Wilderness

 

The path gave way underneath my feet. The ground was soft…thawing from winter and IMG_9372still wet from the recent rain and snow. I glanced back behind me to see the imprints of my boots on the trail. My father’s words hung in my mind….

“Why are you looking behind you, you’re not going that way”

A smile spread across my face. I looked to see the impressions I’d made…to know where I’d been…the trail was clear, I certainly knew where I was going. I’d walked this same path IMG_9390thousands of time.

Time for me. Space for me.

Church in this place.

Antonio Gaudi, the great Spanish Architect who designed the Basilica in Barcelona believed that his church should mimic the forest and nature because that is where you are closest to God. I’ve never been to the Cathedral in Barcelona, but I’ve spent countless hours in this wilderness, which for me is God’s masterpiece. It’s here I feel at home, rooted and what likely drew me to Snowbird all of those years ago…

I Googled the term “Wilderness”:

 Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not
been significantly modified by 
civilized human activity. It may also be defined as: “The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure.”

How would I define “it”. How do I feel when I am here? IMG_9392Surrounded. In the wilderness I am alive, bound, warm, vulnerable and in awe of the world. I feel in ways that I can’t express in any other places or ways. While I marvel at cities and all that we create, they are no match for the creation here. Order and chaos together and yet perfect and “right” The world we create around us is all about “order” with little room for the chaos of nature. No give and take, no Yin, much less Yang. Cities are great for the culture, sophistication and convenience they offer, but I live here in this relaxed rural natural environment at the end of the power lines and it is here that I find peace and comfort in the woods, nature, lakes and outdoors. I like it here. This isn’t a race, you see this is life – and my devotion is deeply personal.

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The trail moved up and to the left, surrounding the big trees. I gazed down at the spider web of roots of the ancient poplar tree. Deep these giants tap deep into the earth, their feet running away from the base like spider legs all crisscrossed with an intricate weave of smaller veins feeding the enormity of the behemoth that stands before me. The top of the tree, towering 150 feet above had long since snapped away. The enormous girth of the tree takes the majority of nutrients from the soil and there isn’t enough to reach the vast heights of the tree, so eventually the tops die out….I wonder how long they will last?

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I watched as a brook bubbled…seemingly straight from the Earth. Looking closely I see the indentions where the water flows underground from a source high above the trail. The sound of the water flowing over the rocks and rushing down a small series of cascades sooths my soul much like music from a choir. I sit for a time on an old log and listen IMG_9362to the sounds. Several couples out on the same walk stroll by. Instead of taking in all of the beauty that surrounded them they are talking about what awful shape the trail is in, how much downfall there is, how muddy their feet are getting – they want the “Disney” experience and that’s not this place. This is one of God’s sanctuaries. A refuge from all that is out “there”. Fairly untouched by the hands of man. Where fallen trees are sawed by hand not chain saws. Where trunks are removed or cut with human effort, only to clear the path. Where bridges over creeks are built to meld with the woods around them. Where water flows where it wants…even if it’s down the trail.

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This is perhaps as close to true wilderness as we can get here in this country anymore…..oh, you can move further into the backcounty and get farther away and it’ll get rougher and more remote, but here….here in this cathedral you get just a taste…enough to make you hunger and thirst for more…trees….water….plants….animals of the world as intended….chaos….and order…..straight…and curved….twisted…and…..young….and old….I take off my boots and sink my feet into the muddy ground feeling connected to this earth, in this place, at this time. Ahhhhhhhh…IMG_9421

I’ve learned so much about myself here. About life, people, places, things and just “stuff”. I need this place…and places like it. I find solace here and with the negative feelings flowing in this country I need this walk in the woods. To be surrounded by God and his creative masterpiece is a blessing indeed. I am grateful. Sometimes you have to enjoy the quiet moments to be able to see the larger picture.

“no winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn”                                                                                                            – Naturalist Hal Borland

Spring is coming. The days are getting longer. The air warmer. Change is everywhere. Welcome. Ready. Here, in this place, like the walks I take beside the creeks or lakes I find the great metaphors for life. Endings, beginnings, seasons change, water flows. The wind blows. All constant. Always changing. Just as God intended. The Wilderness makes you better. Indeed it does.

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To be continued………

Robert Rankin                                                                              Innkeeper, Explorer & Adventurer

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Oh yes….I want…..

I want to be surrounded by your old walls, the dim light settling on my shoulders. The creak of the cold wood floors on icy nights under warm wool socks that cover my feet. I want to be taught to value life through each meal at the table, nicked by hands that built it. To teach my children the value of a life that’s more than material desire.

