Into the dark

Let me start by saying that I am not afraid of the dark.

That being said… I have atrocious night vision. Permaybehaps from sun damage after living in Florida for so many years. Maybe I was always this way – I honestly don’t recall. It seems to take forever for my eyes to adjust even to dimness, let alone the pitch of black that comes with the deep woods.

But as it stands… I cannot navigate the dark easily.

But I am not afraid of it.

Many people are… many people should be. There are… things… that reside only in the dark. The shadows are their refuge, and they slither out at night. It is maybe boldness… or faith… that I am sheltered from these things. But they exist, whether you believe in them or not.

I killed the engine of my car. And as the lights died away, so did my ability to see. I could hear the sounds of the night. The rushing of the river nearby, the call of the birds, the song of the occasional cricket.

I could also feel. The chill in the air. The pressure that settled around me. That sense of being watched. That judgement of whether I was a threat, or a meal, or nothing more than a passing being.

There was something in the woods, but the flash of the lightening bugs did not reveal it. The tenuous light clinging to the horizon line from a city miles away did not reveal it. The faint, precious glow of by the stars did not reveal it. Only the inherent instinct that we never quite grew out of as we evolved revealed that something was there.

But I am not afraid of the dark.

Because I know without the dark, we would not appreciate the light.

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Song of the Mountain

I don’t know why I continued driving tonight. I struck out in the hopes of snagging some sunset photos. There was just enough dust and clouds in the sky I hoped it would be beautiful.

So I turned.

Down the road to the highest peak near me.

I’ve lived in the Smokies for over a month now… and today was the first time I took the road to Clingman’s Dome.

I knew immediately I would get no vibrant sunsets tonight.

Instead, it was like driving into another world. The clouds settled heavily around the road, giving the drive a surreal feel.

I pull around and park. I’m thankful that I thought to put on long pants (considering it’s been in the 90’s) and grabbed my flannel. And I started walking.

I’ve walked through clouds before… but there was something almost foreign about the trek up to the dome. I’ve summited many a mountain, some over 10k feet… but this was the first time the thin air got to me. Maybe it was the clouds, the added moisture in the air.

Like snow on the ground, the vapor absorbed the sounds of my footfalls, even the rustling of the leaves in the breeze. I could only see about four feet ahead of me in places. The fog was oppressive, and at least a little spooky. And even though I knew there wouldn’t be a view… I continued to the top. All the way to the observation deck.

I can’t tell you why my feet carried me there, but I’m thankful they did. Because on the way down, I heard the Mountain’s song.

You’ll often hear me humming on the trails. Nothing in particular… or rather… maybe it’s very specific. A song that I hear in my head. It’s different every time. It’s like the spirit of each mountain sings it’s own song. Clingman’s is proud and eternal. It builds to a crescendo in the wind and ends on a hanging note.

You’ll only hear my out of tune, quiet hum… but what I hear?

It’s a full orchestra. If I could compose what I hear… but then maybe that’s part of the magic. Part of the mystery. Maybe the song is different for each person.

I don’t remember the songs once I leave. Though a couple of times I recorded myself humming. I doubt I’ll ever do anything with them. The song the mountains sing are far more elegant than anything I could produce. I’d rather listen to them where they belong. 20180630_211820

Summertime Blues

I have a computer again. I mean, this day in age… we almost are never without one considering our phones are as powerful as computers…

But I have a real, honest computer at this point. Which means….

Well it means I’m just going to have to come up with new reasons to procrastinate about writing. HA! As if having a computer in the past has helped me.

Once I get everything updated… I truly do intend to continue writing. There’s something comforting about the feel of your fingertips on a keyboard. It’s been since probably October… I’ve missed it.

I realized something over this last season. I think I knew it before… but it was so blatantly apparent that I could no longer shrug it off.

I didn’t write because I wanted to share my stories… I mean – sure that’s part of it. But I wrote… I would lose myself for hours, days, weeks behind the keyboard… because I wanted to be lost. Because I was running away from the world. Because the land beyond the keys was everything that I wanted it to be, made it to be. I was hiding.

I didn’t have a reason to hide this winter. Sure there were stresses and problems and everyday life… but I was happy. I wanted desperately to enjoy every minute with Murphy and Ethan and Chloe while they were here – and I did. I didn’t miss my time with the keys. There was nothing to run from.

So I need to find a new reason to write when times are good, because otherwise this will never happen.

And for the summer… while I’m isolated… I will try and knock out as much as I can.

But thank you for this winter and spring… thank you for showing me how to appreciate life as it happens. For giving me a reason to stay grounded.

Meeting the Mountain

Your mission…

Reconnaissance at the Thomas Divide Overlook mile marker 462 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Objective: Make visuals with the rumored ghost lights in the area and if possibly bring back photographic evidence.

No this is not a build up of anticipation for Mission Impossible… but it did make for a fun format to exchange information. I was assigned this mission by Nikki. I had nothing else going on and it was a ten minute drive from the house.

So I accepted the mission.

I waited until the sun was starting to set before driving to location. It had been rainy all afternoon so I took it slowly on the wet, steamy roads. I stopped at each overlook on the way there, a. to take some fantastic pictures, and b. to buy me a little more time for dark to fall.

I reach the destination and line up the car to point toward the divide. The story goes that it’s one of the lesser known locations of pretty consistant ghost lights. With some coaxing from flashing your lights and honking your horn, red lights will appear in the sky above the divide and dance in the air before vanishing. I set up my camera, and prepared to wait.

