After a sunny morning, this afternoon brought light rain showers to the Nantahala Gorge. Instead of the bike ride we had planned, Dan and I snuggled up in the cabin to listen to the rain, the wind blowing through the trees, and the birdsong. We head home to Birmingham in the morning, and I am using this time of quiet and peace on this last day of our vacation to reflect on our trip and what this special place means to me.
The Nantahala has wound itself around my heart in so many ways. It is the first place that Dan and I traveled to together. It brought us to our waterfall where he proposed to me, where we were married. It gives us a chance to experience the beauty of nature in a way that we can’t living in the city. It has brought us to exciting and fun experiences; rafting the river, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, zip lining, and hiking. The simple life here, the good people, the crisp, clean air, the magic of the river, all resonate deeply with both of us. I feel such gratitude that we are able to come here and reconnect with this place – as well as the beginnings of our love- year after year. I will never take that for granted.
It is difficult for me to describe why I have connected so deeply with this particular part of the world. I can only say that it feels like I have known this place before, like it already lived in my heart before I ever physically came here. My soul smiles when I travel the winding tree-lined roads, the powerful, timeless river flowing alongside. “Our” waterfall, Knottyhead Falls, touches me with its beauty and its power. On its ancient rock we professed our love and married. I loved the waterfall so much that I released my mother’s ashes into its waters. It will always be my sacred place.
When I am here, my fantasy of leaving our life in Birmingham and moving to this heavenly place bubbles to the surface. Dan could do massage and teach yoga. I could….I could….well, not much call for clarinet players in the Gorge, and while there are some small colleges, none of them would have a music program. The dream is wonderful, but the reality is that- at least for the time being- our life is in Birmingham. That’s not a bad thing at all- we have a great life there, and we are both in fulfilling careers we love that enable us to help people and contribute to our community. Those are not things to take lightly or just throw away. However, our true hopes and dreams shouldn’t be taken lightly or thrown away either, even when it doesn’t make sense to act on them in the moment.
Just being able to come here, even for a short time, fulfills a great need in me. An escape to nature that washes away the static of everyday life. Being here is a touchstone, reminding me what is truly important to me, a symbol of my core values. It clears my head, shaking loose the cobwebs of stress and worry, of focus on things that distract me from my path of growing into who I really want to be when I ‘grow up’. A healthy re-booting and re-focusing.
I looked into Dan’s sweet brown eyes today during our last visit to the waterfall, and felt an overwhelming wave of love and appreciation for this man and our life together course through me. I never knew it was possible to love someone so much, but my heart seems to expand to fit a love that only continues to grow. On the Summer Solstice, we will have been together for twelve years, during which time we have experienced an incredible amount of life. What a miraculous gift.
It all began at the Nantahala, the ‘Land of the Noon Day Sun’, which remains a powerful force in my life, and even though I cannot follow my dream of living here, I can carry the spirit of this place in my heart, remembering the healing power of nature, and the importance of connecting with my spirit. The call to true wisdom.