Our ship is tempest-tossed, the gale is raging endlessly on. Every slackening of rainfall is but a brief respite before the next wave crashes down. A year we've been riding this storm. Unlike some storms we've weathered before, there is little about this to quicken the heart and feed our wildest spirits- this tempest beats down relentless, and all the frantic tasks to stay afloat merge into an exhausted dream.
Still, I can marvel at the waves, towering majestics, great kings of water rolling and crashing. I gasp at the explosion of light sparkling briefly from the school of fish below. The lightning is a deadly gift, dangerously beautiful, and the thunder reverberates down into my toes. And there, look! Do you see? A break in the clouds, however brief, to reveal the moon shining ever on, separate and eternal in the velvet night beyond. Do you see it, love? Can you see?
But you feel you've been washed overboard, and you cling desperately to what lifeline you can hold, separate now from our floating haven, mercilessly shoved about by forces beyond your control. You cannot catch your breath, and you cannot see. I am reaching my hand out to you, as waves wash you near. Can you catch my fingers, love? Can you climb back aboard with me, and share this journey again?
The next morning of our Robbinsville trip dawned grey and very rainy. We'd expected to hike, so a change of plans was in order. We hunted up a great little bookstore/cafe/wine store (yes, really!) in Andrews, North Carolina, and spent the morning browsing books before enjoying a delicious cafe lunch. By the time we'd finished, the weather had cleared up enough that we decided to go for a hike after all.
We set out for the first bald, Oak Knob. The views there were already gorgeous, but we noticed some threatening rain clouds moving in. Billy and I decided to press on anyway- we wanted to get to the top!
We hurried to Huckleberry Knob, but prudently decided to skirt the summit and remain closer to the treeline. Lightning can be unpredictable and quite dangerous in that area! We stopped for a quick snack. Just seconds after this photo was taken, I turned to Billy as we were packing up. "Do you hear that?", I asked. We listened intently for a moment with a dawning realization. "Is that wind in the trees, or is it. . .", and POW! We were slammed with the approaching wall of rain.
We scrambled to get the boys into ponchos and rain jackets as fast as we could. We did pretty well, except we were one jacket short. So I grabbed Billy's BC Australian hat to keep the rain out of my face, and swam through the atmosphere in my jeans and shirt. I was soaked, but it was a blast! By the time we'd slogged back to Oak Knob, the rain was already leaving us. One horizon sported billowy clouds breaking apart to reveal blue sky behind, and the other revealed a full arch of rainbow, stunning against the retreating grey storm. We stopped, reluctant to end our outing if the weather was going to dry out. Soon enough, the rain ended altogether and the afternoon sun transformed the wet grass into a stunning display of scattered diamonds. We dried out for awhile in the sun and mountain breeze, and then decided to try again for Huckleberry Knob's summit. The view was appropriately stunning. 360 degrees of mountains greeted us, complete with rich cream clouds running over the peaks and puddling into the valleys. Everywhere around we could see the weather changing before our eyes.
We settled in to enjoy ourselves, admiring the views, running and playing, communing with the wind, taking pictures, relaxing and (for Billy and I) making a toast to a fabulous couple of days.
It was absolutely a transformative experience, a time that I will never forget.
Finally, reluctantly, we packed up and hiked out, tired and fulfilled.
* * * * * The next day would bring a drive home, and a meetup with Billy's Mom and two Aunts for dinner. It was a wonderful little visit. It would be the last time we saw Nora alive. This trip turned out to be an essential repairing and rejuvenating tonic for our souls that helped us to weather the storm ahead. * * * * *
Last September, Billy and I took the boys up to Robbinsville, North Carolina for a simple, laid-back little getaway. No camping but nothing fancy, either. The days were shining like new copper, early autumn sunlight pouring whiskey-golden through leaves still clinging to bright summer green. We drove to the river, and climbed out on the rocks, draping ourselves over the sunniest places and trailing fingers or toes in the cold mountain water. We delighted in our plain little picnic and the joy of the moment together. There was wading (that water was cold!), rock hunting, rock skipping and silliness aplenty.
After awhile we drove a little piece further down the road, to Bald River Falls. It's a stunning spot, and popular with folks who like to stop for pictures. We goofed off and climbed around. I felt relaxed, present, open and happy. I think everyone did. The sun soaked our tensions out and the water carried it away. Billy and I had especially needed something like this. (see how great The Pirate's picture of us turned out?) A renewal, a cleansing, a reconnection. Somehow all the right pieces fell together and that's just what this trip became.
After a long day we piled back into the van. We drove around a little to explore- you never know what interesting places you might find. In fact, we found the "Hotel California" of campgrounds. Or at least, that was our impression of the place. ". . .Relax, said the night man, We are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!" We had a good laugh, but still left in a hurry. ;)
As night came we stopped for dinner and fell into bed, looking forward to some hiking in the morning. It had been a fabulous day.
Unless otherwise specified, all the photographs on this site were taken by me with my trusty little Nikon Coolpix 4200 point-and-shoot. The lens is getting rickety and the battery door is held on with a rubber band, but it's still working. If I manage to do any editing at all, it's very basic- I might crop or adjust the exposure a little, for instance. If you wish to reproduce any of my photos in any way, please just be courteous and ask my permission first. I'd be flattered. Thank you.