many new clients. Gratefully, this past year was the most creative and successful year of my career. Celebrating New Year's Eve alone on the banks of one of the world's oldest rivers brought me closer to present blessings more than ever.

Once the wounds started to heal, my appreciation of family, friends, and clients was overwhelming. I'd be faking it if I didn't admit disgrace and shame from the past few years, but it's been quite the homecoming.

Returning to my art and music has opened new doors to all that bring me joy. I began the year defined by who I am, not by what I pretend to be.

Another bonus over the past year was beginning a new musical partnership with Samantha Gray. Samantha is a moxy voice from Detroit who has been performing across the South for quite some time.

The rest of the band includes some of the best players in the region, including John Grayson, Charlie Aesque, Mary Munsey, and Jake (last name). We have several performances this year and are working on a Christmas album for later this season.

I poured my last glass of Macallan in front of the hypnotic, roaring campfire. The flames lashing from the logs created an orange cocoon of warmth amid the 25-degree weather. Outside the glow, the air was moist with a crystalline fog.

My phone blazed as I looked to check the time. 11.59. The last moments of 2023 were ticking away. The skies were trembling with Winter stars. The moon was comforting as it rose above dull, glassy water, reflecting the white clouds like ghosts among the mountains. A dog barked in the distance, and a crazed goose seemed lost in the night as its wings broke the air. And then there's me—crazy? A time or two.

New Year's Day, January 1st, 2024.

Waking up the next day, I looked out among the morning fog that cradled the River. Bluebirds and crows were stirring, and kingfishers crackled along the shores. Twenty or so deer were grazing on the morning dew at the pasture's edge, and the clouds lifted for another year of possibilities.

I spend a lot of time alone now, often in silence when not working or playing music. Reading and writing help me organize my thoughts and move in the right direction. I also play a lot of piano at the little farmhouse in Muddy Creek.

That doesn't mean I'm not haunted by last year's lifequakes. I just know this: Every time those feelings started to surface, the River was only a few hours away. Each trip had its own special memories. My two most memorable moments were Independence Weekend and the wedding day.

They say the New River is one of the oldest rivers in North America, dating back 260 to 300 million years. Surely, Nature's wisdom lingers on the banks of this winding mountain cascade.

You can see the bottom well beyond the shoreline, which is probably why I felt compelled to step into the water. Walking along the striated rocks is delicate, but it's worth facing the current once you're in the middle.

It's a lot like my life, but I face it with firm footing. The water was heavy from here, but it felt comforting all the same. As the water rushed around me, I decided to let the anger and shame flow around me at my July 4th baptism.

A friend told me about the name change and the upcoming wedding less than a year after our divorce. After several weeks of performances, the band took a break, and the hot temperatures gave way to another trip to break away.

It was a cool Autumn day, and the sun glimmered among the golden trees near Lone Ash, Virginia. Here, I would sit along the shore, watching the shadows fade in the rich contrast of color reflecting on the blue water. As I watched the whitewater tumble over the rocks, the rush of the waters helped clarify the beautiful, strong, and shallow.  

Beautiful, Strong and Shallow - A Memory.

That being said, I'm good at being alone. Many find this both fearful and unfathomable, but it has its rewards deep in the soul. For the most part, it's solid ground. If you can sidestep the wild currents of your thoughts, it's an excellent time to go deep.

In his book, David White says, "To be alone for any given time is to shed an outer skin. The body is inhabited differently when we are alone than with others. Alone, we live in our bodies as a question rather than a statement."

Thus, another year has begun, and The River is a constant part of my memory—even my Spotify playlist's most popular selection—brown noise. For some reason, this fabrication of rushing water has become my ultimate sedative for an overactive imagination—it helps me sleep better than any pill or potion.

For most of our lives, we look to the future and try to construct a plan that fulfills our "dreams." Things change, and in an instant, the future is different. In between is a liminal space—an unexplored, unfamiliar, and strange space. From here, anything can happen.

If nothing else - the poetry seems better. Happy New Year!

Moving on - toward a better self and The Road to Damascus.