Category: Mountain Mornings

Reflections on where we live and what matters most

Mountain Mornings

Nature, the Nightly News Neutralizer

For the last hour or so, I was at the edge of the creek watching the water tumbling by, hoping the kingfisher would fly past. Couldn’t hear anything but the rush of the wide waterway, gulping and gushing over the rocks. Much as I have on my to-do today, it was time well spent.

As I sat in the waiting area for my car’s oil change this morning, the usual “how the news suggests we’re all likely to die today” topics were circulating the room—recession, war, heat waves, shortages, shootings, natural disasters, you name it. Not a happy place for someone who records the six o’clock and then zips to the weather. Recent events have been heavy enough without wallowing in it all.

A digital sign across the road from the auto shop showed our temps were in the mid 70s. Warming, but not headed to the triple digits Atlanta is expecting. No person present had thriftily chosen to sprawl in the driveway, doing their own car repairs. None of us appeared physically deprived in any way. But the room fixated on adversity. Yikes.

Yes, there are countless people going through awful situations every minute of every day. But most of our individual moments are lighter than we acknowledge. And experiencing that little touch of nature—a pot of flowers on the porch, an office window over the retention pond, or an awesome hour on the creekbank—can let your mind briefly wander away from the world as we usually see it.

We can decide to lighten up our own space. See the good, find the good, be the good. Little bits are everywhere, and we could sprinkle more as we go along by lifting our minds to that brighter, gentler level.

“The happiness in your life depends on the quality of your thoughts,” said the last emperor of the Pax Romana, Marcus Aurelius. An idea that has inspired mankind for almost two thousand years should be worth a try.

Mountain Mornings

Yeah Hello, Spring

In the opening steps to our adversarial tango, Spring arrives, and I mask up yet again, defiantly stomping mud-caked feet, theatrically gesturing at the dark, bare trees surrounding us. Spring nods to the once verdant veggie garden; I toss a glance to the mini rhododendrons, whose bright blooms are annually smote by a vicious late freeze.

Spring’s sunny smile suggests a ride by the garden center, where trays of brilliant beautifies await a new home. A contemptuous laugh is my “fool me eighteen times, shame on me” reply as we embrace and spin away.

Talk to me again in June, oh alleged happiest of seasons. Until then, I’m piling leaves over peeping peonies, cracking my office window at night hoping the native azalea buds below won’t freeze again, and no, the Georgia Mountains have not forgotten the seventeen-degree Sunday morning mid-April several years ago. A season without many blueberries, strawberries, or apples—just dead leaves in the top third of our trees.

Pay no attention, Spring, to the gorgeous baby hydrangea in the garage window. He’s in protective custody until you’ve drifted out of my hemisphere. Local gardeners say we’re safe to plant after Mother’s Day, but despite all its charms, I wouldn’t trust Spring in these mountains with a WalMart petunia.

For now, Nasalcrom and I are heading out to use your enticing temps and gentle breezes to clean windows and to take out frustrations on honeysuckle vines. Dance on outta here, Sunny, I’m not falling on my Back Sacada this year.

Mountain Mornings

Rainy Day Sunshine

My favorite thing about living in the North Georgia Mountains? Fine people. One morning last week as we were leaving the Blairsville eatery where seats for breakfast and lunch are the area’s most sought after real estate—we suddenly weren’t going anywhere. Nearing the field-parking exit, the right front wheel of our truck had made contact with the bottom of a new gulley where something huge had recently damaged the roadside ditch, leaving a very deep pit.

No sooner had I discovered that the passenger door was pinned shut than a man was at the driver’s window, asking if we’d already called for a tow. Just as he was explaining an idea for dragging the truck out, another fellow came up offering to strap and chain us out of our predicament.

In a few minutes the two men had wrangled our big ol’ truck out and were off to catch up with their day. This is one of those places in the world where people don’t look the other way as they pass someone for whom things have gone sideways. It’s a “we’ve got this” mentality that will always outshine the frustrations of life.

This knee-jerk kindness springs up everywhere. Here, an approaching funeral procession still sends cars on both sides of the road to a respectful stop—a vehicular hug for the grieving family. In these communities, people thoughtfully let one another know when unsettling situations arise, without assuming they’re already informed by social media.  

