I felt as if the outside world was bulging into my mountain cove here in the holler, or cove, at Walter Bald and Killian Knob. In the dark of night, while standing on my porch, I first heard the owl who’s made her home close by, heard the "HOO hoo hoo HOO hoo hoo!" But then, to the right, where the valley lies below, and the lights of the little town are beginning to show dotting here, there, here (the lights that are hidden in spring and summer’s full lush), I heard the sounds of traffic – a car here, a truck there. I stood in the cool night air in disbelief. Traffic noise?
North Carolina is in D3, Extreme Drought Conditions – the codes go from D0 to D4 – we’re near the D4, worst drought of all. And because Western North Carolina is in such a drought, my little creek in front of my house, the one that usually sings loud and beautiful songs to me all day all night all the time, the songs that drown out noise from tourists come streaming into our mountains, the sound that calms me to sleep–even with our windows and doors closed the creek sounds slip in —much of that music has been muffled by the lack of rain in our area. My creek is thirsty and ill. Sluggish. And I know that the bold creek below that is filled by my creek’s offerings will be sick, too, and the creek that my creek below flows into will be sick, and then on it goes, each waiting for the sustenance it needs from the sky.
I stood in the dark and my chest tightened, and my eyes burned. I know the little town is below me, I know this is peak tourist season (and along with that, the gas prices have lowered, so we’re seeing record numbers of Leaf Lookers to our little town), I know there are people out and about. I know this is good for our town Our little town has about 900 people who are year-round residents – this swells quite significantly during peak tourists times–this I know. But standing in the dark, with my creek so sick right now, and hearing the World PUSH out to me in my space, my quiet serene space – I could only shake my head, turn around, and go back inside to the silence in my log house. I said, "Please let it rain…"
Yesterday began the rain, but it was a soft rain; not enough. My good friend Angie Ledbetter and I sat on the porch. I said, "Those traffic noises. What is going on? I have never heard this before!" We drove down the mountain when there was a lull in the rain, and looked for the traffic. And there on highway 19/23, which is the main road in our little valley town, I stopped the car to the side of the road, my mouth gaping in wonder — the People in Vehicles! So many cars and trucks and recreational vehicles and buses! My eyes bulged at all the tourists come to our little town! I turned to my friend and she turned to me and we said together, "Wow…so that’s what we’re hearing…" I drove down Soco Road, my mouth still agape, my eyes still bulging and said, "Well, I should be happy for our little town. We need the tourist dollars." And it is true. We’ve not had good tourist traffic in the last year or so, and gas prices made things so much worse. I hate to see the small Mom and Pop businesses; the local businesses who depend on tourist dollars, to close their doors. I decided to be happy for my little town, even if with my sick creeks (and the bold creek below in the valley is so very low) and even if it meant the tourists sounds reached my hidden place in the cove between Killians Knob and Walter Bald, up at 3,400 feet.
We came back to my little log house, the rain pittering. When Angie decided to nap in the quiet of the log house, I lay upon the couch and said, "Please, Father Sky, please more rain. Please a soaking rain. Though I’m glad our street is swollen with traffic. Though I’m glad our little town is receiving the gift of tourist dollars – I want my creek to sing loud and strong again. Please." I drifted off to the soft pitter of rain.
Later that evening as we sat before a fire, I heard a roar. I turned to look outside – Rain. Fast roaring rain! It poured out of the sky with forty-thousand happy sighs. Rain rain rain, down the rain came. We went to bed that night with rain. I slept, dreaming of spirits of old mountain men and old mountain women, of the Cherokee hiding here in the cove, of the days before and before and before.
And this morning, I awoke. The cove was covered in a thick mist. The rain had stopped. The world I stepped out into onto my porch with my friend was white. We sat with our coffee and rocked. I cocked my head and smiled. Though we are still at a D3 drought, the rain yesterday filled the creek just enough that it sang a little louder, and the sounds of tourists driving along our roads in the valley below, on the roads at the bottom of our mountain, along the roads on Killian’s Knob and Walter Bald and the hollers and valley and all about my cove were muffled away by my singing creek – it’s voice risen in happiness at the rain. I sipped Deep Creek Blend coffee and smiled and said, "Thank you Thank you Thank you Mother Earth, Father Sky.” We rocked. We listened to the birds, to the little red squirrels; to the silenced tourists we need so badly, and mostly, we listened to my creek singing mountain songs of joy and hope for more rain.
Tonight when I step out into the dark, I will smile. I will still see the lights from the valley, the lights of houses dotting here and there on the mountains of our valley town— but my creek will muffle all the activity of those who long to have what I have – to see what I see – to feel what I feel – to visit where I live among these beautiful ancient mountains with its mystery and beauty. I know they are there; but I am hidden away from them, and they are hidden away from me.