I want my pen on pages that may someday be read under your roof. Our coffee brewed over open fire. Make me a rugged lover with grace and passion.  Let’s spend afternoons stacking wood to warm our passions bringing heat to our lives, sweat trickling down the curves of our backs and the creases of chests. I want my chores and worries accomplished with hard work, my life cradled in this wondrous natural world. Let me build a life with you, if only for a while.

Give me candlelit dinners, with wax that drips silently onto the table…..then floor. I want to sleep, cradled in so many blankets that I am lost in them and rise with the sun’s first light. To dance in the kitchen, whisky bottle in my hand, swaying to the rhythm of life with you. I’ll find my god in the wild woods around you.

Open your door to the creases of mountains grand enough to make weather all their own. Watching the clouds and mists, hung so low that they look like a sea beneath your mountain caps. Sip the cold fresh water, the smells of the kitchen filling us completely. I will bathe on hot days outside your walls in the creek that swiftly runs by. To have the sea at my weathered fingertips.  

“As you walk upon the Sacred Earth, treat each step as a prayer”                                                                                                            -Black Elk

To huddle at your ashen hearth as snow silently settles like a coat, to feel the pure bliss of new life when the ground is covered by wildflowers. Let me stare out the window in silence with my hands in warm soapy dishwater. I want to hear my kettle each dawn and dusk. To hear the rustle of my laundry drying in the wind. And pop and crackle of fresh split wood in the fire. I want to let crisp air fill you in spring, to heat it for clear-minded sleep at night.

Give me one simple life. Each modern luxury is an understood gift. Each trip to town to remind me why I love living here…at the end of the lines. My fear to come only from nature’s constant balancing act. I want to die with a soul cleansed by life with you. I want you to be my greatest footprint remaining when my days are numbered.

Oh yes….I want this…..

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Still Waters…..

Run deep……don’t they?

                         “Not till we are lost….do we begin to find ourselves” – Thoreau

I took Sophie down to Rattler ford on Santeetlah Creek yesterday for some exploration and alone time. The dogs played hard while I just found a rock and spent time with the water…….

I found my thoughts wandering to the metaphor that water is to my life. In particular the creek and the way it flows. Rapids, eddys, pools, depths, shallows and even light and darkness parallels my life in most remarkable ways.

Like the way the stream flows I find myself moving through life and just when I seem to be comfortable in the way it’s flowing…WHAM…an unexpected twist or turn grabs at my attention. I wonder if its that way for you too? Or..is this a “just me” phenomenon? My life is filled with motion these days and my thoughts drift from deep to extremely shallow. I do so enjoy the deep pools……or the rapids…..even the darkness…….I guess I love it all.

I often seem to feel like Steve McQueen, who said…

“I scrounged around for the next couple of years, trying to get the scam on the human race and just where the hell I fitted in — I discovered there were no openings”

I’ve been labeled as so many things in life, from father to son, husband to lover,  friend to enemy. All of those are just labels – all parts of a whole…and I am whole. This mountain has given me much in my life. This place is a part of my soul. I feel connected here. At ease. At peace. One. The challenges still exist but being alone isn’t the same as being lonely.

I offer peace, love and light to all From the INNside looking out and as always –

Celebrate the Great Adventure Ahead!

Robert Rankin

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A time…

It all started with the gift of a book…a book created by my friend Neil Spencer and his incredible wife Sam.  It was a collection of my writings and photos taken over the years off of Facebook. Views from the INNside looking out. Living where I do, at the literal ends of the power lines in rural, remote western North Carolina certainly has its advantages, but the are disadvantages too. Creating a social and magical place where others can relax, reconnect, refresh and just “be” has become one of Snowbird Mountain Lodge’s hallmarks. Creating that space has been a lifelong quest for me and the team that surrounds me. Have we succeeded? Some days yes…others no, but we keep at it because we believe that in this connected world nothing is more important!

This blog is a space where I can reflect, pause and express ALL of my feelings…without fear…and can always tell the truth beyond what is expected and expected. I have chosen to live my own life here – one that isn’t always “constrained” by the feelings or thoughts of the general society. Where I can be exactly who I am. I invite YOU to share the experience with me, make comments, enjoy the ride (or not). You should know that I make TONS of mistakes..spelling, grammer, living and otherwise. I’ve loved, been loved, hurt and been hurt. Yet here we are – survivors all. I enjoy being alone and recharging my batteries, but like you, I don’t like being lonely….and yes, I get that way too…..

Living at the end of the power lines has rewards that go far beyond the small community of Robbinsville North Carolina and it’s here that I get to call home. A magical, wonderful, strange place in the southern Appalachians.  It’s here where these pages will be written, often sitting at my desk reflecting on the day, week or months that pass. Join me and let’s…

Celebrate the Great Adventure Ahead!

Robert Rankin

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