Support squads form and deliver when hardship strikes, whether that help comes as church friends, neighbors, or just folks you know. Should your car refuse to start in a local grocery store parking lot, don’t immediately suspect the person coming over to help is one of those metro scammers with your missing engine component in his pocket and an offer to get you going again for a hundred bucks or so.

Yes, we have our issues and occasional squabbles but let trouble pop-in and help will be close on its heels. But for our phone-use-while-driving law, this post might have been accompanied by a photo of the fellow with a tattered 2020 election flag over the bed of his truck, reaching for his chainsaw while a woman watched from her car—its distinct bumper sticker indicating a differing political stance—as he prepared to clear the downed tree branch blocking access to her turn off the highway. That mental picture will last as long as I do.

Soggy mornings like this remind me of the good people in this world. Driving home in a pesky drizzle, watching dark clouds rolling in, I noticed a nick in the grey above. Soon a brilliant patch of blue sky opened, pouring a lovely stream of light ahead. Appearing like all those good souls clearing the way out of trouble, demonstrating there’s more than one way to keep the shiny side up.

Mountain Mornings

Finding the Peace of the Mountains

Like many others, we long dreamed of moving to the top of Georgia. Leave the city, suburbs, or job behind and start another chapter. Most folks relocating here enjoy making great new friends while enjoying awesome views amid peace, beauty, cool air, and clean water.

A trickle for decades, our mountain migration appears to be keeping up the astonishing pace set after the 2020 census. Such new beginnings are tipping points—we either launch into an invigorating trajectory or sputter along the very same path, but with nicer scenery.

Perhaps, like looking for love, it’s a matter of cultivating the objective on the inside before it can appear on the outside. A kind of be the forest you want to see thing?

We need, we want. We’re endlessly seeking. Imagining the affordable cabin in the mountains or the completing partner, but comfort is closer than that. Behind a long-closed door is the opportunity to get acquainted with our own restorative inner space and its light-filled views.

Don’t just peek. Wander around in there once or twice a day. Think of it as quiet reflection, meditation, or calling home. Getting to know you can relieve some of those running-on-empty sensations that drive us to scrounge for satisfaction.

Sometimes, a bit of loneliness manages to settle over us whether we’re at the center of a busy family, in a long-term relationship, or spending every workday navigating a sea of clients, patients, or students. And, sometimes, “being there” can be depleting—triggering us to imagine our solace awaits beside a mountain stream or with a kindred soul.

Emotional isolation can spark the question “Who’s there for me?” which often leaves the most connected people you know without an answer.

What if life is not so much about finding who or what “completes me,” at all?  Maybe we have more than enough understanding, strength, and genuine love within us to light up the world whenever we’re ready.

People who go through their days with quiet confidence, an easy-going attitude, and generously caring hearts seem to tap that resource. They’re radiant, aren’t they? It’s as though their interactions with others fuel that grace within rather than deplete it.

Discovering that we survive shedding the veneer we’ve spent decades building—the high achieving, validation gathering, career persona—might dawn on us atop windswept Brasstown Bald. But it can happen in our MARTA seat on any day’s commute. Whether in quiet visualizations or among these gentle old mountains, we can allow trailside trees and rushing creeks to lift away the last layers until one day our brilliant inner core glimmers through, leaving us the radiant and abundantly loving creatures we were meant to be, wherever we’re meant to be. Completed.

Mountain Mornings

Red Sky at Morning

Oh com’on, 2022, let’s get this show on the road! By sheer force of will, this weary world would readily dissolve the afflictions, delays, and shortages that have slopped over into this new year. That’s evident in our can-do-itivity, continually generating fixes and workarounds to move us ahead.

On a similar thread, haven’t we almost all had enough bickering and blame to gladly ban both forever? Maybe redirect that energy and go all supportive/helpful on one another for a change as we create a sturdier “normal” and get back to the business of living?

As for getting along, here in the North Georgia Mountains, the enormous influx of people popping in to work “from here” in 2020 grew into a surprisingly large number of new residents by the end of 2021. Seemed like anything that warranted a certificate of occupancy was sold to the highest bidder—an HGTV fixer-series waiting to happen.

Almost a decade and a half after the last one, another building boom is budding, both residentially and commercially. It’s exciting and a smidge scary. Fortunately, many of our communities have enacted safeguards to guide how we grow, and to defend our cherished mountain aesthetic.

