By Andrea Jones Walker
Pensacola Branch, Florida
Something about a road trip frees the soul,
fills the senses like fresh air in the lungs.
The pavement to Atlanta is in my tires,
they’ve made this trip dozens maybe hundreds of times
yet I’m behind the wheel again
farther this time
to the hills of North Carolina,
Maggie Valley, Hornbuckle Mountain
up winding roads
past brilliant fall leaves of golden maple
red Burning Bush,
speeding along the curves, slowing down the hills
to the gravel roads of Plott Balsam,
Field Mouse Lane and
My friend greets me, hammer in hand,
from within the walls of the cabin
dusts herself off,
offers me tuna salad and coffee.
We take a break on the deck
and listen to the rushing stream below.
Two days and nights in the woods
on the mountainside pass quickly.
There is a silence before dawn
when the sky is slate gray
before the November sun sets the treetops on fire,
a silence born of solitude
palpable, wrapping itself around me,
the Unmistakable Presence.
When I leave, a grouse scurries
across the road in front of me
into the woods.
The silence and solitude follow me
in the hours driving home, still free,
the trees now greener
the air farther south balmier—