When I was about fourteen we took a family vacation through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. When you drive through the Smokies there are winding roads all through the mountains. It is, in places, beautiful beyond description. I mean to return someday and share the beauty with my family.
Along the way there are places to pull off to enjoy the view. The pull-outs are lined with low walls constructed from native stone. I think many of them were the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They are a quiet and valuable attraction, beautiful and understated. There is no admission charge to enjoy them. They would be easy to miss.
You could go whizzing past to get to the nearest trinket shop filled with things made many oceans and continents distant but that would be a mistake. The kinds of things they sell at those shops are made cheap and quick somewhere else and stamped with the name of the nearest attraction. They are not mountain crafts created by local artists, who have the hills in their own hearts. They are just cheap trinkets. They won’t last and they won’t satisfy.
The mountains, the valleys, the wild birds, the wildlife, the wildflowers, the native timber, they are real. The beauty of the mountains is there for the taking, free-of-charge the bounty of rich and poor, wise and simple. Just to stand there and take in the autumn color is the kind of thing that will still hang in your memory many decades from now like the mist over the mountains in the early morning. The beauty and order of creation will never be out-of-style.
In this journey we call living there are beautiful things to see and there are places along the way to pull quietly over. I don’t want to be the kind of person who is obsessed with gathering things that I cannot keep, when there are beauties and wonders all around me. When I am long gone and my children and grandchildren think of me I want them to remember me as the kind of guy that pulled over and took in the scenery whenever possible. I want them to know that I saw beauty in each of them. I want them to learn from watching me how to see the hand of God in all the world around them.
Along the path of living maybe they will say, “Dad would have pulled off to take in the scenery here.” “Do you remember how Grandpa’s eyes would cloud with tears at a sight like this?”
April 3, 2005