Sunrise at Clingman’s Dome


so cold!


get it.

April 12 2015

Thick forest, blinking in and out of existence. Mud sucking darkness, faint stars illuminating sharp lines, sharp climbs. A forest left to the unseen and not to the unseeing. Flickers of humanity flashes glimpses of a wild world. Green moss on rotting logs, thick shadows grasping at these singular moving lights. Our headlamps bounce along the trail revealing briefly blinks of path, blinks of one another passing. An enormity is passing around us, just out of reach and we are brought together in these bubbles of illuminated existence. I am more aware of the people around me, brought to my attention through stage lights, as if our spirits were emitting light, passing briefly in a world of nothing. I feel the nothing. When we turn out our headlamps, I still feel the presence of those who are near. I sense them in the darkness. In my memory I feel them still, resonating forever in that moment, reverberating in my body.

Turns taken in wrong directions, but turning so much we end up going the right way. Moving with doubt and fear and anxiety, standing on the back of each step. Bits of light on the horizon. When the sunrises in the wilderness, it rises twice. The world lightens into view and a pink highlights the sky far above, but the sun has not risen yet.

A cold wind brings the sun along and warmth drives out the dusky breath. Orange, purple, blue freezing cold that memory cannot forget but was never fully registered. Each little ball of light, searching and not searching, but coming forth to meet the day.

To miss this would be a shame. To let it go would be shameful. I can feel it in me and when I embrace this light I must smile and turn away into my memory or else this rare embrace is wasted.

I must smile at my memories and not lament the passing of my days.

How sad it is to sit amongst the flowers and see nothing but the dirt because I know that the flowers will disappear. How sad it is to measure miles by time rather than the experiences that fill them out. I will walk without a map and walk as well as I can.

A cold that keeps us huddled together, pulling close and seeing the same sun rise in a spot that many will see differently.

This is one of the most important moments in my life. I realized what it meant to struggle and what it meant to live fully. I realized that I could love strangers and share something with them without any need for clarification. We were there in that moment and nowhere else. Because of that presence I keep that moment forever.

After we climbed down from the lookout tower Greg, Roadrunner and Chewy went into town while Sam and I walked on. We walked down into a mossy green forest, glowing bright in the newly born day. I sat and cried for the first time on trail, mostly from exhaustion because I did not perform my morning ritual of eating Oatmeal. Sam and I sat and had breakfast in the thick forest. We hiked a short day to Ice Water Spring Shelter passing through a tourist parking lot along the way. We hit the North Carolina/Tennessee sign with a tired elation. We took a break to watch the tourists run around, they looked as if they were being fast forwarded. People were everywhere, bright colors flying around and the pungent odor of soap and perfume was overwhelming. Sam and I emptied our trash in a bin and shoved our swollen feet back in our shoes to continue on to Ice Water. We did yoga and chatted with other hikes. Sam used his kitchen sink basin for bird baths and sock laundry.

We amused the tourists that wandered out to the shelter with our desperate attempts to clean ourselves. Everything was covered in mud.

Trail Log:

Always say goodbye as if it will be the last time you will ever see someone. I wish I could write something funny, like a joke about playing leap frog or write a nice story about finding someone that you’d lost. Not right now. This is what it is like to be left.

The greatest lesson on trail is learning to let go. Completely. I will move out of this situation. I will keep moving so that I can be far away from what has happened, the memory of this place at this time. I move because the mountains are calling and I am trailing behind. Myself, trailing off, derailed and sullen. I have so far to go and so much more to let go of. I want to let go, to move into a state of non-being.

I need to be in a state of non-attachment.


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