Thursday, March 20, 2014

night on john's rock

when i started writing, i attempted to force meaning into my words; to fill my story with heavy statements, and try and give depth to what, in the end was simple. and perhaps that’s where i realized that a story didn’t need to be significant, to have significance, so long as it was told on that side of redemption that makes us all the more beautiful in the end, helps us to stand up taller, stronger, and better than we truly are - were folks to see beneath all the forgiveness we're wearing. and i couldn’t be more convinced, that the beauty in a story is not in how well it seems to unfold, but in how one chooses to see and tell it after all; and at the difficult end of most days, i must try to believe that my story can be better than my worst mistakes, can amount to more than my failures, and end with the sun rising. remembering this trip with my brother, helps me to believe that it really can be. 

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the best trip i have ever taken, was up to pisgah national forest with my brother alan. it was 2006, and the second semester of my freshman year of college. him being a senior, we had one year of overlap together at the same university. 

my oldest sister, janice, had given birth to our first nephew, Trey Alan the previous january, and our family had decided to spend the easter weekend up there in asheville where she and my brother in law were living. being stoked as ever to be back on the road, alan and i loaded backpacks into our mothers mini van, and took off that thursday morning, driving the 12 hours straight through until we hit asheville, where we met up with everyone else in our family, and hung out with our new nephew that night.

all of good friday was spent with family, taking turns getting spit up on, helping with projects around the house and competing in the ever present card and marble games my family is notorious for. but beneath it all, loomed something in my brothers eyes - something that longed for the outdoors, and as hard as it would be to set down our nephew and the card games, something in me knew he'd find it. 

the weekend Trey was born, alan and i had driven up for a week to see him; and despite having been the first week of february, and the middle of winter, we had spent two nights in the surrounding hills, in a national forest they called pisgah. and already by that second night of easter weekend, i knew alan was ready to get back into the mountains as soon as a break presented itself in the family plans; and so, while he paraded and mapped out our anticipation, i performed my younger brother responsibilities of delicately explaining to everyone in the family why we needed to go, and that we would indeed return.  

just one night we said, and we meant it, knowing that half of adventure is in the decision to set out; the other half in coming home. after all, we only wanted to remind ourselves of what those hills looked and felt like, and to be still for a moment. quantity of time has always been and always will be, an accessory. 

saturday afternoon, alan and i loaded up the car, and with a few instructions from a neighbor headed in the direction of pisgah national forest. i can’t remember if it was in our excitement then or when we left south florida, but somehow we managed to leave the tent behind; but besides a short and passionate session of alan’s expletives yelled into the steering wheel of my brother in law’s car, we were relatively unfazed; and made it to the park about an hour before sundown. 

our backpacks were light, holding only our sleeping bags, plus the food for dinner and breakfast the following morning. we told one another we’d hike long enough until we found a good spot, and call it a night. after a mile or two of walking, we came to john’s rock; a bare, rounded edged cliff that overlooked the valley. we dropped our packs. alan unloaded the camp stove and cooking supplies my family had gifted him the christmas prior, and starting warming a single can of soup we’d brought along for dinner. i withdrew a book and read a few pages by the fading sunlight, and built a fire. thirty minutes or so later, we sat by firelight and warmth, and spooned mouthfuls of sausage gumbo onto triscuit crackers, commenting that those crackers had been the purchase of the trip. never have a i eaten so little and never have i been so full. 

and so the evening passed, and i couldn’t even tell you what we talked about, how well we slept, or even how beautiful the sunrise was; and never have details mattered less to how happy we were on that rock face, by a fire, sleeping under stars, and waking up knowing the brother we loved most wasn’t too far away. few things went right that night. in fact, a great many of the important things went wrong, but we awoke to easter morning, and never has a day past since then that would make me tell that story any less than the greatest trip i have ever taken.

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