Blue Ridge Memories

The thunder is rolling outside. That’s the kind of thing I really don’t mind as long as the weather is not severe. I kind of appreciate the reminder from nature of how powerful she can be.

I used to sit out on my Grandparents front porch in Blue Ridge in their old chain link swing hung from the rafters of the porch and listen to the thunder and feel the rain coming in over the railings. I’d get Grandma to let me have an old quilt, and I’d pull it up over my head and block out the rain, and just keep on swinging. It was comforting. Their entire place was comforting and soothing to me. I wandered hundreds of miles over the years up there, back through the woods behind their house, and up the trails of the mountain across the creek from their house. I’d stay gone for hours. Looking back now, I’m surprised they weren’t concerned. Back when I was young my grandmother could holler loud enough so that the sound would echo out and back, and round and round that little valley. I could hear her, and I’d “halooo “ back. They knew I wasn’t laying around dead somewhere thataway.

Winter was my favorite time to get out and stay gone and explore. The winter after we moved from Simmons street to Eighth Street I was twelve, and while we were making our annual visit to the old folks house, I decided to go to the top of “Johnny” mountain. I told my folks I’d be back, and I took off.

I crossed over the little log bridge, which spanned the fast running little creek that never ran out of water that led to my Grandpa’s Uncles land. There was a wide trail behind his house that led up the mountain. The first half hour was pretty easy going, and pretty clear. The men who lived around there had been deer hunting there for years. After that, the going was harder. It was much steeper, and very rocky. I came to one little clearing that looked out across the way towards my grandparents house, and I was surprised how far away it was. Seemed like one of those houses off in the distance in one of those Swiss landscape pictures. All of that, and as I looked up all I could see were steeper climbs with more and bigger rocks. I sat on a tree covered ledge, breathing hard and tried to decide what to do.

I started down the mountain, and by the time I popped out behind my great Uncle’s house, I was worn out, and was crying. I don’t really know why…or at least I didn’t then. Thinking back I believe it was a combination of things. Moving from a familiar neighborhood to a new home, turning twelve that October and feeling the first stirrings of no longer being a boy, feeling unsure of what lay ahead for me. Already trying to puzzle out my relationship to the world and the Universe around me.

I had a kind of “flashback” today as I went to pick my granddaughter up from school. A kind of feeling of nostalgia for not just the “old days” but for that one day in particular 57 years ago almost to the day. I wished I had gone on to the top of Johnny mountain. I wished I’d had the resolve and bravery to do it. Instead I took the safe route. I took the way back home. I’ve been pretty much doing it my entire life now.

I wonder what was on the other side? I wonder now what’s on the other side of the mountain I’ve been climbing ever since then?

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