Top of the World

I walked to the top of the world yesterday.

Jessica and I walking above the clouds
Jessica and me walking above the clouds

Well, as close as I can get, without leaving the state.

Did you know that the highest point east of the Mississippi is actually in North Carolina? Well, now you do. Mount Mitchell is 6684 feet tall. (Only 1070 ft taller than where I lived for a year in Kenya). But that still makes it the tallest mountain in the eastern US.

Why does this matter? Really. Why would you care… it’s a mountain. And mountains are beautiful, graceful, strong, imposing, and generally taller in other parts of the world. But North Carolina is proud of her ancient range of seismic dance.

And so, still you ask: why does this matter? I had a friend visiting from New England this week, and I took her to my Grandparents house. Since I wanted her to experience the best that North Carolina has to offer (because I want her to fall in love with this place just as much as I have) I took her to this majestic display of God’s great creation. (Even though she doesn’t quite believe in god).

When we drove up the day before, we could see the leaves on the trees turning as we climbed higher in the mountains, but we also could see less and less around us, because the fog kept growing thicker and denser. I was worried that we might get to the mountain and not see anything at all. As we drove out to the base of the mountain, then began to climb the ridge, the fog continued to remain just as dense.

I was concerned that we would have driven all this way just to be caught up in the center of a cloud.

But when we got to the top, we broke above the cloud cover. It was as if we were awash in a sea of clouds. (If you have ever flown in a plane, it was like that view that you get when you look out over the fluffy white comforter of frozen ice). The weather that was below us, the weather that we had left behind made our new land seem as though we were in a completely new world. It was as if the land had been inverted, because of instead of looking up at clouds in the distance, we were looking down at the clouds far below us.

While we were still in Durham, I showed my friend the Duke Chapel, her first question was: can we go to the top? I have never been to the top, though I know it is possible, and if I had planned ahead, and had more than just two days, I might have been able to do it. But not this time. But here we climbed even taller than she can go anywhere else in her place, and so she “settled” for this as a decent substitute. If she comes again, I will see what I can do about the tower, still, but I think I did fine for a display of the strengths of North Carolina.

As we explored the mountain and the trail along the top, we looked at what could have been Tennessee, and South Carolina, on a clear day, but this was beautiful in its own right. The wind was blowing chillily, and the sun was not quite peaking between an even higher layer of clouds. The flora of the mountain because of the elevation, has many things in common with Canada (thank you Dr. Hurd for teaching me that), and it really was a bit nippy on my chaco-clad feet. It was the first time since about march or early April that I needed an extra jacket.

I am so glad that Fall is on its way here, and that I got to have a taste of what is yet to come, and share it with friends and family.

Somehow, experiences shared with friends and family instantly are more fun. They become the things that we look back on with fondness. Memories made in unique places become memories that are cherished beyond the pieces of the actions taken in the place.

Travel is one of those elusive joys that takes all the pieces falling into place. It is almost a requirement that one cannot plan too tightly for the excursion, because part of the joy is seeing where the journey will lead you. Unfortunately, I really like to plan things, extensively. I am more comfortable with a plan. I like to look forward and anticipate things that will occur, and learn more about them. When I know I am going to travel to a new place, chances are I will research the land, culture, politics, and people far more than I should. I am learning to release some of that control. I am learning to flow and slide into occasions that allow me to release the control that my fiercely independent self would take and corrupt.

It is a slow process, but my friends help me by both allowing me to plan, and to relax into flexibility. I am blessed by such good friends.

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