(written in December 2016)
We are going to encounter highs and lows in life. There are going to be good times, there are going to be mediocre times, and there are going to be bad times. Gatlinburg , Tennessee is currently going through some bad times-a massive understatement, but the point has been made. The fires burning through this city are breaking my heart. Not just because the beautiful wildlife is being destroyed, but so many people have lost their entire lives-their homes and their businesses are just gone. Three people have reportedly died as of now (edit-14 people lost their lives), and I’m sure many animals in the wilderness have lost their habitats as well as their lives. It’s utter devastation, and my soul aches for those who were forced to leave their entire lives behind as they evacuated from the destructive inferno.
I wrote what I’m about to share about a year ago, and in light of what happened and is happening, I figured it was a good thing to post.
“I never really understood the phrase “The mountains are calling, and I must go”. Or, perhaps, I just never really thought much of it. It was a hipster saying I saw written on postcards in gift shops or on canvases on Pinterest. I thought it was poetic, sure, but did not really get it. Until I had the chance to actually visit the mountains.
I went with my family to the Smoky Mountains when I was 15 years old. the summer before my sophomore year of high school. As I sat in the car, I didn’t really expect much. I was excited, but I didn’t know what I was going to encounter. I wish I could go back to the moment I caught sight of the giants, because that’s when my life changed. I remember staring in awe with my jaw dropped to the floor as the mountains loomed in the distance. My face did that slow pan from bottom to top to gather in the towering beauties in all their glory.
We stayed for about a week, and I didn’t want to leave. Normally, when I go on vacation, I am ready to go by the end of the time we are there. I’m usually exhausted and am yearning to go home to my own bed. But not this time. I felt something deep within me that was tugging at me and rooting me to the spot. I felt at home there, and by the end of the week I was ready to pack up and move there. Too bad I was only 15 years old.
So with a heavy heart, we left the mountains behind, and when I got home I sat on my bed flipping through all the pictures I had taken and wondered when I could go back. I still felt that tugging sensation in my gut that told me I was wanted back there in those mountains. So two years went by, and in that time I was convinced I was moving there someday. In my spare time, I would look up colleges near there. I wanted to move to Tennessee so badly, but I knew it wasn’t something we could afford. So I sat down and told myself I would stay at home at a college in state, and when I graduated I would move to the mountains.
I graduated high school, and was lucky enough to be able to pick the vacation spot for out family. So, of course, we went back to the Smoky Mountains. This time, I knew what was coming. I sat on the edge of my seat as we grew closer and closer to the mountains, and each second we got closer, the more at peace I felt. The air and the aura of this town was one with myself. When I inhaled and exhaled, so did the mountains. The blue haze offered an eerie sense of peace and comfort. When I stared out over those mountain ridges, I wondered what secrets they held. What lived behind those trees, within that forest?
And with a heavy heart that trip ended too. I felt like I was leaving a peace of myself behind when we packed up our car and hit the road once more. I once again felt that tugging in my soul to go back and to stay. It was a pull so strong that I just knew I belonged there. I could travel and live wherever I wanted, but those mountains would always be home.
They say home is where your heart is-and that can be a place, a person, or maybe even both. And my heart lies with those mountains-with the mountains, with the nature, with the city, with the people, with the nature, and every little bit in between.
The mountains are calling, and I must go. And so I shall.”
Again, I wrote the quoted portion about a year ago, and the words still ring true today. I have wanted and still want to live and work in the Smoky Mountains.
So when I learned of these devastating fires destroying a place my very soul is connected to, it hurt. It hurt a lot. The people there are strong, and they will rebuild. Maybe I’ll be there to help them one day, and maybe my path will take me elsewhere. At this point in my life, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to move there with my career, but I will fight like crazy to get there eventually.
The mountains are crying tonight, but they will stand tall and strong, just like the people that call that place home. Gatlinburg is my home away from home, and while I do not physically live there yet, it still holds my heart. My prayers and good vibes are being sent to those who have lost so much. The heartbeat of the mountains continues to beat on, and the mountains will continue to call. Answer it as you wish.