BOWEN COLUMN: Some things never come down from the mountain

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Wears Valley, Tennessee – Visiting with you here in this space for our quarter of a century takes us all over the world, practically. At least, all over a good part of the South.

As I write today, I’m looking out over the Smoky Mountains from a cabin high up the mountain just outside Pigeon Forge. It’s funny, but you can almost see the whole world from this vantage point, sitting up there with my old buddy Coca-Cola Mike, who has taken his place here with us now for a good part of all of these years.

I’m looking back, too, to some thoughts we had sitting in a similar spot as this one, from back on the second day of April, two-thousand-eleven. We had gotten home from that trip and took some time to reflect, as we do. I never take a trip down to my Georgia-land – which always precedes the Tennessee excursion – then up to the Smokies without looking back with a wry smile and a grimace. Life, you know, calls you back home after a time.

But going home to the duties that await doesn’t mean the amazin’ blonde and I don’t bring back a little of the red clay and the mountains that we walked upon and the mountains before wrapping a piece of them up and putting them down in our hearts.

You understand.

Why, your ears even pop sometimes, even when you get back to level ground.

“I’ve lived half my life with my ears popping,” we wrote back in twenty-eleven. “You don’t absorb the mountain Tennessee air for the better part of a week then leave it locked in a suitcase when you get home.”

That introduction led us to these reflections, similar to what I feel even now:

“There are plenty of pieces of Tennessee and Georgia in our suitcase, and I think it’s appropriate that we pull a few of them out this Saturday morning. The mountains and the clay, you and I – we deserve that.

“Opening the suitcase, you can’t miss seeing a little piece of the Pigeon River flowing ever so smoothly — echoing as it goes, ignoring all of the distractions surrounding it, even though there weren’t many distractions seven floors up where we were. Every morning and every evening Coca-Cola Mike and I sat seven stories up and listened to it tell its riveting story down at our feet. It so inspired me that, at times, I’d break out in a bit of a song. At times, it would be Fats Domino, at others Jim Croce. And the river, showing itself to be every bit a Southern gentleman, would harmonize right along with me, not too proud at all to be the orchestra for the Georgia musician sitting in his grandstand seventy feet up. I must say that the two of us made some pretty sweet music together — the river and me, I mean — despite Coca-Cola’s protest from time to time, of ‘You do know people may be tryin’ to sleep up here.’

“But, naturally, I ignored all that. I figured if the river stopped orchestrating down below I’d stop, too. But the river kept right on stringing along … without interruption.

“And in perfect harmony.

“Of course, sitting in my mind’s suitcase, right beside the rolling river, is also a piece of the Smoky Mountain landscape. I loved the river, all right, but I still wanted to know what it was up to. So, one morning on our trip I had Coca-Cola Mike, Glory, and the amazin’ blonde drop me off in the foothills, so I could climb the hill and investigate. For two hours, I trekked my way beside the river and up the mountain until I was high above the town and the busy-ness and commotion.

“I hiked until it was only the river and mountain, me and my popping ears.

“I climbed as far as I could, but eventually obligations down in the foothills reminded me I’d better head back.

“But the river and mountain, the harmony and friendships — they sit somewhere a bit deeper.“Those things never come down from the mountain.”

Ah, yes, more than a decade after I penned those words, back when I was a bit younger than I am now, and, I still haven’t come down from the mountain.

I doubt I will.