...and on the third day in the most beautiful place in the world

The mowing crew came to the cabin yesterday morning.  A friendly lot, with two older men and two young college interns in tow.  They took a few minutes to have a cup of proffered coffee and share in friendly conversation.  After visiting with them, they got to work and I left to pick up supplies.  Jim stayed behind to read his book and be available should the mowing crew need anything.  He even offered to wash up the breakfast dishes so I could get underway.  What a man!

Following the usual jounce down the mountain, I stopped to see if Doris might want to ride with me into town, but found she was not home.  So on my merry way I continued at a slow pace to enjoy the beauty of the countryside and the rolling fields of waving heather-colored grass, dotted with an array of brightly colored wild flowers.  

Some fields fenced in a sea of only grass, some sported cows of all varieties, some had horses and now and then a farmer perched at the wheel, sitting high in the cab of a bailer gathering up long rows of newly mown hay.  Houses were far and few between and most were original farm houses from early last century.  A sign of the changing economy and focus of a younger generation, the occasional mobile home dotted the landscape.  I drove on past the Jersey farm and stopped by the leasing office near the Appalachian Trail to report some maintenance issues at the cabin.

A hiker's convenience center sits just off the Appalachian Trail with a shelter, showers and shuttle service to and from the nearest town for those hardy folk braving the trail.

As is a common site around these parts, one such hiker: A young man, stands outside the station waiting for the shuttle, overloaded pack at his feet, a scruffy beard forming on his young face, talking on a cell phone.  I proceed into the leasing office to conduct my business, giving him a "how-do-you-do" nod as I walk past. 

As I'm leaving, I notice he is still there waiting, so I offer him a ride into Marion.  He eagerly accepts and joyfully throws his pack in the bed of the truck, all the while profusely apologizing for his smell and continues in his apology to tell me how long it's been since his last "real" shower.  He shares that he has hiked eleven miles already today and its barely 10:00 a.m.  

I chuckle and say "no worries" and then I listen with fascination to his hiking story all the way into town.  Just that morning, he saw a 400 pound Black Bear up a tree, less than one hundred yards away from where he stood.  He shares that he's thirty-four years old and grew up in Richmond, but has lived in Raleigh and New York City.  

I asked him the same question I ask all long-haul Appalachian Trail hikers "what made you want to hike the trail?" His gaze was far away as he shared his story.

He had come to a crossroad in his life and felt hiking the entire Appalachian Trail might help him figure it out.  "And has it?", I asked.  He replied, "I have found having the answer to that question is not what's important.  Knowing that I'll be alright, no matter what the answer, is what I've discovered about myself on this hike, but no sign posts have flashed before my eyes yet to tell me what I'm supposed to do with my life."

When I let him out at Walmart, he called me a "trail angel".  I shared that like any good angel, I would remember him in my prayers that somewhere on that trail, God would show him his purpose in life.  I hugged him despite his protests of his smell.  

So God, wherever Jeff is this morning, show him your mercy, guide him with your love, help Jeff, your servant, to find your purpose on that trail and grant him peace.

The rest of the day was taken up with shopping, driving back to the cabin to put groceries away and hurrying to begin my new painting.

This being the first painting I had done in two years, I was understandably nervous.  There is something fearful about looking from God's perfection to that empty white canvas.  It's a necessary moment for prayer.  I asked God to be my hands and anxiously applied the first brush strokes with a "well here goes" attitude.  I painted for an hour and then lost my nerve.

Jim and I took showers and boy, did that feel better as I was beginning to smell more like Jeff with each passing day.

As it turned out, I forgot milk and bread on my grocery list.  How does a person do that, when that's all that most people remember to get at the grocery store?  So Jim and I headed out to fetch it at a little hamlet a little closer to us than the larger town I visited in earlier in the day.  On the way, we stopped to visit Doris who showed us the house her neighbors are renovating. It's an old farm house and it's beautiful. Her neighbors are nearly finished with the inside and have furnished it with some beautiful antiques. They are considering renting it when the renovation is complete.

Coming "home" to the cabin, we grilled hamburger steaks and corn-on-the-cob.  I sauteed onions and green peppers to go on top of the steaks, cooked green beans and heated up biscuits left over from breakfast.  Neither of us had remembered lunch, so we were glad to sit down to such a fine feast.

The evening was spent on the porch watching fireflies, sipping wine and talking of our hopes and dreams, the days events and simply finding joy in each other's company.  What a day! Sigh!

That was Monday and today has dawned in front of me, while sitting on the porch sipping coffee and writing about yesterday.  The dog sits at my feet, while the buzz of bees, the songs of birds, the twitter of hummingbirds at the feeder and the gentle whisper of wind in the tree tops carries on in symphonic harmony all around me.  Sunrise was a pale pink bud, that blossomed into a ripe white sun over the mountains before me.  Jim is snoozing in, but I'm thinking of going in to wake him with a cup of coffee.  As I rise to carry this out, I think to myself, "What Lord did I do to deserve this wonderful gift of enjoyment of such an amazing place?"