|Posted by Darlene on March 8, 2018 at 5:40 PM|
It's been a long time...a very long time. For the most part I've been seduced by nature. The shear beauty and expansiveness of the majestic mountains in Western North Carolina have lulled me into a slumber-like trance almost to the point of inertia. It's only a strong desire to chronicle my experience and share my thoughts that brought me out of this comatose state. Nature has been (and still is) my frequent companion and benevolent teacher.
You never know what you'll experience when you open yourself to the adventures of the great outdoors. The other day I went hiking deep into the woods with a friend who I'm sure must be a direct descendant of Tarzan with a little bit of mountain goat blood in her. She has been exploring these woods for well over a decade, hiking off-trail to the most pristine and magical places. Hiking with her can be both challenging and fun and is often a mixture of both.
On one particular day we traversed the mountains somewhere east of Asheville, weaving around thick brambles, crisscrossing hidden streams, going up and down these gorgeous monuments of nature until we finally reached a mountain ridge that was home to a very special climbing tree. I've nick-named the tree Sophia. My hiking companion skillfully climbed Sophia, securing a position on her lowest branch about three feet off the ground. She stood on the branch, then hugging the Sophia's trunk swung her body around the trunk until she was standing on another branch on the opposite side of the tree. After enjoying the expansive scene before her, overlooking mountains as far as the eye could see, she quickly retraced her steps. With both feet again firmly on the ground she looked at me and said, "Ok, now it's your turn." Really? Now I do love an adventure and a challenge but that lowest branch looked pretty high off the ground to me. Plus, there was no safety net to catch me if I lost my balance. But my adventurous spirit would not let me pass up this opportunity. After a slight hesitation I cautiously agreed to attempt to climb to the lowest banch.
A conveniently-located notch in the tree trunk gave me a strong foothold for anchoring my right foot and positioned me to a point where I could swing my left leg onto the tree branch and hoist myself up. I did it! Within a minute I was comfortably sitting on the welcoming arm of Sophia, feeling quite relaxed and proud that I stretched myself (both literally and figuratively) to this new position. Somehow sitting on that branch with my feet dangling in the air made the view before me much more majestic, much more expansive. Maybe it was because I felt more expansive. I stretched myself to do something I hadn't done in over six decades and was savoring the deliciousness of my accomplishment. Little did I know that my adventure was far from finished.
After a few minutes of basking in the glory of my accomplishment I received a very strong nudge to stand on the branch. This was not an ordinary nudge but a "you're safe to stretch even farther" nudge that I felt was directly from Mother Nature herself. And one cannot ignore Mother. So I carefully tucked my feet underneath me and holding on to the Sophia's trunk ever so slowly raised my body to a standing position. Instantly I felt a rush of exhilaration fill every cell in my body. I was off the ground, standing in a tree, looking at the radiant beauty of the endless mountain ranges that stood before me. My heart was overflowing with gratitude and appreciation. It was as if I was at one with nature and all of creation. I was not looking out at nature, I was actually a part of it.
There is so much that you can discover by exploring the natural wonders that surround you. The lush landscape in Western North Carolina is overflowing with opportunities to visit new vistas and parks and rivers and trails, each with their own unique treasure. But what I find most valuable when I venture out into nature is what I discover about myself. I become aware of a newfound strength wtihin me, a confidence that helps me move forward in other areas of my life. It opens my heart. It gives me hope. It fills me with a glorious peace. Life is good. Thank you Sophia.-