“Morning is when I am awake, and there is a dawn in me.”
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Sunsets can really slow us down in the Hickory Nut Gorge. They can also sometimes take your breath away, or better yet, help us become aware of our breath! Awaken all the senses!
Many is the evening now, I catch myself listening more intently during this time at the close of Summer and the cusp of Autumn. Here in September as the tree frogs sing and quiet begins, there is a magic like no other. The breeze is softer, the shift of light, subtle but sure. Even though summer is barely ended, you can smell the Fall in the air, the leaves beginning to make their way down onto the ground. The crickets sing a different song. Depending on where you are here–what side of the mountain or lake–you may be lucky enough to see the sun rise. Where we live at Bat Cave, the sun rises back of us and in the early morning I can watch the light reflecting over on Little Pisgah as it slowly moves to reveal the new day.
What surprises are you noticing? Perhaps you find yourself in just a reflective mood now, feeling the shifts of the season. The days are shortening, the evenings lengthening, and I begin to light candles and slow down my pace. I find myself pulling old books off the shelves and enjoying them as old friends.
There is something about this time of year that excites the senses, that can awaken perhaps a greater sense of being alive, and also heighten an awareness of the fleetingness of time, even, the preciousness of our lives. It makes me recall Walden, and Thoreau’s words, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” This kind of “deliberateness” seems to sharpen my focus now, with a renewed wish to live “wide awake” and not miss a single sunset or sunrise—to take time to notice the Joe Pye Weed and Brown-eyed Susans everywhere now!
Lately I have been reading John Muir’s Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf. During the summer I was invited to guide a Nature and Forest Therapy walk, sometimes known as “Forest Bathing” at Grandfather Mountain. John Caveny, Director of Conservation and Education at the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, introduced the trail to me and said “you know, John Muir walked here.” I was incredulous. I’d always thought of Muir in California, starting the Sierra Club. Little did I know, he walked from Louisville, Kentucky down into North Carolina, and Georgia making his way eventually to the Gulf in 1867, the year after the Civil war ended. Then in his sixties, he returned and went to the top of Grandfather Mountain. “I don’t want to die without once more saluting the grand, godly, round-headed trees of the east side of America that I first learned to love.” (“He Sung the Glory of Nature” by Randy Johnson, August 4, 2016.) https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2016-4-july-august/green-life/he-sung-glory-nature
Oh, may we all be “awake” to the beauty and changes all around us this Autumn season in this most spectacular place where we live.