Always Learning, Sometimes Annoyingly.

On any given year, people travel from far and wide to see the fall colors in this area. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is, obviously, full of trees. The spectacle they put on every October into November is truly magnificent.

Each autumn since we’ve been back in Knoxville, Jim and I take a drive (or two) up into the park specifically to try and catch the peak colors. We don’t go on the weekends because tourists clog up the roads just as much as they do on a bright and sunny summer day. We have to work the visit into our weekday schedule, which can be dicey.

We have always missed it by THAT MUCH. I mean, we see fall colors, but we always miss the peak. The varying elevations in the park are such that, if we go in late October and only drive through the lower elevations, we miss the peak at the top. If we don’t go until November and then drive up to Newfound Gap we might see some pretty colors here and there on the way up, but once we arrive at the top the leaves are gone. A couple of years ago it was even snowing at the top on the day we drove up there!

We didn’t take an intentional drive up to the park this year (yet), but I am confident that we will have missed it by the time we do. In this age of pandemic living it’s been mentally difficult to make advance plans to do the safe activities; our drives are usually the spur-of-the-moment, “let’s get out of the house”-type of occurrences. That’s why I’ve been wistfully looking all around me as I drive around near home, trying to find tree clusters that are exploding with color.

I found the best grouping yet alongside the railroad tracks that are very close to our house. As I pulled over and put on my hazards so I could pull out my phone and attempt to capture the beautiful display of color, my brain wandered a little bit. I thought about how humans travel to see new and beautiful things, but often what we end up appreciating most is home. My inner voice told me that in this completely absurd year of wishing we could get away from home because we’ve been stuck there so much, I have also learned a new level of appreciation for home itself. These railroad track-adjacent leaves are really pretty, and today I can be happy with that. What’s that saying? “East, west, home is best.”

And then my other inner voice told me, “Just shut up, Overthinker. You don’t have to figure out what the lesson is with Every Single Thing.” I gave myself a vigorous eye roll, hopped in the car and headed home.

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