That’s reassuring to new neighbors, old timers, and those of us long-residing but forever-from-elsewhere folk. We all share a deep appreciation for the splendor of the southern Blue Ridge range. And so many other things! As we lay that universal cornerstone, common ground, we find ways to agreements, and build on them. It’s worked for 245 years, so . . .

So, are we finally, really rounding that pandemic corner? Well, aren’t we always rounding some corner or another? Together we’ll get there. We always do.

Mountain Mornings

How Many Days Til Christmas?

“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, I’ll get to you eventually!” Probably not the first one to ever chant that refrain the week before Christmas, but I do have the lights strung. For those of us late-tinselers, there is comfort in the history of these sparkling conifers being Christmas Eve surprises for the kiddies. All the best old holiday movies are proof, although the sleight-of-handiwork by Mary Bailey, the Bishop’s Matilda, and her rescuer, Dudley, are high bars.

Every year my intention is to simply dress the house with sprigs of greenery and loops of ribbon, but the absence of snowpeeps, beckoning stars, and silver bells becomes intolerable. No sooner have the snowfolk shuffled in, than stars, and stringsandstringsoflights begin appearing on the mantel, and windows, and far more surfaces than less enthusiastic household members can abide.

Not that this all happens Christmas week. On the first weekend in December, I did crank up the mule to mosey around snipping from the beautiful native hollies, pines, and cedar in the woods, as well as the assorted magnolias, hemlocks, hollies, and cypress planted here years ago with this in mind. Added to branches trimmed from Fraser firs, this becomes the yuletide blend that disguises the fake garland around the front door, covers the mailbox with a festive “Merry, Merry” to passersby, and bombs everywhere indoors that it doesn’t slide off.

For the next week or two it was a scramble to bag, wrap, and drop off here, there, and everywhere—while the tree languishes, still in a bucket of water on the deck. And like everyone else with loved ones needing extra protection, our family’s plans for big gatherings have given way to another year of stay-at-home festivities. Happily, that seems to be driving even more interest in doing as much as possible for others.

Isn’t that the true miracle of Christmas? Stoking our year-round love and compassion to do just a little more for just a few more? Doesn’t that light up this old world like nothing else ever could? Happiest wishes to those whose holidays coincide, and a very Merry Christmas to all this week, trusting that you know you are always, always loved beyond measure.

Mountain Mornings

Rising Waters

Pluvia, pluie, pioggia, and ua are words familiar to me only because they name “rain.” At the first drops, I happily skitter to the porch where the metal roof offers idyllic acoustics for enjoying a summer shower. How I love the patter, splatter, and gutter gurgles of rain!

Yet a few minutes ago as drops began falling and I opened to door to the porch, the intensity quickened and the shower became a downpour that unnerved me for a moment. Four days ago, driving back from Blue Ridge, I watched the light morning rain giving way to the remnants of tropical storm Fred. In Blairsville rain was falling in torrents and continued for several hours.

Water was rising under the bridge as I neared home, and soon, from the deck I could see the creek far out of the banks already. Within the hour it was at least sixty feet across and neighbors at the bridge called to say it was impassable, shuddering and collecting debris from the water crashing over it. I filled the bathtub—if the bridge went, our water and utilities would go, too. Booms were sounding from the creek as trees floating past collided with those standing strong along the banks. Folks in more vulnerable situations were surely fleeing their homes.

We are well above the creek; a winding switchback trail gets us to the firepit and swing set back from the water. White oaks and hickories shelter a hillside of mountain laurel, dogwoods, sourwoods, and rhododendrons. Keeping soil settled—and erosion at bay—are vital in mountain settings. The native plants we’ve added along the creekbank are sometimes relocated downstream in these flash floods, but a few are thriving.

Tomorrow I’ll try to clean up what’s been left behind in Wood Duck Park, as we’ve come to call the flat section by the creek. Clean-up often follows the rising levels, but our bridge has been threatened only twice before in fifteen years—once on a Christmas Eve. And next week as we learn more about how to help people in the area who aren’t as safely situated, I’ll be reminded to appreciate our sturdy little bridge, the sanctuary of our porch, and the sweetness of a gentle rain.