I’ve been spending a lot of time driving of late. Since I’m supposed to get out of the apartment more, it’s the cheapest thing I can do since all it really costs is the price of gas (and I’m lucky enough to get pretty fantastic gas mileage in my car). One of the benefits of this is I get to explore the land out here in Virginia.
Being from Illinois, I’m used to driving for hours without seeing much in the way of towns, surrounded by acres upon acres of fields of corn and soybeans. But here, the landscape is so different. Gone are the horizons far in the distance; everything is so much closer here as I drive along back roads, exploring the long highways and tiny towns. Instead of flatland, I quickly find myself in mountain country.
I’ve always loved the mountains. Years ago, when I was fourteen or so, my mother took my siblings and I out to New Mexico to visit my grandparents in their new place just south of Colorado. As we entered the Rocky Mountains, I began to feel a giddiness that until that point, I’d only associated with roller coasters. Despite my fear of heights, I unbuckled my seat belt and leaned halfway out of the car. Beneath me was the breathtaking beauty of the valleys below; a sea of trees that rose and fell, over and over again. I laughed, enjoying the wind rushing past me, ignoring my eldest brother as he screamed for me to get back in the car (despite him being a row back and on the side furthest from the edge). The rush of being so high, of the earth rising so far up, filled me with a great joy that I had never experienced.
Here on the East Coast, it’s different. The Appalachians are much smoother, smaller than the Rockies and their bountiful, erratic energy. These mountains are quieter, in a way, with beautiful old towns nestled in their valleys and atop their summits. Rivers and streams cross beneath me; waterfalls along the roadside. The earth is stained beautiful colors, rich shades of red and purple from the minerals inside them. As I drive through woodlands, the sun peaks through the leaves above, dappling the deep blue of my car’s hood.
My arms are now tanned from long drives through these mountains, the sun kissing my skin. I feel happier than I have in weeks, months, enjoying the beauty of the landscape around me. It fills me with a sense of coming home, though I have never lived here before. It’s the mountains that call to me, in the end.