I asked Dan the same question that we always ask each other when we stand on ‘our’ rock, the large limestone formation shaped by the force of the rushing water over the millennia that reaches out into the upper Nantahala’s Knottyhead Falls where we were engaged and married on the Summer Solstice- “Will you marry me?” The other always replies, “over and over again.” Thankfully, the answer was the same this time.
As we drove the 3.7 miles down Waya Road toward the falls, we talked about how much the rock and the falls are a touchstone for us. We reconnect with our love story and the many wonderful pilgrimages we have made here to celebrate our love. As Dan shared with me, so many things have changed in our lives over the past thirteen years; we’ve lost both our mothers and some dear friends, our careers have evolved or changed, we’ve lost dear pets and had other special ones come into our lives, we’ve had broken bones and surgeries, financial ups and downs- lots of life. However, the rock and the falls stay the same, eternal. A constant no matter how mad the world becomes. The water is an unstoppable force, shaping the rocks and the land.
It has become even more special since we released Mom’s ashes here last summer. When we pulled off the road by the falls, the tears came- not necessarily tears of sadness, but more of remembrance and overwhelming emotion. We sat on the couch-like rock, surrounded by the falls, the noise a deafening but beautiful symphony of sound. Dan told me that now Mom is an elemental part of every living thing in the river, pointing out the new growth of plants and algae since we were last here, as well as the fish and butterflies. I like that idea, and I smiled realizing how happy she would be to know that we were sitting here again, remembering her and telling her stories, just as I promised her we would. Just another layer of meaning to this already meaningful place.
We began the day with breakfast at The River’s End, watching several hikers coming off of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Then, a special treat- rafting down the Nantahala in a raft guided by a former music education student of mine from Mars Hill University. He did a wonderful job navigating our crew down the river, keeping us all safely in the boat, even on the final class IV Rapids. The other cohorts in our raft were two young couples, and they made wonderful companions for the beautiful ride. We enjoyed sharing our love story with them, especially that we had gotten married on the river. How special that we ‘old timers’ could show them that love only gets better with age.
This evening, a fabulous dinner at The Cork and Bean in Bryson City, and then home to the cabin to build a fire. Relaxing moments to share together- we know that every single one is precious. Again and again, the Nantahala wraps her healing arms around us, reminding us to see the beauty and be grateful for all of it, no matter how humble. I won’t forget.