This weekend I did something highly unusual. So unusual, in fact, that Chris laughed at me Friday night when I told him my plan. He said, “that’ll never happen”, and smirked. This is an understandable response for it is well-known that my typical morning demeanor is akin to an angry troll woken before dawn. My morning bed-head doesn’t help.
Friday night, after a week of rain, we finally had a clear, sunny evening. As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, I mentioned that the sunset would be beautiful and that we should go up the mountain to watch. Logistically speaking, this is problematic when the kid’s bed time is 7pm sharp and the sun wasn’t due to set until 8:30pm. So instead I took a rare opportunity to go by myself for some peace and quiet.
I drove up to the summit of the mountain and parked near the Tennessee Rock trailhead. From there I walked up to the overlook and arrived just in time for the show.
The view from there is spectacular. The overlook faces West and provides an uninterrupted sweeping view of the sun sinking down over North Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. It’s easy to see why this region is referred to as the Blue Ridge Mountains – the silhouettes of the many peaks overlap each other in varying hues of blue, like waves in a turbulent ocean, getting lighter as they disappear into the blue horizon. The sun lit up the sky in a fiery orange and the clouds looked like thick pools of smoke lingering above. As the sun disappeared behind the mountain peaks the sky erupted in a symphony of color; blues becoming purples, with pink and orange dashes streaking across the horizon.
There was a steady cool breeze that seemed to gently drift off the horizon and tickle at my cheek and through my hair. The birds chirped the last of their sweet songs as the light slowly died and was swallowed by the mountains and a curtain of darkness signaling the end of the show.
This 20 minutes of utter tranquility got me high. The last few weeks have been somewhat stressful with Junior becoming more inquisitive, less cooperative, and more intrigued by his surroundings. His undying need to explore EVERYTHING means I spend most of my days trying desperately (and failing) to redirect his attention and then, inevitably, chasing him up or down the mountain and dragging him away from ledges and lakes. I love his enthusiasm for exploration, but it leaves me utterly exhausted by the end of the day and it’s not uncommon for me to be out cold by 8pm lately.
So this rare serene moment was not lost on me and I gulped it down eagerly, embracing the ensuing intoxication. I lingered on the rock for a moment before heading back to the truck and, though I wished Chris had been there too, I was grateful for some almost-extinct alone time.
Upon my return I told Chris of my plan for Saturday, to which he laughed and betted against me.
“You are not a morning person. I know you, this is too ambitious.”
Well, let’s just say that Chris is eating his words now. For at 5:30 the next morning I woke, before my alarm, and was ready for sunrise. Blurry eyed and still rather sleepy, I quietly made some coffee, gathered my camera equipment, and loaded up the truck to head up the mountain. But alas, I cannot escape my tendency for poor planning and, upon reaching the park gate, I realized that I had neglected to get the code from Jessica the day before. I was, therefore, locked out of the sunrise I had defied my very biological tendencies to see.
Disappointed, but not disheartened, I turned around and headed for the lake with fantasies of being able to catch a deer, or even a bear, frolicking by the lake in the early light.
While these may have been ambitious dreams, I was fortunate enough to happen upon Junior’s beloved ducks, still sound asleep in the morning fog. My presence stirred them and they softly quacked as I approached. They didn’t seem distressed by me and I like to think that’s because we’ve become old friends from my frequent visits.
Beyond them, at the mouth of the creek, was a large, plump, beaver snacking on something in the shallows. I mistook him for a log at first, but as I slowly approached I startled him. He promptly dove into the lake and slipped away under the dark green water before I could focus my camera. I took the next half hour to stroll around the lake and play around with my camera a little and snap a few more shots.
Suitably refreshed, I checked the time to see it was after 7am and the gates to the park would be open. I headed up to the Blue Ridge overlook to catch a glimpse of the morning sun stirring the mountain valleys to life.
Though I missed the best part of the show, I was delighted to catch the tail end of it and happily snapped away as I sipped my coffee. The heavy morning fog had almost entirely lifted except for a few wisps of cloud that still clung to the deep valleys of the mountains and drifted silently between the blue peaks. The clouds above littered the blue sky, kissed with rosy pinks from the sun. The city of Clayton, below me to the South was still sleeping and I sat quietly and admired the majesty of the scene. As the sun slowly rose above the cloud, the light spilled over and bathed the vast mountain-scape before me. The warmth melted the sleep from my bones and I was grateful for a scarce opportunity to rise slowly with the sun.
Morning meditation complete, and satisfied with a couple of good shots, I made my way back to the truck and down the mountain again.
Moments like these are so rare for me nowadays. I often think of my life before Junior and how I unknowingly took the sunrises and sunsets for granted. These glorious natural displays are a reminder of the natural cycles of life, the power of nature, and the minuscule role we play in the world.
Later that evening, Chris took the opportunity for some meditation of his own and headed to the lake for some fishing at sundown. It was his first time catching a fish in a couple of years so it was a much needed release for him.
In an attempt to catch a full sunrise, I again rose early Sunday morning, loaded up, and ascended through the fog to the overlook at the top of the mountain. But alas, I arrived just in time to see the thick fog blow across the barely visible rays of sun, carried by the ever-present gentle breeze.
I waited patiently in hopes that the haze would lift and I would get a spectacular shot, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I sat and enjoyed the morning song of the mountain birds while I sipped my coffee.
Our lives are better lived for taking these moments to observe and appreciate; I appreciate the love of a good husband who makes sacrifices big and small for my happiness, I appreciate the good fortunate of having a short drive to such sublime marvels, and I appreciate the time and space to enjoy such moments and to miss my family. These little breaks from the pressures of daily life provide a much-needed respite and a chance to put things into perspective. It allows us to regain patience and understanding that is worn away by the trials and tribulations of trying times. Though I won’t be enjoying another sunrise or sunset for the foreseeable future thanks to a rather grim weather forecast, I am deeply grateful for a weekend spent chasing the sun and look forward to the next one.