Sunday, April 10, 2016

State Project: Tennessee

I first encountered Tennessee as a drive-through on my way to other places (to and from Georgia and St. Louis for my great-grandmother's funeral with my Uncle Kelly snoring in the station wagon next to me). Back then Tennessee didn't mean much. Same as any other place with gas stations and rest stops.

Then we went to Tennessee, eight years ago. Tennessee is beautiful. I love Tennessee. It is waterfalls and history and so many worn down places. It is learning that hiking is therapeutic for what ails me.

(My two little gnomes on the Trillium Gap Trail)

Tennessee, later, is a trip with the girl scouts. Five women, five girls, five days in July. It is falling out of a boat into the Pigeon River and laughing as the guide yanked me back up. It is being in awe of Gatlinburg and how it is "just like Sally said it would be". It is creepy little cemeteries and barred owls' mating calls in the middle of the night that sound like possessed monkeys come to murder us.

It is wading into Cosby Creek after conquering Mt. Cammerer, dunking my head in the icy water and feeling the exhaustion, the utter beautiful exhaustion. My brain empty and that is my favorite.

Tennessee is lived in. Comfortable. Wabi-sabi.

If they knew what wabi-sabi was.

And in that way, Tennessee is a lot like me. Like my house. Like my life. Broken in jeans and broken in personality and moments of beauty surrounded by a lot of hiking to get there.

It's what I'm becoming, Tennessee, if I just let go and let it happen. Let the crows feet crinkle and put on the hoodie sweatshirt and try to find a via media, a middle way, between conforming to what I should be and losing myself in what I could be. Tennessee feels right.

I'm not too hard persuaded. I will probably be Tennessee in the end. And Tennessee is perfect.

Have I been to Tennessee? Yes.