By Lorna Ye
It was a typical April morning. A beam of sunlight broke through last night’s rain clouds, casting a soft warm glow over my room. I was planning my blog posts as usual, the aroma of jasmine tea wafting from a cup next to my laptop. My fingers hovered over the keyboard, eager to type something, but my mind was as blank as the screen in front of me. Writer’s block was kicking in.
Feeling stuck and frustrated, I scanned aimlessly at my wall-mounted bookshelf. My eyes locked on Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. His words skipped out of the pages — “You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”
Mountain. Yes! Mountain. The thought sparked a sudden burst of excitement. I knew where my destination would be — Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia, a place I had been longing for.
Google maps showed it was only a three-hour drive, so I did not need to prepare much. I hopped in my black Mazda SUV, guiding it toward the mountain that was waiting for me.
As the busy bustling city was receding behind me, I allowed my mind to whimsically wander. What would the mountain tell me this time? I couldn’t guess.
Soon enough, I was at the foot of Natural Bridge State Park. It started with a well-paved trail winding and unfurling along thickets of shrubs and a pristine stream flowing over mossy rocks. The soothing sound of water echoed in the crisp mountain air.
The trail led me to a lofty rock wall with an arch-shaped opening, a towering limestone bridge connecting the steep vertical mountain sides. It was a massive opened gate looming in the horizon, enticing people to explore the world of wildness and to disentangle the mystery crafted by nature.
The rocks of the bridge were in random palette of charcoal gray and smoky blue, with scattered hues of white or brown. Years of weathering and erosion formed its magnificent shape. A few short trees twisted out of cliffs and clang to slabs and boulders, leaves tangled and stretched, adding eerie green tints against the solemn rocky background.
I walked toward the bridge and entered the shade of giant vault, as if I stepped in the heart of the mountain, embraced by the natural wonder. The lumpy and crumpled ceiling of rocks blocked the sky and muffled the noise from the outside world. As the darkness deepened, damp chill air stroked my face and my bare arms and a sudden jolt of coldness ran through my body. I closed my eyes for a moment and immersed myself in the enigmatic tranquility and sensations.
When I opened my eyes and stepped toward the exit of the archway, a concrete trail in the sunlight, dappled by branches and leaves of trees, revealed in front of me. The rustling of trees and gurgle of creeks resumed. Life was back to the format that I was more familiar with.
A short distance further along the trail, a small village bordered by loosely woven wattle fence nestled at the foot of the mountain range. It is a replica Monacan Indian Village, a tourist spot where visitors time-travel 300 years to experience life in a Monacan Indian settlement who used to live and thrive there.
In the yard, animal pelts were hanging on wooden racks, next to a dusty shabby workstation made of wood sticks for hide tanning, food preparation, tool making, and basket weaving. Some work was half-way done, giving me an illusion that the owners would be back soon.
A dome-shaped thatched wigwam, containing narrow wood beds and seating, served as a bedroom and probably also a living room. Soft flame flashed in the stone-surrounded fire pit in the center, sending out a light mist of smoke. A huge woven basket was hanging on the wall, clay and iron pots laying on the dirt ground. Everything seemed plain and well-used.
I pictured the world it had sheltered — the mom sewing clothes while the rest of the family gathering around the fire pit, their chattering and laughter drifting and fading in the distant years.
Standing on the relic of the Monacans, I gazed across the surrounding — the placid stream, the rolling mountain, and the land where the Monacans had used for survival, growth and inspiration, the land with their signatures and their folk tales.
The resident site was so peaceful and lifelike, but the owners of the place were no longer there. I could only imagine their fear, sorrow, and struggle when they had to leave their beloved land holding, when they glanced at the majestic natural bridge for the last time, wiping off tears and mustering courage for a journey of uncertainty.
The image of the mountain and the wigwam flashed intertwined in front of me, forming a contrast of eternity and evanescence, grandeur and austerity.
A mixed feeling of affection and bleakness crept into my heart. It was a feeling that one could not get by reading books, listening to lectures, or staring at the blank computer screen, but by actual contact with the mountain and the reminiscence embedded in it.
It was feeling from a story that only the mountain could tell.
The mountain calls and beckons us. Don’t reject it. It’s serene and profound, rich in color and memories. The best part — you never know beforehand what story will enlighten you.
© 2019, Lorna Ye. All Rights Reserved