Send me on my way

nantahala

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I heard  a song this morning that brought back a flood of memories. Rushing waters tumbling over submerged boulders, following the path carved by my experiences since then.

We drove east from Nashville towards the mountains. Passing through Chattanooga we talked about fishing, stopped for drinks, and eventually entered into the the darkness of the mountains. The Ocoee river flowed on our right. Loud. We could hear it, but we couldn’t see it. Deeper into the mountains. Past a mountain bar, it’s parking lot bulging with trucks, vans topped with kayaks, girls in tank tops. But we pressed on into the night.

Maybe 1994 or 95.

Somewhere deeper we felt the presence of the Nantahala river. We detoured from the main road, a right turn onto a dirt and gravel logging road. I wasn’t sure we were going the right way. It seemed wrong. Too wild. Darker than I was comfortable with. But with the windows down on my friends old Cadillac, the sound of the night, and the river moving now somewhere below us, we remained silent. Higher, deeper into the trees.

Send me on my way. It’s not a very deep song. But it sparked my memory of a great trip. We listened to it on the way.

We came upon Zilla’s parked conversion van. Strapped with several kayaks. A lantern hanging near the van. A fire burning farther into the trees.

We sat around the camp fire with Zilla and Josh, drinking beers, eating pork and beans, telling stories embellished by the quiet of the moment. Zilla’s mix tape played: “Don’t you “Forget about me” twice in a row. And then he’d rewind it to play again. He said: “I love this song.”

I slept on top of a waterfall. Just a sleeping bag and a smooth rock. In the morning, I climbed down towards the water rushing towards the valley. A dim grey, just enough light to find footing. I breathed deep and jumped into the coldest pool of mountain water I’ve ever felt. I swam towards the fall, let it pour over me, and overcome by the moment I howled like an animal. Over and over. Until my friends woke and peered down from the cliff.

Later I sat in a kayak for the first time in my life. I snapped the spray skirt, rocked a bit from side to side, slapped the boat as if to check it’s seaworthiness.

“Feels good,” I said. “How do I do this?”

My friend shoved me hard into the current.

“When you hit whitewater, paddle like hell!” he said.

I swam alot that day. Learned how to bail out of a kayak in whitewater. Absorbed a few bruises. But in the end it was a day I’ll never forget.

Such is life.

I thought about that trip while I swam this morning. It must have been 17 or 18 years ago now. One of many trips we took. Once half way across the country. Elvis week. New Orleans. But this morning, just a song brought that trip to the Nantahala. It turned just another 5am swim into quiet time well spent. Hold tight to your beautiful memories. Someday they’ll come back to greet you and brighten an ordinary day. Send me on my way.

I love you,

– Daddy

TRAINING:

Sat: rest

Sun: ran 11 miles

Mon: rest

Tues: Swam 2000 / Ran 5.2 miles

Wed: nothing

Thurs: Swam 2000 / Run 7 miles