There is one spot in the whole, wide world that is “mine” — my place, my comfort zone, my escape — the porch swing at our family’s cabin on a mountain outside Andrews, N.C.
It is on this porch swing that my world shrinks. I watch tiny hummingbirds sip sweet nectar from the feeders hanging nearby, I listen to the brook below and to the raindrops bounce off the roof overhead and watch the leaves dance as water meets flora. If I’m lucky, a deer will pass by.
It’s magical here. This is where I read, I write, I think. It’s where I could spend weeks, a month, maybe more — alone with my books, my thoughts, my words, my pen.
Nine hours of traffic for this solitude, this serenity, this peace, this time for just me. I want it. I crave it. I need it. There is no stress on the porch swing. No cell service, no wi-fi, no deadlines.
I can breathe.
Nowhere else can I read a 266-page book in less than a day.
Some of my most vivid vacation memories originate on this land. I recall the earliest: sleeping in a small, cramped camper — Mother, Daddy, little sister Jeni and me — or, rather, trying to sleep despite the terrific storm taking place outside. I remember fearing the severe rain would cause a washout, sending us sliding down the mountainside.
At that time, there was only an empty lot where the cabin would one day sit.
Once finished, the cabin could sleep a dozen or so people. Kids were always relegated to the loft; still are. There are two double beds and a twin in the corner, and the little bed was always mine. As a teenager, I’d put on headphones and pop an Air Supply cassette into my portable boombox at night, falling asleep to the four-minute promises of love. It was 1984.
Many friends have vacationed there with us through the years. Jeni and I went up with someone often, and now my own kids have taken friends up.
There’s just something about taking long walks without the interruptions of technology that can strengthen a friendship. Down the hill, around the bend, up to the cemetery, across the stream and down the steep embankment to the hidden waterfall. A little further on the road will get you to the lake.
Through the years, we have painted the porch, chilled ourselves to the bone whitewater rafting down the Nantahala, created vine wreaths, skipped stones at the lake, cross a dry lake bed to the center island, collected wildflowers along the rocky roadway, wandered in silence through the old cemetery (feeling sorrow for one family and its long row of tiny headstones).
Every trip includes a trek to the firepit for s’mores: marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate bars. Daddy whittled sticks for the occasion, and he can make a mean fire that takes hours to go out. Many of the ‘mallows end up dripping in the fire, and many more end up strewn across the yard in one of our made-up games where we see who, with the flick of a wrist, can fling one the farthest.
One year, I must have been in my late teens, Daddy thought it would be a great idea to teach me to drive a stick-shift — in a 1950s Jeep on a mountain road. We didn’t go over the side, but the experience still didn’t end well. I can’t drive a manual to this day.
I prefer to walk around the mountain, thank you.
I’m lucky my kids can appreciate the beauty of the simple life at our cabin. When we go, they expect to hike, to raft, to see, to feel, to just be.
There is always an old-fashioned game of Monopoly or Go Fish to be played, and there is always a puzzle waiting to be assembled.
My goal is to find more time to get away and “get back to nature.” It’s refreshing and good for me. If you have trouble reaching me in the future, chances are I’ve carved out that time, packed my bags and my books and headed to my little oasis on that North Carolina porch swing.