It’s our final day in the Smokies. Checkout time is at 11:00AM and I have a massage scheduled at 11:00AM. As it turns out, it’s the last day the lodge will be open for the season. Having fed us all breakfast, packed us all one last lunch for the road, and checked us all out, they are closing down the lodge for the winter. I feel a little bad about the timing of my massage, but since I didn’t pick the time, I decide not to worry about it.
Pat takes another walk out to sunrise point while I head off to the massage room with the massage therapist. After he walks, he will sit in the lodge lobby, in front of the giant fire place, reading something from the large library accumulated there.
The massage is wonderful. I feel like jelly afterwards, oozing back into my clothes, out into the cold, and into the car. It’s a nice state to go for a ride in, actually. I try to sit so I’m not hunching up my shoulders, maintaing the state of relaxation I’ve obtained. I look out the windows and absorb the limited view with little going on in my head (for once) besides the occasional reminder to relax a muscle that’s tightened up again. After several minutes, Pat asks me if I’m sleeping. I laugh at this–like I must be asleep if I am this relaxed.
I rouse myself a little. Enough to engage in conversation with Pat. I try to keep part of my mind checking in to make sure I’m staying relaxed periodically. This gets a little tricky as we wind our way along the Cherahola Skyway where a storm apparently went through last night. Fallen trees and other debris surprise us around many curves. Fortunately, any of the trees that were all the way across the road have been cut and hauled away by now. I find myself wondering if Snowbird Mountain was not hit by the storm or if we just slept through it.
The thick fog makes the views limited today. I’m grateful that we had a couple of days of great visibility to see the spectacular views. While I’ve never been one to go for scenic drives unless it was on the way to somewhere else, on a clear day, this drive is one that would be well worth going out of the way for. Even from the car, it makes you feel connected to the world around you in a spectacular way.
One of the things that has caught both Pat and me by surprise since moving to Chattanooga is how beautiful this part of the country really is. Even though we have both been to this region many times earlier in our lives, we both sort of dismissed it. Perhaps it’s like the way we tend to mind our manners less with people we know will continue to love us anyway–the Smokies were accessible. You would think this would make them more desirable, but we both tended to prefer trips out West when we started planning vacations. The Rockies and Sierra Nevadas seemed far more appealing than the Smokies.
Now, discovering another incredibly beautiful place nearly every time we turn a corner, I feel dismayed that we missed earlier opportunities to more fully explore this area of the country. Like I’ve been a bad friend, taking the Smokies for granted, thinking they would be there waiting for me to find time for them. As it turns out, they did. But, to use a photography analogy, I previously saw “the Smokies” through a wide angle lens–a single scene to take in one shot. I now see “the Smokies” through a macro lens–an infinite collection of possibilities, each with their own virtues. I don’t have enough life left to see the things I now want to see just in this area. Then again, I suppose even a full lifetime wouldn’t be enough time anyway.
This causes me to ponder the whole concept of being nomadic. If the purpose is to see and experience new things, can’t that be achieved while standing in one place? After all, when I get out my macro lens, I discover the closer I get to a subject, the more of its details that are revealed, the more magnificent my subject seems. Each time I experience this, I am awed by the things I never noticed before.
Here is an example of a Katydid (I think), which I normally would just see as a large, green bug, but its beauty is revealed in its intricate details and varying colors when viewed up close:
I am reminded of an experience I had back in Columbus that I may have mentioned before. I used to ride my bike to work regularly. My favorite part of the ride was the short stretch along the Olentangy multi-use trail. I would enter a section of the trail that was in thick woods. Then, the woods fell away abruptly to an open field that had been turned into a prairie habitat, full of wild flowers. I could hear the birds all around me and I felt certain there were birds all over the flowers in that field, but I could never see any.
Then, on a Sunday, I went roller blading on the same trail. At that speed, I was able to see some song sparrows and goldfinches popping in and out among the flowers. I was surprised I didn’t see more birds, though.
One day, on a weekend, I went for a walk and ended up strolling through the prairie. I spotted motion and stopped and stood still to better see. When I stopped moving, it was like a curtain lifted. For the first time, I saw that the prairie was buzzing (literally) with life–bees, hummingbirds, several types of sparrows, chipmunks, mosquitos, so many forms of life moving all around me that I couldn’t begin to count them all. But I had to stand still to notice they were there.
I suppose, as is true of virtually everything in life, it’s all about balance. A balance between seeing the forest and seeing the trees means a balance between moving and standing still. A balance between seeking and finding means a balance between dreaming and realizing. I wonder how you know when you’ve found the balance point?