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

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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

Working in circles

I think all writers can relate to being mind numb. Staring at the screen, hoping and praying for inspiriation or the drive to put thoughts to words. 

I’ve been stuck in writing limbo for a long time now. I know what I need to do… but nothing comes to my fingertips. I can’t buckle down and make myself work on it. This of course isn’t new… and a lot of it I did to myself. It’s still aggrivating though.

My computer recently died on me. The cost to fix it? Well if we could figure out what was actually wrong with it… would probably be more than what the computer is worth. Alas… I haven’t really been using it much to begin with. So I’m working on setting my tablet up to optimize it’s abilities to aid me in writing. 

Now if only I could write…

I have five more chapters in Forgotten Guardian, not to mention the numerous other books that I need to write for the series. I have my local fantasy story I need to work on… But I think that might just be something I retire with one day. In the meantime… well… I’ll get to that. 

You see I had a plan… but I’m a Cancer and I’m changeable… and as always – my plans evolve. I was going to stay here. Keep renting this little place let Ethan go to school, keep working this little dead end job. Terry had pushed things back until June without discussing it with me, so I had pretty much resigned myself to not being able to continue with the work I started. All of it takes me away from Asheville, commuting in a way that isn’t condusive to leaving Ethan alone. 

Murphy was looking for trail jobs. That meant by Spring, he’d be traveling away and I’d be stuck here. Plenty of time to write and tie up loose ends… That way I could maximize what I thought was all the time we had. 

But that wasn’t good enough. I didn’t sacrifice so much this last year to inevitably sit on my ass waiting around for things to get in motion. Waiting for a whole other season to pass me by. So we worked out the details and put a much smarter plan in motion. 

Two years.

Terry signed the contract for two years with a decent pay increase. And I… I’m going to go get some trail work and experience under my belt so what by the time a good local position does become available I would be more qualified for it. 

So I’ve submitted dozens of applications for trail work. I’ve submitted them across the country for the chance at something different. The overall idea… is overwhelming. I wanted to do something with that time away (regardless of where I end up). And I think I have it a pretty solid idea thanks to Bonnie and Murphy. I want to share the magic of the trails with everyone. So for the next year, I will be collecting stories, tips, histories, and everything I can get my hands on and put it in a format that everyone can enjoy.

So no changes just yet. I’ll write when I can. Share when and what I can… and when the time comes, I’ll set everything up.

Oh the boxes

My life revolves around boxes. I moved 13 times by the time I was 13. I worked in a warehouse for years, and now I’m working at another. 

Fill up orders, put them in boxes, get them shipped out. But I like it. It’s a bit therapeutic, and there are far worse things I could be doing with my winter.

I had a deep conversation with any ex park ranger once. He mentioned the business here is tough because it’s all seasonal. You either resign yourself to odd jobs over the winter, or go unemployed. 

Granted I’m no where near being a ranger at the moment… but trail work follows the same pattern. Especially when you’re first starting out. 

I found my odd job on craigslist. It fulfilled a need. And the people I work with are some of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. I’m happy to have found them. 

If the universe deems my plans worthy, maybe we can work something out each winter. No more searching… just steady routine. Routine helps with my seasonal blues. Keeps me on track. Please universe, deem us worthy. 

Bring on the sun

I wasn’t expecting you. I saw you immediately. I think I was sitting I  the dining room, still wide eyed and out of my depth. But I watched every move you made, I couldn’t look away. It was almost like I knew you, but I didn’t even know your name. 

What I did know, was that you were hurting and you wanted to be left the fuck alone. I didn’t know why, but I could feel it. The anguish that rolled off of you was palpable, and I was already struggling. 

So I kept my distance. 

I discovered who you were shortly after. You spent most of your time on the front porch with a cigarette and a book. 

So I kept my distance. 

I avoided approaching you at all costs. There were other people I could get to answer questions, and in time I became one of the people answering questions for others. You’d been gone on hitch after hitch. And when you returned, I  almost didn’t recognize you. 

You were still the most beautiful man I’d ever met, that hadn’t changed. But something inside you healed over those few short months. And for the first time, I saw you smile… And it made me want to cry it was such a welcome sight. I asked you if hell had finally frozen over, and we both laughed. 

That weekend changed everything. Well, not JUST that weekend. I gave you a ride, and it was your turn to notice that I was hurting, and I was lonely. Only you didn’t keep your distance. You asked me out to dance… And dear god I almost told you no. I almost decided to stay in feeling sorry for myself… 

But I was lonely… And while I wasn’t really interested in yet another one night stand, I’d been crushing on you since that first day I saw you. 

I didn’t really expect to see you after that night, but I was still lonely… And you actually responded when I’d txt you. So I did. And I slowly got to know you over the next month. I wanted to see you again, and you were up for some fun. It would be nice to have a friend with benefits around till I could sort my life out.

You hit a snag that weekend, so I lent yoy my car for the next few weeks while I was working. We spent the next few weeks together. And I still felt like I’d known you before. 

Some people give off different impressions. Many people I’ve known with depression are like little gray clouds. They might rain, they might just stay dreary. Some are like roiling thunderheads, passionate and deep and desperate… But you were something different. You were like the sun rays breaking through after a storm, taking in that first deep clear breath. Carefully treading on a path of healing. 

I hope I’ve helped you on that path, helped coax a little more sun from those fading clouds. Because I can’t begin to tell you all the ways you’ve helped me. 

I’ve lived more in the moment these last few months than I have my entire life. I’ve learned to appreciate myself and each day regardless of what the storm may bring. Because I’ve seen that the clouds can break, and whether that day be good or bad, there’s a promise of sun. 

At some point we’ve become much deeper of friends. I know we’ll forever be integral parts of each other’s lives and futures. I’m thankful we found each other. And I’m so incredibly excited to see what this year unfolds for us. 

Bring on tomorrow… bring on the sun. 

I made it? 

The great mountain migration… the quest for Asheville. I have succeeded? 

I mean, I live here at the moment. But… 

But?

What? You’ve been ranting and raving about getting up here no matter what for the last 17 years. What do you mean but? 

Simmer down, hear me out. 

When I left ace, I was in something of a desperate mind set. I was lonely, missing my boy, but the thought of going back to Florida left my guts twisted. I had to stay. Some how, some way… so I did. 

I’m living in a room… a small one, in a bed that isn’t mine. Ethan is sleeping on a sofa… we’re intruding oon someone else’s life and paying them for it. But it’s not quite… right. 

I had initially spoken to the boy about sticking together this year… But this isn’t quite right. 

That’s when I saw it. The job I’d been eyeing for years. It means being away for longer, but the results? To work on the Appalachian trail, to be partnered with someone I hold in such high esteem… could I really pass it up? 

If we could stretch out this strange split arrangement for a couple of years, the universe might actually see something through. We might actually have the money for our property, to do things right. To plant real roots. 

Summer on the trails, winter in the mountains… just for a couple years. It’s still the mountains. It’s still trail work. And it wouldn’t be like ace. I’d actually get paid this time. 

Wish us luck, because I’m taking the step at a running leap.