The Rambling Continues
There are times when we know we are alive, and times when we merely think we are living. Certainly if one draws breath, moves about, and spouts off a phrase or two, they can at least in some small measure be considered alive. At least that is what passes for living these days. The other day, I went up to Huckleberry Knob with Dad. It’s spitting distance from the Cherohala Skyway that crosses the Tennessee-North Carolina boarder. (About 2 hours from Oak Ridge.)
The Huckleberry trail is a short one; about two or three miles round trip. Fall is my favorite season, and being on top of that mountain and seeing all the (sadly muted) colors on the trees on the surrounding mountains was breathtaking. If only it had rained more this year the colors would have been spectacular. For two hours I stood in the same spot and turned circles. I heard the wind blowing over the grass, making the sound of the surf lazily rolling to the spongy beach sand for prolonged moments – continuous, uplifting, healing.
I experienced then something familiar and comforting. I could feel my feet take root in the ground. I could feel the cold air enter my body and come out again warm. Gravity then reversed and I could feel the weight of the mountain working its way into my shoulders. I began to wonder what would happen if I could stand there forever. What parts of me would be worn off first and carried away on the wind? Do mountains feel cold or wet or lonely? In that question nothing else matters. Everything doesn't seem so bad any more. I belong here, in the South. In the mountains. This is my place. Not Chicago, Seattle, or New York. Tennessee is my home, it's in my blood. Though I may leave it for a short while, I will always come back to it.
Far too often, I find myself wondering what’s next. I mean next on that unwritten list of expectations that we all have. Where is all of this leading me? Honestly, I never planned on getting this far in school. I had it all planned out when I was 10 years old. I was going to finish high school, join the army or air force, go career, fly the A-10 Warthog or wield an M-16 in combat, blow some shit up, get married, buy a dog, have some kids, retire, and do something else. You know what I’m talking about; follow in Daddy’s footsteps, but in my own way; on my own terms. After all, he went to college and finished. I always sucked at school and I didn’t care back then.
I never really wanted to go to college, anyway. I hated reading until I was 15 (ain't dyslexia grand?), at which point most people have decided to attend college. The more foresighted among us had already taken the SAT or ACT a few times by that point. Me? Nuh-uh. I didn’t want any of that jive. Fuck that. I had better things to do on Saturday than fill in bubbles answer irrelevant questions. Like what, you say? I don't know any better now than I did then. Fuck it…a growing teen needs his goddamn sleep!
Don't look so shocked. Yeah, this isn’t the stuff I talk about normally, but sometimes the fingers start to wiggle, the eye twitches, and you realize there isn’t a good reason not to talk about it. So why the hell not, eh? I guess next time I’ll say something about why I’m at UTC and not in Iraq or Afghanistan right now. Don’t get me wrong, I like it here doing the whole intellectual thing, but I just don't feel like I belong. I didn't want this life, and now that I have it, I'm looking for a way to use it. Teaching will be great, but I'm not ready for it. Not yet. There is something else out there for me, and I need to find it before it fades away.
Please don’t take any of this to be a doom and gloom type post, because it isn’t. From time to time you have to take that hard look in the mirror and say, “No bullshitting, man. What’s the deal?” I’ve been doing it for about 3 years now, but I think I’ve just now found the courage to open my eyes and face it. And of course, I’m confronted with the question of whether or not what I am seeing is reality or merely a reflection, warped by imperfections in the glass.