An Appalachian Tale

Thoughts on a memorable drive drive through the mountains.

So I’m driving home yesterday from UVA with JP, after his First Year orientation. 7 hour road trip from Charlottesville, VA to Cincinnati, OH. 

Traveling west into West Virginia, we hit the Appalachians and then get hit back by a fierce rainstorm. Heavy clouds darken the 6pm sky. Soon relentless platoons of little water balloons pelt my defenseless windshield. I slow to around 45 just to be safe. Haven’t driven in a rain like that in as long as I can remember.

After about 45 minutes we reach the edge of the storm. The rains stop. By degrees, the sky lightens and the sun is seen again. The road bobs and ebbs between mountain ridges. Clouds shift from a thick, dark blanket to something more like ether falling from the sky. They hover now, as mist above the trees, like waterfalls of whiteness, trickling down from some unseen spring, made here and there translucent in the now golden sun. 

I have been to Italy before. I have seen what the Tuscan sun can do to a landscape after a fresh and heavy rainfall. It was like that. The sun soaked the now soft and chastened clouds. They fell and rested atop the trees: low, misted, concentrated condensation, here, there – in every direction the eye could see – in a kind of pillowy kiss between heaven and earth.

Everywhere, to the east and the west, down into the valleys, softness had fallen from the heavens and now rested there, like a waterfall, noiselessly and weightlessly cascading, yet somehow still. Every turn presented a new tableau, a new vista, a new wonder to behold. I kept looking for a scenic overlook so I could stop the bloody car and get out and just behold. Just to stand before the loveliness of it all. 

There was none. So I asked JP to snap a few photos as we sped along. They don’t do the scene justice but they give you an idea.

Soon the sun dipped below the horizon. The sky, now freshly washed, turned something deep orange, then pink, then purple, as blue above turned to black and met, closer to the horizon, with the hues of the setting sun. 

It was like being in one of those interactive Van Gogh exhibits. Color stirring all around you, enveloping you in beauty. Painting you with the impressions of love and symphony. 

Purple gradually gave way to black overhead and all around. I kept driving. 

A full moon rose in the southern sky, as though to say, I’m not finished yet. We headed our westerly way into Ohio. The moon followed us home, above my left shoulder. 

Safe at home 90 minutes later, I went outside and sat in the back yard, pondering what I had seen. The moon was higher now. Pale. Majestic. Alone. Calmly radiant. 

The crickets were awake, and sent out their waves upon the shores of sound. The stars were out, sentinels quietly marking their spots. 

I felt like singing to the beauty and the blessing and the wonder of it all. I choose to think of this day as Love showing her daily face, maybe a bit more clearly than usual, or maybe just unveiling the beauty of the usual. It’s a welcome revelation as I prepare to release my oldest son into the great beyond. 

It’s as though I can I hear Love saying: Do not fear. I am there, in the great beyond. I am everywhere.

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