Monday, August 9, 2010

Nature Walk

I think one of the highlights of the vacation turned out to be when we visited Cades Cove. Cades Cove is this little nature preserve area that you can drive through to see various nature scenery. There are several stopping points where you can pull over to take pictures, etc. There are also hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. There is also a visitor's center/gift shop, where I bought a poster of a waterfall and a book on Cherokee mythology and history. As I learned this year, there are also several historic buildings near the far end of the property - an empty house; a mill(waterwheel shown left) where a man demonstrated old ways of making corn meal; a little river; a barn. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to embrace my inner photographer and take pictures with my digital camera, some of which are showcased throughout this entry. Consequently, there is not as much spiritual "talk" in this entry, but the scenes I photographed definitely bring spiritual matters to my mind.

It started out as a very cool, foggy morning. The fog in these mountains are beautiful - and the reason that they are called the "Smoky Mountains". Although where we went in Tennessee was about four hours away from my parents' house, I grew up just a couple of hours away from a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember many times as a kid, our family getting KFC after church and driving up the parkway for a picnic. Some of my favorite childhood memories took place in Blowing Rock, NC, Grandfather Mountain, and Linville Caverns. I don't think I really, truly appreciated their beauty, power, and inspiration until I moved away. Such is life.

 Throughout our trip to Cades Cove, we saw a total of four wild turkeys, thirty-four deer, and two bears. I personally only saw one bear, but my grandma did see the other one. We've seen quite a few deer before on other trips, but this was certainly the most I had seen in one trip.

 The river running through the cove was quiet, secluded, and peaceful. While my family went on ahead, I took the opportunity to stand by the river for a minute, thanking the water spirits for their inspiration, and just talking with Pleroma for a bit.

Near one of the houses that were open for touring, were some beautiful white flowers. I'm not exactly sure what kind they were. White flowers I find especially pretty. They seem to represent peace and purity to me. My favorites are the white roses. Of the flowers next to the house, I took two pictures - one is my default picture now, the other one is on the left.

This has turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the trip. This little butterfly happened to land, and I was fortunate enough to figure out the extreme close-up features on my digital camera before it flew away. If it had happened to land on a flower rather than an open window of one of the buildings open for touring, it would have been even more perfect.
 I also experimented with my camera's (no sound) video feature, and I will close the entry with that video, hopefully it will work.

Coming back to North Carolina today was difficult. Along the way we stopped by Cherokee, NC for a little bit. We went into a couple of shops, where I bought a small medicine bag, which will probably be more decoration until I decide if I feel drawn to it for any particular spiritual purpose. 

In a way, the visit to Cherokee also made me kind of sad. Native Americans are the most poverty-stricken ethnicity in the country, and have the highest mortality, alcoholism, etc. rates. As a white person, I don't have to show off aspects of my culture to make money - it's just kind of there, everybody knows about it. On the other hand, I am glad to see that people are working hard to maintain native cultures and pass it on to others, and educate people on how we're really not all that different from each other.

I am now back in North Carolina with the family until Thursday, at which point I will have to make the dreaded return to "the real world".  I hope that this vacation will come to mind when I need to re-center myself in the midst of the craziness of life.


JeniMac said...

Great pictures Chad! Back in church youth group years ago we attempted to bike the whole loop of Cades Cove. Luckily the church van made frequent rounds to pick up the slackers, which included me of course. I don't think I made it halfway. lol!

Have you ever considered making a move to Asheville? Right here in the Blue Ridge, progressive liberal community, very green, and there's a UU (not sure about a UCC, but there probably is). We drive up on the parkway to avoid traffic, not just for picnics. lol! You should think about it. :-P

Bridget's Fire said...

My own family is from the Grandfather Mtn/Roan Mtn. area of the Unakas. . . My kids love Grandfather Mtn.

Gorgeous and wonderful trip!

Bridget's Fire said...

Oh, and forgot, that flower is a Rose of Sharon, very easy to grow shrub, and not a "real" rose. Comes in many colours, too. . .

Chadly said...

Jen: Yeah, I've heard Asheville is very progressive for its location. I know I'm not moving anytime soon(would be too much of a hassle to transfer grad schools), but if I ever do move away from the beach, I think Asheville would be my next stop. I've come to the conclusion that I have to be within an hour of *something* nature-oriented, unless I'm in a big city(i.e. Chicago). Beach is my top, but mountains are a close second!

Bridget's Fire: Thanks for that info! I'd like a plant like that, but my green thumb isn't very green, I'm afraid. I even killed a cactus once! It's a wonder my bonsai is still alive(so far).