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Into the Light

Light enters our lives from many different sources.

Sunrise. Sunset. Kerosene lamp.

The selection presented might seem peculiar, but I hope it will become more illuminating after the words that follow. There is a remote lodge at the top of Mount Le Conte in the Smoky Mountains. There is no electricity, limited cell phone reception, and a collection of ten tiny cabins where hikers can spend a night (or three, in my case). There are no roads leading to the lodge, only five trails ranging in length from 5.0 miles to 9.1 miles. With a full backpack and a pair of trekking poles, the shortest of those trails became the passage of choice to the mountain’s peak at an elevation of 6,593 feet. It also happened to be the steepest trail, with a total elevation change of 2,500 feet over the length of the hike.

Getting to the top of that mountain felt like an accomplishment in itself. But it’s what occurred once arriving there that changed my world. It was a complete reset. I mentioned there was limited cell phone service at the top of the mountain. I did have my technological lifeline with me in case of an emergency. But do you know what? I never had the desire to connect with the world a couple thousand feet below me. I decided that civilization could get by without my interaction for a period of three days. And it was unexpectedly and absolutely glorious.

There were visits with llamas that brought supplies up one of the trails three times a week. There were interactions with staff and fellow visitors that exuded authenticity. The fact that these people chose to be in this remote location said a lot about the type of human beings this surreal place attracted. There were evening walks to enjoy a sunset, morning hikes in the dark to witness a sunrise, and the soft glow from a kerosene lamp inside each cabin that provided just enough ambient light to illuminate the space immediately surrounding me. I imagine each of these moments warrants a more in-depth story in future months. Each experience was that impactful.

But it’s what happened in the middle of the day, sitting in a rocking chair, and feeling Mother Nature exhale her cold autumn breeze through needles on the evergreen trees surrounding me that truly opened my eyes to something new. The American crows cawed in the distance, but the rest of the world was silent save for that whisper of wind funneling through the tall conifers. And then it arrived. The scent of balsam firs moved through me. Yes, I first recognized it with my sense of smell. But it somehow went so much deeper than that. I closed my eyes and saw, felt, smelled, tasted, and heard a flurry of emotions that have no name. It was overwhelmingly delightful.

And in that moment, one I will never forget, I realized something. Light is made of tiny physical particles called photons. And while the human eye does have the capacity to discern single blips of light, individual photons, it’s when many of them come together that we fully appreciate the experience.

So, yes, going back to my opening statement, light enters our lives from many different sources. But when we allow ourselves to see all those sources, beyond the senses we traditionally use, that’s when something magical occurs. Thank you, Mother Nature, for helping me take that next step into the light.


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