Each year before spring gives up to summer, I make a new list of promises to myself. Those pledges, unfortunately, usually fall by the wayside, like petals from spring trilliums on a forest floor. Preparing this issue of Smoky Mountain Living and reading the adventures and tales from our talented writers only served to heighten that sense of missed opportunity.
This year I planned to hike more, to read more, and to immerse myself in mountain cultural opportunities. Those pledges weren’t tossed aside capriciously, but they were put off as the daily commitments of family and work bullied their way into the free time I had carved out in my overly optimistic imagination.
Luckily, my job lets me partake of these adventures vicariously while anchored to a laptop in my little office.
David Joy’s essay on a fly-fishing excursion in Jackson County with author Ron Rash and Ron’s son is a thing of beauty. The essay is all about re-connecting to the mountains, and for all of us who have put off that next outdoor excursion it is something of a call to arms. We go into the wilderness to nourish something deep in our souls, as well as just to have fun. Joy’s writing expresses that wonderfully, along with a similar theme about family bonds. One doesn’t have to fish to enjoy the richness of that essay.
Danny Bernstein is one of those people who is just unflappable in her dedication to the outdoors. She’s hiked all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the few people who can make that claim. She just completed a fine trail guide to this region, and her description in this issue of a few hiking trails on the Highlands-Cashiers plateau again reminded me that the outdoors are calling.
Bob Terrell’s history of McCormick Field in Asheville, the home of the minor league Asheville Tourists, is also a pretty strong call to summer. Nothing brings back the summer days of my youth more than remembering playing baseball, both organized and pick-up games. Baseball has a familial connection for me, one that stretches into three generations. We would often go to games as my father played in Navy baseball leagues until his early forties, and he loved playing with by brothers and me whenever he could. Over the past five years or so I’ve had the great pleasure of creating some of those same memories with my own son as he played at various levels.
For those who haven’t been, McCormick Field offers one of the best minor league baseball experiences anywhere. It is a special park.
Terrell’s piece has its own bittersweet ending. Bob, a legendary fixture in Western North Carolina journalism who got into magazine writing after a long career at the Asheville Citizen-Times, passed away in late May. He had written for this magazine since its inception, and he will be missed terribly by those who worked with him. He started as a sportswriter, and it is somehow fitting that his last story for us is about a legendary baseball park in the city where he carved out his own lasting legacy.
And then there’s the piece Managing Editor Susan Lefler wrote about North Caroline Poet Laureate Kay Byer. Byer teaches at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee and is using her post to spread the word about poetry, especially to children. The story is a reminder to those of us who love words to take time to have fun with them, to revel in the beauty of poetry and the song that words strung gracefully together can create.
I’ll pick up the pieces of those broken promises I made to myself and carry on, hiking as time permits, enjoying reading for fun as much as possible and making the most of the summer that is now full upon us. I’m an optimist, and in these mountains hope springs eternal.