I live in a beautiful area. This is Looking Glass Rock, near Brevard (in Transylvania County) in western North Carolina. I can give you a few facts. This picture was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway on a visit to Pisgah Inn/Mount Pisgah area a few years ago (pisgah in Hebrew means peak). Technically, this big rock is a pluton monolith with a granite face that reflects the sun, giving it its name. It’s part of Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. The national forest was established in 1916. Hard to believe, but that’s when my grandmother was 6 years old. She and her parents and siblings and cousins used to take Sunday rides and picnics around the Asheville area, according to what I’ve been told, and I can be pretty sure this was one of their destinations.
But for me, what’s wonderful about the mountains, including this magnificent rock, aren’t the facts, the scientific composition, though I’m glad those things are important to a lot of people, it’s the emotions that well up in me when I see a view like this or when I walk in the woods, along the rivers and creeks. I was born and have lived in these mountains almost all my life. In the big scheme of things, I haven’t spent a lot of days and nights away from them, and even when I have done so, or may in the future, they’re still always a part of me, my heritage, my ancestors, my very being. The Appalachian mountains, the Balsams, the Parkway, the Smokies, and all the other mountain ranges and ridges around here are about relationships, trees and streams, waterfalls and animals, and ancestors working hard on the land, many as farmers. They’re about my own memories of hiking and canoeing in mountain lakes, watching the changing seasons, love and romance and heartbreak, having children here, always mindful of the mountains I live in and the distant ones I see every time I venture away from home or outside my front door. They’re about births, but also deaths, and steep cemeteries, one separated by a flimsy fence from some friendly and curious cows, beloved parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents, laid to rest with their own memories and lives, much of which I’ll never know, but some related to me by my parents. There are memories of being afraid, too, on a hike up a steep hillside running away from a mysterious-sounding creature, still unknown. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. Of Sunday drives and crossing through creeks that ran across the road, of watching for deer at dusk and being excited to spot a little family, climbing a fire tower and walking across a swinging bridge at the top of the world, watching falcons take off and hang gliders, too, camping and sometimes just sitting quietly shoulder to shoulder watching the sun set in glorious color. Many of these people are gone from my life now, but in a sense they never really are gone, and the mountains tie so much of my life together. They help define who we are, how we live, and how we feel, why we’re still here, why some of us never leave. They’re our protectors, watching over us, full of mystery and light and darkness and teeming with life, often unseen, our comfort and our healing. I’m walking in the steps of so many who came before me, which feels me with awe and respect, and those who will follow, and I hope they won’t simply settle for living in the mountains, for a job or even because it’s pretty, but instead let the mountains work their way into their hearts and live inside of them until they can’t ever really let them go, no matter where they may end up down the road, because I honestly believe they’ll be the better for it.
I look at these pictures of Looking Glass Rock and the surrounding mountains and remember the day I took them. It was summer, but a storm blew up in the afternoon, and it was windy and chilly up there. A friend of mine had ridden with me to Pisgah Inn to have lunch with a group of people we didn’t know but I had helped organize, Pantheists who wanted to get together and explore our area and share our pantheistic ideas and viewpoints. The group carried on for several more months with fewer numbers and we had some nice times. My friend and I eventually went our separate ways and he later died much too young from the debilitation of Parkinson’s disease. So many bittersweet memories, and yet life goes on as these mountains, remaining ever big and strong and beautiful, remind us daily.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press