There was still a lot of light in the sky. Whenever I’m at home or out hiking, it feels like one minute it’s sunset and the next it’s full dark. Not so when you’re WAITING for full dark.

I took some recordings…. which I may or may not post at a later date. They require some doctoring up which I don’t have the means to do at the moment. I also took some pictures which I will post on Dream Hike Love‘s faceb

ook page so be sure to check that out.

As the sun set, the night birds started singing. The call of a whippoorwill echoed morosely through the damp night air. The moon rose above the hilltop behind me, having nothing to do with the setting sun, it just happened to be that time in it’s cycle that it creeps into the sky during early evening.

Short of the light polution beyond the ridge from Gatlinburg… the last of the day faded from the sky.

And things started moving in the woods around me. There were a number of things it could have been, from opposums, raccoons, foxes, elk, birds… I swept the area with my headlamp. Either the owners of the movement were hiding too well, or they were too small to be seen. Probably birds. But I knew… I could FEEL something watching me. Still facing the mountain behind me, I chuckled and turned off the light. That’s when I saw the eyes.

Probably a hundred feet in the air, twenty feet between the two of them… a pair of dully glowing eyes watched me from the mountain. I’m not saying they were reflective animal eyes, I’m saying the mountain had eyes, and it was watching me. We locked eyes for a moment, my heart racing. I did not run. There was no ominous presense, there was nothing malicious about this entity. So I spoke to him instead.

I told him I meant no harm, and what my intent was. I knew upon seeing this being, that I would not be witnessing any of the said ghost lights. I tried to take a picture, but nothing came through besides darkness. From time to time the eyes would vanish, and I tried to continue with my mission.

I stayed until ten, flashing my lights and honking the horn periodically… but as I suspected – there was nothing. It’s said the lights only appear during the winter. I think the lights are the mountain… and during the spring, his energy is needed to feed all the new life. During the winter… he’s free to play. If I’m around this winter, I will happily try again.

I will keep you updated with any new missions that come along.

Thank you

When I first started this blog, I would go through and individually thank the new followers, or commenters or people that liked what they read. I got away from that because it started to grow and I started to get busy. And as things got busier, I stopped posting as much, stopped adding as many tags… and I noticed I’ve lost quite a few followers. Now, this could be that many of those were the eroneous robots strewn about the internet and someone finally did some housekeeping.

But regardless… I do want to thank everyone that does stop by for a read. This was never really meant to be a source of entertainment, but if someone happens to find pleasure in glancing through then I’m always glad to know it.

This last year has given me so much to be thankful for. I find myself daily thanking the universe, God, Goddess, Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever tickles your fancy. Of course it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows…. but those storm clouds and bonechilling days help us to really appreciate the good we have. All it takes is focusing on all of those simple good moments.

Empty House

It’s quiet here.

Sorry, allow me to backtrack.

I just moved into a little efficiency apartment in the staff housing area of the Oconaluftee Maintenance area in the Great Smoky Mountains. As of this week, I officially work for the National Park Service. That’s something I’ve always wanted to be able to say and it still feels like I’m dreaming to say it. Much of this last year still feels like a dream – but that’s for another post.

I am not in one of the shared homes like so many others. Instead, I have this small little efficiency tucked between the laundry room and another apartment. At first I was a hesitant… it costs a bit more to live alone… but then I got to thinking about it.

I have NEVER in my life lived alone. And this… is probably the only opportunity I will ever have in my life to do it. To not have to worry about disturbing anyone when I get up or stay up late. To clean something and know it’s going to stay clean until I pick it up again. To not have to hide food or put my name on things. To organize how I want to.

It’s a nice little place. I have a tiny porch but the rushing Oconaluftee river in my backyard. I could toss a line in every afternoon if I felt like it – granted I can’t keep the trout I catch because of being in a national park… but still.

And it’s quiet….

But it’s quiet…

I’ll manage the surge of emotions. Being apart hurts. Being lonely… well.

I have ample opportunity to tackle things that I haven’t gotten around to. It’ll keep me busy, distracted. So we’ll see what happens in the upcoming months. We’ll see if I can actually buckle down and tick things off the to do list.

Groanworthy

When I go for a hike, I often find myself glancing around and trying to name all of the plants. From shrubs to trees to just wildflowers. I’ll name the ones I know and pause for a moment to pick out something new of them make them easier to identify, even when they don’t have leaves in the winter.

I also have little conversations in my head. This isn’t reserved for hiking, this is pretty much all the time. Anyone who knows me has discovered this because sometimes it doesn’t stay contained in my head and I’ll catch myself having the conversation out loud.

Today’s conversation was me and id… and we were looking for a mature Sassafras tree. I’d spotted a couple of small seedlings and a little sappling, but I really wanted to get a solid look at the bark of a mature tree. So as I’m walking along, I spent my time looking up at the canpoy. This is already dangerous because of how clumsy I was, but it was a pretty smooth walking trail so I wasn’t too worried. Tulip Poplar, Chestnut, Locust…. but no Sassafras. “Well it WOULD stand out like a sore thumb” the voice in my head mentioned with a smirk. I let out a single chuckle and shook my head. “That wasn’t funny.” You see some of the leaves ont he Sassafras have little mittens… with thumbs… *sigh*

My id thinks it’s funny… It’s really just chalk full of poorly timed dad jokes.

Be that as it may, I did not spot any of these trees. I was grateful however for the opportunity to walk through the lower elevations of the smokies during heavy spring with everything in bloom. Not even a month ago, there were barely any leaves on the trees and everything was still just a little bit duller in color. But not now. It is such a vibrant shade of green that it hurts the eyes.

It is life… and life is beautiful