Mt. Pisgah is one of the highest peaks around Asheville. Yesterday, I spent the day wandering in that high country. The Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel were breaking out in splendid color. The Laurels have always been one of my favorites. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the simplistic beauty. Or perhaps it reminds me of numerous picnics in my youth when I would come upon thickets of Laurels. I remember one particular “secret” spot surrounded by them. The ground was covered by thick moss. I often lay on the moss and watched clouds drift by as I looked skyward through their branches. Although I didn’t find moss to lay upon yesterday, it was a glorious day nevertheless. The Rhododendrons and Laurels made for good hiking companions. My soul relaxed.
As the day drew to a close, I began to drive back toward Asheville. I felt gratitude for the day, but grief also began. The anxieties of life, returning to work the next day, to-do lists, all began to intrude into my thoughts and brought with them a certain sense of dread. “Nothing gold can stay.” Interestingly, I turned to a podcast for distraction. It was a piece by Krista Tippit on her show called “Speaking of Faith”. (If you’ve never explored that public radio offering, then I highly recommend it to you. Click on Speaking of Faith). She was interviewing a scholar who has studied the medical value of “mindfulness”, the act of being aware of self without allowing your mind to degrade the moment into just a lot of thoughts and anxieties. The idea is similar to the philosophies supporting mediation and yoga. He emphasized the healing power of just being aware of the exact moment that we are living – the senses, the feel, the breath, the emotions, all that makes up an individual moment. As I became mindful of my moment, I was still aware of the feeling of grief, but somehow it was no longer attached to the anxieties of the future. It was more present than that. It brought me back to feelings of gratitude for the day of rest and restoration. I found strange comfort in knowing that all days end and nothing stays the same. And as I again became aware of my surroundings, I passed a grove of Mountain Laurels as I left the mountains and headed for home.