This weekend, my family and I took a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It felt invigorating knowing that we had nowhere to be and no time to be there by. It felt moving. Fog lay thick in the open air that surrounded us as we took each mile by surprise. Rain fell from above, beginning with a trickle and never coming to a complete hault throughout the uncounted minutes of our day. We followed the asphalt path up several feet of elevation gain to what is deemed “The highest point east of the Mississippi River.” AKA: Mt. Mitchell which sits at 6,683’. It’s no 14er, but from ground up you will see a resembling change in elevation putting you up in the clouds with a 360 breathtaking view of mountain peaks in every direction. However, on this day we had a 360 view of breathtaking fog.
It was beautiful and a unique way to experience the tallest peak in this region of the country. Ghostly silhouettes of fir and spruce tress lurked along the path to the top of the mountain, where Elisha Mitchell himself lay buried in a weather resistant casket. What a legendary way to be remembered, “Here lies in the hope of a blessed resurrection the body of the Rev Elisha Mitchell D.D. who after thirty nine years a professor in the University of North Carolina lost his life in the scientific exploration of this mountain, in the sixty forth year of his age. June 27 1857.” I read this three times back to back in awe. Reverend Mitchell died doing what he loved while pursuing the “scientific exploration” of Mt. Mitchell.
To me, that is one of the coolest and most inspiring stories I have ever encountered. And in an unjustifiably short summation, Rev Mitchell’s body was found at the base of a waterfall by a bear hunter by the name of “Big Tom Wilson.” History tells us that Mitchell had returned to the Black Mountains to check his data and and take new measurements regarding the peak of the mountain and unfortunately slipped and fell into a waterfall and drowned. Elisha Mitchell died doing what he loved, and I believe that shows in vibrant colors as one reads the plaque that sits upon his casket containing the bones of a scientist who followed his passion to the death of what he believed in and in return, a mountain was named after him.
Here my family was, lollygagging along the Blue Ridge Parkway and having a spectacular relaxing rainy day observing the fall colors throughout the Appalachian Mountains, and we stumble upon a brilliant side trip up the tallest peak east of the Mississippi. Along each mile of this day trip, I was mindfully appreciative of the present moments being enjoyed with my family. Vibrant hues of orange, red, and yellow leaves seemed to create an abstract blur as we drove down the winding roads of the parkway. We had nowhere to be. We followed the road and allowed it to take us where it may. In those moments, I felt a familiar feeling. It reminded me of a feeling I once had where I followed the open road to nowhere. A feeling that I have felt fewer times with age. It is a hard feeling to describe unless you have felt it and have been aware of feeling it. The feeling I am trying to describe here is - freedom. This weekend, I felt free. I felt like I was in charge of my life and all the while, I was free of making decisions. Time seemed to swiftly elude meaning, as we were not expected to be anywhere except where we were in those moments. We took a branch off the main road and ended up at a natural mineral museum.
We stopped for coffee in a rustic lodge and even allowed ourselves a few spare moments to relax and rock back-n-forth in wooden chairs behind windows by a fireplace, and simply observe the rainfall. The wind swayed the trees, still appearing as silhouettes, as we just sat there in silence. I felt more productive in this silent moment of observing wet trees than I have literally ever felt a day spent behind a computer screen in the office. And in irony as I sit behind this screen writing this now, I am reliving the moment of tree gazing.
You know how at the end of a South Park episode, there is a corny message meant to take away from all the sarcasm? Well, this is my message: I hope you are able to do what makes you feel alive and real and in the moment. Because, the feeling you get is like no other. I hope that each and every person in the world is able to feel that uncanny feeling of freedom wherever they may be and whatever circumstance their life may present them in. The only thing is that once you feel it, once you feel what true freedom is, you may find that it is difficult to accept anything else.
Dogs & Diapers