For as long as I can remember, the Blue Ridge Mountains have been a part of my story. In their northeast Georgia pocket is where my dad was raised and my grandparents took me in for a week each summer and most holidays. I remember getting car sick as a kid, winding through the mountain roads, feeling collapsable under miles of tall pines. But it was always worth it to get to the gravel driveway of Mamaw and Papaw’s house, to the red wicker rocking chairs out front, where you could sip a coke float and spot ridges of blue peaking out for miles. This was also where I wrote my first poem.
But most of the time I was running through their yard, chasing fireflies, up onto hay bails, to the tire swing and down the gravel path to my grandfather’s little grocery. I had no idea what those Ridges would come to mean to me.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school and I’d chosen to attend a college on the eastern tip of South Carolina. I honestly knew nothing about South Carolina, and geographically, I’d yet to notice its true significance. I knew I was only a couple hours from home. I visited, once. I noticed you could see the mountains, the campus was nicely landscaped and I’d heard a few rumors they had a lake somewhere. It seemed like a decent place to major in frolicking, so I went, not knowing a soul.
I soon realized I’d been planted right at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and before every college football game we’d sing an alma mater with the line “where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness,” adding to these mountains’ continual poetry and nostalgia in my life. I spent the next three years being stopped in my tracks, in the midst of midterm papers and juggling commitments, by the beauty of those distant ridges with their graceful steadiness in the sky. I spent weekends taking hikes into the Blue with friends, all the while being reminded of Mamaw’s fried okra, of Papaw’s warm kisses on the cheek, of long summer days and of coke floats.
I think I’ll always be drawn back. Those layered shades of blue awaken something only they know how to in my soul. They’ve imbedded a magnetic pull on my heart that relentlessly brings me back to them with each season change, to remind myself of where I’ve come from, who I am and who I’m becoming.
Today I’m feeling grateful for a weekend back that’ll leave me breathing in this life a little deeper for weeks to come. Ah, to behold the Blue.