Though I am writing this on a Dominican Republic beach a couple of hours from Santo Domingo where I’ll return to work on Tuesday, I’m reliving the mountain escape I had while home for the holidays. I’m sorry I missed the snow in Tennessee that arrived just after I flew back to the Caribbean on Wednesday, but I am glad my son and I had clear roads for a trip to the Smoky Mountains while I was there. Cole moved to Knoxville last summer and with each visit I understand more why he likes the city where he chose to work. Nashville’s growth spurt since I’ve been gone has frustrated natives and longtime transplants with the high rise apartments and traffic chaos that came with it. Knoxville feels much like Nashville did before the boom and with the bonus of Gatlinburg one hour away and The Biltmore two (which we plan to see next summer when the gardens are in bloom), it’s a great destination for more than Vols fans.
Tennessee is a hiking and wildlife lover’s paradise. My first morning there while drinking coffee and looking out my son’s sliding doors I saw the usual–a cardinal, squirrels chasing each other–and then something moving in the brush behind his apartment that looked like a bobcat but larger. Then there were two of them. I grabbed my camera to zoom in and started snapping; while focusing and scanning the second creature disappeared.
Whether they were both coyotes (a growing problem in suburban Nashville as well), coywolves or one was a deer that took off like the roadrunner I am not sure, but one of these guys stayed and stared me down. The sighting seemed another sign that 2017 will be full of surprises.
Thrilled to be home for the holidays for the first time in two years, I had wanted to rent a cabin in the Smokies for our family, but with the recent fires we weren’t sure how much of the area had been destroyed and which roads would be closed. Instead we drove to Cade’s Cove and stopped for lunch at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, a hot spot for locals and tourists. We saw no fire damage and given the line of cars, neon lights, and ticket sales the Pigeon Forge “strip” was still going strong.
The good news about southern food is the comfort. The better news is there are gorgeous opportunities to hike it off. Living two years in the desert and the last six months in the tropics, I had so missed journeys amidst farmhouses hidden in hills; cows and horses in fields; and cold, crisp air on moss-covered banks beside mountain streams. My questions about the future, usually rushing like water over rocks, are hushed and stilled by a winter forest.
Later in the week Taylor drove up and joined us for some amazing Italian food and a day in downtown Knoxville at Market Square. I highly recommend Altruda’s for an authentic, family-owned atmosphere and The French Market for a quick trip to Paris.
As we took a shortcut to our car, we happened upon an alley of street art. Again, it seems, technicolor surprises are just around the corner this year.
We saw Arrival, nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Cole had already seen it and thought I’d like it. He was right. Among other vital truths, it stresses that we can’t survive without communication and global collaboration.
As I felt when the holidays were over with my children in London and as most moms feel when the world goes back to work and “reality,” (and though I am forever grateful for the beauty and adventure of the time spent abroad), nothing brings me joy like relationship. Translated: quality time spent with my kids/family. I loved Marrakesh, but it was too far from them. The Dominican Republic, though many hours closer, is as well. They are grown and have lives of their own, but my heart longs to see them more often. We are bonded across miles by blood and years, vacation times spent together, technology and our love for one another. And we’ve learned, or at least I have, that home is what we are to each other–not one place. Good to know since Taylor is in Nashville and Cole is in Knoxville now. (Likewise, my sis is in Nashville but mom is in Kentucky.) And though I’ve learned “home” is wherever I am at peace with God, as a southerner I feel tied to place, to roots, to people–my people–my kids, family, and closest friends. And so my journey back has begun. I look forward this year to following the path God charts to my dream destination.