Gilbert’s Corner

BY TIM JON
It’s imperative – it seems to me – that, as you head into a crossroads, you possess some type of knowledge or desire regarding your destination or chosen direction upon exiting this physical transition. I guess in simpler (Yogi Berra-inspired) terms – “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” In more philosophically challenging nomenclature, (something I always tried to embody during my decades in professional and community theatre) sometimes you need to leap off the cliff in order to discover your wings.

Now, I pondered no such intellectual or spiritual conundrums on
my most recent visit to Gilbert’s Corner: I simply negotiated the 21st century roundabout without striking any other motor vehicles, curbs or road signs, turned off onto the mostly-vacant gravel lot on the northeast quadrangle of the spot, and set about trying to capture a few images that I felt may inspire some type of essence of the location.

I recalled the numerous times I’d passed by and noted the presence of seafood vendors offering their wares to hungry commuters; I also remembered the almost daily references to traffic conditions at this crux of Routes 50 and 15 – still echoing in my head and soul, from 10 years covering local news on the airwaves at Wage Radio (sadly, just a mere echo in itself), “long ago and far away” in Leesburg. Yup, Gilbert’s Corner was – and still is – an important crossroads – situated several miles south of our County Seat, just east of Middleburg, representing a major milestone in the daily travels for many workers, students, homemakers and slightly crazed individuals, like myself, who feel compelled to get out and explore their surroundings.

And, getting back to that initial advice – about knowing where you want to go before you get there and all – sometimes one requires a compass or some other type of navigational device in order to determine your desired heading when changing course. Now my Dad, having survived the duration of World War II in the South Pacific, swore by the use of such tools (not sure if he ever had the need to glance at one- he always seemed to know where he was going), and I tried my best to learn the procedure for implementation of like articles; but, not being entirely mechanical (or even mildly practical, for that matter) I opted for my own – inner – devices in tracking my exploits. Some people say they have a ‘gut feeling’ about a particular subject, or they lean toward a certain cause, perhaps in a magnetic – or, even, cellular – sense; I always kind of felt I had my own emotional and spiritual (not to mention intelligent) navigational tool inside my own rib cage. I called it my heart.

It had, after all those beating years, chosen the specific location of Gilbert’s Corner for the subject of that morning’s photo session (and today’s story), guided me south of Town, around the paved circle and off into the little parking area to get out and stretch the legs. And it got me home.

Sounds pretty simple and obvious, I know; but I can look around as I write (and proofread, and edit, and review) this little piece and point out scores of individuals (local, national and in-between) who have obviously lost their way (to my way of thinking) to whatever destination they had in mind (if they ever possessed one – including a mind), and seem to have no clue as to how to find their way back to familiar ground. The term ‘lack of a moral compass’ comes to mind actually, hardly scratches the surface), and then some – at least to mine – and this coming from one hardly positioned to lecture on morality – or intelligence.

Now, I’ve known about Gilbert’s Corner pretty much since I arrived in Loudoun County; it’s a well-known intersection of two major highways in the region. I’ve never passed through this spot without having decided – long before I’d even opened my car door upon leaving home – whether I wanted to head north, south east or west as I exited the crossing. And, being a prominent crossroads, I always gave myself a little pat on the back for ‘doing the right thing’ in getting through the pass.

Now, some decisions – like negotiating a traffic corner – require scant consultation with my interior compass; others require a bit more work – like a need to ‘sleep on it’ in making bigger choices. Sometimes the more
elusive answers can be extremely difficult to ascertain; some never arrive.

But – whether it’s Gilbert’s Corner or the fate of mankind – I at least have an idea about how I – with my limited abilities – would attempt to come up with some type of acceptable resolution. I hope I always do.

And, in a lighter shade, one of these days, I’ll have to stop and patronize the offerings of the seafood vendors at the little gravel parking area off Routes 50 and 15, and make a mental note to return for the weekend Farmers Market at the same location; when I do, I know I’ll feel good on the drive back home. And, I’ll keep my compass handy – just in case.

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