Place Where You Live:

Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina

Dad clenches his teeth, bucking ruts and jerking the wheel at the last moment, right then left. He tries to hang on to the high areas of the road, though the wheeled ruts seem bigger than normal. I remember the days when Dad taught me how to drive a stick on backcountry roads, the way he always shows me how to rev through the mud: put it in low gear and don’t slam on the gas pedal or else you’ll get stuck. Although, early spring and the outdoors go hand in hand: young outdoorsmen and old hippies, young hippies and old time mountaineers. They come together for the warm days and cold nights, just right for being in the woods.
March rain gives the old trees, new life: a chartreuse green color, like the satisfied feeling after a good meal. I roll down the window, drawing a breath of fresh air since Dad always breaks wind in the car. He laughs and make jokes; He tells stories about his rendezvous with bears and bobcats while doing his business off the trail. But, when I stick my head out the window, I realize how much I’ve missed the smell of damp tree trunks, dying hemlocks, and mutant ferns of the Smokys. It reminds me of summers as a child: my prepubescent body skinny dipping in mountain brooks, and my hands on wet rocks catching salamanders underneath.
I squat down to take a leak by the trailhead, pants at my feet and half-naked, hoping no one can see me from the cars. I ask myself why we do the things we do here. I think about the connection between what the woods do and what the people there do. It’s like the mountains are calling, and I must go, because something about the backpacks and good old-fashioned raisins and peanuts brings me there. There are only some people who find solace under widow makers and sleeping on rocks. But, there’s no place I’d rather be right here where my feet are planted.