I LEFT VIRGINIA’S APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS late in the summer of 1978, my car pointed south toward my freshman year of college. I didn’t know it then but that date signaled more than my transition to adulthood. It also marked the start of a changed geographic life for me, a beautiful one spent in the midlands of South Carolina for the better part of 38 years. It surprises me to realize how much of my life has been lived where the land is flat and piney, with long, straight two-lanes dotted by the quintessential small towns that color so much of southern literature.
Not so in the mountains. In the mountains, life is choppy and rugged, the landscape itself the show, all forests and peaks, hollows and rocky ledges, shifting light and weather that’s ever-changing. It’s like the good Lord knows what a remarkable seat you have, positioned up high, and so puts on a spectacular show.
MY HUSBAND AND I WERE JUST IN HAWAII where we marveled at the geography there. Born of volcanoes that still create earth mass today these landforms make a spectacular statement, those severe rock cliffs that try to contain a wild, insistent sea. The entire scene is made beautiful and transcendent, somehow, because the water is a gorgeous, clear, incomparable sea glass blue.
We were dressed in summer clothes then, Tim and I, the temperature hanging around a rather perfect 80 degrees. And here we are now, not two weeks later, joyful, giddy really, watching the snow fall on North Carolina’s Black Mountains. It is a high elevation storm, one that blew in late this afternoon after we’d already been given a day pretty enough for an exploratory walk.
How thrilled we are to have Eliza with us. How surprised we all are to watch the weather change so fast.
IT IS OUR FIRST OFFICIAL overnight stay in these mountains, did I mention that? We’ve finally bought a weekend cabin after several years of searching. My husband promised to get me back to the mountains when we married nearly 14 years ago and this is the fulfillment of that lovely pledge.
My heart is happy.
ALL THIS GEOGRAPHY has got me to thinking about home and the many shades that color it, the things that make a place yours, just as you feel part of it. There are the people, of course, the first and most important consideration of all. I remember Robert Frost said Home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in. True that, as Eliza would say.
But there’s more to it than people. There is geography, a kind of gravity that pulls you to a place and holds you close to the ground when you are there. It’s like a force meant to keep you from the bobbling orbit we are all prone to–we humans who figuratively and quite literally spend our lives trying to find our way. Home, I believe, is the place that settles us down, tidies the ravel of frayed ends, whispers gently in our ear You belong here.
For me, that place is the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am captivated by the kaleidoscope as light moves across the ridges and valleys, colors shifting, day moving on. I love its tall trees and deep forests, the streams that rush and tumble, the life hidden within.
For my dear friend, Teresa, it is Edisto Island. The moment she passes beneath those ancient live oaks, gets a whiff of that earthy pluff mud and a look across the broad, breathtaking marsh, she melts right into the landscape. It’s something you can see, I swear. Walk with her out to the ocean’s edge and there is simply no doubt about it: This girl is home.
I BELIEVE THIS CALLING is more than legacy, I want to be clear about that. It’s more than coming to roost in the place of your birth, even if there are parallels in the examples I’ve just given. It’s soul connection I’m talking about–person to place, and place to person in a way that allows the grand grace of exhaling. It’s forgetting for a time the difficult daily work of making your way and simply being.
But not just being. Being there.
WE LIVE IN A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. How amazing it is that we can move about in it, discovering, exploring, falling in love with one place, and then another. How marvelous it is we can also go home–truly, joyfully, soulfully home.
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You know I love playing along with Australian blogger Fat Mum Slim’s Photo-a-Day prompts on Instagram. It encourages me to keep my eyes open to all the beautiful and interesting in the world around me.
For February, I’ve cheated a bit and rebuilt my month to use only photos from our vacation in Hawaii. We were not there all 29 days (unfortunately) so I hope you will forgive me this indulgence. It was such fun to relive and reconsider!
We are travelers, my husband and I, people who place a priority on seeing as much of the world as we can. It’s something I learned about him the first night we met as he described a competition he and his sister have had for years: Let’s see who can visit each of the 50 states first. (It’s such a serious contest an airport touchdown does not count, I’m just saying.) Colette is left with Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma; Tim with Alaska and Hawaii.
Lucky for me, they’ve agreed we’ll all go to Alaska together.And this is how it happened that Hawaii moved to the top of our Places to Visit list.
I’d never have put it there on my own, may I tell you, I’d never have chosen Hawaii over the thousand other investment locales that hold sway. And I couldn’t have explained my bias, either, since I never gave much thought to the reasoning. It just hung out there in the “yeah, well, maybe someday” stratosphere, never coming close or into focus.
I wonder now why this was, now that I feel so differently. And I’m surprised at my own conclusion. In my mind,
Hawaii = Paradise
And when you get right down to it, paradise and perfection are just not that interesting.
But the islands of Hawaii are far, far from perfect, filled with so much geographic tension every moment is thrilling. There is so much contrast, so much diversity. So many surprises that Can you believe this? and Look at that. Wow. are the comments we made most often. (This was followed closely by Rum Runner, please, but that’s another story.) By the time our 10 days was over we left with a deep shared pride that Hawaii is a part of our United States and a promise to each other we really will go back soon.
In the meantime I thought it might be fun to do a weekly series featuring my favorite photographs and the most fun snippets from our trip. A little spot of tropical vacation, if you will, to brighten these last gray winter weeks.
Let’s start here!
Oahu’s North Shore, famous for giant waves and great surfing. We were mesmerized by Kaiaka Bay’s volcanic beach and restless, relentless ocean. #suprisinghawaii
Aloha! ~ Cathy
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