Saturday, February 20, 2010

Waters of Eden

arched stone bridge,
harbors treasure untold,
no name, no name, beauty so great,
emeralds, tumble and swirl,
underwater, burnett sways,
scores of bubbles, foam white pristine,
sound, ah but the sound,
cascades roar,
layer upon layer, falling, peaceful chaos,
collage, shapes sizes textures, river stones,
jade pools, serene between falls,
summer comes,
barefoot wading thrills,
tiny rocks, toes buried,
flowing, flowing, endless
icicles, bank roots decor
gibraltars rock, stream divided
ripples, slowly toward
fallen tree trunk,
tickled by currents of ice melt
it's twists, upturned roots
unfathomed by Picasso,
followed, springs fountain of youth,
my paradise
until Heaven
my Eden

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shared Secrets

Having a little extra time, I decide to walk up Bote Mountain Trail. I seldom set out with a thought as to how the trail will make me feel on a certain day. Some trails, by their "personality" have a mood already set.
Bote Mountain Trail brings to mind the route that was used to reach Spence Field in the past by James Spence, but nature itself begins to override thoughts of history as I climb. On this hike, the splendor of the earth stands out. I begin to think of those who can't or haven't yet been able to come to the Smokies. Daily, I remind myself not to take for granted the blessing of living here. I think of those unable and wish to convey this beauty.
During my walk, there are still slight snow flurries, the snowflakes so small, as to be almost invisible. Rocky surfaces of the mountain peek from beneath the snow here and there. Snow, that has lain for several days now, pops and cracks loudly with each step, reverberating through the hills.
The rock face of the mountain wall beside me has crevices and fissures so deep, I could stick an arm in and have it disappear. Lichen, covering the rocks, is one of the few remaining greens out here. There are many fallen trees left from a recent windstorm. Several inches of snow line each one, creating an interesting aspect to the view.
I edge closely to the dropoff on my right, peering down through limbs to see the stream far below. As always, here in the Smokies, it is crystal clear. I can see the bed of the creek, even from where I stand.
I move on. A fallen tree lies across the path. I use the walking stick that I carry to steady my footing. I am thankful for it, especially with my feet slipping occasionally on the ice. The snow has melted somewhat and become hard packed. This has left a surface that I can glide my feet on, as if on skates. In other places, my feet sink deeply into the snow. My shoes and the hem of my pants are damp already.
I pick up a sound as I move along. Tilting my head, I see the stirring of the trees high above. It is the sound of the whisper wind moving through the firs. Looking up in this manner, leaves me feeling very small. I have never heard the mountain speak in this exact dialect.
With the winter trees and snow covered ground, I am in a monochrome world. The only color are the few splashes of green and the red mud where a bit of snow has melted.
Hearing a taptap resonating from the woods, I scan the trees. I find the source. A woodpecker is perched on the side of a tree. I now recognize the sound that I had heard on a previous hike. It appears that I have disturbed it, as it flies away.
Even though curve after curve in the trail had drawn me, I stop. I know that I have reached my limit. I stand still, listening to the sound of the mountain secrets being confessed on the breeze. My heart returns the confidence by letting go of my own. Knowing that here, I will never be rejected.
As I turn to leave, I pause. Facing me is an untouched snowbank. Respectfully, with my walking stick, I carefully carve the words "The Smokies Whisperer" into it.
Feeling that I have left my presence in this simple manner, I turn and walk away.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Smoky Mountain Love Story

This Valentine's Day, I spend with my love. I dress carefully in many layers, tugging on tobaggan and gloves. Yes, for Valentine's.. for my love is the Great Smoky Mountains. I fear with the weather, I will be rejected. Yet, as I approach, the gates stand open wide. I find the trail I seek and head down it's snow covered path.
As with any love, there are times when the going isn't easy. In these times, you must search for the beauty. The cold air, the frigid creek tumbling over rocks, the snow lined trees.. the mountain had dressed in it's finest for this day.
My love welcomes me. It delights to feel my steps crunching in fresh snow, while I enjoy the gentle caress of its cold air on my cheek. While most may be put off by the icy water, I slide my glove off, slipping fingertips through liquid crystal. I'm exhilerated by the feel. Breathing in the crisp air, I feel it through my body. Using tongue tip to capture snowflakes that land on lips, I feel alive. An awakening.
Tilting head from side to side, I study the mountains that rise on. I would love to explore. The mountain says to take what it offers.. a safe path through this wonderland. It becomes a climb. The mountains close around me, holding me in their embrace. Bending, I get a handful of powdery snow. Another climb, leaving my heart racing.. as any love should. By entering unmarred snow, I go places no one else has within its heart. Having reached as far as I dare go today, I turn around. The mountains understand that as my strength and courage grow, I will move further. For today, among hardships, with it's tenderness and beauty.. I have made progress.
Even with the chilly air, I remove the toboggan, so I hear the sweet nothings the mountain utters as I leave. With snow covered steep hills, it quietly warns me to be careful. It has given me the soft trickle of the stream to guide me out. I gaze longingly off the trail. Thousands of sagas are carved into this land. I appreciate the solitude. I appreciate it's sharing itself. It appreciates my acceptance in this barren time.
As I near the end of walk, I'm elated at the time spent. The mountains whisper, "Until next time." I smile softly and walk away.

Coming Home

I first came to the Smoky Mountains nine years ago in 2000. Upon arriving here, I knew that I had come home. The beauty of the Smokies captured my heart. The first trail I visited was Abram's Falls Trail in Cades Cove. Having never been an outdoors person or someone into sports, I was surprised by my immediate attraction to hiking. I began going to the mountain trails as much as possible, experiencing the "personality" each different trail had. I grew to love being there, it being the sole activity I wished to pursue.
After a time, health issues began to make it harder to do what I loved. The hikes became shorter and simpler. My last hike was the short, (what should have been a simple walk) to  Hen Wallow Falls. After struggling to hike this easy trail, I knew it was time to give up. As I drove home, I made the decision that it would be my last. Heartbroken, longing to be on a trail, I stopped going into the mountains.
Four years passed without a hike. This past year, August 2009, I decided that nothing, including how bad I felt, would keep me from what I loved. I began to get onto the trails, slowly but surely.
They have become my strength, my solace, my oasis, my escape, my Eden, my Secret Garden. The crystal clear waters, massive boulders, kaleidoscope of fall colors, snow covered grounds of winter, pale green of spring and warmth of a summer day there are medicine.
Above all, the very spirit of the Smokies, this collage of history and beauty of present form the soul that can be felt, if you only take the time to notice.