May 3, 2016 – On Top of Old Smoky

IMG_0204Ger and his camera are outside in the dark. Nighttime mosquitoes freshly hatched feasting on his sunburnt arms and ankles as he shoots flashes into the dark. The moon his subject for the evening. He’s always working on something. It’s easy to love that about him.

I got sick on top of a mountain today. But not before we saw bear number two of the trip.

“A young male,” said the ranger, a wise 60 year old woman in taupe. “About 2 years old,” she thought, “freshly kicked out of the den by his mother.”

It was all up to him now to mark his territory, to find the best spot to call his own.

“That’s why he’s around here,” the ranger explained, “the older bears know not to come this close to the trail, to stick to the less traveled parts of the mountain.”

The bear’s bum was patchy, his small yet muscular arms digging, foraging for sweets in the dirt. He uprooted a log to find the good stuff underneath, taking a moment to scratch his ear, then he stuck his big nose into the fresh dirt full of what must have been what he was looking for because he parked there for some time, enough time for Ger and I to get our fill of the bear for the day, which was difficult to do, and move on down the path.

Like the older bears, Ger and I found a trail less traveled for the rest of the day. More vertical than the previous trails we’d been on. Straight up the mountain. As I walked the tickle in my throat turned to cough, which then turned to all out sweats, but we were already on our climb, so up we continued. My sweating amplified by the heat of the day rising, the sun mounting.

The oldest of the old trees all around, thick enough to hide the view of the mountains beside us. We knew we were going up, but could not tell how high or for how long. The climb steep enough to make it difficult to talk without panting. The silence welcome anyway now that we were out of the city. I reflected on my second semester as a college professor and realized this was the first moment I had truly come up for air. A good place to do it, I reasoned, on top of a mountain beside my favourite person in the world, even if my temperature was hitting fever pitch.

Eventually we came to plateau, and a clearing. Not sure if we would find another clear view of our surroundings for some time, we found a seat for the view. Layers of growth all around us. Green on shades of green on shades of green. The view of the layered mountains enough to make you cry – and I did.

I’m not sure if it was the view or my fever or the fact that this was the first moment this year I felt awake to the world around me, but I sobbed for a while looking at the mountains. I think Ger must have realized at that point how sick I had truly gotten because there was concern plastered all over his face. Tears and sweat were all over mine. We laughed a little at the moment and returned to the mountain view.

The descent was much the same as the climb, yet my body had forgot to pretend it was ok as it heaved and pushed its way down the mountain.

A flash outside from Ger’s camera. A new way of exposing the dark outside to light. The bed calling me and my drowsy self into the next room.




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