In early December, rain finally fell upon our dried-up ground, bringing much-needed relief. I delighted in watching it as the ground soaked it in. It even felt good to walk in, despite my normal aversion to getting wet. Unfortunately, the rain came right as my mother was visiting. She took the opportunity to inform me that my methodology of keeping stacks-upon-stacks of books scattered around my office was not an appropriate form of organization. As the rain fell we set ourselves to shelving and organizing books to keep from going mad. Mercifully, on her last day, the rain finally broke.
I had hoped to bring her up the parkway to hike on a trail I was familiar with, but we had discovered earlier in the week that it was closed. After a desperate internet search, I found “Lover’s Leap” in Hot Springs. The hike starts on the Appalachian trail and runs along the French Broad river. As we walked this trail, my restless heart was stirred, reminding me of old desires to explore, wander, and adventure. Desires I have worked hard to control in order to be “responsible.” The river rolled along next to us as trains rumbled by on the other side.
Lover’s Leap is named for some lost local legend, undoubtedly about a poor love-struck soul. His heart must have ached too much for the loss of his lover. For him, the only reasonable thing seemed to be to dive into the ravine we were walking through. I never understood the sentiment that living without one’s lover was worse than death. I have always preferred Dante’s awe toward his sweet Beatrice over Romeo’s obsession with Juliette. Admittedly, I always thought both men’s obsessions were always a bit unreasonable.
I have known the pain of love lost; I have spent heartsick nights wondering where I went wrong. I am no stranger to this disappointment, or to quote Frost, “I have been one acquainted with the night.” At the end of the day I have preferred hope over despondency. Hope, first that she will come back, and if not at least that it will get better. It seemed to me that love should always inspire hope, that there is always a glimmer of light, even in the darkest of nights.
My mother and I wound our way up the now steep path and it became clear how treacherous it could be. Perhaps the lover didn’t leap but merely fell on a slippery morning as he was wandering, trying to console himself. The steep cliff edges took my breath away as I looked across the river, into the valley where Hot Springs sits. The sleepy little town now far below, sat in its sweetness, though hardened by the realities of a strenuous life blue collar life.
The beauty of the mountains and valleys of western North Carolina are constantly surprising me. As I have come to know this landscape I am continuously delighted by the grandeur of the area. Every now and again I pause and wonder how such beauty can exist, and why I get the privilege of enjoying it every day. Even on days I flirt with discouragement, I feel blessed beyond words.
As we finished our hike, we walked down the backside of Lover’s Leap Ridge, and entered a thick magnolia grove. “I’m sure this is beautiful in the spring,” my mom mused, I nodded. The poor lover who lost all hope was still on my mind.
Ian Emile Dunn is the assisting priest at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Weaverville. Despite his stubbornness, he is learning to delight in the good, true, and beautiful. Much like Dumbledore, he also loves socks. For more information about his work visit www.ianemilewrites.com.