Took a drive then a walk then a climb then more walking. The walk became a discussion with a park ranger about an accident and a bike. She blocked all cars. No one could pass except the ambulance. Bike hits car or car hits bike. Too fast. All too fast. The Blue Ridge Parkway should be to dwell, not die. To dwell inside the blue, to derive the flesh of the blue air from the sky as it is, as it was hundreds of thousands of years ago. This ridge is that old. This sky is older.
Who saw this sky a thousand years before me? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand? There is no such thing as Young Earth, but there were places on Her, on Her soft green body that lacked the human touch. Our hemisphere is young in that way. Across the Bering Straits they marched. Some say only a hand-full of humans on their way to . . . . on their way to Wounded Knee?
And there was music today. Fittingly, Blue Grass. Sometimes called Roots. Raucous. Jubilant. Dozens of people gathered round the band in an unnatural semi-circle. The trees looked down appalled. One fan danced as if he had just uncorked a jug and was remembering the gal he left behind. But it looked like it should, like it was the case. The case one hundred and some odd years ago, when people lived up here, before it was parkland, before it was a humble reproduction of bygone bygones.
Further down the road was a different world. A family from Brazil peered across the valley. One son asked an American where to go for serious rock climbing, who to join for repelling the sides of magic mountains so far from his home.
Years ago, I could have told him. I could have helped. Instead, I took pictures, looked out at the mountains, the valley, thinking, I’ve seen this before. I’ve witnessed new generations coming up here, passing me by. Once, other generations watched me pass them by. And so it goes.
There is no Young Earth, just young people, new grass, new saplings, babes in the woods, deer so close to their mums, rabbits just out of the pouch, birds shaking off their first fall, their first partial flight. And recapturing that in Nature, in a singular composition of cloud and sun, in the sense that we think of renewal, in the sense that we embrace that, means that we live with the young and keep them with us, keep up with them, run side by side. Run with them.
It’s not that we need a season for everything. It’s that we need to feel each year as if it is horizontal, a landscape, a vision. Put one next to the other, and then another, from left to right. Extend the horizon to an impossible degree. From the shore, the strand, right there, up close, now, today, looking at that extension, while at the same time being thousands of miles away, far enough to see further, wider, everything.
So close that we can feel the way the mountains touch the sky. So close that we can feel the way the ocean touches the black night. But further away than the longest voyage so we can reach out to it, acknowledge it, clap for it, stand up and shout for it like ten thousand yawping Whitmans. Letting it master the fear in us as we master that fear and laugh.
In this part of the Blue Ridge, you don’t really “come down off the mountain” like you do in Boone. But it is a changeling moment. It is a transaction with Her.
*All photos by Douglas Pinson