Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Sing a song about the heartland..."

"...the only place I feel at home."

Sunset as seen from the peak of Mt. Leconte

As I am mentally preparing for my big trip to Italy at the end of this week, I have spent some time reflecting on other places I have traveled to throughout my life. England, New York, Jamaica, Colorado, and others immediately come to mind, but there is one place that stands out among the rest: the Great Smoky Mountains  National Park in Tennessee.

On the most recent trip that my family and I took, we began trying to count the number of times that I have been there. We figured it out to be around thirteen. Thirteen times visiting the same exact place. My parents' numbers are even higher!

I can almost say that I have, in a sense, grown up in the Smokies. Vacations there have become a tradition in my family. I can't say exactly what it is that keeps calling us back; maybe it's the scenery, the tranquility, the history, or the "getting back to nature" aspect. But then again, all of those things can certainly be experienced and felt somewhere other than the Smokies. So what else can it be...? I've come down to a conclusion.


There is something truly magical about this place. I can feel it in my bones, and I know my family can, too. 

There is also something truly magical about being so familiar. It's almost as if I know the mountains' secrets. Like I've lived a million lifetimes there, and there is nowhere else on earth where I could feel so completely fulfilled.

Even from a very young age, I can remember the feeling of finally being "home" hitting me the second we entered the park. It was a sensation that would slowly creep in starting at the Georgia state line, growing steadily stronger through North Carolina, and Tennessee, but never reaching it's height until we were surrounded by the mountains. Suddenly I would be wide awake and giddy with excitement. All the windows would go down, and my mom's old James Taylor cd would begin to play. 

There has never been a time where I was disheartened to hear that my parents had, again, decided on the Smokies as our summer vacation destination. On the contrary, I was often relieved to know that I would soon be returning. Too much time away and I began to long for something to breathe life into my soul; the kind of life that can only be found in the magic of the Smokies. I have a strong suspicion that my family felt the exact same way. 

It never takes too much to bring me back. A song, a scent, a wisp of a memory, an old picture, and suddenly I am missing it so badly it makes my heart ache.

Cades Cove, TN

Whenever I try to imagine my future home, I always think that I want to live somewhere like New York City. As much as I would love that, I think I could only do it for a few years at most. After that fantasy fades, the heartland slowly comes into focus; Tennessee, to be more specific. :) 

Old dirt roads, gently rolling mountains, fireflies, good country music, towering trees, and bubbling creeks are what truly hold my heart. I can't imagine not having this special, almost sacred, place as a part of my life when I am grown. It is such a big part of who I am, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to form such a connection with it, with my family by my side.


2011 (please excuse my boyish travel attire)