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Pilgrim on Nunn Mountain

In the clarity of hindsight, I perceive I didn't find Nunn Mountain as much as I succumbed to its charms:

Quiet, verdant whispers slip through, borne in the soft breezes of late summer,

Shadows are suspended from the bright needles of Loblolly Pines.

By dawn and by dusk, the deer amble along the forest edge, fuzzy ears alert, rotating towards sounds like a battery of radar dishes.

A red fox creeps among the rocks on silent paws, intent on a squirrel who darts up a Sweetgum, scolding.

A rabbit browses under my window, munching clover safe among a network of bushes, tunnels, warrens, and escape routes only she sees. Her bunny, at first no bigger than a single handful of fur, is grown by the time the first Sycamore leaves yellow and tumble earthward.

I'm fondest of morning light, sneaking among the treetops and reaching my newly-opened eyes – mornings are green at first, a thousand shades of the world's most complex color. Later in the year the greens wash out to yellow, then brown. Soon green will return. After so many ears in the deserts of our own making, it all seems like a gift I hadn't dared desire.

The walks across this sylvan landscape become my reward, breathing in pine and hemlock, maple and sweetgum. Around my legs it's a cacophony of yellows: Camphorweed, Beggarstick, Crownbeard, Goldenrod. I've barely begun learning their names. I arrived too late in the year for the Bull Thistle, but a new year is being raised: I just need to be patient.

That is the lesson, of course, if I'm capable of learning it: slow the breath, look up, watch the shadows drifting under my feet. It's evening now: the opposum emerges and the night air carries the exclamations of a Barred Owl. Time for this hurried soul to rest, this breath to steady, this pulse to slow. Tomorrow may yet come. Meanwhile, am I.

With the deepest of respect for Annie Dillard


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